Intel's Mobileye unveils a chip that could bring self-driving cars to the masses

The EyeQ Ultra should be powerful while keeping costs low.

REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Self-driving car technology is currently limited to test programs and specialized vehicles, but Mobileye thinks it can play a key role in making driverless vehicles you can actually buy. The Intel-owned company has unveiled an EyeQ Ultra system-on-chip designed with consumer self-driving cars in mind. The SoC can juggle all the computing needs of Level 4 autonomy (full self-driving in most conditions), but it's reportedly the world's "leanest" such chip — car brands won't need to use more complex, power-hungry parts that could hike costs or hurt battery life.

The EyeQ Ultra is built on a more efficient 5-nanometer process, but the architecture is the key. Mobileye's design revolves around four task-specific accelerators tied to extra CPU cores, graphics cores and image processors. The result can process input from cameras, LiDAR, radar and the car's central computing system while handling 'just' 176 trillion operations per second. For context, NVIDIA's Drive Atlan is expected to manage 1,000 trillion operations.

Mobileye EyeQ Ultra self-driving car SoC
Mobileye, an Intel company

You'll have to wait a while to see the chip in action. Mobileye doesn't expect the first working EyeQ Ultra chips until late 2023, and you won't see full production until 2025. That's roughly in sync with numerous automakers' self-driving vehicle plans, however, and could help the company fight NVIDIA's offering. It's not clear that you'll get to 'drive' a Level 4 car in three years, but that's no longer as far-fetched a concept as it once seemed.

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