How To Supercharge The Autonomous Vehicle Industry

Israel's automotive companies primarily fall into one of four categories: electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart mobility, or conventional vehicle technology. For the most part, the successful companies have developed strategic partnerships with global car manufacturers. In fact, it should come as no surprise that auto giants and their executives are flocking to Silicon Wadi to meet with and invest in local companies. In 2016, Volkswagen invested $300 million in Gett, whose platform is similar to Uber's, to kick-start its fleet of smart vehicles. The German auto goliath also invested in a cybersecurity firm owned in part by Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shin Bet security agency. Last July, BMW and Intel signed a collaboration agreement with the Israeli firm Mobileye to produce a fully automated car by 2021. Mobileye's revolutionary technology—a device that emits a sound if the vehicle gets too close to the car ahead or the driver veers out of his lane in an unsafe way—is being integrated into cars manufactured by Audi, General Motors, Hyundai, Renault-Nissan, Tesla Motors (TSLA), and Volvo. NNG, whose headquarters are in Hungary, bought Israeli automotive cybersecurity firm Arilou, and Ford bought Israeli company SAIPS, which specializes in both computer vision and machine learning. The list goes on. "Israel is a highly developed business location," says Dr. Volkmar Denner, CEO of the world's largest supplier of automotive components, Robert Bosch GmbH. "Relative to its population, no other country is as innovative."

SUPERCHARGED

For now, the auto industry and governments worldwide should consider a number of ideas to supercharge the development of an autonomous vehicle industry.

Israel has over 250 research and development centers owned by multinationals. Last year, General Motors and Daimler joined ranks to form such a center, and Honda and Volvo teamed up in February to establish an innovation center in Tel Aviv. Daimler's center "is aimed at boosting the global R&D array with the help of Israel, the high tech nation," notes Professor Thomas Weber, who was previously responsible for Daimler Group research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development. Other American, Asian, and European car manufacturers should consider establishing similar centers, in addition to directing their venture capital funds to invest in promising Israeli companies as a way of further accelerating their growth. Israeli technology companies have been extraordinarily successful in fostering innovation in fields that directly affect the autonomous car industry: cybersecurity, communication, computer vision, sensors, and artificial intelligence.

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