By Mike Antuono, International Business Writer
The advent of high-speed processing has been dominated by tech giants like Nvidia, AMD, and even most prominently, Intel. Intel has led in processor development for personal computers for decades. However, with that primary business declining, they have sought to expand into new avenues to secure future stability. Much of Silicon Valley has invested heavily in self-driving cars, a space that has been estimated by some to top $70 billion by 2030.
Intel’s latest foray into this new space came in the form of an acquisition, namely, the $15.3 billion purchase of Israeli-based Mobileye NV. Mobileye specializes in in-car cameras and related technologies.
The deal amounted to Intel paying a 34% premium over Mobileye’s closing price on Friday. It grants them ownership over a widely used technology in the fast growing industry of self-driving cars. Along with this, Intel gains valuable customer relationships with automakers, including General Motors, Volkswagen, and Honda.
This latest move puts Intel right in the race to create autonomous vehicles that has been heating up steadily in the past few years. Unconventional automakers have sparked a race to acquire companies specializing in self-driving gear and software. Some of these companies include Tesla, Alphabet Inc’s Google, and Uber Technologies. Their entry and success have sparked interest and attention from numerous companies trying to gain some meaningful amount of market share.
This deal for Mobileye comes as the second largest in Intel history, after its $16.7 billion acquisition of Altera Corp in 2015. The sheer size of the acquisition represents how highly Intel has valued self-driving cars as the next big thing. The company’s strong commitments are likely a consequence of them largely missing out on the smartphone boom.
Estimates from Intel executives state that autonomous cars may be putting out upwards of four terabytes of data per day, leaving huge opportunities for growth in cloud and high-speed computing. The industry will include not only cars but autonomous algorithms, digital maps and a variety of sensors. These processes require Intel’s full product range, so the move more fully into the space makes sense.
Mobileye’s technology functions essentially as the “eyes” of an autonomous car, while Intel processors would be the “brain.” The “eyes” help the car see the space around it and help with functions like keeping the car in its lane. It provides 360-degree vision and is already in more than 300 car models today.
This move by Intel is also viewed as a response to competitors in the computer processor industry. Qualcomm made a massive purchase of $39 billion for NXP Semiconductors, whose chips handle low-level automotive functions. Samsung also completed an $8 billion deal to purchase Harman International Industries.
These are only a few acquisitions in a long line of recent activity by other major companies, including Uber, Ford, and GM. This movement has significantly sped up timelines for seeing functional and tested self-driving vehicles on the road. It is likely that early within the next few years deployments could be underway in ride-sharing programs or in low-speed areas, like gated communities.
Overall, Intel’s purchase of Mobileye, along with their core business and recent forays into artificial intelligence have them well positioned moving forward into the world of self-driving cars. With the business covered from numerous points of attack, they are primed to scoop up significant market share in a rapidly growing space.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 21st print edition.
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