It’s not often you see car makers willing to play nice with each other.

Mobileye, a company that supplies camera technology for self-driving vehicles to more than 25 automakers, is trying to get some of those traditional car makers to do what few are ever willing to: Share.

Specifically, the company — which announced its camera and sensor technology would appear in both BMW and Audi self-driving vehicles between 2020 and 2021 at CES 2017 — wants to get automakers to crowdsource and aggregate their high definition mapping data.

High definition maps are a crucial aspect of any autonomous system — put simply, the software needs to know where it’s going to be able to drive itself. It’s a new area of mapping that requires three-dimensional imaging that goes beyond what Google has done.

It can take a great deal of time and money to map just a single city, much less the world. Crowdsourcing and aggregating every automakers’ mapping data would make a significant dent in the time and resources companies are spending on charting the world’s streets, according to Mobileye co-founder and CTO Amnon Shashua.

The problem is auto companies have long been reluctant to hand over their data to competitors for fear of relinquishing any competitive advantage. That’s increasingly becoming the case as more players join the race to build and deploy self-driving cars.

But autonomous systems work better when systems are standardized and not differentiated, Mobileye’s chief of communications Dan Galvez argued. That would also make it easier to regulate and manage self-driving cars.

For automakers, when it comes to competing, it will likely be more important to differentiate how the companies deploy the self-driving cars. So sharing information that assists in merely developing that autonomous system shouldn’t be a competitive disadvantage, he said.

Beyond that, Mobileye’s overall pitch to those companies is simple. Many of these automakers are already building or developing vehicles with at least a front-facing camera. Mobileye would be merely taking the cost the companies already allocated to integrating that camera and adding more value to it, according to Galvez.

Access to this global mapping information would mean an automaker wouldn’t be limited to rolling out its self-driving cars only in regions in which it has a large footprint.

It’s also more cost effective. BMW, for example, wouldn’t have to deploy mapping vehicles in every city all over the world in order to be able to deploy self-driving cars globally.

That said, it doesn’t have to necessarily be Mobileye that controls all that mapping information. However, according to Galvez, no other company has the scale that Mobileye has.

“We’ve also always been a great partner to the industry. They know they can trust that we won’t try to

[exert] too much control],” he said.

BMW, Nissan, Audi and others have expressed interest but haven’t signed any agreement. For one, there are still concerns about what would happen to that data if another company buys Mobileye, or how it might be sold.


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Author: Johana Bhuiyan

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