With a big opportunity to sell chips and processors powering the next generation of autonomous and driverless vehicles, Intel (INTC) - Get Intel Corporation (INTC) Report unleashed a campaign to exhibit its competitive capabilities against smaller rivals such as Nvidia (NVDA) - Get NVIDIA Corporation Report and Qualcomm (QCOM) - Get QUALCOMM Incorporated Report -- as well as neighborhood giant, Alphabet (GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report , the parent of Google.
Intel on Wednesday entertained a hundred journalists and analysts at the opening of its "Autonomous Driving Garage" in California's Silicon Valley to interview leaders of its Automated Driving Group, newly organized in January and elevated in the chipmaking giant's corporate hierarchy. Nvidia and Qualcomm have been prominent in forging relationships with automakers and automotive suppliers to develop driverless systems. Qualcomm is in a $38 billion pact to merge with automotive chip giant NXP Semiconductors (NXPI) - Get NXP Semiconductors NV Report .
Google has hosted a number of similar events to display its self-driving capabilities in nearby Mountain View, Calif.
Intel's "garage," located in San Jose, featured a number of test vehicles including one from BMW, part of a partnership with Intel and Mobileye (MBLY) , the Israeli-based machine vision company that Intel in March agreed to buy for $15 billion. The guests rode in a number of test vehicles, including one developed by Delphi Automotive (DLPH) - Get Delphi Technologies Plc Report , and received technical briefings from engineers, scientists and executives. Delphi has been a customer of Intel technology.
"We think that you'll start to see driverless go live in real-world applications in 2019," said Glen DeVos, Delphi's chief technical officer. An example would be a college campus, shopping mall or amusement park, where shuttles would operate at low-speed within a confined area. In the meantime, passenger vehicles are steadily gaining autonomous characteristics that allow them to cruise on highways, change lanes and avoid rear-end collisions without driver input.
DeVos and several Intel executives, including Doug Davis, senior vice president of Intel's Automated Driving Group, noted that the practical reality of self-driving technology is looking clearer and closer to commercialization than previously thought as more research and experimentation lead to better software and hardware. Automotive and high-tech companies are forming multiple alliances and partnerships, though few if any are exclusive.
"I have unwavering confidence that Intel will succeed in autonomous driving," Davis said. "We have an astounding breadth and depth of experience and the world's finest technology toolkit to apply to this challenge. We have tapped resources from across the company and have added experienced talent from the automotive industry. Our teams are operating in high gear and will deliver the necessary technology breakthroughs."
Intel missed an opportunity earlier in the century with mobile devices, perhaps sharpening its determination not to be left behind as automobiles transform into rolling computer platforms.
The fast-moving nature of the auto industry's investment landscape was illustrated on Wednesday morning, prior to Intel's conference: Delphi announced that it will be splitting into two public companies, one dedicated to manufacture of components for conventional engines and a second to electrical, software and self-driving technology. The company said the new structure will allow it to focus better on "customer needs."
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Editors' pick: Originally published May 5.
Doron Levin is the host of "In the Driver Seat," broadcast on SiriusXM Insight 121, Saturday at noon, encore Sunday at 9 a.m.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.