Mobileye (Ticker Symbol MBLY) is an automated driving assistance system provider. They are based in Tel Aviv, Isreal and have been popping up in a bunch of transportation conferences. I first spoke with them in June at ITS America in Pittsburgh, PA. While the gentlemen I spoke with was a bit abrasive, I still think this company (and their products) are top notch and this post will share on why I am high on Mobileye (check out those sweet rhymes).
Reason #1: already moving into the market
Mobileye’s product in the field currently is their 5-series, shown below:
It is basically a silver-dollar sized disc that sits on your dash or on your side-pillar and alerts the driver of the following:
- Following distance
- Obstacles (pedestrians, other vehicles, etc.)
- Lane departure
- General tomfoolery (I suspect…)
The device beeps at you when you exceed the either preset threshold or custom threshold. Say you are driving down the road and a car suddenly slams on its brakes. The device beeps loudly, and tells the driver to slow down or risk imminent doom. If you want to see the device in action, check out this video here: Tesla & Mobileye in action
Besides the obvious geekiness of this technology (which I could go on and on about), it seems that they are already deploying. This is pretty smart as these types of deployments (i.e., transportation-type) take a while to get people to use. I mean, look at the ride-sharing business. This started almost 5 years and would have probably taken a lot longer to be widely-accepted, had the taxi industry not been so crappy. In fact, I was recently in Las Vegas this month for a guys weekend. As I popped into the cab from the airport, I noticed that the cabbie had a Mobileye unit. I was pretty tired from the ride so I did not bring it up until we stopped at the hotel. As I was getting out I asked him, “Hey, is that a Mobileye device?”
He told me that all taxis within Las Vegas are equipped with these devices (news story here) and that I was the first passenger to ask about the device in the year or so that he has had it. I asked him what he believes the impact of this technology is on his driving. While he said it was a bit annoying as the tolerances are too tight (i.e., if you are not an overly cautious driver), he said it does alert you if something comes out suddenly. However, it is mostly an annoyance.
Reason #2: Image-based technology > LIDAR
This technology is image-based, which is different than the Google car. The Google car is a Light-Radar-based system, or LIDAR. In my opinion, the LIDAR technology is a very equipment-intense technology. It requires a 360 degree view of the area and can only drive on roads that it has previously mapped (at least the first version has). This means 2 things:
- The imaging apparatus is highly data-intensive
- It is tough to adapt to changing conditions.
The second part is the main reason automated vehicles have been receiving a lot of slack. The purveyors of these technologies have not been able to clearly answer how they adapt to weather, incidents, the dreaded idiom: “If a car has to choose between killing a pedestrian & the driver and killing a bus full of school children, what would they choose and who decides this? (I’ll be touching on why this is a semi-sophomoric issue in a later post)”, and other variations from the typical sunny day scenario. LIDAR, in its present-state, cannot account for this. However, image-based technology can.
Using the power of video analytics, image-based technology can adapt to changing conditions. With cameras becoming more and more sophisticated and Mohr’s Law taking effect on the analytical side, this seems like a better option to LIDAR.
Reason #3: Market Infiltration
Audi, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Honda: ever heard of them? Well, they are on board and deploying Mobileye’s software and technology. This is huge, as the connected car space has started to become a big topic (think BMW iDrive, Ford Sync, On-Star, etc.) and will be in the future as we move to self-driving cars.
This is what I am really psyched for: the automated vehicle technology they are slowly deploying inside of vehicles. The company claims that it is will be within 20 Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) by the end of next year. Mobileye is a leader in this regard, and, has quitely been coaxing auto manufacturers to buy their product for future automated vehicle deployments.
Now, this is not a shared hoo-rah. Currently, shares have been sliding fast based off of a report by the Citron group. The analyst claims that Mobileye is over-valued and has lost its “first-to-market” competitiveness. Also, Wall Street Analysts have been very concerned over the recent stock selling by management, extremely high P/E ratios @ 2,000, when a “value stock’ is at 20 (this means a stock is WAY overpriced for their current earnings), and lack of growth in cash flow. These have caused a massive price drop, as shown below.
Granted, I am no Wall Street wiz or purveyor of information outside John Q. Public; however, I think with Mobileye’s smart phasing into a tough market, the choice of an adaptable technology, and getting their devices into automobiles years before they need to be deployed, they will make a big player in the automated vehicle space for years to come.
Do you disagree? Think Delphi or the Google Car are the main player in the future? Leave a comment below.
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