Sometimes, you need a program to keep track of the players on the field. Once upon a time, Mobileye was among the world leaders in self-driving technology. It was at the core of Tesla’s first generation Autopilot, a system that was years — even decades — ahead of the competition. That was before Joshua Brown was killed after he stuffed his Tesla Model S into the side of a tractor trailer in Florida while using Autopilot.
After that accident, Mobileye and Tesla had a rather messy spat, with each pointing fingers at the other for the tragedy. Eventually, the two companies decided to part company, with Elon Musk ripping up the camera-based system supplied by Mobileye and replacing it with a new system that relied heavily on radar instead.
Mobileye drifted for a while but then was acquired by Intel, the chip maker that has ruled the roost in computer technology for decades. Intel has some big plans for creating a fleet of self-driving robotaxis that will rely on Mobileye Level 4 autonomous technology. What has any of this got to do with Nio? Just this. Nio and Intel entered into a partnership in November of last year that calls for the Chinese company to build the cars that will feature the Intel/Mobileye autonomous system.
In a press release when the partnership was announced, Intel said, “This self-driving system would be the first of its kind, targeting consumer autonomy and engineered for automotive qualification standards, quality, cost and scale. NIO will mass-produce the system for Mobileye and also integrate the technology into its electric vehicle lines for consumer markets and for Mobileye’s driverless ride-hailing services. The agreement marks the first large-scale automaker partner supplying vehicles to Mobileye, as the company builds a global commercial robotaxi fleet that adapts to the mobility needs of the 21st century.”
And that, says Seeking Alpha contributor Arne Verheyde, is why Nio will survive and maybe even thrive in the highly competitive Chinese EV market. There is quite a bit of angst about Nio, with its stock bouncing up and down on a regular basis. There are lots of people who wonder whether it will still be around in 2022 when the first Nio ES 8 production cars with Mobileye Level 4 technology are scheduled to begin production. Real world testing is slated to begin later this year.
Verheyde believes Intel has too much riding on Nio to let it fail. That is his opinion and worth precisely what you paid for it. “Given that in general Mobileye is one of Intel’s biggest bets and that Mobileye deems the robotaxi phase as a necessary precursor to consumer AVs, Intel has much to gain to see Nio succeed as a company,” he writes. “Given the opportunity that the AV market offers for Intel as one the company’s big bets, Intel simply can’t afford to see one its key partners fail.”
Level 4 autonomy is a big step up from the the Level 2+ systems Tesla and other automakers are using today. If Nio and Mobileye can get their ducks in a row, they could have some of the first L4 capable cars on the road anywhere in the world.
[Note: As the owner of a small chunk of Nio shares, I sure hope Verheyde is correct. However, if past experience is any guide, doing the exact opposite of what I do as an investor may be the wisest course. CleanTechnica does not offer investment advice and anyone who listens to what we say when it comes to the stock market is a fool. Caveat emptor! ]