Mobileye Sets Safety-Based Rules of the Road for Self-Driving Tech

It’s been a busy year for Jerusalem-based Mobileye since Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) completed its $15.3-billion acquisition of the Israeli specialist in autonomous navigation technology.

In a recent update, Mobileye co-founder and CTO Amnon Shashua said the company has almost doubled its workforce since the buyout. It plans to begin testing its self-driving technology in California next month. And Mobileye began pushing last fall to establish an industry-wide safety model for self-driving vehicles.

Defining just what constitutes “safe driving” for self-driving cars was the primary focus of a presentation Shashua delivered earlier this month at the Intel Capital Global Summit in Palm Desert, CA. “Without standardizing the safety model, I don’t see any autonomous cars going into production,” Shashua told reporters in a subsequent press briefing.

Mobileye was founded in 1999 to commercialize computer vision technology that Shashua developed as a professor of computer science at Hebrew University. Intel became a strategic partner, and when the chipmaker announced its buyout in March 2017, Mobileye was the auto industry’s leading supplier of advanced driver assistance systems (including collision avoidance technologies).

Shashua said Mobileye has partnerships with 27 major automakers, primarily in the United States and Europe (with another 20 automakers in China). It has been road-testing its driver assistance systems since 2007, and has collected over 200 million miles of driving data.  He argued that the scale of the data already collected gives Mobileye a big advantage over startups that claim to have developed autonomous navigation technologies capable of operating all safety-critical driving functions while monitoring the surrounding environment (i.e. Level 4 of the five levels of autonomous driving).

Mobileye Amnon Shashua (Intel Capital image used with permission)

Mobileye’s Amnon Shashua (Intel Capital image used with permission)

Shashua voiced skepticism of such claims in his media briefing, saying startups have not amassed enough data to definitively evaluate their autonomous technologies in the range of conditions that Mobileye has.

“We’re talking about something that is safety-critical. There is a big gap between something that kind of works and really works,” Shashua said. “We are in a field where good enough is not good enough. In many domains, you can buy a product which is good enough. If it doesn’t work, nothing bad happens. So you reboot your smartphone. But since we’re talking about safety-critical, there is no such thing as good enough.”

With about 35 fully autonomous cars (i.e. Level 5) being built with Mobileye technology, Shashua said, Mobileye plans to begin test-driving in California next month.

Since Intel’s buyout, Shashua said Mobileye’s workforce has mushroomed from 800 people to roughly 1,500. “Mobileye is an independent company, but over … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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