Intel-owned Mobileye Unveils its New Lidar and Radar Technology for Autonomous Vehicles at CES

Intel-owned Mobileye Unveils its New Lidar and Radar Technology for Autonomous Vehicles at CES

Author: Eric Walz   

As automakers race to develop self-driving vehicles, they are turning to tech companies and chipmakers for help in designing and developing the hardware that will support future electric and self-driving vehicles. One such company is Intel subsidiary Mobileye.

The Isreali-based computer vision company revealed its advanced lidar and radar sensors today during a presentation at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is normally held each year in Las Vegas. This year‘s show however was moved to a virtual format due to the global pandemic. Despite the online format, CES remains a major platform for tech companies and automakers to show their latest technology.

During two sessions at CES on Monday, Mobileye president and chief executive officer Amnon Shashua explained how the company is planning to be a global leader in autonomous vehicle technology. Mobileye says its vehicle perception technology will help to bring autonomous vehicles to everyone—in all parts of the world. 

Mobileye develops computer vision-based perception systems that act as an extra set of eyes on the road assisting the driver by looking out for nearby vehicles, other road users or unexpected hazards. 

The company's computer vision technology is used to support such features as automatic emergency braking (AEB) and level 2 and higher automated driving.

Mobileye also announced on Monday that its autonomous test vehicles are being deployed in four new countries in 2021. The company said its deploying its autonomous test vehicles in Detroit, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris and New York City (pending regulation) early this year.

Other updates shared at CES include Monbileye's Automated Crowdsourced Mapping to assist in building HD maps that autonomous vehicles use to navigate, a new software-defined radar and a new lidar sensor built on a chip (SoC). 

Mobileye's crowdsourced mapping technology

Mobileye's automated map-making process uses data collected from nearly 1 million vehicles equipped with Mobileye's advanced driver-assistance technology. The relevant data is packed into small capsules called Road Segment Data (RSD) and sent to the cloud for processing. The cloud server aggregates and reconciles the continuous stream of RSDs – a process that allows Mobileye's team to build a highly accurate map, called "Roadbook".

Mobileye says its mapping technology can now map the world automatically with nearly 8 million kilometers tracked each day and nearly 1 billion kilometers completed to date. 

This mapping process differs from other approaches in its attention to semantic details, which captures details such as traffic signals, curbs and lane markings. This level of detail is crucial to an AV's ability to perceive its environment.

To demonstrate the scalable benefits of these HD maps, Mobileye will start driving its autonomous test vehicles in four new countries without having to send specialized engineers to map these new locations. 

The company will instead send vehicles to local teams that support Mobileye customers. After appropriate training for safety, those vehicles will be able to drive autonomously using the HD maps. Mobileye said this approach was used last year to enable AVs to start driving in Munich and Detroit in just a few days.

Chipmaker Intel purchased Mobileye in 2017 for $15.3 billion in order to expand into the auto industry. Intel plans to supply the robust processors and hardware that support higher levels of autonomous driving and Mobileye is leading that charge.

Since being acquired by Intel Mobileye's business model has expanded to the entire automated driving value chain, including developing a front-facing camera that supports advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), as well as a scalable, self-driving system (SDS) for commercial robotaxis and passenger vehicles.

"The backing of Intel and the trinity of our approach means that Mobileye can scale at an unprecedented manner," Shashua said. "From the beginning, every part of our plan aims for rapid geographic and economic scalability – and today's news shows how our innovations are enabling us to execute on that strategy."

Mobileye's New Radar & Lidar Technology

Shashua said that Mobileye envisions a future where autonomous vehicles include enhanced radar and lidar, which is key to improving safety. 

Mobileye's new software-defined imaging radar technology has 2304 (48x48) channels, providing high resolution to support autonomous driving. The radar includes digital signal processing, various scanning modes and multi-frame tracking. Mobileye says its radar offers a significant leap in performance than current technologies.

Intel's specialized silicon photonics fab for lidar allows Mobileye to put active and passive lidar elements on a silicon chip (SoC) for the first time. 

"This is really game-changing," Shashua said of the lidar SoC expected in 2025. "And we call this a photonic integrated circuit, PIC. It has 184 vertical lines, and then those vertical lines are moved through optics. Having fabs that are able to do that, that's very, very rare. So this gives Intel a significant advantage in building these lidars."


A Mobileye self-drving vehicle navigates in Detroit. (Photo: Mobileye)

Mobileye is also working with a number of automakers, including U.S. automaker General Motors. Mobileye's computer vision technology supports GM's Super Cruise automated driving system available on the Cadillac CT6. The company is also working with Audi, BMW, Honda and Fiat Chrysler to supply Level 3 autonomous driving technologies.

Mobileye supplied the first computer vision system behind the front-facing camera for Tesla's early version of Autopilot, which was powered by Mobileye's EyeQ3 chip. 

The Intel and Mobileye partnership is another example of a successful collaboration in the auto industry. In the race to develop autonomous driving technology, it might be more beneficial if companies work together instead of trying to compete with one another developing overlapping technology, Shashua said last year.

The Mobileye CEO believes that various stakeholders in the nascent autonomous driving industry will eventually need to consolidate because it's too difficult for companies to cooperate on the development of self-driving vehicles if each is competing to develop their own proprietary technology.

The recent breakthroughs from Mobileye and Intel is the latest example of a successful partnership in the auto industry. The $15 billion Intel spent to acquire Mobileye in 2017 may not seem as much if the company's advanced perception technology is installed in millions of Intel-powered self-driving vehicles in the future. The roads will be much safer too.

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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