LAS VEGAS -- After going public nearly 18 months ago, Israel-based Mobileye (MBLY) has become the face of the autonomous driving moment. It has put its wares into several major carmakers, including Tesla (TSLA) , BMW, Audi, Ford (F) and most recently, General Motors (GM) and Volkswagen (VLKAY) .
The company, led by Ziv Aram, helps make camera equipment and systems that assist in preventing accidents. Its products provide warnings for potential collisions -- think of it as the car's eyes, seeing and reacting to things a human might not be able to react to.
Though it's most well-known for its partnership with Tesla, which has advanced the state of autonomous driving in recent months, Mobileye is working on expanding partnerships so that everyone, not just the wealthy, can afford the benefits of autonomous vehicles.Here is a short interview with Senior Vice President of Production Programs Itay Gat, conducted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Gat discusses the state of autonomous driving and Mobileye's latest partnerships.
TheStreet: Could you expand on the announcement of the partnership between Mobileye and Volkswagen and GM and what it means for Mobileye?
Itay Gat: What we see here is the idea that they are glad to use our capabilities and collaborate in a very critical element on the path we see toward autonomous driving.
Autonomous driving as we see it is the ability to sense the world around you, but we also see an element of the world that is redundant. The second part is not just of what you sense of the world, but where you are able to drive and combine that information to create full autonomous driving in the near future.
The big advantages for the car industry and Mobileye is that these companies have huge fleets of vehicles around the world and they can create very detailed mapping of the world and leverage that to create a system based on that data with various ways to monetize that data.
TheStreet: Is there a fear that some of these OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), some of the ones that use more of a Silicon Valley-line type of thinking, could create this technology in-house and cut Mobileye out?
Gat: That's always an opportunity and for that, we need to create a situation where it's beneficial for both of us to work together. I'm glad to say that what we've shown far, both with GM and VW, that's been the case. They know we've invested many hundreds and maybe thousands of years to create these capabilities and they are enjoying the means to implement that.
As long as it's working for both sides, I don't see a reason for them to deviate from that and start to invest these huge efforts and create an in-house solution. The key is that it should be beneficial for both parties, and that's exactly what we're seeing here.
TheStreet: How does this help diversify Mobileye's revenue?
Gat: To be honest, it's not that we have a currently clear monetizing system and how the revenues will change, but we do have the fruits of doing that. The fact they have such capabilities to add this to every vehicle and add to the average sale price. The fact that the database is being created and can be used for other means besides autonomous driving.
The fact that the world is everywhere and very accurately and updating in a very quick manner, you can get updates that would be valuable as it is now and we see the advantage of having that as a solution for autonomous driving in the near future. We're not talking about tens of years from now, we're talking about the hardware being available for fully autonomous driving being available in 2017 or 2018.
It's up to the car industry to see when that happens, but there are ways for that to increase Mobileye's revenue, without giving away what we currently do not have.
TheStreet: The time frame of 2017 or 2018, is that still geared toward the luxury market, or does that come down to a $35,000 or $40,000 car?
Gat: Again, we have chosen to take the route of using vision system because we feel that eventually the system can be installed in every car. It's up to the car industry on the policy.
I'm glad to say that in order to make that happen, they need to start with relevant numbers, millions of vehicles that will have the camera as the major sensor since that will allow them to capture the information needed to create the map or the database. For that, GM would start equipping vehicles as soon as 2016 and VW would start in 2017.