Intel’s $250M investment latest auto-tech convergence

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — Intel Corp. plans to invest more than $250 million in the next two years for research and development of technologies for autonomous and connected cars.

The targeted investment by Intel’s capital investment arm was announced Tuesday by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich during a speech at the Los Angeles Auto Show’s Mobility LA conference. It marks the most recent convergence of the automotive and tech industries in the race to connected and self-driving vehicles.

Krzanich said the California-based tech giant will invest in startups that are trying to provide security to the connected vehicle space as well as other initiatives to “drive innovation and collaboration across the industry.”

Intel, which has been growing its presence in the auto industry in recent years, sees opportunity in the massive amount of data that will be produced by self-driving cars.

“Data is the new form of oil,” Krzanich said. “Let’s say you have a car driving between here and San Diego. Well, if you want to do that in an autonomous world, without data that car will not move … you’re going to have to have data as much as you’re going to have to have any type of propulsion.”

According to Intel, one autonomous vehicle by 2020 will produce as much data in a day as about 3,000 people. If 1 million autonomous vehicles are on the road by then or later, that’s the amount of data produced by 3 billion people per day.

The announcement is part of Intel’s ongoing work with automakers and system suppliers to help integrate advanced technologies in cars. Intel has booked more than $1 billion worth of revenue in the past 12 months from automotive-related business. The company has worked with leading global car manufacturers including BMW, Daimler, Hyundai, Rolls-Royce, Toyota, Tesla and others.

“We really want to work collaboratively in this space,” Krzanich said, adding that no one company has all the answers or resources to proliferate connected, self-driving vehicles.

The collision of automotive and tech companies was a main discussion among industry insiders at the mobility conference, which comes a day before automakers unveil more than 50 vehicles for the LA Auto Show.

Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields on Tuesday said the industry is “on the cusp of a mobility revolution,” but collaborations and partnerships will continue to be needed.

Starting next year, Ford will accelerate its efforts of urban mobility by working with city officials more closely to design the “city of tomorrow.” Part of the automaker’s plans include beginning to work with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Compact of Mayors coalition, which focuses on helping cities and countries set and achieve more ambitious goals for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Fields said Ford plans to go to city officials and discuss their specific problems and needs in an attempt to determine what mobility efforts — ride-sharing, bikes, ride-hailing, etc. — may work best for that city’s residents.

Fields said the company sees mobility as a much larger, more-profitable business than just producing and selling cars and trucks.

“While we continue to make great vehicles, they are no longer our entire game,” he said. “Today we’re not only dreaming about the world of tomorrow, we’re also focused on creating the city of tomorrow, which means continuing to find ways to make peoples’ lives better whether they own a car or not.”

Ford is investing heavily in autonomous cars because it believes driverless vehicles could account for 20 percent of industry-wide U.S. yearly sales by 2030. Of that 20 percent, Fields said 80 percent will be in fleets, while 20 percent will be for personal use.

The company in August said it will have a fully driverless car without a steering wheel or pedals for braking and acceleration in 2021.