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Intel Is Partnering With Chinese Automaker SAIC On Self-Driving Cars

The announcement is one of a number of self-driving car partnerships being unwrapped at CES this week.

Intel Is Partnering With Chinese Automaker SAIC On Self-Driving Cars
[Photo: AFP/AFP/Getty Images]

At the Consumer Electronic Show, Intel announced a new deal with Chinese car manufacturer SAIC Motor to develop Level 3, 4, and 5 autonomous vehicles. The chipmaker is also collaborating with Chinese mapping company NavInfo for this project.

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China is a notoriously difficult market for foreign companies working on self-driving cars. The country has restrictions in place preventing such companies from getting the mapping data necessary to meaningfully operate self-driving cars. Intel’s relationship with NavInfo will prove extremely crucial as it builds technology there.

As a result of the tie-up with Intel, SAIC cars will have advanced driver assistance systems capable of navigating traffic and highways and braking in an emergency. It’s the same Autopilot-like technology that Chinese Tesla competitor NIO integrated into its SUV ES8 late last year. SAIC will feed data into, and get access to, Intel subsidiary Mobileye’s Road Experience Management technology, which pulls images and other contextual data from car-embedded cameras in an effort to build a high-definition map that updates in real-time.

Cars will get crowdsourced data on weather, road closures, potholes, and other obstacles. The map acts as a complementary source of information to a self-driving car’s local sensors and cameras.

Saving Time, Easier To Scale

Many companies working on self-driving technology have a more time- and cost-intensive process for collecting data that involves sending out fleets of cars outfitted with mapping sensors to gather data that later needs to be downloaded and processed. Intel-Mobileye’s cloud-based system stands to be more time- and cost-effective—and easier to scale.

So far, there are 2 million vehicles on the road in North America and Europe with chips capable of contributing to Mobileye’s RoadBook, the platform that crunches and makes sense of all this raw data. Intel says it will start harvesting that data in 2018. Last year, Mobileye shipped 9 million chips to power ADAS systems.

“The percentage of cars that have ADAS are going to grow rapidly,” says Dan Galves, chief communications officer for Mobileye.

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Intel is using the partnership with SAIC as an opportunity to introduce its new chip infrastructure, one that combines Intel and Mobileye technology. Mobileye’s EyeQ5 system on a chip will now be powered by Intel’s Atom C3xx4 processor, which the company says will make it more energy efficient. Intel made plans to acquire Mobileye in March 2017.

SAIC is just Intel’s latest partner. The company is also working on self-driving projects with Fiat Chrysler, BMW, and Alphabet-owed Waymo.

The announcement is one of many self-driving partnerships that will make their debut this week. Lyft and Adaptiv pulled the plastic off a new partnership via a self-driving pilot at CES. Meanwhile, Uber and Nvidia made their work together official on Monday. Aurora Innovation also revealed it will be working with Volkswagen and Hyundai.

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About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of real estate, technology, and the future of work.

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