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Intel Buys Autonomous Car Sensor Specialist Mobileye for $15.3 Billion

Intel is making an aggressive push into autonomous driving.

Big news in the autonomous car world last week, as Intel acquired Mobileye, a company known for its autonomous car sensors, for $15.3 billion. The agreement allows Intel to move closer toward a comprehensive autonomous car platform, something we first started hearing about at CES.

In hindsight, the acquisition shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Intel worked with Mobileye and BMW at CES earlier this year to demonstrate the Intel Go platform, also announcing plans to have autonomous cars on the road doing test runs as soon as this year. Intel Go is a development platform — Intel provides the hardware and the development tools to allow other companies to build the algorithms that will give autonomous cars the information and decision-making capabilities to drive. That’s a lot easier to do when Intel owns the sensors that take in that information as well as the processors that make sense of it — hence the Mobileye acquisition.

The deal echoes Samsung’s acquisition of Harman last year, an agreement that is expected to close sometime this year. With autonomous cars poised to be the next big growth industry, there’s been a rush to secure a foothold — Google has been active with their Waymo project, rumors have long swirled around Apple, and Uber is already testing autonomous vehicles. The purchases by Samsung and Intel should help both companies get up to speed quickly.

Intel is also helped by their early involvement in 5G development. Modems will soon become as essential for cars as they are for phones now, which creates a huge opportunity for Intel and their major modem competitor, Qualcomm. Acquiring Mobileye gives Intel direct involvement in nearly every part of the autonomous car chain, short of building the cars themselves — not a bad position to be in.