Google spinoff-slash-self-driving technology firm Waymo is partnering with Intel to develop new computing platforms. The companies announced the partnership this week, and revealed that Intel technologies have featured in Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans and their predecessors since 2009.
The existing technologies used center around the processing, computational, and connectivity needs that Waymo required to enable its fleet of Pacificas to make real-time decisions in complex urban environments.
However, as the complexity self-driving systems grows — with the ultimate aim of Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy, which requires zero human oversight — so too will the computing power needed to analyze all the incoming data. To ensure seamless interaction of all the various subsystems, new solutions are needed beyond mere software.
According to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Intel engineered “a custom piece of silicon” exclusively for Waymo. The bespoke hardware allowed Waymo to integrate its sensor software in a much more elegant fashion, essentially hardwiring it into the chip itself.
As Intel and Waymo teach each other about their needs and capabilities, Krzanich told Reuters, “there will be a regular cadence of new innovation and new silicon that comes out.”
This is an early return of a collaboration that should have a knock-on effect throughout the industry. Intel purchased self-driving sensor leader Mobileye earlier this year, and only recently announced that Waymo partner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles joined its complex collaboration with BMW.
That collaboration aims to develop a fully self-driving platform by 2021, that can be used in a variety of automobiles. Crucially, the platform will be able work with a variety of different input systems, including Mobileye’s or Waymo’s proprietary technologies.