VW & Intel’s Mobileye Plan AV Ride-Sharing in Israel

Intel’s deal with Volkswagen Group and the Israeli government to launch a driverless ride-hailing service is a big step forward for the autonomous vehicle technology being developed by the chip giant’s Mobileye subsidiary.

The plan, announced October 29, calls for all-electric Volkswagen vehicles with Level 4 self-driving capability to carry commercial passengers by 2022. The project will begin early next year. Level 4 technology can carry out all driving tasks in a defined area.

Israel-based Mobileye, which Intel acquired last year for more than $15Bn, has developed an AV platform that it says can behave more like a human driver than other systems can. Because it knows how to be more aggressive while still being safe, it can hold its own in tough driving environments like Jerusalem, according to the company.

Intel faces fierce competition from rivals including Nvidia, Google-backed Waymo and even Tesla in developing the hardware and software for driverless cars. At stake is a potentially huge opportunity to develop and sell next-generation artificial intelligence systems and silicon.

The robotaxi project in Israel, which the companies are calling a “mobility-as-a-service” offering, will grow in phases from several dozen to hundreds of self-driving electric vehicles. It will be the first such service in Israel. Eventually, rides will be available on hundreds of miles of roads, an Intel representative told TU Automotive.

The Israeli government will offer legal and regulatory support, including traffic data and infrastructure. As other robotaxi services emerge, it will offer the same support to them.

Volkswagen will supply electric vehicles, including its I.D. CROZZ, an all-wheel-drive crossover concept based on the company’s MEB platform. In autonomous mode, the steering wheel of the I.D. CROZZ will go forward into the dashboard, VW says. Champion Motors, VW’s distributor, will run fleet operations and a control center.

Mobileye’s AV Kit, announced earlier this year, is designed to be a turnkey system that includes hardware, driving policy, safety software and map data. Nvidia has its own broad-based platform, called Nvidia Drive. Waymo, which plans to launch its own robotaxi service in the Phoenix area this year, developed much of its own technology as Google’s self-driving car project. Tesla has developed its own chipset for driving automation in its vehicles.

The AV industry is far from shaking out and is still a maze of projects, partnerships and cross-industry initiatives. Less than six months ago, VW formed an alliance with Nvidia, Bosch and other companies. In addition, both Intel and VW have launched efforts to define self-driving technologies for use throughout the auto industry.

Earlier this year, Intel announced Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS), a safe-driving framework that uses formal definition and verification of safety to make sure a vehicle is always in a “safe state” in which it can’t cause collisions. RSS has been tested in Israel with Mobileye AV systems. Intel wants other manufacturers to adopt the approach.

VW has talked to more than 15 companies about forming an alliance in which all members would share a set of AV technologies, Automotive News reported in September. Each would be allowed to use each other’s technologies without restriction. This would allow them to prove they adhered to the latest industry standards and would distribute liability for crashes across all the companies.

Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia.

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