How Mobileye is shaping the future of autonomous cars, as it signs up its third major automaker

Nissan has become the third big car company, following GM and VW, to use Mobileye's self-driving technology. Learn how its combination of cameras and maps are shaping the future of self-driving cars.

Image: Nissan

Want to learn more about the tech behind the world's best self-driving cars?

Mobileye is a good place to start.

On Tuesday, Nissan announced a partnership with Mobileye, an Israeli company focused on real-time, vision-based collision avoidance camera systems in autonomous vehicles. While Mobileye is known for being used by Tesla—which has unveiled one of the most advanced autonomous driving systems to date—Nissan is the third large automaker, after GM and VW, to adopt the technology.

And recently, the US Department of Transportation announced it would use Mobileye's technology on city buses for its Smart Cities Challenge. At the moment, Google may be the only major competition in the field. Mobileye has a different approach—it will use use real-time data from cars, which can be updated. The fact that Mobileye is working with car companies may give it an edge over tech companies, which don't have access to cars—and the data that comes from them.

"Mapping will be essential to automated driving," said Bryant Walker Smith, professor at the University of South Carolina and autonomous driving expert. "We've seen different approaches so far, whether partnering with a company like Mobileye, teaming to buy Nokia's former mapping unit, developing in-house expertise, or doing a combination."

Amnon Shashua, Mobileye's CTO and co-founder, told TechRepublic that "Nissan is an ideal partner to have on board with our new Road Experience Management (REM) technology."

Shashua acknowledges that safety is, perhaps, the biggest issue when it comes to the public's readiness for autonomous vehicles. "In order to truly achieve a reality where autonomous driving is the norm," he said, "safety is the biggest barrier both automakers and consumers will have to overcome."

So how does it work, exactly? According to Mobileye, REM provides "detailed interpretations of the visual field in order to anticipate possible collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, animals, debris and other obstacles" and can detect markings in the road like barriers, lanes, and traffic lights. The REM tech "provides real-time data for precise localization and high-definition lane data" and is based on "software running on our EyeQ processing platforms that extracts landmarks and roadway information."

This move is a step towards vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology, in which cars "talk" to each other. Not only will Mobileye work with individual automakers—they also want to "map every inch of roadway so that when one car with Mobileye's technology becomes smarter and able to navigate the roadways on its own one day, all the cars in that fleet also become smarter too," said Shashua.

SEE: What self-driving cars can learn from autonomous industrial trucks: A conversation with Seegrid

In a news release, Shashua stated that the partnership is an "important step in the creation of a continuously updated, high-definition data for drivable paths with precise-localization that will meet the requirement for full redundancy to enable safe autonomous driving."

According to autonomous driving expert Jeffrey Miller, IEEE member and associate professor of engineering at the University of Southern California, it is likely that "we are going to see more auto manufacturers using third-party technology companies rather than trying to develop the technology themselves." The move to use Mobileye, he believes, will "leverage the expertise of individual companies rather than trying to be a "one size fits all" company.

SEE: Photos: A list of the world's self-driving cars racing toward 2020

Smith agrees. "The interesting next step will be when individual vehicles begin both using and updating these data for other users."

Mobileye, Shashua said, sees the partnership, in a bigger sense, as an "acknowledgement of the importance of REM technology for autonomous driving."

"Nissan is not traditionally known as a company that includes a lot of technology in their vehicles, so I would say this is a smart move," Miller added.

Nissan declined to comment further on the partnership

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. Already known for its partnership with Tesla, Mobileye has signed up its third major automaker, Nissan, to add to existing partnerships with GM and VW.

2. Automakers are outsourcing the creation of vision-assistance tech instead of doing it themselves.

3. By teaming up with automakers, Mobileye is gathering information from cars on the road, which can allow it to "crowdsource" maps. This access to data gives it an edge over tech companies like Google, who have not yet announced partnerships with car companies.

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Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.

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