Intel opens Autonomous Driving Garage, touts 5G and big data

Intel opened its Autonomous Driving Garage in San Jose intended for self-driving car development, emphasizing the big part data and fast connections will play.

Intel Autonomous Driving Garage logo

Intel opened its Autonomous Driving Garage at its Innovation Center in San Jose.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET Roadshow

Intel, a company known for PC processors, sets its sites on the next frontier, opening a new facility at its San Jose innovation center intended for self-driving car development. Rather than the pristine offices and clean rooms where Intel develops its chips, its Autonomous Driving Garage will host self-driving car research vehicles, built through a partnership with BMW.

At a ribbon-cutting event to open the Autonomous Driving Garage, Intel executives emphasized the extraordinary amount of data generated by self-driving cars, including the need for big, wireless data pipes based on 5G technology and artificial intelligence for processing.

Intel's move comes amid efforts around the globe to develop self-driving car technology, led not just by automakers, but also automotive equipment suppliers and technology companies. Self-driving cars promise to reduce or eliminate the tens of thousands of traffic fatalities that occur on US roads every year.

Along with BMW, Intel introduced partners Delphi, an automotive equipment supplier, and Here, a consortium founded by BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz that builds high-definition digital maps and aggregates real-time car data to determine road conditions.

Intel's chief architect for its Autonomous Driving Solutions, Jack Weast, pointed out that each self-driving car generates 4 terabytes of data per day, based on 1.5 hours of drive time. The bulk of that data comes from cameras, but radar and lidar sensors also contribute.

Intel Autonomous Driving Garage Ford Fusion

Intel showed off a number of cars it has been using to test self-driving, including this Ford Fusion.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET Roadshow

With research vehicles, that data can be manually uploaded to a data center, but Intel expects self-driving cars will rely on a cloud connection. To that end, the company is developing 5G technology for a fast data connection between car and cloud. Rob Topol, Intel's general manager for 5G Business and Technology, pointed out that 5G is being developed for a wider range of uses than its predecessors, such as allowing low and high bandwidth applications along with machine-to-machine communication, the latter of which would let cars send data directly to each other rather than through the cloud.

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To commercialize its self-driving car technology, Intel developed what it calls the Intel Go Automotive Software Development Kit, an end-to-end sdk that will simulate millions of driving miles at Intel's data center, using machine learning to label objects in a car's environment and determine the best driving decisions. Simulating a wide variety of driving scenarios, both gathered from real-world driving and developed by Intel, the resulting software stack would be optimized and loaded to individual cars.

As a silicon company, Intel is developing its self-driving software to run on its processors and modems. Jason Waxman, Intel vice president for Data Center Solutions, said the company expects increased server demand to process the massive amount of data generated by self-driving cars.

Intel faces a wide array of competition from players such as Waymo (Google's self-driving technology spinoff), Apple, which has been stealthily working on some aspect of self-driving car technology and a multitude of other companies.

Intel Autonomous Driving Garage

Intel opened up its newest facility, the Autonomous Driving Garage, during an event in San Jose.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET Roadshow

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