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Intel's Autonomous Driving Arm Mobileye is Testing its Self-driving Technology in New York City

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【Summary】Intel Corp’s autonomous driving division Mobileye is testing its self-driving technology in New York City, one of the most challenging environments for self-driving vehicles to operate in, the company announced on Monday. Mobileye said its testing will help to prove how well its self-driving technology can handle the city’s chaotic streets packed with vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and a host of other challenges that a self-driving vehicle will face in the real world.

Eric Walz    Jul 20, 2021 4:00 PM PT
Intel's Autonomous Driving Arm Mobileye is Testing its Self-driving Technology in New York City

Intel Corp's autonomous driving division Mobileye is testing its self-driving technology in New York City, one of the most challenging environments for self-driving vehicles to operate in, the company announced on Monday. 

Mobileye said it was testing self-driving vehicles in New York City to prove how well its self-driving technology can handle the city's chaotic streets packed with vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, jaywalkers, double parked cars and a host of other challenges that a self-driving vehicle will face in the real world.

Mobileye Chief Executive Amnon Shashua said the company began testing camera-only vehicles in New York City in the past few weeks. Mobileye is currently testing just a single vehicle, but plans to add a second later this year, a spokeswoman told Reuters.

Mobileye is a developer of an entire computer vision-based autonomous driving hardware and software stack. The company's computer vision technology can identify lane markings, traffic signs, pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles.

The company's EyeQ4 system-on-a-chip (SoC) is one of the world's most advanced computer vision processors for autonomous vehicles. Mobileye's EyeQ family of chips can perform complex and computationally intensive computer vision algorithms using minimal power, which has caught the attention of automakers. 

Mobileye's EyeQ SoC can support an entire suite of ADAS features based on a single camera sensor. The EyeQ4 SoC can also process data from multiple vehicle sensors required for semi-autonomous driving.   

In a city of over 8 million people, New York is a difficult environment to operate a self-driving vehicle in. But in order to scale its technology, companies like Mobileye need to make sure that its autonomous vehicles can safely operate in a wide variety of scenarios, including bustling cities.

"It's really a huge headache to test here in New York City," Shashua said during a news briefing, listing a range of driving challenges in the nation's most populous city, including light pollution at night, aggressive driving, cars that are double parked and pedestrians ignoring traffic rules.

Shashua said the ability to navigate the city's streets was a crucial step towards commercializing autonomous vehicles, such as robotaxis that can handle a range of driving environments.

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Cruise, the self-driving division of General Motors, is operating its fleet of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco for the same reason, since its one of the most challenging cities for a self-driving vehicle to navigate in, mostly due to its hilly terrain and crowded streets full of pedestrians, bicyclists and electric scooters.

Cruise also received a permit to operate its vehicles in New York, but abandoned its plans after the city's Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed concerns over safety. 

New York has been slower to embrace self-driving technology than areas like Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area, where dozens of tech companies and automakers have received permits from California's Department of Motor Vehicles to operate self-driving vehicles on public roads in the state.

Mobileye said it received a testing permit from New York state after supplying officials with all of the necessary data from self-driving programs previously launched in other cities, including San Francisco, Shashua said. Mobileye secured the only current permit to test autonomous vehicles in New York, the company said. 

To demonstrate the capabilities of its autonomous driving technology, Mobileye shared an unedited, 40-minute video of one of its vehicles driving along the east side of Manhattan and through the busy Queens Midtown tunnel, which links the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens. The video shows a safety driver behind the wheel overseeing the vehicle's operation, but not intervening.

The eye-opening shows how well Mobileye's computer vision perception systems can identify vehicles and pedestrians, then safely navigate New York's busy streets.

Intel purchased Mobileye in 2017 for $15.3 billion in order gain a foothold in the automotive industry, which is being transformed by technology and electrification. As electrical systems are replacing vehicle mechanical systems, Mobileye plans to be a global leader in autonomous driving technology.

The $15 billion price tag Intel paid for Mobileye shows just how much companies expect the technology to be worth in the future. 

In July 2020, U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co announced it would also partner with Mobileye to develop camera-based collision avoidance systems, including improved forward collision warning, as well as vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection for its vehicles equipped with Ford's Co-Pilot360 safety technology, including the F-150 pickup and new Mustang Mach-E electric crossover.

In April, Mobileye announced that its self-driving system called "Mobileye Drive" will power thousands of autonomous delivery vehicles (ADVs) built by California startup Udelv.

Mobileye Drive is a full stack solution designed to handle a range of autonomous vehicle (AV) applications, including robotaxis, consumer passenger cars and commercial delivery vehicles.

Udelv's driverless cargo vehicles are called "Transporters'' and the two companies plan to produce more than 35,000 of them by 2028, with commercial operations planned to start in 2023. The driverless vehicles are designed for middle-mile and last mile deliveries. 

The deal is one of the world's largest deployments of autonomous vehicles for commercial purposes.  

In May, Mobileye and automotive technology developer ZF announced a partnership to supply automaker Toyota Motor Corp with safety technology for its future vehicles. The two companies were chosen by Toyota to develop an Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which will be used in multiple vehicle platforms.

Mobileye is working closely with ZF to produce advanced camera-based computer vision technology integrated with radar to support ADAS features in future Toyota vehicles.

In addition to testing in New York, Mobileye is testing its autonomous vehicles in Detroit, Munich, and its home country of Israel. The company will soon expand to Tokyo, Shanghai, and Paris. 

The goal for Mobileye is to safely operate autonomous vehicles anywhere in the world. 

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