PARIS – Intel and Mobileye dropped a bombshell Monday (March 13) by announcing that the world’s largest processor giant plans to spend roughly $15 billion to acquire Israel-based Mobileye, the world’s leader of computer vision chips and algorithms for advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving.
Phil Magney, founder and principal advisor of technology advisory Vision Systems Intelligence, called the agreement “the biggest deal in the ‘autonomous’ space thus far.” Intel, which has been buying its way into the automotive market in recent years, “now has a seat at the table,” said Magney. When it comes to vision, “Mobileye is as good as it gets,” he added.
Intel Auto Shopping Spree (Source: EE Times, Intel)
In a letter to its employees, cosigned by Ziv Avriam, Mobileye’s co-founder, president and CEO, and Amnon Shashua, co-founder, CTO and chairman, the two executives stressed, “The transaction is unique in the sense that instead of Mobileye being integrated into Intel, Intel’s Automated Driving Group (ADG) will be integrated into Mobileye.”
Under the agreement, two Intel executives currently overseeing ADG – Doug Davis, Intel senior vice president, and Kathy Winter, vice president – will report to Shashua after the transaction’s closing.
Based in Israel
In short, Intel’s ADG group will be led by the Israeli team.
Asked why Intel agreed to this arrangement, Winter told EE Times, “Mobileye is known for moving very quickly. We wanted to preserve that culture.”
From Mobileye’s perspective, the merger will smoothly “extend out” all the projects currently up and running at an accelerated pace, said Erez Dagan, senior vice president of advanced development and strategy at Mobileye.
In particular, Mobileye’s top management reiterated in a letter to its employees, “Mobileye’s relationships with OEM customers, Tier 1 partners and STMicro, our EyeQ roadmap, and our after-market division operations continue uninterrupted.”
In sum, now is not the time for Intel to meddle with Mobileye – which already commands a near monopoly in the ADAS computer vision chip market – with any organizational confusion that might follow the deal.
Magney added, “I think Intel believes Mobileye’s team is further along in the development, not only vision but other technologies like behavior (Driving Policy) and localization (REM). Perhaps centering the actions around Mobileye’s team is the right thing to do.”
Over the next nine months until the deal’s closing, senior management’s responsibility is to figure out the synergy between the companies and devise an efficiently organized combined team.
Winter declined to estimate the number of people at Intel who will move over to Mobileye’s team.
Winter made it clear, however, that Intel and Mobileye are no strangers to each other. The companies have worked together closely for more than a year through the BMW/Intel/Mobileye platform, and Delphi project. “We know the complementary roles both companies play,” she said.
The division of labor is pretty well known. Mobileye is responsible for vision processing, running its camera algorithms and fusing data from multiple cameras.
Mobileye has become an undisputed leader in the ADAS computer vision chip market, offering OEMs and tier ones a “black box” in which Mobileye hardware combines with the company’s own dataset and algorithms.
In contrast, Intel has always aspired to lead in all three facets of the highly automated vehicle platform, from in-vehicle computing to connectivity and data center. Intel, in short, is setting its sights on an “end-to-end” play in the auto industry.
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