Intel and Google’s Waymo Have Been Working Together on Self-Driving Tech for Eight Years ""
Posted on: September 18, 2017

Intel Corporation is sponsoring a one-day autonomous driving workshop on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, at its Silicon Valley Center for Autonomous Driving in San Jose, California. The day includes presentations focusing on the data challenges created by autonomous driving and demonstrations of an autonomous vehicle on city streets. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Waymo and Intel have been working together to develop the technology that powers self-driving cars for the past eight years. It sounds like something of an obvious partnership, but few people outside their engineering teams knew that was the case before today. As Waymo inches ever closer to commercializing autonomous technology and Intel seeks greater prominence in this nascent market, the two companies have now disclosed their longtime partnership. The nature of that relationship has deepened as Waymo prepares to launch hundreds of automated vehicles.

Intel’s chips are providing the processing power for a fleet of roughly 600 Chrysler Pacifica autonomous minivans that are being built for a massive pilot project in Phoenix, Arizona. While that’s already the largest fleet of autonomous cars in existence, the two Silicon Valley tech mainstays are looking at what lies beyond.

“As Waymo’s self-driving technology becomes smarter and more capable, its high-performance hardware and software will require even more powerful and efficient compute,” said Waymo CEO John Krafcik. “By working closely with Waymo, Intel can offer Waymo’s fleet of vehicles the advanced processing power required for Level 4 and 5 autonomy.”

“Given the pace at which autonomous driving is coming
-to life, I fully expect my children’s children will never have
-to drive a car. That’s an astounding thought.”

– Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO

So many unknowns still remain on the road toward those highest levels of automation. With years of development and refinement ahead, and advances in artificial intelligence being unpredictable, Intel says what it does best for customers such as Waymo is provide them with the ability to modify their computing needs on an ongoing basis.

“From a standpoint of a design philosophy, we’ve got to provide our customers with the ability to flexibly scale and rebalance the kind of compute they need in a car,” said Jack Weast, principal engineer and chief architect of Intel’s autonomous-driving-solutions division. “Because none of them know today—nobody knows today—what those workloads look like and what they’ll need in cars that are deployed in four or five years.”

Intel hosted an autonomous-driving workshop at its San Jose, California, headquarters in May. The company has been one of the most active newsmakers on the self-driving-car front this year.

The announcement came ahead of scheduled remarks from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at a tech conference in the Bay Area.

For Waymo, Monday’s announcement marks a rare public acknowledgment of a major supplier. The company, spun out from Google’s self-driving-car project late last year, has prided itself on self-reliance and developed its own sensors that detect objects and the road environment. Now it’s known that Intel’s processors are crunching information from those sensors and helping the car make real-time decisions.

Intel has pinned much of its hope for future growth on automated vehicles. Early this year, it joined an alliance with BMW and Mobileye that set its sights on deploying Level 4 autonomous vehicles—those that can operate without need for any human input or supervision in certain areas—by 2021. In March, Intel announced its intention to purchase Mobileye, a major supplier of computer-vision software, for $15 billion.

Waymo-Chrysler-1

It was only last month that the same alliance announced the addition of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to its ranks. Now, with the understanding that Intel has already been working on FCA’s minivans for Waymo, the context behind FCA’s involvement in the BMW-Intel-Mobileye partnership becomes more apparent.

The alliance plans a deployment of a pilot project involving at least 40 automated vehicles by the end of 2017. With 3 million miles of testing already completed in Waymo vehicles and hundreds more cars slated for Arizona roads, Intel may have more processing power on the road at the dawn of an autonomous era of travel than any other firm, an amount that it expects to quickly increase.

“Given the pace at which autonomous driving is coming to life, I fully expect my children’s children will never have to drive a car,” Krzanich said. “That’s an astounding thought. Something almost 90 percent of Americans do every day will end within a generation.” While we have doubts that human drivers will be rendered obsolete so quickly, the pace toward such a future probably quickens with a partnership between two of Silicon Valley’s most prominent companies.

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