Chances are, this isn’t the first autonomous vehicle partnership headline you’ve seen. For the past decade or so, auto manufacturers, transportation service providers, and tech companies have been working independently on their own plans to create self-driving vehicles for modern, everyday consumers to rely on.
Now, companies are getting more serious about the realities of full deployment, and they’re partnering up with each other to increase their abilities and (hopefully) put self-driving cars on the road soon.
The latest partnership to come to light has been Waymo’s partnership with Intel—but why is this partnership important, and why have there been so many partnerships with other companies leading up to it?
The Partnership Dynamic
Most of us are eager to get rid of our old vehicles and enter an era where robots chauffeur us around at our leisure. But despite self-driving cars having logged millions of crash-free miles, we’re still years away from a successful launch.
Companies are starting to partner up with each other to make this a reality faster, for the following reasons:
- Specialty. Waymo started as Google’s self-driving car project, and Google specializes in creating and distributing new software. It doesn’t work much with vehicle design or manufacturing, nor does it create its own hardware. Businesses specialize for a reason, but multiple fields of specialty are necessary to put self-driving cars together. That means companies are forced to expensively pursue uncharted territory, or partner up with someone who’s already doing it.
- Infrastructure. Autonomous vehicle companies also need some line of infrastructure in place. Rather than manufacturing a fleet of vehicles from scratch, or building new dealerships across the country, it’s far less expensive and less intrusive to outfit vehicles that already exist, or take advantage of supply lines and dealerships that are already serving their communities.
- Regulations. Legal regulations are a major hurdle for self-driving cars, but partnering with other organizations divides that responsibility — and possibly, the liability if one of the cars is found to be at fault in an accident.
- Speed. Partnering with an equal-sized operation could feasibly double your operational capacity. You’ll have double the cash to work with, double the manpower, and double the infrastructure. If you dedicate the same proportion of resources to the project, you could be done in half the time—and of course, companies are racing to see who can get their autonomous vehicles on the road first.
Intel and Waymo
So why have Intel and Waymo teamed up? Intel is providing Waymo with chips and other hardware that, on a basic level, make Waymo’s self-driving software work. Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans have been equipped with Intel technology, and Intel speculates that it has the capacity to supply processing power for both level 4 and level 5 autonomous vehicles; level 4 vehicles are mostly autonomous, with human interaction necessary for some situations, and level 5 vehicles are fully autonomous.
This is also big news because Intel recently acquired the Israeli startup Mobileye, which produces camera technology designed to avoid collisions in self-driving vehicles. Together, Intel technologies provide pure processing power, visual recognition tech, and connection to the cloud — which could represent the final pieces of the puzzle for companies focused on autonomous software and/or the actual vehicles being driven.
Are We Ready for Autonomous Cars?
Is this partnership the final push the self-driving car market needs to get autonomous vehicles in the hands of consumers? Intel’s provision is certainly going to improve the timeline, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be riding in a personal autonomous vehicle soon. Waymo still doesn’t have a firm time estimate for when its self-driving vehicles will hit the road, but there’s still much work to be done. It will likely be at least a few years before enough logistical and regulatory progress is made to clear that hurdle, and if new unexpected obstacles arise, it may be the better part of a decade.
Still, the vast number of big market players in the game means that the technology will get here, one way or another. It just might take a few more major partnerships to get us over the finish line.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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