Intel on March 13 announced that the company will purchase Mobileye, a global provider of advanced driver assistance system (ADAS). This deal is worth US$15.3 billion and is another indication that major semiconductor manufacturers are aggressively jockeying for a favorable position in the fast growing automotive electronics market. TrendForce states that after the merger, Intel will be able to combine its hardware products such as high-performance computing chips and IoT solutions with Mobileye’s image processing algorithms for autonomous driving systems. The deal gives Intel’s the potential to develop an autonomous driving solution that incorporates cloud computing. Furthermore, the deal strengthens Intel’s collaboration with BMW to bring self-driving cars to the market in 2021, when first wave of sales for such vehicles is anticipated to take place in major auto markets worldwide.
For 2016, Mobileye increased its annual revenue by 48.7% to US$350 million and the company’s operating profit margin also reached 33.8%. TrendForce expects Mobileye will continue to produce impressive performance results in the future as it has done over the past two years. In terms of technology, Mobileye has accumulated expertise in machine vision, deep learning, data analytics and high-resolution image mapping. On the other hand, Intel’s subsidiary Altera has long developed FPGA products for automotive applications. The addition of assets from Mobileye will considerably strengthen Intel’s position in the automotive chip market.
At the same time, Intel can also take advantage of Mobileye’s close relationships with its clients and avoid the lengthy product verification process that new market entrants are often being subjected to. With this deal, Intel will thus be able to quickly seize emerging opportunities related to the demand for autonomous driving systems.
Branded auto makers and Tier 1 system suppliers have been using image processing algorithms and other innovations provided by Mobileye
According to the company’s technology roadmap, Mobileye intends on enhancing its image processing algorithms for single-lens cameras. Mobileye’s solutions are being used ADAS and autonomous driving systems, and they are expected to identify a greater variety of road and traffic conditions in the future (such as the detection of uneven road surfaces). Mobileye is also planning to build an autonomous driving system that is based on multiple cameras.
Another notable technology that Mobileye holds is Road Experience Management (REM), which is a mapping software that was released last year. REM is designed to work with Mobileye’s own EyeQ family of automotive chips in gathering road and landmark information via low bandwidth Internet. REM has attracted significant attention as this technology can assist in the further development of autonomous driving systems by creating real-time maps.
Currently, major branded auto makers that have adopted Mobileye’s solutions include BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Ford and Volvo. At the same time, Mobileye can also count Tier 1 system suppliers such as Autoliv and Delphi as its clients.
Intel to focus on its self-driving car venture with BMW after taking Mobileye under its wings
Intel, Mobileye and BMW already signed a partnership agreement in July 2016. Together, the auto brand, chip maker and system solution provider publicly declared that they will be pooling their resources to mass produce autonomous vehicles by 2021. After signing this agreement, Mobileye further stated that the company will not be supplying Tesla’s technologies more advanced than its EyeQ 3 chips.
Mobileye’s decision to join Intel and BMW is likely to have taken account of its development schedule for its autonomous driving solution EyeQ5. Major auto markets such as the U.S. and Japan are expected to have their respective regulatory frameworks for autonomous vehicles passed and in place in 2020. In the best case scenario, Mobileye hopes that EyeQ 5 will be ready for mass production around the same time. This also means that EyeQ 5 by then will have completed its integration with an autonomous driving system and that several new car models will be available to carry the technology.
The BMW-Intel-Mobileye camp has stated that they aim to begin selling fully self-driving cars in 2021, a year after the major legal issues are addressed and just in time for the first wave of branded autonomous vehicles to hit the market. Considering the sales volume and market share, Mobileye has chosen BMW over Tesla as the former brand is in a much stronger position and will help maximize the profit from EyeQ 5 in the future. Sales of BMW vehicles exceeded 2.1 million units in 2016, whereas Tesla sold around 760,000 units.
Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye has also changed the composition of this alliance. Formerly, the coalition was made up of two dominant players in their respective industries plus one smaller independent solution provider. After the deal, Intel and BMW will negotiate with just each other. TrendForce believes this will improve cooperation between the two companies and speed up product development.