Mobileye’s CEO says that self-driving companies that don’t have software in their DNA aren’t going to make it (INTC)
Category : entrepreneur
- Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua said that an “actor whose DNA isn’t software has no chance” in the autonomous-mobility business.
- Mobileye has taken a broad view of the rapidly developing industry, ranging from data and mapping to a forthcoming consumer application with China’s NIO.
- Shashua doesn’t predict that anyone will capture a monopoly in self-driving, but he expects just a few well-capitalized competitors to emerge.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories
Mobileye staged an investor day at its headquarters in Jerusalem on Tuesday, and CEO Amnon Shashua took the opportunity to announce a partnership with China’s NIO and to report on the company’s growth and plans for the future.
But in an interview with Business Insider, he didn’t hold back on a stern prediction for self-driving efforts from both startups and established players in the transportation business.
“It’s all software,” Shashua said. “An actor whose DNA isn’t software has no chance.”
Shashua has an enviable perspective. He cofounded Mobileye in 1999, and the company was acquired by Intel in 2017 for just over $15 billion. Since then, Mobileye has been codifying a three-pronged overall strategy: self-driving systems, mapping and data, and a regulatory framework.
Autonomous mobility is at a critical juncture. Considered the stuff of science-fiction less than a decade ago, a surge in progress by companies such as Alphabet’s Waymo and Cruise (acquired by General Motors in 2016) has put driverless vehicles on the streets of major US cities.
Lots of money and lots of time
But just as more autonomous vehicles has arrived, the difficulty scale of the challenge to build a business around the technology has become apparent.
“There aren’t going to be many players,” Shashua said. “The investment required is huge. And it isn’t just money, it’s also time.”
Mobileye, he expects, should be one of those players. On Tuesday the company revealed a 20% year-over-year revenue increase, bolstered by the company’s driver-assist technologies, as well as a deal with China’s NIO, an electric-car manufacturer that’s been compared with Tesla and that has endured some choppy waters since its late-2018 IPO.
“NIO will integrate Mobileye’s industry-leading self-driving-system to build highly automated and autonomous vehicles for consumer markets in China and other major territories,” Mobileye said in a statement.
“NIO will also work with Mobileye to develop a robo-taxi variant of their next generation vehicle which will be exclusively sold to Mobileye for global deployment of robotaxi-based ride-sharing services.”
“China is a very attractive,” Shashua said. That isn’t a novel sentiment — China’s vehicle market, the world’s biggest, is already much larger than the United States’ and projected to grow by millions of annual unit sales in the coming decades.
Critically, Mobileye’s deal with NIO entails a consumer application of self-driving technology, in addition to a ride-hailing execution. According to Shashua, the deal is for 30,000 cars in China, with a new model arriving in 2022 that should showcase Mobileye’s consumer-focused autonomous system.
Taking a broad view of autonomy — including regulations
Mobileye has taken perhaps the broadest view of autonomy of any of the big names in the space. Shashua considers the opportunity to be multifaceted, and while Mobileye has worked on self-driving hardware and software, it’s also joined with government mapping agencies and attacked the vexing problem of regulating autonomous vehicles.
“If you don’t have clear regulations up front, accidents will kill this industry,” he said. “A human can have lapse of judgment, but a machine can’t.”
Shashua genuinely wants to create an autonomous future that makes good on promises of drastically reduced fatalities from transportation. Even in 2019, 35,000 people are killed in auto-related accidents in the US alone.
“It’s not tolerable to have a single accident that you’re liable for,” he said.
He pointed out that accidents can’t be entirely avoided. But it is possible to create a “framework” that guarantees a given technology could never cause mishaps.
“Under this model our machine will never cause an accident,” he said. “Unless there’s a failure.”
As far as the shakeout on the self-driving business that to a degree is currently underway, Shashua is unflinching in his assessment.
“For many many players, this kind of technology isn’t in their skillset,” he said. “It’s much more difficult than what they thought. Those players were never serious players.”