Intel wants to drive development of autonomous vehicles

It doesn't look like much, but this piece of hardware from Intel could make autonomous cars a...

It doesn't look like much, but this piece of hardware from Intel could make autonomous cars a reality sooner rather than later. (Business Wire)

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, Last Updated: 5:40 PM ET

Being on the inside of the majority of the world's computers clearly isn't enough for the chip maker: it also wants to provide the hardware for the next generation of self-driving cars.

Intel has just taken the wraps off a suite of special hardware and software products that it calls Intel In-Vehicle Solutions and that it sees as playing a crucial role in the development of active driver safety technologies, including autonomous driving.

As Doug Davis, corporate vice president, Internet of Things Group at Intel, explains: "Our goal is to fuel the evolution from convenience features available in the car today to enhanced safety features of tomorrow and eventually self-driving capabilities."

At the moment, automotive manufacturers are in a race between each other and, to a lesser extent, with Google, to develop the technologies that will eventually let the car take the strain when it comes to everything from negotiating busy intersections to finding and safely maneuvering into an available parking space.

Intel's plan is to offer a standardized platform with integrated, tested hardware and software that car makers can use to cut development time -- the company claims by up to 12 months and the associated costs by as much as 50%. Adopting the technology would free up companies to focus on the technologies that are going to make the difference to the cars of the future rather than the processors and operating systems that will be needed to support them.

Intel processors already feature in a host of current cars: BMW uses Intel to power its in-car navigation systems and Infiniti and Hyundai also use Intel technology in their infotainment systems.

At the same time, Intel is also extending its own research and development in the area, focusing on how drivers interact with technology and on how to make increasingly autonomous cars sufficiently robust and safe from cyber as well as real-world threats.

The first self-driving cars are expected to be a reality on the roads by 2020 and by 2032, 10 million cars sold annually in the US are expected to be able to perform with full autonomy.

Tesla, Nissan and Volvo have all pledged to offer their first autonomous vehicles before the end of the decade and in its latest emerging motoring trends survey, JD Power found that nearly one quarter of US car buyers would be prepared to pay a $3,000 premium on the price of their next car if it offered autonomous driving features, such as self-parking or adaptive cruise control.

Unfortunately, the cost of the systems required to make a car fully autonomous currently run to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This massive cost is one of the reasons why it is taking such a long time for these technologies to become a reality at the local dealership.

The other major issue is, of course, legislation. How will autonomous cars be regulated and if a self-driving car has an accident, who is liable, the driver or the manufacturer? In this regard, California has already taken some tentative steps. This month the state announced that it is to start licensing autonomous cars and their 'drivers' on the state's roads from 2015. However, the move is to help car companies (and Google) to accelerate the develoment and testing process.


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