The vast majority of the talk about robotaxis centers around Tesla and Waymo, but I have wondered more than a few times if Mobileye’s/Intel’s or NVIDIA’s more stealth approaches might end up paying off more — at least in the short/mid term. Mobileye announcements from CES 2022 certainly raise some … eyebrows again.
Level 4 Autonomy via “EyeQ Ultra”
First of all, you’ve got the new EyeQ Ultra, which the company describes as “a single package AV-on-chip super-computer that is purpose-built for end-to-end autonomous driving.” Mobileye also calls it “the industry’s leanest autonomous vehicle (AV) chip.” That said, it’s not ready yet. It will genuinely launch at the end of 2023 and it won’t go into automotive-grade production until 2025. That’s a lot of time for Tesla to tweak its approach to full autonomy. That said, Mobileye plans to have its own robotaxi homologated and on the road by the end of 2022 (this year). And there’s something else, but I’ll get into that in the next section. Also note that Mobileye has been testing its autonomous driving systems in cities around the world, claiming that it has the most extensive such testing globally. That includes testing in NYC, Detroit, Israel, Tokyo, Munich, and the City of Love, Paris. The Paris testing announcement just came in the middle of December. The Munich testing announcement came in September 2021. the NYC testing announcement came in July 2021.
An important point here is that Mobileye is claiming this product will enable Level 4 autonomy, which means true hands-off, robotaxi-capable autonomous driving, and in an efficient way. “Marking a leap in the evolution of the EyeQ family of SoCs, EyeQ Ultra packs the performance of 10 EyeQ5s in a single package. Leveraging 5 nanometer process technology, EyeQ Ultra can handle all the needs and applications of Level 4 (L4) autonomous driving without the power consumption and costs related to integrating multiple SoCs together. Like its EyeQ predecessors, EyeQ Ultra has been engineered in tandem with Mobileye software, enabling extreme power efficiency with zero performance sacrifices.”
Also, to be clear, Mobileye is standing by its perspective that cameras, radar, and lidar are all needed. There’s a whole portion of the Mobileye CES presentation about this (video and slidedeck below). That is a big departure from Tesla, which sees only cameras as necessary (no pun initially intended). “EyeQ Ultra utilizes an array of four classes of proprietary accelerators, each built for a specific task. These accelerators are paired with additional CPU cores, ISPs and GPUs in a highly efficient solution capable of processing input from two sensing subsystems – one camera-only system and the other radar and lidar combined – as well as the vehicle’s central computing system, the high-definition map and driving policy software. At a mere 176 TOPS, the EyeQ Ultra is much more efficient than other AV solutions, delivering the necessary performance and price-point required for consumer-level AVs.”
A slidedeck for the above presentation is here.
One rather interesting part of the announcement is that Mobileye emphasizes that they see the future of autonomous vehicles being in large part consumer AVs — rather than just focusing on autonomous vehicles for Transportation as a Service (TaaS) or a shift to much wider user of taxis/ridesharing. “Consumer AV is the end game for the industry,” said Prof. Amnon Shashua, Mobileye president and chief executive officer. “By developing the entire self-driving solution – from hardware and software to mapping and service models – Mobileye has a unique perspective into the exact requirements for the self-driving system that enables us to reach the performance-and-cost optimization that will make consumer AVs a reality.”
And that leads into other news….
Mobileye + Volkswagen, Ford, Zeekr …
Mobileye has a number of notable partnerships with automakers. That includes a close partnership with the world’s largest automotive group, Volkswagen Group, and US giant Ford Motor Company. At the moment, with those two, Mobileye is providing Level 2 autonomous vehicle tech. Of course, as the tech improves, Volkswagen and Ford (and all their sub-brands) will get better and better driver-assist in their cars … until they hit the level of full autonomous capability.
Though, looking to leapfrog the competition, the new premium-class electric brand from Geely, Zeekr, has partnered with Mobileye to put full self-driving vehicle tech in some of its vehicles starting in just 2024. Naturally, that will use the EyeQ Ultra product discussed above.
You can read more about the way Volkswagen and Ford are innovating with Mobileye’s support here. I’ll just highlight the Zeekr portion of the announcement, with emphasis added: “Mobileye and Zeekr, the global premium electric mobility technology brand from Geely Holding Group, will further expand their partnership by building a new all-electric vehicle with L4 capabilities enabled by Mobileye True Redundancy™ sensing, REM mapping technology and Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS)-based driving policy along with Geely SEA architecture’s true-redundant braking, steering and power under an Open EyeQ concept that allows seamless integration between Mobileye and Zeekr technologies. It is believed to be the world’s first L4 vehicle for consumers. The vehicle’s consumer debut is expected by 2024 in China, with a global rollout to follow.”
In a separate announcement, the heads of Mobileye and Zeekr provided some extra commentary on the partnership.
“The broadening scope of our partnership reflects just how closely Mobileye and Zeekr are aligned on the vision for future mobility,” said Prof. Amnon Shashua, Mobileye president and chief executive officer. “Zeekr’s confidence in Mobileye as a technology partner demonstrates our ability to execute toward joint goals and further solidify our industry leadership.”
“Mobileye has been a strategic partner to our mission of delivering lifestyle vehicles fit for a more sustainable and autonomous future of transportation,” said Andy An, CEO of Zeekr Intelligent Technology. “Our partnership supports Zeekr and Mobileye’s shared ambitions for leading the global ADAS and AV industry. Zeekr welcomes open collaboration that enables the integration of technological expertise to create a more sophisticated autonomous mobility experience for our customers.”
Mobileye’s autonomous driving tech is also finding its way into commercial transport. It is being implemented in the Udelv Transporter. This is “a purpose-built autonomous delivery vehicle powered by Mobileye Drive.” Commercial operations are set to start in 2023, and Udelv aims to have 35,000 such autonomous delivery vehicles on the road by 2028.
That’s the story. What are your thoughts on Mobileye’s approach and news?