Intel’s big bets on autonomous driving unveiled: “Unwavering confidence” in success

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Intel has opened the doors to its Silicon Valley Innovation Center for Autonomous Driving and, with a slew of partners in tow, gave further insight into its push towards the connected car space.

Among the announcements was a reveal of one of the first highly automated vehicles developed in partnership with BMW and Mobileye, which Intel acquired for $15.3 billion in March, alongside demonstrating with Ericsson. over the air data moving across a 5G network between the car and the cloud.

The company also opened its Advanced Vehicle Lab, which alongside labs in Arizona, Germany, and Oregon will research the requirements and technologies needed to power self-driving vehicles, from artificial intelligence (AI) to supporting cloud services, while the Autonomous Garage Labs will focus more on the tools and testing side.

Doug Davis, senior vice president and general manager of the automated driving group at Intel, penned an editorial outlining his passion for the project, saying he postponed his retirement to lead the initiative.

“The chance to solve one of the most complex technology challenges of our time, the opportunity to help the auto industry reinvent transportation, the potential to save a million lives every year – those things are unlike anything I’ve done before,” he wrote.

“I have unwavering confidence that Intel will succeed in autonomous driving”, he added. “We have an astounding breadth and depth of experience and the world’s finest technology toolkit to apply to this challenge. We have tapped resources from across the company and have added experienced talent from the automotive industry. Our teams are operating in high gear and will deliver the necessary technology breakthroughs.”

In July last year, BMW, Intel and Mobileye announced plans to bring self-driving vehicles onto the road by 2021 through a common platform. The companies outlined their strategy to come up with solutions which continually went up the scale of automation, from level 3 (‘eyes off’), to level 4 (‘mind off’) and then eventually to level 5, ‘driver off’, when a human is not required inside the vehicle. Davis added that plans were afoot to bring the platform to market for other OEMs and tier one suppliers.

Davis also riffed on the importance of AI in autonomous vehicle development. “Mastering AI both inside the car and in the data centre will be essential to the autonomous driving data challenge,” he wrote. “Here it’s important to remember that autonomous driving isn’t a game. When cars are thinking and acting without human intervention, they must be able to do so in a safe and trustworthy way.”

Plenty of research is taking place, and plenty of data is being collected to gauge what autonomous cars should do in certain situations. The MIT’s ‘moral machine’ program, which gives participants the choice between “the lesser of two evils”, such as killing two passengers or five pedestrians, is an example of this. As Davis noted: “If all we needed was a supercomputer to handle the autonomous driving data challenge, our work would be done.”

Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye showed how seriously the firm was taking this sector, particularly, as this publication pointed out, the difference in price compared to the $8.9bn Samsung is paying for Harman. “The faster we can deliver autonomous driving technology and take humans out of the driver’s seat, the faster we can save lives,” wrote Davis. “It’s that’s simple – and that important…and I am confident Intel will not only succeed in helping our partners put self-driving cars on the roads, we will do so in the fastest, smartest way possible.”

You can take a look at the full list of announcements here.

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