Leading tier-one supplier Continental has confirmed it will sell driverless platforms developed from BMW, Mobileye, and Intel's previously announced alliance, giving the company a potential edge over competitors by widening the range of technologies it offers directly to OEMs.
Under the terms of the partnership announced today, Continental will offer what a Continental spokesperson described to Driverless as a "scalable solution it can provide any OEM that wants to develop driverless."
We can offer a complete package, system integration, or separate components for driverless. The alliance is developing a platform they want to market to different OEMs and we can do that for them. That is something we are also good at.
BMW, Intel, and Mobileye (which Intel bought earlier this year) will also be able to rely on Continental's industrial base and supply chain worldwide to offer a driverless platform, much of which OEMs would otherwise have to develop in-house, the spokesperson said.
Last year, BMW, Intel, and Mobileye said they were joining forces for the development of a level 3-enabled model BMW plans to launch by 2021 called the iNext. While Continental and BMW would not comment on whether Continental is the system integrator for the iNext platform, BMW disclosed the German supplier was developing platforms for BMW driverless models in 2014, but was not more specific.
As a leading tier-one supplier, Continental already offers driverless systems it integrates into vehicles for Toyota, which has announced it plans to introduce cars with driverless features by 2020. Continental also makes LiDAR (light detection and ranging), radar sensors, and more recently, camera sensors, competing against leading camera sensor maker Mobileye. Intel offers microprocessors and platforms powerful enough to handle the computing horsepower of a driverless car's central computer and a wide range of sensors sending data.
For the BMW iNext, Mobileye provides its Road Experience Management (REM) software and EyeQ5 system-on-chip (SoC) device to process sensor data that runs on Intel's computing platform.
BMW, of course, is a leading premium carmaker worldwide and develops much of its driverless technology and platform integration in-house, but is generally secretive about the development work for its yet-to-be released iNext.
BMW knowhow could potentially benefit carmakers that do not have the resources to develop their own driverless tech and must rely on suppliers instead. But how much tech BMW, as well as Intel and Mobileye, will offer other OEMs through its partnership with Continental remains to be seen, Jeremy Carlson, an analyst for IHS Automotive, told Driverless.
The intent of the original collaboration between BMW, Intel, and Mobileye was to develop a platform, presumably with goals to adapt it and scale it," Carlson said. "I suspect this platform will facilitate some basic technology and design sharing, but I wouldn't expect any proprietary content to be included. BMW will continue to have their own take on the platform but isn't going to give away everything they've developed over the years.
What exactly Continental will be able to offer OEMs from BMW, as well as from Intel and Mobileye, will obviously emerge as the German supplier approaches different potential customers. Meanwhile, the Continental spokesperson would also not disclose what BMW technology Continental might provide OEMs, nor would he specify what Continental driverless-related tech or components BMW was using in its iNext. However, he did hint at the possibility that the supplier might offer a full system to enable self-driving vehicles, stopping short from saying it will be an off-the-shelf platform.