Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Intel announced Wednesday it is joining the likes of Waymo and Apple and plans to build a fleet of autonomous vehicles, the first of which will be on the road by the end of the year.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker's announcement come on the heels of finalizing the purchase of Israel-based Mobileye for $15.4 billion. Mobileye specializes in creating chips and software for self-driving vehicles, including data analysis and mapping.
Intel will begin building level four vehicles for testing in the United States, Israel and Europe. Level four autonomous vehicles are able to handle most driving situations, whereas level five is complete automation.
"Building cars and testing them in real-world conditions provides immediate feedback and will accelerate delivery of technologies and solutions for highly and fully autonomous vehicles," said Amnon Shashua, soon-to-be senior vice president of Intel Corporation and future CEO/CTO of Mobileye. "Geographic diversity is very important as different regions have very diverse driving styles as well as different road conditions and signage. Our goal is to develop autonomous vehicle technology that can be deployed anywhere, which means we need to test and train the vehicles in varying locations."
Intel plans to test the technology in various car brands and vehicle types "to demonstrate the technology's agnostic nature." The company plans to eventually build a fleet of more than 100 vehicles.
At least a dozen other companies are building the technology and hardware needed for autonomous vehicles, including:
CEO Tim Cook told Bloomberg in June that the computer company is developing technology for a self-driving car, something he described as "the mother of all AI projects." He said the artificial intelligence project involves three aspects: autonomous cars, electric vehicles and ride-booking.
Initially, Apple sought to build its own car -- a plan called Project Titan -- but last year decided to instead focus on the underlying technology for autonomous driving. Cook isn't sure whether Apple will actually manufacture the cars -- like it does phones, computers and watches.
"We'll see where it takes us," Cook said. "We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do."
The automaker includes ConnectedDrive driver assistance software on some of its vehicles. It tested driverless vehicles in 2011 (BMW 330i), in 2014 (6 Series Gran Coupe) and again this year (i3).
It partnered with Intel and Mobileye as part of the companies' plans to put autonomous cars on the road by the end of the year. BMW also teamed up with Chinese web services company Baidu for similar projects in China, though that partnership ended in 2016.
The German automaker has partnered with Nvidia technology to put level four driverless vehicles on the road by 2020.
In 2016, tech giant Google said its self-driving vehicle unit would be developed under a separate independent company called Waymo. The company has partnered with ride-sharing company Lyft and rental car company Avis to develop and test the technology.
Earlier this year, Waymo unveiled its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica at the Detroit International Auto Show.
The company was started by a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and provides technology for driverless cars. Specifically, it develops sensors that help vehicles navigate urban roads using GPS mapping.
In June, Volvo announced it is also working with computer chip manufacturer Nvidia to make self-driving vehicles available by 2021. They previously collaborated to build an experimental driverless car project called Drive Me.
The new initiative also includes collaboration with Autoliv, AB, a Swedish-American supplier of automotive safety systems.
The self-driving startup purchased by General Motors in 2016, this week launched a ride-hailing service in San Francisco for the company's employees. The system, Cruise Anywhere, is in beta but the company plans to build the pool of cars to 100 before the end of the year.
Cruise Anywhere uses Chevrolet Volt EVs outfitted with sensors and self-driving computers. There also is a safety driver at the wheel, which is required by law.
The ride-sharing service has struggled in its attempts to offer a fleet of self-driving vehicles to customers. A crash in Arizona in March temporarily sidelined its pilot program testing the technology. The Uber vehicle was found not to be at fault, and no one was seriously injured.
There have been complications behind the scenes, too, including a lawsuit from Waymo accusing the company of stealing trade secrets. In May, Uber fired the head of its autonomous division, Anthony Levandowski, who previously worked on the technology for Google.
The all-electric Tesla also has had problems. There have been at least two fatal crashes with Tesla vehicles outfitted with the driverless technology. One crash in September killed a man in the Netherlands. Tesla blamed another crash in July 2016 on the vehicle's "crash prevention" system, not the autopilot system.
In June, the head of Tesla's autopilot software division, Chris Lattner, quit after working for the company for six months.