Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s LA Auto Show speech was all about the technology challenges that automakers need to overcome — and how they should work together to do that — and this week the chip-maker put his words into action by announcing the creation of an Automated Driving Group within the company.
During that speech, Krzanich revealed that Intel plans to invest some $250 million in automated vehicle research over the next couple of years, which could very well pay for the work that will be done by Intel’s ADG.
Krzanich identified four big problems self-driving technology has to solve: how to manage the large amounts of data captured by the vehicles; how to ensure that information is secure; how to quickly process all of that data; and how to scale the data centers where it’s all stored.
Intel’s ADG will try to find the answers. The company announced the new division “will be solely dedicated to innovating the future of driving and designing the next generation of advanced driver assist systems and autonomous driving solutions.”
The company has already started work on these issues. It said in September that it was using Grand Theft Auto, of all things, to help autonomous vehicles learn how to drive. It turns out that a game about driving horribly (among other things) is a terrific learning tool.
That’s because self-driving car systems can learn to identify objects faster in a game than they can from recorded videos. Games like Grand Theft Auto include semi-realistic driving scenarios among all their other antics — virtual drivers wait in traffic, honk their horns, and otherwise mimic how we drive. The system can apply those virtual lessons to the real world.
These efforts could help make autonomous cars smarter than they are now. But they could also fill a more self-serving goal for Intel: staving off competition from companies like Nvidia, which have designed chips powerful enough for these systems.
Toyota is on board with Nvidia’s plans. The automaker is planning to use Nvidia’s graphics processing units (GPUs) in cars that will only drive themselves when they sense danger, rather than vehicles that automate the entire trip from start to finish.
Intel has its own partnerships with auto companies — it’s working with BMW Group and Mobileye to bring fully autonomous vehicles to the streets by 2021 —but it’s clear that it has more competition in self-driving cars than in, say, desktop PCs.
Which is where the Automated Driving Group comes in. Intel said the group will be led by Doug Davis, who has spent 30 years at the company, and by Kathy Winter, who made the first self-driving car trip across the continental United States in 2015.