China’s Geely Auto Group will deploy Mobileye’s “full stack,” 360-degree camera-only ADAS solution to power Level 2+ electric vehicles, starting in 2021. Mobileye (part of Intel), made the announcement Thursday.
Mobileye said Geely will be using the technology, called SuperVision, in “high volume.”
SuperVision consists of two Mobileye EyeQ5 SoCs, and 11 cameras — seven long-range and four close-range. It’s a camera-only turnkey solution without radars or lidars. Amnon Shashua, president and CEO of Mobileye, described SuperVision as “ADAS done right.” Mobileye uses built-in algorithmic redundancy in the camera-only system, while striving to make advanced ADAS features affordable to consumers.
Shashua explained that SuperVision is already a well-proven system. It supports the capabilities Mobileye demonstrated in drone-view videos (see below) of its L4 AV test driving in Jerusalem. In other words, Mobileye is importing software developed for L4 test AVs to consumer L2/L2+ vehicles.
During the conference call, Shashua called the design win with Geely “momentous.” Financially it’s momentous because MobilEye can now sell something much more valuable than the current front-facing camera system. Further, SuperVision comes with an over-the-air (OTA) upgrade capability, offering a scalable feature that supports hands-free high-way driving, navigation-based highway-to-highway, on/off ramp, and up to urban hands-free driving.
Egil Juliussen, an automotive industry analyst, called Mobileye’s SuperVision “a good move.” MobilEye already has a huge installed base of car OEMs who already use Mobileye’s front-facing cameras. He said SuperVision gives Mobileye the ability to offer its existing customers an upgrade path. SuperVision allows Mobileye’s customers to catch up with rivals who have advanced L2+ systems, such as Tesla’s AutoPilot. In turn, it’s also good strategy “for Mobileye to retain its lead in the ADAS market,” he noted.
Mobileye’s SuperVision signals an emerging trend in the ADAS market. “The camera camp has been gaining as of late. And the technology continues to improve,” observed Phil Magney, founder & principal of VSI Labs. “The imagers are getting better, the software is getting better, and the integration of software and processors is getting tighter.”
Mike Demler, a senior analyst at The Linley Group, wondered about the absence of radar, though. Given that Shashua noted during the conference call that radar doesn’t cost much, why wouldn’t Mobileye add radar to its SuperVision? Demler noted that if an OEM wanted to add a radar, there should be no problem, since “Mobileye uses radar in their test vehicles.”
While Tesla doesn’t officially support hands-off, Demler believes the capabilities supported by SuperVision “look pretty much equivalent, using 11 cameras instead of 8, and apparently no radar.”
Demler sees Amnon’s claim that the Geely deal is a game changer as “overblown.” The significance of this news is that the deal “represents the first announced production vehicles to use EyeQ5.” He added that this is in line with what Mobileye previously said: “The 7nm EyeQ5 chip would enter volume production in late 2020.”
Danny Kim, partner and director at VSI Labs, similarly believes it’s significant that this is the first time Mobileye will be supplying OEMs with a 36-degree camera perception system, complete with vertically integrated end-to-end Mobileye stacks.
Mobileye may seem to be defying the conventional practice among car OEMs for fusing forward-facing camera perception systems with other sensors such as radar, but it’s working on combining vision with other sensors.
Separate subsystems coming
SuperVision is a camera-only system designed for Level 2 and Level 2+ cars, but Mobileye is also creating separate subsystems with radar and lidar that could be used for L4 robo-taxis.
“OEMs that want to use this SuperVision system in L4 systems will need/want a radar/lidar redundant system” to be provided by Intel/Mobileye in the future, “or they can do it on their own,” noted Intel/Mobileye spokesperson. And “they could add radar to their L2/L2+ systems if desired, but the SuperVision system doesn’t need it.” SuperVision is capable of offering L2+ features without radar, “because of RSS (Responsibility-Sensitive Safety) and the HD map.”
Who else would go for SuperVision?
So, who will get the most out of SuperVision, other than China’s Geely? Juliussen believes the answer is Mobileye’s existing customers.
VSI Labs’ Kim, on the other hand, cites potential benefits to “many EV startups who can’t fully invest in ADAS development and would be better off with Mobileye’s turnkey solution.”
Kim also believes many traditional OEMs won’t embrace vision-only SuperVision. “Just like Volkswagen who would provide 8 million vehicles over time with forward-facing camera perception system powered by Mobileye EyeQ5, many carmakers would just fuse 360-degree radars or other sensors with forward-facing cameras,” he said.
Magney predicted, “I think in time you will see some of the big OEMs ditch their proprietary developments and just buy the Intel/Mobileye solution.” Magney added, “The legacy auto industry is on thin ice already and cannot afford to waste money developing their own AV stacks.”
Magney made it clear that “L2+ is hard to do without 360-degree vision. You either have to build your own or buy into the Nvidia/ARM camp or the Intel/Mobileye camp.”
Demler took a more jaded view. “The beneficiaries are Mobileye for the increased revenue, and the Chinese consumers that are able to afford the Zero Concept luxury vehicles.” In his view, “This doesn’t really change the landscape for L2/L3 ADAS. It’s still Mobileye, Nvidia, and Tesla, followed by a few startups and some custom ASICs.”
Geely – Volvo
Mobileye’s SuperVision will be designed into Geely’s premium EV, called Zero Concept, from Lynk & Co, a brand within the Geely Auto Group.
Lynk & Co is a Chinese-Swedish automobile company. Founded in 2016, its cars are positioned between those of the Geely brand and Swedish brand Volvo. The Swedish automaker was purchased by Geely in 2010.
Juliussen noted that Geely in China is not a state-supported automaker. “It’s an independent company in China, and it’s a good get for Mobileye,” he said. According to Mobileye’s press release, Geely has “delivered, to date, over 300,000 Lynk & Co units to customers.”
The new Geely-Mobileye connection presents potentially an interesting question, as Nvidia announced in 2018 an agreement with Volvo. According to the announcement at that time, Volvo will use Nvidia’s Xavier computer for its next-generation vehicles, with production starting early 2020’s.
In the announcement, Mobileye noted:
Mobileye will be responsible for the full solution stack, including hardware and software, driving policy and control. Due to the complexity of the project, we will also supply a multidomain controller that will be validated for automotive and serve as a subsystem for very advanced ADAS solutions worldwide.
So, what exactly is a multidomain controller? The block diagram on Mobileye’s product sheet shows an MCU. But we do not know whose MCU that is.
Asked for clarification, Intel/Mobileye described it as an ASIL-D MCU on the PCB that provides domain controller functionality and connects to vehicle communication buses. It’s a common architecture. But the difference here is that the PCB uses Mobileye’s software, not that of Tier One’s or OEM’s.
So, the short answer is that this PCB (which functions as a multidomain controller) is Intel/Mobileye’s home-grown solution embedded with a small MCU that is most likely sourced from elsewhere. Shashua added that the PCB, based on Mobileye’s reference design, will be produced by a contract manufacturer, Quanta.
How far does OTA go?
Industry analysts liked hearing that Mobileye is enabling OTA on the SuperVision solution.
However, Juliussen questioned, “I am not sure whether this OTA reaches out to other ECUs in a vehicle.” There are a host of ECUs deployed inside an EV. Each ECU controls different functions in the car, and presumably, in theory, each could updated via OTA. But it is not known how many of those ECUs could be controlled by the SuperVision’s OTA.
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