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CES 2021: Mobileye partners with parent Intel for new LiDAR and radar for AVs

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Israeli self-driving car developer Mobileye today announced that it is partnering with parent company Intel to develop an innovative LiDAR system for autonomous vehicles (AVs). As part of the partnership, Intel brings its XPU strategy, expertise and manufacturing capability in silicon photonics to develop a LiDAR system-on-chip (SoC) for Mobileye use in AVs starting in 2025. Mobileye also plans a software-defined radar customized for autonomous vehicles.

The announcement, made at the four-day Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2021, which began on January 11 and going full digital this year, also includes the progress made by company in automated crowdsourced mapping and AV test vehicles in four new countries – US, Japan, China and France — early this year. Mobileye also revealed that autonomous vehicles using its existing technology have mapped nearly 1 billion km globally.

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“The backing of Intel and the trinity of our approach means that Mobileye can scale at an unprecedented manner. From the beginning, every part of our plan aims for rapid geographic and economic scalability – and today’s news shows how our innovations are enabling us to execute on that strategy,” Mobileye President and CEO Amnon Shashua said as part of his address.

New LiDAR and radar technology

Shashua’s statement that the company envisions a future with AVs achieving enhanced radio- and light-based detection-and-ranging sensing, which is key to further raising the bar for road safety, is interesting given that Mobileye so far has preferreed cameras and machine vision for AV systems.

Its latest partnership with parent company Intel, now enables it to explore innovations in LiDAR and radar technologies for AVs while optimizing computing- and cost-efficiencies.

The LiDAR system-on-chip, or SoC, is built using Intel’s specialized silicon photonics fab, which is able to put both active and passive laser elements on a silicon chip. As Shashua said, this will be “really game-changing” in terms of costs. “We call this a photonic integrated circuit. It has 184 vertical lines, and then those vertical lines are moved through optics. Having fabs that are able to do that — that’s very, very rare. So, this gives Intel a significant advantage in building these LiDARs.”

The new software-defined radar system also represents a paradigm shift in architecture to enable a significant leap in performance. The system has 2,304 channels, 100DB dynamic range and 40 DBc side lobe. In other words, fully digital and state-of-the-art signal processing, different scanning modes, rich raw detections and multi-frame tracking enables the imaging radar system to recognize over 500,000 object detections per second.

AVs everywhere

Mobileye’s sees this approach – innovative technology at an affordable cost– crucial to making autonomous vehicles a reality globally.

In early 2021, the company will start rolling out its AVs in as many as five cities — Detroit, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris and (pending regulation) New York City. Earlier in 2020, Mobileye self-driving cars were rolled out in  Munich and Detroit.

Shashua also elaborated on the company’s crowdsourced mapping technology, which can track nearly 8 million kilometers daily and has nearly 1 billion kilometers completed to date. Its automated map-making process uses technology deployed on nearly 1 million vehicles already equipped with an advanced driver-assistance technology. The mapping process is unique in its attention to semantic details that, the company feels, are crucial for autonomous vehicles to understand and contextualize its environment. The process starts with the inexpensive camera as the primary sensor combined with a secondary sensing system enabling safety-critical performance that is at least three orders of magnitude safer than humans. The LiDAR and radar systems will now add to its sensing system, augmenting the details as well as making the process cost-effective.