Intel is building a fleet of 100 self driving cars and it wants to start testing them this year

Caroline Cakebread

Roads and highways are about to get more crowded with self-driving car prototypes.

The latest company to join the race is Intel, the giant chipmaker, which said on Wednesday that it's building a fleet of 100 self-driving vehicles.

The first cars will hit the streets by the end of the year, Intel said.

The move follows Intel's $15.3 billion acquisition of Mobileye, an Israeli based company that makes computer vision technology used for self-driving vehicles. The acquisition officially closed on Tuesday and Intel isn't wasting any time.

The fleet of 100 cars will include multiple brands and vehicle types to show how the Intel and Mobileye technology can be used by different car makers and other potential customers.

Watch out Waymo

Intel said the test cars will be "Level 4", referring to the NHTSA classification of autonomous vehicles. Level 4 is the second highest rating and means the car is fully autonomous and is designed to perform all critical driving functions (but not necessarily in all conditions).

The cars will be tested in the United States, Israel, and Europe. The idea is to test and train the fleet in geographically diverse places so that the cars can be deployed anywhere in the world. Mobileye will continue to be based in Israel, and its cofounder Amnon Shashua will lead Intel’s efforts.

The cars will combine Mobileye’s sensing and mapping technologies with Intel’s 5G and open compute capabilities for a “complete car-to-cloud system.” In the New York Times, Shashua said that Mobileye’s upcoming EyeQ5 processor would make the cars twice as powerful as the current products.

The company said the combination of skills within the two companies makes the deployment of a standalone test fleet possible almost immediately. And with its size and combined technology, Intel could become a serious contender in the nascent self-driving car industry, rivaling existing players like Google-spinoff Waymo, Uber and GM’s cruise.