Technology powerhouse Intel Corp’s Mobileye subsidiary and German car rental giant Sixt SE will start a driverless ride-hailing “robotaxi” service test in Munich next year and hope to expand it across Germany and eventually Europe later this decade.
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and Sixt announced the plan at the IAA Mobility show in Munich.
The venture will use the NIO ES8 all-electric SUV from China for the venture.
The companies didn’t say how long the testing program might last.
“Additional details about operations will be available next year,” a statement said.
“Mobile-powered robotaxis will begin a driverless pilot on Munich streets in 2022 at speeds up to 130km/hour (80 mph), with vehicles expected to begin commercial passenger operations after receiving regulatory approvals. The test fleet will begin with a couple dozen vehicles and grow with the service over time,” according to the statement.
The global automotive industry has high hopes for the driverless taxi business, not least because the hugely expensive autonomous car technology it is developing is probably a long way from acceptance in the private market for cars and SUVs.
Just this month, Argo AI, the autonomous driving startup backed by Volkswagen and Ford, said it is planning to test electric VW ID.BUZZ robotaxis at a track in Munich with the ambition to start a service within 4 years. Alphabet’s Waymo and GM-backed Cruise are also cranking up self-driving taxi ventures in the U.S.
Speaking at the IAA Mobility show, Intel’s Gelsinger said the project aspires to scale driverless ride-sharing services across Germany and other European countries late this decade.
Why start in Germany?
“A recently enacted autonomous vehicle (AV) law permits driverless vehicles on German roads, allowing Mobileye robotaxis to begin early-rider testing on Munich streets in 2022. The fleet will thereafter move from test to commercial operations upon regulatory approval. Germany has shown global leadership toward a future of autonomous mobility by expediting crucial AV legislation,” Gelsinger said.
“Our ability to begin robotaxi operations in Munich next year would not be possible without this new law,” he said.
Intel said the deal with SIXT was the first commercial robotaxi service between a tech supplier and a mobility services provider.
“With strong logistics and operational partners like SIXT, Mobileye can bring the promise of full autonomy to life in cities around the world,” said Mobileye CEO Professor Amnon Shashua.
Mobileye, of Jerusalem, Israel, was acquired by Intel in 2017. It is already testing self-driving cars in New York City, to the possible chagrin of about 200,000 professional drivers. According to Bloomberg, Mobileye is using the chip-making experience of Intel to build laser sensors which will make self-driving cars cheap enough for mass market buyers by 2025. It has about 80% of the global market for advanced driver-assistance vision systems. It is developing its camera-based technology with a system using radar and lidar laser censors which it aims to make, using an Intel chip, Bloomberg said in a profile on Mobileye.
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Also presenting at IAA Mobility was Hyundai with its robotaxi based on the Ioniq 5 electric vehicle and expected to begin transporting passengers next year, according to investment bank UBS, although it didn’t say where. Hyundai has said it will begin public service in 2 years through a partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft