Updated: Jul 18, 2019
Intel Mobileye and NVIDIA are two of the largest autonomous vehicle technology platform providers with both complete hardware and software solutions. Both have significant automotive partners and technology adoption of their own platforms. But, the two companies especially their CEOs have publicly sparred or ridiculed each other at various occasions in trying to emphasize the superiority of their technology. Amnon Shashua, the CEO of Mobileye and now the SVP at Intel after the acquisition of the company, has been a vocal critic of various moves of NVIDIA in autonomous vehicles. He is also one of the pioneers in the domain of ADAS and autonomous vehicle technology and therefore, his opinions carry significant heft in the automotive industry.
So, it was no surprise when Intel released a fiery blog on their website by Amnon Shashua regarding the recent announcement of Safety Force Field (SFF) by NVIDIA’s CEO Jensen Huang at NVIDIA’s GPU technology conference. NVIDIA called it a ‘first-of-its-kind’, computational defensive driving policy to shield autonomous vehicles from collisions. But, this was the first time Intel has put such an open, no-holds-barred blog against NVIDIA’s announcement, even calling it an inferior imitation of its Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) released and made open source in 2017.
RSS was published in 2017 in an academic paper in 2017 titled ‘On a formal model of safe and scalable self-driving cars’ available on the open source Arxiv archive.
Mobileye claims that it shared all the technical details of RSS because of its belief that the safety of automated vehicles should have standards and industry players and governmental organizations should participate together to build such standards. RSS according to them would be a good starting point and it welcomed suggestions from other industry players. In fact, there was some initial collaboration talk between Mobileye and NVIDIA in the AV safety domain in 2018 but, NVIDIA later pulled out of the talks. This has been highlighted in the blog prominently. RSS also found acceptance with other industry players like Baidu for its open source Apollo project and Valeo. China ITS has approved a workgroup tasked with standardizing RSS for China market. NVIDIA’s SFF which was just announced does not claim such industry partners.
Shashua’s blog then goes in detail about how its common sense principle and technical terms were just renamed but the concept remained the same in SFF. It also claims that the ‘proper response’ which is at the heart of the safety model defining the response of the automated vehicle in various complex circumstances has not been delved upon in detail in SFF. The blog then details a multi-page tabular comparison of the various concepts of RSS and SFF implying that SFF is just a rehashed version of RSS! But, was Mobileye’s purpose as egalitarian as they claim?
NVIDIA’s response suggests that it does not want Mobileye to dictate the rules in this regard. It seems that Mobileye wanted to create a licensing standard that would be free. But, it allows Mobileye to create an enviable position in the newly forming autonomous vehicle industry. A parallel can be drawn with the yesteryear’s CAN protocol developed by Bosch. It gave Bosch a very lucrative position in the automotive software industry. Obviously, when it comes to safety having a common standard across industry players would help in the adoption of autonomous vehicles. But, it is difficult to cede space as it has all the signs of being a very lucrative business for a long time of leadership position are established early. However, NVIDIA’s attempt was too shallow to be called out and needed more thought.
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Image Courtesy : www.mobileye.com