Mobileye sees income from maps before self-driving cars launch

Wed May 3, 2017 8:39am EDT
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By Tova Cohen and Steven Scheer

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Mobileye's mapping program for self-driving cars will start making money long before fully autonomous vehicles hit the roads, its chairman told Reuters, as carmakers can use the technology for a variety of semi-autonomous driving features.

Amnon Shashua, head of the Israeli technology company that is being bought by Intel Corp for $15.3 billion, said Mobileye expected to announce deals with carmakers by the end of 2017 for its high definition (HD) maps, bringing in revenues for both the company and its map-making partners.

Fully self-driving vehicles are not expected until at least 2021, but carmakers are already offering a variety of semi-autonomous driver assistance systems, such as Tesla's Autopilot system. Mobileye thinks its mapping technology will be needed as these systems become more advanced.

"We can enable hands-free driving to levels that are much higher than with any sensor (alone)," Shashua told Reuters, adding semi-autonomous systems still required drivers to remain alert.

The Israeli company also believes its mapping technology will be cheaper and more comprehensive than rival systems because of the way it is created.

Whereas traditional HD mapping requires dedicated vehicles with specialized equipment and hired drivers, Mobileye's RoadBook uses hardware in vehicles to "crowdsource" data.

Nissan, Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) and BMW have already signed up to share data from Mobileye's camera-equipped advanced driver assistance systems to generate HD maps for self-driving cars, and Shashua said four more manufacturers were in talks about joining the program.

"We hope to have the majority of these four signed by the end of 2017," he said. "Only car manufacturers can contribute ... because they have the cars. This is something that truly separates the car industry from the tech players."   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: The logo Israeli driverless technology firm Mobileye is seen on the building of their offices in Jerusalem March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo