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Intel Partners with BMW on Self-Driving Cars, Faces Competition

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【Summary】Intel, the computer chip maker has just announced a partnership with German automaker BMW to develop self-driving car technology. The partnership is intended to let Intel and BMW develop a “base functionality platform” for self-driving cars that it would license to car makers.

Original Eric Walz    May 04, 2017 3:20 PM PT
Intel Partners with BMW on Self-Driving Cars, Faces Competition

By Eric Walz

Intel Corp., the computer chip maker has just announced a partnership with German automaker BMW AG to develop self-driving car technology. The partnership is intended to let Intel and BMW develop a "base functionality platform" for self-driving cars that it would license to car makers, said Intel spokeswoman Marcie Miller.

At a press event held on Wednesday, May 3rd at its Silicon Valley "Innovation Campus" in San Jose, California, Intel unveiled a sleek silver BMW 740i sedan showcasing Intel's partnership with the German automaker and the computer vision company Mobileye that Intel recently purchased for $15.3 billion. Mobileye's computer-vision technology will be used as the "eyes" of the Intel powered BMW self-driving prototype.

BMW iNext Electric Car

The BMW 740i is a prototype for the the company's "iNext" electric car that BMW plans to put on the market in 2021, with partial self-driving capabilities falling somewhere between mostly driving itself but needing human backup, and full autonomy" said BMW advanced technology engineer Kyle Moy.

inext.PNG

An interior view of a futuristic BMW iNext concept vehicle, courtesy of BMWblog

Intel will be joining NVIDIA, another Silicon Valley chipmaker supplying the hardware for autonomous technology. NVIDIA's processors are currently in all Tesla models sold within the the last six months, and for processing self-driving vehicle data in the cloud.

Intel's advanced semiconductor chips would act as the "brains" for an autonomous-driving system. "The chips would process data from vehicles' sensors within the vehicle, as well as in Intel's self-driving system, and for processing autonomous-vehicle data in the cloud" Miller said in a statement about the technology.

Competition

BMW and Intel now join Waymo, Ford, GM and other companies are in a race to introduce the first mass produced self-driving car. Intel and BMW are a bit late in entering the race, but the company has many resources to advance its efforts quickly. "There is an arms race going on," said Raj Rajkumar, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University focused on autonomous driving. "I don't think they are late, but they have to execute, of course." he said.

Another competitor Apple, recently applied for California's required permit to test autonomous vehicles on public streets in the state, indicating that they are working on some type of self-driving car technology. Uber is also testing autonomous vehicles, as are smaller firms such as Aurora Innovation, a new launched venture co-founded by Google's former self-driving project head Chris Urmson.

Intel hopes to bounce back with its new ventures after the company admitted to missing out the mobile revolution of the past five years as PC sales fell for five straight years. Nearly 50% of the company's sales were from shipments of PCs as of 2016. Last year, Intel announced it would cut 12,000 jobs and focus on chips for the cloud and Internet-connected devices instead. However, the company is still doing well. On April 27th, it reported record first quarter earnings of $14.8 billion.

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