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EV Startup NIO to Partner with Intel's Mobileye on Self-Driving Cars

EV Startup NIO to Partner with Intel's Mobileye on Self-Driving Cars

Author: Eric Walz   

Chinese electric car startup Nio Inc is partnering with Intel's autonomous driving subsidiary Mobileye to develop self-driving vehicles for the consumer market in China and eventually to other overseas markets, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Nio will build and mass produce an autonomous driving system designed by Mobileye. The advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) will be integrated in NIO's future electric models as well as for Mobileye's commercial robotaxi services. 

Isreali-based Mobileye was purchased by Intel for $15.3 billion in 2017. The company is developing computer vision and advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) for the auto industry. 

Nio on Tuesday said the partnership with Mobileye aligned with its mission to provide premium, smart electric cars and allowed it to maintain an edge over electric vehicle competitors.

Intel and Mobileye are competing with several chipmakers including Nvidia, to provide chips to automakers with enough processing power to run autonomous driving software and computer vision components for self-driving cars.

No financial details of the partnership were disclosed.

"At NIO, we pride ourselves on our pursuit of innovation and cutting-edge technology, which not only strengthens our product competitiveness but also shapes a joyful lifestyle for our users," said William Li, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of NIO. "We look forward to building our strategic collaboration with Mobileye in autonomous driving technology development, to further enhance the safety and capabilities of our vehicles, as we strive to be the next-generation car company and the best user enterprise."

Nio is one of dozens of Chinese electric-vehicle startups looking to compete with Tesla in the world's largest car market and is often referred to as the "Tesla of China." The company introduced its first production vehicle the flagship ES8 luxury electric SUV last year which sells for around half the price of the Tesla Model X. The ES8 was followed by the smaller ES6 SUV, which Nio began delivering to customers in June. NIO touts its vehicles as a "mobile living spaces."

Mobileye is using Intel's latest proprietary EyeQ5 chip, which is designed for fully autonomous driving. The self-driving kit provided by Mobileye includes a computer vision processing chip, camera, radar and lidar sensors, as well as safety and mapping software.

Self-driving cars fuse data from dozens of sensors, including high-resolution cameras, radars, and LiDARs. The sensor-fusion process has to simultaneously collect and process all the sensors' data. For this purpose, EyeQ5 dedicated IOs support at least 40Gbps data bandwidth.

Mobileye's Ultra-high performance EyeQ5 chip, which is set to launch in 2020, can process more than sixteen multi-mega-pixel cameras and other sensors. Its computational power targets 15 trillion operations per second, while drawing only 5-6 Watts in a typical application.

EyeQ powered devices are developed to be designed into systems that require the highest grade of safety in automotive applications, according to Mobileye. Nio's autonomous driving system called "Nio Pilot" was the first ADAS to feature Mobileye's EyeQ4, the older version of the chip.

Mobileye.jpg

A self-driving car developed by Mobileye and Intel.

Nio will also develop a version of self-driving electric vehicles that Mobileye will deploy as part of an autonomous ride-hailing service similar to the one Waymo is working on. 

The companies plan an initial release in China beginning in 2022, Mobileye President and Chief Executive Officer Amnon Shashua told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

"The deal with Nio will also enable us to harvest data in compliance with Chinese regulations and improve mapping to support autonomous driving," Shashua said.

The Mobileye CEO added that a rolling out the technology in China was more efficient as the regulatory environment is more centralized and the Chinese government is working on standardizing Mobileye's safety model for self-driving cars into law.

"We value the opportunity to bring greater road safety to China and other markets through our efforts and look forward to NIO's support as Mobileye builds a transformational mobility service across the globe," said Mobileye Chief Executive Amnon Shashua. 

Many automakers are focused on advanced driver assist features, such as lane keeping assist and advanced cruise control systems like Tesla's Autopilot, rather than full self-driving, which is still years away. Many of these systems share components including cameras, lidar and radar, which can help keep costs down for automakers and defray the costs of developing fully-autonomous systems.

Mobileye says there are some 27 million cars on the road from 25 automakers that use some sort of driver assistance system and Mobileye has a market share of more than 70 percent.

Mobileye's third quarter revenue rose 20% from a year ago. The company said its latest results were bolstered by an expanding ADAS market in the auto industry. Shares of Nio rose 24% in morning trading after the partnership was made public. 

Nio's stock sunk in June, 2019 after the automaker was forced to recall around 4,800 ES8's to inspect them after a battery fire. The NIO inspectors, along with the supplier of the battery pack, concluded there was a vulnerability in the design of the battery that could cause a short circuit.

NIO is based in Shanghai with its U.S. headquarters and software development center based in Silicon Valley.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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