Intel subsidiary Mobileye is ratcheting up its autonomous vehicle ambitions and getting into delivery.
The company said Monday it struck a deal with Udelv to supply its self-driving system to thousands of purpose-built autonomous delivery vehicles. The companies said they plan to put more than 35,000 autonomous vehicles, dubbed Transporters, on city streets by 2028. Commercial operations are slated to begin in 2023.
Donlen, a U.S. commercial fleet leasing and management company, has made the first preorder for 1,000 of these Udelv Transporters.
The announcement is notable for both companies. Udelv, which initially launched as an autonomous vehicle delivery startup, has opted to adopt Mobileye’s self-driving system and focus on “creating the hardware and software that allows for autonomous deliveries,” its CEO Daniel Laury said in an emailed statement to TechCrunch.
“This is a hardcore engineering problem to solve when one understands the multiplicity of goods to deliver, the variety of ways to do it, and some other intricately complex issues linked to the automation of last and middle mile deliveries,” Laury said. “By partnering with Mobileye, Udelv can focus 100% of its resources and efforts to perfecting the business application while Mobileye provides the tool to scale fast. It is a win-win situation.”
For Mobileye it marks yet another expansion for a company that got its start as a developer of camera-based sensors, which are now used by most automakers to support advanced driver assistance systems. Today, more than 54 million vehicles have Mobileye technology.
“This is a great combination of the two partners together and we expect some great scale,” Jack Weast, a senior principal engineer at Intel and the vice president of Automated Vehicle Standards at Mobileye, said in a recent interview. “And this does kind of mark, officially, the first proof point of Mobileye’s technology getting into goods delivery in addition to all the other spaces that we’ve already announced.”
The company, which was acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion in 2017, has widened its scope in recent years, moving beyond its advanced driver assistance technology and toward the development of a self-driving vehicle system. More than two years ago, Mobileye announced plans to launch a kit that includes visual perception, sensor fusion, its REM mapping system and software algorithms. And in 2018, the company made an unlikely turn and announced plans to become a robotaxi operator, not just a supplier. Mobileye also plans to deploy autonomous shuttles with Transdev ATS and Lohr Group beginning in Europe. Mobileye also plans to begin operating an autonomous ride-hailing service in Israel in early 2022.
This latest deal shows Mobileye’s ambition to see its self-driving systems used in other applications beyond robotaxis.
The self-driving system, now branded as Mobileye Drive, is made up of a system-on-chip based compute, redundant sensing subsystems based on camera, radar and lidar technology, its REM mapping system and a rules-based Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) driving policy. Mobileye’s REM mapping system essentially crowdsources data by tapping into more than 1 million vehicles equipped with its tech to build high-definition maps that can be used to support in ADAS and autonomous driving systems.
Udelv will work with Mobileye to integrate the self-driving technology with its own delivery management system. Mobileye will also provide over-the-air software support throughout the lifetime of the vehicles.
These purpose-built vehicles won’t have the typical mechanical features one might find in a human-driven truck or delivery van. It will be designed to be capable of so-called Level 4 self-driving, a designation by SAE that means the vehicle can handle all operations without a human under certain conditions. It will also come with four-directional four-way steering, LED screens to greet the people picking up the delivery and special compartments for goods.
There will be a teleoperations system that will allow for the maneuvering of the vehicles in parking lots, loading zones, apartment complexes and private roads, according to Udelv.