by John Koon, Editor-in-Chief

From a distance, the Roborace is just another event with fast car on the race track. Taking a closer look, you will find there is no human driver inside. My heart pounds fast as I watch the video I worrying the NVIDIA-based machine driver may malfunction resulting in a crash at a speed of 200 mph. The Roborace was introduced last year and is taking place around the world; Buenos Aires, Monaco, Paris, New York and Montreal. Formula One race cars are programmed to compete without human drivers; first in history. It is a race of algorithm and technology.

Why do all the leading technology and cloud companies rush to join the race for driverless cars? They include Microsoft, Google, Intel, NVIDIA, Baidu (the largest search firm in China) and IBM. The future cars represent untapped revenue. Some forecast the market to be $77B by 2035. Technology companies partner with automakers and OEMs to get a head start. The road can be long and winding and full of challenges but the rewards are great. What is the new formula of future car market? It is autonomous + artificial intelligence + electrical + machine vision.

 

To illustrate the point, Intel acquired (August 2017) the Jerusalem-based Mobileye for $15 billion, the largest acquisition of its kind in the Israel history. Mobileye is a maker of cameras and sensors for driverless cars. Intel’s partnership with BMW and Mobileye also includes Delphi (May 2017). Additionally, Intel also acquired a few other companies in 2016; Italy-based Yogotech, a chip designer specializing in driverless cars, Itseez with focus on machine vision and Wind River, an IoT company to achieve its cars-to-cloud strategy. Google and Uber teamed up and have already spent billions.

Recently, Microsoft and Baidu announced cooperation in developing driverless car technology. Microsoft will support Baidu’s platform outside China using its Azure cloud. Furthermore, Microsoft plans to provide artificial intelligence, deep neural network and machine learning to support cloud computing. The largest software and silicon companies, Microsoft and Intel are interested in cars because future cars will consume a lot of data (via 5G) and cloud business will be the bread and butter not just for Microsoft and Intel but all other technology companies as well. Microsoft is paying attention to the Azure (growing in high double digits) and how it may impact the future of the company.

Audi cars now have Intel inside. But NVDIA is pushing hard. Not only the NVIDIA GPU supercomputer is driving the Roborace, NVIDIA will be powering the new Audi A8 to achieve Level 3 Automation (hands-off but not mind-off). Its technology provides self-learning capability so driverless cars will be able to improve its driving skills over time. Recently, IBM partners with automaker, Local Motors, using Watson, called Olli, to provide autonomous public transportation. Olli will replace human bus drivers and be able to carry on a conversation with its passengers. Mercedes, Clarion and General Motors are in full support of using AI in autonomous driving. The potential growth for future cars is limitless and this is just the beginning.