The Race for Driverless Cars is Heating Up

by John Koon, Editor-in-Chief

From a distance, the Roborace is just
another event with fast car on the race track.
Taking a closer look, you will find there is no
human driver inside. My heart pounds fast
as I watch the video I worrying the NVIDIA-based
machine driver may malfunction
resulting in a crash at a speed of 200 mph.
The Roborace was introduced last year and is
taking place around the world; Buenos Aires,
Monaco, Paris, New York and Montreal.
Formula One race cars are programmed to
compete without human drivers; first in history.
It is a race of algorithm and technology.

Why do all the leading technology and
cloud companies rush to join the race for
driverless cars? They include Microsoft, Google,
Intel, NVIDIA, Baidu (the largest search
firm in China) and IBM. The future cars
represent untapped revenue. Some forecast
the market to be $77B by 2035. Technology
companies partner with automakers and
OEMs to get a head start. The road can be
long and winding and full of challenges
but the rewards are great. What is the new
formula of future car market? It is autonomous
+ artificial intelligence + electrical +
machine vision.

 

To illustrate the point, Intel acquired (August
2017) the Jerusalem-based Mobileye for
$15 billion, the largest acquisition of its kind
in the Israel history. Mobileye is a maker
of cameras and sensors for driverless cars.
Intel’s partnership with BMW and Mobileye
also includes Delphi (May 2017). Additionally,
Intel also acquired a few other companies
in 2016; Italy-based Yogotech, a chip designer
specializing in driverless cars, Itseez with
focus on machine vision and Wind River,
an IoT company to achieve its cars-to-cloud
strategy. Google and Uber teamed up and
have already spent billions.

Recently, Microsoft and Baidu announced
cooperation in developing driverless car
technology. Microsoft will support Baidu’s
platform outside China using its Azure
cloud. Furthermore, Microsoft plans to
provide artificial intelligence, deep neural
network and machine learning to support
cloud computing. The largest software and
silicon companies, Microsoft and Intel are
interested in cars because future cars will
consume a lot of data (via 5G) and cloud
business will be the bread and butter not
just for Microsoft and Intel but all other
technology companies as well. Microsoft is
paying attention to the Azure (growing in
high double digits) and how it may impact
the future of the company.

Audi cars now have Intel inside. But
NVDIA is pushing hard. Not only the
NVIDIA GPU supercomputer is driving the
Roborace, NVIDIA will be powering the
new Audi A8 to achieve Level 3 Automation
(hands-off but not mind-off). Its technology
provides self-learning capability so driverless
cars will be able to improve its driving skills
over time. Recently, IBM partners with automaker,
Local Motors, using Watson, called
Olli, to provide autonomous public transportation.
Olli will replace human bus drivers
and be able to carry on a conversation with
its passengers. Mercedes, Clarion and General
Motors are in full support of using AI in
autonomous driving. The potential growth
for future cars is limitless and this is just the
beginning.