Let’s start with a quiz. Name the German car manufacturer that gave us an “M” range and an i8?
Now another question, name the startup, that’s helping that German manufacturer to achieve level 3-5 autonomy?
No idea? Google search?
Well, let me save you that search time.
The start-up is called Innoviz and it’s providing the much needed technology BMW requires to achieve an obscure Vision of launching self-driving cars by 2021. I really don’t like to come across as negative, but this is an ambitious dream, to say the least.
Innoviz is Headquartered in Israel, the company was founded in January 2016 by former members of the elite technological unit of the Israeli defence forces with expertise in the fields of electro-optics, computer vision, MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) design and signal processing.
Admittedly this kind of expertise is not really much sought after in automobile industry, but we are talking about self drive cars with actual autonomous features.
The technology is called LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors and computer vision tech. Let’s back up a bit and clarify few things.
Level 3 involves highly automated driving technology, but with a human driver still at the helm, level four reduces the human interaction significantly while level five removes that completely and is entirely autonomous, which means a human driver couldn’t intervene even if they wanted to.
The LiDAR sensors use lasers to help self-driving vehicle figure out how to navigate. These systems typically are quite bulky and because of their bulkiness, they were usually fitted on the roof spinning constantly.
Innoviz has done away with the spinning roof thing, the solid-state LiDAR sensor is much smaller and well it doesn’t spin. The InnovizOne will available as a built-in device beginning next year.
It’s unclear what LiDAR System BMW was using, however moving forward, the plan is to integrate Innoviz’s technologies into the Intel-Mobileye platform for the purposes of testing and mass production. BMW has already been working with Intel and Mobileye around autonomous driving.
There are other technological goodies being provided by Innoviz to BMW In addition to LiDAR sensors, object detection (people, cars, trucks, bikes and lane markings), tracking, classification and other functionality.
This partnership also includes a collaboration with auto industry supplier Magna. An Innoviz spokesperson said in a statement “right now our focus is on the automotive industry, but we haven’t ruled out other areas for future development.”
In March, Lyft announced a partnership with Magna, which brings a lot to the table. Magna a Canadian company earned $38 billion in revenue last year and has a market value of $19 billion and as mentioned very briefly above, is also a member of a consortium which includes BMW, Mobileye, and Intel.
The company builds a number of auto parts and in-car technologies, from the basic; mirrors, powertrains, to advanced driver assist systems. Magna’s major customers include Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, and Toyota, so they are well connected and have a proven track record.
What’s Lyft doing here? Well it seems, this is part of a larger play to “democratise” autonomous driving. According to the latest analysis, ride sharing accounts for less than 1 per cent of all vehicle miles travelled. The company’s CEO, Logan Green wants to see that increase to 80 percent.
The partnership with Magna will ensure Lyft is able to plug in its autonomous driving tech into any of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that work with the supplier.
Green says; “We don’t want just one or two companies out there in the world to have access to self-driving technology,” said Green. “We want every single OEM to be able to make self-driving vehicles, and we want those vehicles to be able to operate on the Lyft network.”
So, let’s do some math here. (Lyft + Magna) + (Innoviz + Magna) + (BMW + Innoviz/Magna) + ( BMW+ intel+ Mobileye) with possible aoutcome being equal Lyft integration inside BMW autonomous cars and/or BMW launching a ride-hailing service using Lyft’s technology, 6 companies, all working in tandem and the aim is an autonomous vehicle from BMW in 2020.
If any other company made such a statement, we would have laughed at them, but this is BMW, a very German company run by Methodical people famous for making sure everything ticks along like clockwork.
So back to the workshop and queue the music.