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Intel's New Unit Focuses On Making i7 The Core Of Autonomous Cars

By Victor Thomson , Nov 30, 2016 04:16 AM EST
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Intel announces new unit that focuses on implementing self-driving solutions based on its i7 chips. (Photo : Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Intel is creating a new unit dedicated to autonomous driving and reorganizes its business in its efforts to dominate this fast-emerging market.

Intel's New Division

According to Fortune, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, the world's largest semiconductor maker announced a new division, called the Automated Driving Group. The new unit came out of Intel's Internet of Things business, an area where the company has lately increased its stake.

The Automated Driving Group will be led by Doug Davis, a long-time executive who managed the company's Internet of Things business. The vice president and general manager of the new division will be Kathy Winter, formerly of Delphi. The IoT group will be led by the former executive vice president of strategy at ARM Tom Lantzsch.

The decision is not only a part of Intel's strategy on the future of connected devices, but also an indication that in the company's vision vehicles will be the centerpiece or at least a core component in the world of IoT. According to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich's forecast, by 2020 the Internet of Things will include 50 billion devices.

Every day, each user of those gadgets will generate around 1.5 gigabytes of data. But, each minute, the average self-driving car will create about 40 gigabytes of data. As autonomous cars will require a lot of data to process, Intel can take advantage of this niche to provide its technology solutions.

Intel's Future In Tech

This new restructuring follows a string of investments, acquisitions and partnerships in autonomous driving technology. Among them, worth of mentioning is a venture with Israeli startup Mobileye and German automaker BMW to produce self-driving cars for city streets.

The three companies have plans to develop the technology as an open platform that can be used by ride-sharing companies or other automakers. When Mobileye and Delphi announced on Tuesday that they will use Intel's "system on chip" for autonomous vehicle systems, the company got a boost. Intel has been struggling to surpass other chipmakers in the emerging market of self-driving technology.

For now, Mobileye and Delphi will use the Intel Core i7 processors. Later on, they will move to a more powerful Intel processor to be unveiled in a few weeks, according to Intel's statement on Tuesday.

This month, Krzanich also announced that over the next two years the company's venture capital arm will invest $250 million into autonomous vehicle technology. The announcement was made by Krzanich while on stage at AutoMobility LA. This is the press and trade show event that usually takes place ahead of the 10-day LA Auto Show.

Earlier this year, in April, Intel made two acquisitions related to self-driving cars: Arynga and Yogitech. Arynga develops software that enables vehicles to received over-the-air updates. Yogitech is a semiconductor design firm specialized in adding safety functions to chips used in autonomous devices and self-driving cars. Intel also bought Itseez, a company specialized in machine vision technology necessary for autonomous vehicles.

Intel Core i7 Chip

According to PC World, Intel's Core i7 would not arrive in cars earlier than in about two years. The Core i7 chips specialized for autonomous driving technology would be capable of around 20 trillion mathematical operations per second in their first iterations, but a later version will have two to three times that processing power.

According to tech experts, these will be specialized chips, as it's unlikely that Intel will simply take an existing Core i7 and use it inside a car. Microcontrollers and microprocessors within the car are usually manufactured with temperature extremes in mind, while today's 14nm Core i7 6785-R has a thermal case limit of only 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

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