How An Intel Deal For Car Tech Could Boost Digital Commerce

Used Cars

More web surfing, more digital commerce, more coffee consumption — a recent deal involving autonomous car technology and Intel seems certain to at least indirectly promote more of those activities while people are on the road.

Get ready. The revenue potential is nothing to sneeze at.

First, the particulars: According to Reuters on Thursday (May 17), Intel-owned Mobileye, an Israel-based firm acquired last year for $15.3 billion, has signed a deal with an unnamed European auto maker to supply 8 million cars with self-driving technology. Financial terms were not disclosed. The supply reportedly begins moving to the auto company in 2021, when Intel launches its EyeQ5 chip, which Reuters said “is designed for fully autonomous driving.”

“The future system will be available on a variety of the automaker’s car models that will have partial automation — where the car is automatically driven but the driver must stay alert — as well as models integrating a more advanced system of conditional automation,” Reuters added.

The Intel-Mobileye deal comes amid a general move toward self-driving vehicles, and cars and trucks becoming “smarter” through software, cameras and even biometrics.

Germany-based FZI Research Center for Information Technology, for example, recently demonstrated an in-vehicle camera system that monitors such factors as the driver’s head pose and rate of eye blinks to determine his or her physical state. That could lead to warnings when the biometric software concludes the driver might be too tired, or sick, to drive.

Chrysler has worked on a camera mounted behind the steering wheel that would scan the driver’s face to confirm his or her identity. The vehicle, working off a stored driver profile, then could adjust the seat position and music station, bring up a daily lists of tasks and perform other functions tailored to that specific driver.

That technology is being positioned as a response to the so-called sharing economy, which means that multiple drivers might have legal access to a single vehicle. In fact, General Motors recently announced a pilot program this summer that is an Airbnb-type service for cars.

The Intel-Mobileye deal with the European auto manufacturer points to a future where vehicles take more control from drivers via the deployment of a dozen cameras placed around a car’s body, and perhaps some “low-cost” radars (or lidars — that is, radar via lasers), as backup should those cameras fail, according to a recent Bloomberg article about Mobileye. Such a system would reportedly add $8,000 or more to the price of a vehicle, meaning affluent consumers would likely benefit from the autonomous technology before other drivers.

But even those drivers and passengers lower down the income ladder will soon have a taste of autonomous cars, assuming Mobileye’s plans hold out. Amnon Shashua, the company’s CEO, told Reuters that “based on commitments from automakers, self-driving taxis — called robo-taxis — should start hitting roads around 2021.”

Assuming drivers and passengers get over the first hurdle such technology will present — not everyone will enthusiastically embrace self-driving automobiles, at least not immediately, if one happens to believe proclamations from gear heads and other car culture loyalists — Mobileye will help boost digital commerce. After all, all that new free time during commutes will have to be filled by something else.

According to the Digital Drive Report released earlier this year by PYMNTS and Visa, U.S. commuters already fuel $212 billion in annual commerce as cars and drivers become ever more connected to the web. Enabling access to shopping via a car’s operating system would result in 66 percent of the survey respondents in the report ordering ahead for food more often than is the case now. “Forty-seven percent would increase the frequency of ordering their morning cuppa joe ahead, and just as many would increase the number of times they order groceries online or in-app for pick up on the way home,” the report said.

Perhaps more striking, 21 percent of commuters who do not use the internet while driving to and from work would “consider shifting gears” if accessing eCommerce did not “require them to bring their own devices into the car to do so.”

That represents a juicy market for retailers.