Intel collaborates with Waymo on self-driving computer design

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Intel Corp INTC.O on Monday announced a collaboration with Alphabet's GOOGL.O Waymo self-driving unit, saying it had worked with the company during the design of its computer platform to allow autonomous cars to process information in real time.

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The world’s largest computer chipmaker said its Intel-based technologies for sensor processing, general compute and connectivity were used in the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans Waymo has been using since 2015 to test its self-driving system.

Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich told Reuters that Intel built “a custom piece of silicon” that fit Waymo’s sensor fusion needs and tapped Intel’s processing power.

“Over time we’ll both learn we can bring more of the software ... down onto the silicon, because you get performance, cost and power,” Krzanich said. “There will be a regular cadence of new innovation and new silicon that comes out. That’s really what we both get out of this.”

Intel, which announced the $15 billion acquisition of autonomous vision company Mobileye in March, is pushing to expand in autonomous vehicles, a fast-growing industry, across a variety of business models. A collaboration with Waymo, considered by many industry experts to be at the forefront of autonomous technology, adds to its portfolio.

The announcement marked the first time Waymo has acknowledged a collaboration with a supplier. Waymo, which began as the Google self-driving car project, has done most of its development work in-house.

Intel began supplying chips for the autonomous program beginning in 2009, but that relationship grew into a deeper collaboration when Google began working with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles FCHA.MI to develop and install its autonomous driving technology into the automaker's minivans. Those vehicles began test drives at the end of 2016.

Waymo, which has developed its own sensors, is not using the autonomous vision system created by Mobileye.

Underscoring the non-exclusive partnerships and collaborations in the space, Mobileye and Intel are in an alliance with German automaker BMW BMWG.DE and Fiat-Chrysler to create an industrywide autonomous car platform.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik said fast processing was crucial to the performance of its autonomous vehicles.

“Intel’s technology supports the advanced processing inside our vehicles, with the ability to manufacture to meet Waymo’s needs at scale,” Krafcik said in a statement.

Intel also said on Monday it had invested $1 billion in artificial intelligence companies over the past three years.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Phil Berlowitz