Intel looks to autonomous cars, buys Mobileye for $15.3B

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Intel is acquiring Israel-based computer vision developer Mobileye in a deal worth $15.3 billion, the companies announced. MOBILEYE GRAPHIC

COMPUTER giant Intel is buying Israeli computer vision company Mobileye in a deal worth $15.3 billion, Mobileye announced on March 13.

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The acquisition will be carried out through a stock buyout, with Intel offering $63.54 per share in cash, a premium of about 33 percent on Mobileye’s market closing price just prior to the announcement of the deal, according to market watcher Venture Beat.

Founded in 1999, Mobileye develops the visual smarts behind cars’ driving assistance systems and includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and distance keeping. Its technology is already used by major brands, including BMW, Volvo, Buick, and Cadillac. Back in July, BMW, Intel and Mobileye announced plans to put self-driving cars into full production by 2021. Earlier this year, the trio committed to putting 40 autonomous test cars on public roads in the second half of 2017.

“This acquisition is a great step forward for our shareholders, the automotive industry and consumers,” said Intel Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich in a statement. “Intel provides critical foundational technologies for autonomous driving, including plotting the car’s path and making real-time driving decisions. Mobileye brings the industry’s best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers. Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers.”

The new unit will constitute Mobileye and Intel’s Automated Driving Group and will be headed by Mobileye co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Amnon Shashua. The transaction is expected to close within the next nine months.

“By pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms,” explained Ziv Aviram, Mobileye co-founder and CEO. “Together, we will provide an attractive value proposition for the automotive industry.”

Research on self-driving vehicles has been carried out for decades, but in the past five years has accelerated. The world’s first public self-driving taxi service was introduced in Singapore last August, with Uber launching a similar service in the US shortly after. In December, Alphabet’s self-driving car subsidiary Waymo publicly revealed its new autonomous minivans.

Venture Beat said that the rapid increase in investment in camera and sensor technology is not unexpected as self-driving cars become more mainstream. “California-based Tetravue recently raised $10 million from Samsung, Foxconn, and others to arm self-driving cars with ultra high-resolution 3D image-capturing technology, while Intel recently snapped up computer vision startup Itseez, and Cruise Automation was bought by General Motors last year for more than $1 billion,” the investment monitor noted.

BEN KRITZ

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