Intel ready to tackle autonomous cars and big data

Intel sign
BMW, Intel and Mobileye want to get a fleet of autonomous test vehicles on roads by the second half of 2017. Image: BMW

Plenty of trials are underway for driverless cars even before 5G arrives, but when will autonomous cars be a commonplace occurrence and commercially available to the average consumer? The answer varies anywhere from the more aggressive, disruptive expectations for 2019 to the more, perhaps, realistic 2021 timeframe—but probably not in a high production mode.

To see fully automated vehicles, the timeframe likely will be closer to 2025 in terms of shipping in volume, according to Kathy Winter, VP and GM of the Automated Driving Solutions Division at Intel.

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Kathy Winter
Kathy Winter

But she doesn’t think the schedule will be driven by technology. “The technology is ready,” she said, and she should know. The former VP of software and services at Delphi Electronics & Safety, Winter engineered a cross-country autonomous drive with an Audi Q5 a couple years ago when she was at Delphi.

The car was outfitted with Delphi self-driving technology—and, of course, Intel inside—making it the first and longest drive by an autonomous vehicle in the U.S. The journey started in San Francisco, and Winter was in the car for the last leg of the journey to New York—all freeway driving and 98% of the time it was in automated mode.

“From an industry perspective, that was one of the things that started to kind of prove to people that the technology is ready and the time is right and those things can be done now,” she said.

Some factors determining the arrival of fully autonomous cars have to do with things like insurance, consumer trust and acceptance, individual state regulations and, of course, infrastructure, she said. On the flip side, things that could speed it up are the use of enclosed campuses for autonomous vehicles or dedicated lanes just for driverless cars.

It’s all about creating safer roads, she said. Autonomous or driverless cars accomplish that because the cars have so many sensors on them, they more than make up for human eyes and ears. In fact, with a 360-degree view, the cars can see a lot more than a human ever possibly could.

The amount of data that an autonomous car will generate in about an hour and a half of driving—or the amount of time a typical person spends in their car each day—is estimated to be 4 terabytes, and Intel said it’s in the perfect position to manage that kind of data. But Winter noted in a recent blog post that no single company can tackle all the data challenges on its own when it comes to autonomous cars.

“At Intel, we believe the best way to solve the autonomous driving data challenge is to do it collectively, to work together across the industry to develop secure state-of-the-art platforms and to share safety-related information,” she said. 

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Intel is on a mission with BMW and Mobileye to get a fleet of about 40 autonomous test vehicles on roads by the second half of 2017. The three companies announced at CES 2017 that they’ve developed a scalable architecture that can be adopted by other automotive developers and carmakers to pursue state-of-the art designs and create differentiated brands.  

As for what’s the better technology, DSRC or cellular-based V2X, Winter said DSRC has been around for a long time, and in the short run, it’s useful for V2V or V2I if a stoplight, for example, is outfitted with the technology. “It has its role,” she said, while 5G will offer more opportunities to do V2X, or Vehicle to Everything.