Source: Intel
Source: Intel

Chinese EV maker Nio has partnered with Israeli self-driving technology company Mobileye that will see the company develop its own “robo-taxis” for China, and eventually also global auto markets.

The agreement, which was outlined at a recent Mobileye investor event in Jerusalem on Tuesday, will see Nio produce Mobileye-designed self-driving systems en masse for its range of electric vehicles, as well as Mobileye’s own driverless ride-hailing services.

The advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) designed by Mobileye, which includes a graphics processing chip, camera and LiDAR sensors and mapping/safety software, will also be deployed in self-driving Nio EVs for a global robo-taxi market.

“We are thrilled by the promise and potential of collaborating with NIO on electric autonomous vehicles, for both consumers and robotaxi fleets,” said Intel senior VP and president and CEO of Mobileye Amnon Shashua at the event.

“We value the opportunity to bring greater road safety to China and other markets through our efforts, and look forward to NIO’s support as Mobileye builds a transformational mobility service across the globe.”

It’s a move that aims to take on the driverless vision outlined by Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk in April, using Full Self Driving software (FSD) to enable Tesla cars to take part in a self-driving robo-taxi fleet.

As with Tesla, the reasoning behind the Mobileye robo-taxi service is to reduce congestion and pollution, as well as improving road safety.

At the event, Mobileye gave investors and analysts the chance to test drive (or rather, test ride) the self-driving technology in a retrofitted Ford Fusion.

The technology in the video appears quite advanced, handling smoothly a number of manoeuvres including corners, approaching a stop sign, detecting pedestrians and other vehicles, and merging onto a highway (we note there were no traffic lights).

Notably, the demonstration does not use LiDAR, but only cameras.

For Nio, which this year saw troubled times as 70% of its share value plummet amid reports of cost overruns, a voluntary battery recall and declining EV sales in China due to a pull back on subsidies, the partnership could prove to be a triumph.

Monday (the day before Mobileye’s investor event) saw share values jump up by 25.1% as the Chinese EV maker, which makes the long-range ES6 and flagship ES8 electric SUVs as well as an ES9 sportscar, released improved sales figures for October.

“At NIO, we pride ourselves on our pursuit of innovation and cutting-edge technology, which not only strengthens our product competitiveness but also shapes a joyful lifestyle for our users,” said Nio founder and CEO William Li in a statement.

“We look forward to building our strategic collaboration with Mobileye in autonomous driving technology development, to further enhance the safety and capabilities of our vehicles, as we strive to be the next-generation car company and the best user enterprise.”

Mobileye, which was bought in 2017 by computing giant Intel for $US15.3 billion ($A22.2 billion), now forms Intel’s fastest growing business thanks to the rapidly expanding driver assistance market.

To date, it already provides ADAS for a total of 300 models for 27 car manufacturers, and is currently conduction an autonomous ride-hailing pilot in conjunction with German carmaker Volkswagen with an eye to the first robo-taxi service in Tel Aviv.

“As one of Intel’s big bets, Mobileye is a critical part of Intel’s future and is already exceeding our expectations with ADAS revenue today that is funding the future of driverless cars,” Intel CFO Davis said at the event.

“Our ADAS to AV strategy sets us up to play the marathon game with self-funding of R&D that will enable us to address key segments of a significant TAM for ADAS and data of $72.5 billion and an estimated $160 billion TAM for robotaxis by 2030.”

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