The iconic semiconductor giant on Tuesday announced the formation of its Automated Driving Group, which “will be solely dedicated to innovating the future of driving and designing the next generation of advanced driver-assist systems and autonomous driving solutions,” wrote Murthy Renduchintala, president of Intel’s internet of things business.
Intel has been competing in the self-driving and connected-car industry for some time — it expects to rake in $1 billion by 2020 in deals providing chips and software to dozens of car brands — but by carving out a separate self-driving car group, Intel is signaling a greater commitment to the industry.
“I would think it’s a smart move for them,” said Michael Pack, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory. “They need to get out and brand themselves and let the rest of the industry know that they are a player.”
The move follows what many considered to be Intel’s failure in smartphone and tablet chips. After struggling in that market, Intel reportedly canceled the upcoming launch of its new mobile chip last spring, ceding the mobile space to competitors such as Apple and Samsung.
As self-driving cars move closer to mass production, more mainstream tech companies are seeing the value in associating their names with the market. Chipmakers such as Qualcomm and Nvidia have jumped on the bandwagon — hoping their products will be the ones to power the brains of the world’s future smart cars — and Microsoft reportedly is partnering with carmakers to get its operating systems into their autonomous vehicles.
Intel has been building up to Tuesday’s launch for months. In July the company announced a partnership with BMW Group and crash-prevention tech company Mobileye, aiming to bring autonomous driving to the streets by 2021. And earlier this month at the Los Angeles AutoMobility conference, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced that Intel Capital, the company’s investment arm, will pour more than $250 million into the self-driving car industry over the next two years. Intel also has acquired companies in the market, including Yogitech, Arynga and Itseez.
Intel, best known for making the processors that power computers around the world, wants to use its technology to help self-driving cars process information. If a vehicle senses a child in the road, for example, it could be an Intel product that analyzes that data and tells the car to brake. There’s also the potential to process crowd-sourced data about traffic congestion, and to use personal data to tailor music and other preferences inside the car to individual drivers.
“It’s not enough just to capture the data,” Krzanich wrote in a piece posted on Intel’s website earlier this month. “We have to turn the data into an actionable set of insights to get the full value out of it. To do that requires an end-to-end computing solution from the car through the network and to the cloud — and strong connectivity.”
The market for processing that data is growing as the self-driving car industry picks up speed. Trucking startup Otto completed its first autonomous delivery in October. Uber, which owns Otto, rolled out a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh in September, the same month that the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released new guidelines for self-driving cars.
“Autonomous vehicles are coming, whether we like it or not,” Pack said. “If you don’t position yourself as a player today, people will forget about you.”