Mobileye's self-driving ambitions are going global, and the company's scope is stretching beyond robotaxis.
In 2021, the Intel subsidiary intends to launch new test beds in Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris and potentially New York. Those locations come on top of the company's existing on-road efforts in Tel Aviv, Munich and Detroit.
By spooling up operations in multiple countries, Mobileye wants to showcase its ability to scale quickly in a fledgling industry where competitors often have concentrated on one particular city in early efforts to establish commercial footholds.
It's the first step of a business strategy that starts with a robotaxi network scheduled to open in Tel Aviv in 2022, and extends into producing self-driving systems that could be ready for vehicles purchased by everyday vehicle owners as early as 2025.
Mobileye may be the first company to put a firm timeline on such an endeavor. Developing autonomous-driving systems for use by consumers is a project that Waymo has explored with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, but that remains a "longer-term opportunity," according to a spokesperson, with no certain time frame.
But Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua says the company's in-house efforts to develop high-definition maps and, more recently, radar software and a new lidar system-on-chip, will unlock the ability to safely scale Level 4 autonomous driving beyond ride-hailing networks that operate in geographically confined areas in four years.
"Scalability is very, very important for robotaxis, but more critical is what comes after the robotaxi," he told Automotive News. "That's the consumer. … If you want to build that business, you're thinking not only of now, but three or four years from now, where this business is going to go, and having high-resolution maps is a crucial skill."
Building high-definition maps and tailoring the behavior of self-driving systems to specific locations and driving cultures can be an arduous process. Mobileye believes it has something of a secret weapon that helps it rapidly acclimate to new roads: crowd-sourced maps.