The world of self-driving cars is becoming increasingly defined by partnerships, something that isn’t particularly common in other areas of the auto or tech industries.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich revealed that his company supplies processors and other hardware to Waymo, and that Intel would like to continue working with the former Google self-driving car project. The Intel components are used in Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, which recently replaced a fleet of small pod-like electric cars as Waymo’s frontline test vehicles.
The relationship between Intel and Waymo might be among the most conventional of the current self-driving car partnerships. Automakers already buy hardware from outside suppliers, and this is similar to that. If autonomous cars really do become mainstream, suppliers of processors could be just as important as suppliers of transmissions or battery cells.
Intel hopes to keep working with Waymo. In a press release CEO Krzanich said the company is capable of supplying processing power for Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles. On the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) autonomous-driving scale, Level 4 denotes a car that is fully autonomous in most situations, but may require human assistance at times. Level 5 cars are all-autonomous all of the time, completely ditching steering wheels and pedals.
Both Intel and Waymo already have their share of autonomous-driving partners. Intel bought Israeli tech firm Mobileye to gain access to the company’s cameras and image-recognition software, and it drafted Delphi, BMW, and FCA into an ongoing self-driving car development effort.
Waymo established a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to get its fleet of minivans. It also has a relationship with Lyft, one that could be mutually beneficial. Lyft is very eager to use self-driving cars in ridesharing applications, and its global service could give Waymo a commercial outlet for its tech.
While some companies, including Ford and Tesla, seem to be going it alone, webs of partnerships like the ones being spun by Intel and Waymo are becoming more common in this space. Intel probably wants to get its chips into as many self-driving cars as possible, capitalizing on what could be a big market.
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