Intel’s Mobileye in deal to help reduce deaths on US roads

Intel’s Mobileye division and Munich Reinsurance US have announced an immediate deal that sees Munich Re supply Mobileye’s Advanced Collision Avoidance System (ACAS) to customers in the US. With the ability to retrofit the system to existing fleet vehicles, Munich Re will be analyzing whether the systems mitigate risks, reducing crashes with warnings, and helping to correct driver behavior.

The pair say that the move is in response to the recent increase in US traffic fatalities – a figure that had been steadily declining for the past three decades until 2016, where it jumped 6% to pass 40,000 deaths. The cost of these deaths, injuries, and crashes is estimated to stand at around $432.5bn, up 12% from 2015. Despite increasingly safe vehicles, deaths and costs have risen.

But Mobileye thinks it has an answer, and Munich Re is interested in the solution as it can help reduce its risk exposure, which should help boost its bottom line. Mobileye says that its crash avoidance systems have helped reduce overall user crashes by 60%, with a 43% reduction in crashes due to lane-departure, and a huge 95% reduction in forward collisions.

As commercial vehicles often tend to be larger than standard passenger cars, they have a greater potential to cause damage if involved in a crash. In combination, the professional drivers are often more likely to suffer fatigue while driving. That lane-departure figure will largely be attributable to tiredness-induced lane drifting – something that can be corrected with intervention from these kinds of systems.

The Mobileye system itself uses the company’s machine-vision systems (software and specialist chips) to monitor roads for hazardous scenarios. Mobileye says that this lets the system alert a driver to potential forward collisions, contact with pedestrians or cyclists, and the lane departures. Mounted in the windshield, the box with its integrated camera feeds those warnings and readouts to a display that is mounted in the cabin.

Mobileye currently has the 5 Series and 6 Series, and essentially houses the same sort of system that Mobileye is looking to integrate into self-driving vehicles – but without requiring Mobileye’s involvement at the design stage. The SeeQ2 image processing chip can pass data to other devices via Bluetooth, but won’t intervene if it detects an imminent accident. That intervention capability is something that Mobileye’s EyeQ range will hope to power in upcoming self-driving designs – where they are embedded into the vehicle’s circuitry directly.

These sorts of aftermarket units are going to be required for the next decade or so, until the functions they provide are eventually integrated into the vehicles themselves – something the automakers will want to do, as a means of potentially generating revenues off the back of these agreements.

In the short-term, the truck maker gets nothing out of a deal between a fleet customer, Mobileye, and Munich Re, as well as the retailer that likely pitched the Mobileye hardware to the fleet operator. The automakers are well aware that these deals could potentially be brought in-house, and will be looking at integrating the hardware functionality into the vehicles themselves, and then offering the same service to the fleet customers.

Partnerships with the likes of Munich Re, or any sort of third-party service provider really, could help the automaker boost revenue – in a market where future growth is now hampered by the rise of ride-sharing, growing migrations to urban centers (population densification favoring mass transit), and self-driving technologies reducing the demand for vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
Intel acquired Mobileye for $15.3bn back in March, in a deal worth around 37x Mobileye’s revenues – an indication of the size of the potential market, once the autonomous trend really steps up a gear. Mobileye was the market leader in the machine-vision and pattern recognition chips that cars used to spot objects in their path, and Intel was evidently happy to pay a huge amount of money to acquire the company – which had a market cap of around $9bn.

“As Americans drive more miles and engage in activities that take their attention off the road, such as texting or talking on cellphones, the number of traffic crashes and fatalities has grown. Adding a crash avoidance system to a company’s risk management program for its fleet of vehicles can help mitigate the risk of a crash,” said Mike Scrudato, SVP and Strategic Innovation Leader at Munich Re US. “Our partnership with Mobileye offers our client companies and their customers with a range of fleet vehicles, from auto to light and heavy-duty trucks and buses, tools to help reduce property losses and help save lives.”

“Mobileye’s vision safety technology saves lives. We applaud Munich Re for embracing forward-looking technology and providing such an innovative offering to their portfolio of clients,” said Moran David, Mobileye’s GM US and Canada. “The ability to improve driver habits with real-time feedback coupled with re/insurance protection will provide companies with a well-rounded risk management solution for their fleets that improves road safety for everyone.”