Intel inside the cockpit

The Spark

12th May 2017

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As cars evolve into mobile computers, giants of the tech industry are disrupting traditional companies. We’ve already observed companies like Tesla, Apple, Uber and Google enter the industry with a fresh perspective and powerful balance sheets flush with cash. This week, another tech innovator has entered the race for the automotive industry’s tech future: Intel.

At the launch of the Silicon Valley Innovation Center for Autonomous Driving, Intel, along with BMW and Delphi, showed off the first highly automated vehicles it will test.

As a fairly new entrant to the market – Intel has only seriously addressed autonomous driving for about nine months – working with BMW is huge. Importantly, with its PC revenues plummeting and missing out on the smart phone revolution, car innovation allows it to diversify into a growth market; Boston Consulting says the driverless-car global market could reach £32 billion by 2025.

To get geeky, the chip manufacturer has looked beyond car partnerships to launch an AI division, is poised to launch 5G vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and is working on the “big data” problem of processing all that cross-platform sensor data. The “Intel inside” strategy we know from PCs will cross over into cars.

Validation for Intel’s entry has come partly from pioneers such as Uber and Tesla. Achieving a £51 billion valuation in under 6 years proved Uber’s ‘Car as a Service’ (CaaS) model works, and it’s now live in over 300 cities worldwide with 1 million drivers.

Showing that heritage might count for nothing in a new world of cars-as-computers, Tesla’s  Model S was voted “best car ever tested” by Consumer Reports. There’s now a clutch of (at least) eight promising new electric vehicle start-ups in Tesla’s mould. Arguably the most exciting of these is Lucid Motors, whose flagship Air will offer 200 mph+ performance.

Of course this is just the beginning. Pure technology giants Google and Apple are working on cars. Both of these companies have disrupted adjacent industries many times. Google’s autonomous cars have already driven over 1.5 million miles. Apple’s Project Titan has attracted top talent. Both companies have the brand, the technical expertise and the multi-hundred-billion-dollar balance sheet needed to re-invent the old school automotive marketplace.


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