On the heels of a spate of reports over the weekend, today Intel confirmed its latest move to grow its automotive division. The chip giant is acquiring Moovit, an Israeli startup previously backed by Intel that analyses urban traffic patterns and provides transportation recommendations with a specific focus on public transit. The deal values Moovit at $900 million, although Intel says that the growth of its existing stake in the startup effectively means that Intel is paying $840 million in this transaction.
Moovit provides traffic data to third parties -- including Intel itself, Uber and 7,500 transit authorities -- and it also has a popular app with 800 million users globally. Intel has confirmed to me that all existing services will continue, but additionally it plans to use Moovit's technology to expand the services it offers via Mobileye, the autonomous car company that Intel acquired for $15.3 billion in 2017, which is the anchor of its efforts in the automotive sector.
Specifically, Moovit's tech will be used to expand and enhance Mobileye's "mobility as a service" (MaaS) offering, Intel said. Mobileye's driver assistance technology is in some 60 million vehicles today, and while a lot of autonomous services like "robotaxis" are still in their most nascent phase, the opportunities are big: Intel believes that robotaxis alone will be a $160 billion market by 2030.
“Intel’s purpose is to create world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on Earth, and our Mobileye team delivers on that purpose every day,” said Bob Swan, Intel CEO, in a statement. “Mobileye’s ADAS technology is already improving the safety of millions of cars on the road, and Moovit accelerates their ability to truly revolutionize transportation -- reducing congestion and saving lives -- as a full-stack mobility provider.”
Mobileye and Moovit had already been working together prior to the acquisition: Intel had been a strategic investor in the startup as part of that deal; Professor Amnon Shashua, senior vice president of Intel and CEO / CTO of Mobileye, was on Moovit’s Board of Directors as an observer.
The deal is interesting not just because it underscores how Intel is doubling down on its autonomous car business, but that it's doing so at a time when a number of other car companies and autonomous efforts are being paused or axed because of the global economic slowdown resulting from COVID-19. They have included Ford postponing its autonomous vehicle service until 2022; and Waymo and Voyage both suspending services.
“While others working on AV R&D may slow down or downsize their ambitions given the headwinds in our economy, we saw an opportunity to acquire a valuable asset that will help us realize our vision for driverless MaaS even faster," Shashua noted in a blog post.
The acquisition comes at critical moments both in the world of transportation, as well as in the world of startups.
On the transportation side, many people around the world are being asked to curtail their movement to slow down the spread of COVID-19 cases in what has become a global pandemic; and partly as a result of that same public health crisis, the global economy has been in a major downswing. Both have had a direct impact on the automotive world, which is seeing some not only changing courses in ambitious next-generation strategies, but bigger shut-downs in all automotive production, both to contain coronavirus spread and to respond to the big drop in purchasing demand.
On the tech side, all companies big and small have been working on leveraging their assets in as optimised a way as possible to help keep things moving (so to speak). That has been playing out specifically in the world of transportation startups, too.
For Moovit, consumer usage of its app will have drastically dropped off with people moving around less, but at the same time, the company launched a series of COVID-19 services to help those customers that still need to keep things operational, and still need to give their users data and transportation options to get from A to B.
These have included a special service for transit data managers (which it’s offering for free, unlike its normal B2B products) to both receive updated transit and traffic data and subsequently put in place “thousands of short-term changes quickly, enabling riders to plan their trips with only updated, valid routes.”
Moovit also started a real-time service for its app users to make sure that they are getting those alerts. Thirdly, it has launched an “emergency mobilisation on-demand” service that lets transportation managers redeploy buses on routes more quickly to better serve essential workers that are still using public transport.
There is also the issue of funding, and where Moovit happened to be sitting on that front. The company last raised back in 2018 -- its investors, alongside Intel, were a pretty illustrious list that included NGP Capital, BMW, Sound Ventures, Gemini Israel, Sequoia Israel and LVMH.
It's not at all clear if Moovit had been working on raising more money, or if it had been feeling the same pinch that so many other startups have felt when it comes to closing deals at the moment, or if Intel's offer was too good to refuse right now, or even if it was on the table before COVID-19. Regardless, this is a complementary fit that will not face the classic issues of integrating teams that have never worked together before, given the existing relationship.
“We are excited to join forces with Mobileye and lead the future revolution of new mobility services," said Nir Erez, Moovit co-founder and CEO, in a statement. "Mobility is a basic human right, and as cities become more crowded, urban mobility becomes more difficult. Combining the daily mobility habits and needs of millions of Moovit users with the state-of-the-art, safe, affordable and eco-friendly transportation enabled by self-driving vehicles, we will be able to make cities better places to live in. We share this vision and look forward to making it a reality as part of Mobileye.”
More to come.