In anticipation of launching a pilot program for its autonomous taxis later this year, Mobileye offered a sneak peek into a 40-minute driver-free ride around the streets of Jerusalem last week.
Mobileye – the Intel-owned, Jerusalem-based pioneer in self-driving technologies – will launch its autonomous ride-hailing taxi services in Tel Aviv and Munich later this year.
The autonomous system was tested in a real and challenging environment surrounded by human drivers, including one who violated traffic rules by performing an illegal U-turn. In the video, Mobileye displayed a vehicle operating in the autonomous mode “while mimicking the multi-stop behavior of a ride-hailing service with humanlike skill.”
Places such as Jerusalem have driving environments that can be particularly challenging due to comparatively narrow streets and heavy traffic congestion.
The autonomous system still enables human intervention if necessary and is considered a complement to human driving, not a complete replacement.
The Israeli government approved driverless cars on Israeli roads in March 2022. Mobileye announced on Tuesday that such tests of its autonomous driving system constituted a “major milestone” for the implementation of its upcoming robotaxi (autonomously driven taxis) services.
Mobileye was established in Jerusalem in 1999 by the Israeli Hebrew University professor-turned-entrepreneur Amnon Shashua and his business partner Ziv Aviram. Shashua still serves as the company’s CEO. Mobileye made headlines worldwide in 2017 when the American technology giant, Intel, acquired the Israeli company for $15.3 billion, a record-high amount for an Israel-based business at the time.
For the robotaxi project, Mobileye decided to cooperate with the German-based global car rental service company SIXT SE. In addition, the Israeli transit data business, Moovit, was also brought into the ride-hailing services partnership.
SIXT will maintain and operate the vehicle fleet in Israel and Germany, while Mobileye will own the vehicles – Chinese-manufactured NIO electric seven-seater SUVs. Riding customers will be able to access the ride-hailing service on Moovit or SIXT applications.
The development of the autonomous taxi-driving technology has been swift. In September 2021, Intel – Mobileye’s mother company – announced the development of the self-driving taxi service system with Munich and Tel Aviv. It was not a coincidence that Israel and Germany were chosen as test markets for the new technology. As the Start-Up Nation, Israel is a natural testing ground for new technologies. In addition, the Jewish state’s compact size makes it ideal for testing driving technologies.
In June 2021, tech-savvy Germany became one of the first countries in the world to open its roads to autonomously driven vehicles. Germany is considered the birthplace of the modern car industry and is still a major force in the automobile market with famous brands such as BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche.
While Israel and Germany are the test markets, Mobileye’s vision is global. The company currently owns the world’s largest fleet of autonomous cars. Its pilots are located all over the world including New York, Tokyo, Munich, Paris and Detroit.
The idea of self-driving private cars and taxis was developed as a response to the statistic of some 1.35 million people killed worldwide annually in traffic accidents. In Israel alone, around 300 people are killed on average every year – far more than the number of Israelis killed in terrorist attacks. Most traffic fatalities are rooted in reckless driving. Mobileye’s autonomous driving technologies addresses this with computer-driven systems that the company claims are superior to human driving and effectively reduce the number of traffic accidents around the world.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.