Three chip firms – Mobileye Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Nvidia Corp. – have emerged from a group of announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as leaders in locking the brains of self -driving cars for the next decade.
Major carmakers such as General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Volvo Cars forged ties with key technology partners this week to support the fight against electric car rivals Tesla Inc and Apple Inc as it moves to enter the market. Three chip firms – Mobileye Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Nvidia Corp. – have emerged from a group of announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as leaders in locking the brains of self -driving cars for the next decade. The offering involves consolidating older and slower chip scores into more powerful centralized computers. But to win it, chip firms will have to agree to allow carmakers to control key parts of the technology.
Reuters has previously reported that Apple is planning an electric car. Bloomberg reported last year that iPhone makers are targeting full self -driving capabilities as early as 2025. For carmakers facing Apple and Tesla, the stakes are high. In addition to their models, carmakers are essentially designing computers with increasing self -driving capabilities. This means a huge opportunity for carmakers to make money from in -car software and services long after vehicles launch dealer lots, but only if they can maintain customer relationships and data for themselves, as Tesla and Apple did.
Carmakers “who haven’t been pioneers are finally realizing that they’ll be left in the dust if they don’t change their approach,” said Danny Shapiro, vice president, automotive for Nvidia, a maker of high -powered chips. Nvidia this week announced deals to supply electronic brains for future models from several Chinese electric vehicle startups, and is working with other carmakers including Mercedes, Hyundai Motor Co., Volvo and Audi.
Technology and data control are areas of tension between carmakers and technology companies, Shapiro said. “Control and customization, and who owns that data?” The answer is complex because of the staggering amount of technology required to make self -driving cars. These include computer vision algorithms to help cameras recognize pedestrians, extensive high -definition maps of world roads and “driving policy” software to make millisecond decisions about how cars should behave when faced with the unexpected.
For chipmakers, this means they have to provide every aspect of the technology, but be prepared to allow customers to pick and choose. Qualcomm Inc., for example, spent $ 4.5 billion last year to buy Veoneer Inc. to complete all the software needed to complete its self -driving car chip. But after winning its first major self -driving chip contract with GM this week, the software assets will not be included because GM owns them.
“Our software stacks are all developed in -house. So we don’t participate in them,” said Jason Ditman, chief engineer for GM’s upcoming “Ultra Cruise” hands -free driving product. But for other carmakers, Qualcomm will have to provide all parts of the self -driving system, said Nakul Duggal, senior vice president and general manager of automotive at the chip firm. “Different carmakers find themselves at different levels of readiness,” he said. “What’s important for carmakers is that they should be able to build relationships with the customers they’re trying to gain.”
Similar dynamics are being played out in Mobileye’s relationship with Ford, which was strengthened this week. Mobileye once delivered camera, chip and self-drive software as an all-in-one product. Now Mobileye will start isolating some of its system functions and allowing Ford to build its own technology on top of it. “We provide all the output to Ford, and they will run their own algorithms on top of our output,” Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua told Reuters.
Chip companies have little choice but to be more flexible as they face their own important competitors. Carmakers have relied on three major suppliers for simpler semiconductors that control combustion engines – Infineon, Renesas and NXP, said Phil Amsrud, senior lead analyst with IHS Markit.
But the market of chip firms that supply high -powered computing to vehiclemakers is quite crowded, including Chinese companies like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and computer vision company Ambarella Inc moving into the auto sector.
“We are at a point where we may be getting too many suppliers,” Amsrud said. “If you look at traditionally automotive there are never more than a handful.”
For the latest auto news and reviews, follow carandbike.com at TwitterFacebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.