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Intel is strengthening its commitment to the automotive industry by introducing a new artificial intelligence-powered chip for automobiles

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Intel is strengthening its commitment to the automotive sector by introducing a new AI-powered chip for automobiles. The first manufacturer to implement it will be Zeekr.

A few months after Intel's CEO announced plans to incorporate artificial intelligence into "everything," we are starting to see a clearer picture of where it will be used first. Today, the company announced an AI-focused chip for the automotive sector, or as Intel describes it, "the first-generation AI-powered software-defined system-on-a-chip for vehicles." Intel has also announced the acquisition of an energy management company and a new effort to standardize battery power for electric vehicles.

Intel is engaged in a race with Nvidia and AMD to capture the market for processors and hardware needed to power the explosion of artificial intelligence. Now it is targeting AI-based PCs, claiming that AI is safer when run on a personal computer rather than over the Internet.

The companies are also competing in the automotive sector, driven by the belief that the car is the next big software platform. Intel's new automotive chips are designed to enhance in-car experiences, such as navigation, voice assistants, and vehicle controls, according to Jack Weast, Vice President and General Manager of Intel Automotive.

The first company to sign up to install these chips in its vehicles is Zeekr, the electric vehicle subsidiary of Chinese automaker Geely. (Geely is also the parent company of Volvo.) The first Zeekr vehicle with Intel AI hardware is expected to launch by the end of the year.

"We are bringing the AI PC to the car," Weast said in a briefing with reporters last week. He added, "However, we can't just put a PC in a car. We know that automakers need to be able to redesign their vehicle, as I said, to be software-defined."

The company aims to introduce a "family" of system-on-a-chip (SoC) for these future software-defined vehicles, with the first available by the end of 2024. Intel has not named any other automotive customers beyond Zeekr but said it is in active discussions with several OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

The automotive industry faces several unique challenges as it seeks to incorporate increasingly sophisticated computers into its vehicles in anticipation of widespread adoption of electric vehicles and more advanced software. It's a cliché to say that cars are becoming like smartphones on wheels, capable of updating their software via over-the-air updates and increasingly reliant on sophisticated semiconductors to perform basic functions. But it's also true.

However, Weast said the effort to build a software-defined vehicle still has a long way to go, especially because Intel has yet to put its mark on it. "No one has really done software-defined well yet," he said. "We have a unique perspective and a unique set of capabilities that we think can help the industry transform its vehicles so that they are truly software-defined."

Intel claims its SoCs are present in 50 million cars on the road, powering infotainment displays and dashboards. Starting with Zeekr, the company will leverage its position with individual automakers, arguing that Intel's AI-powered chips can usher in a new era of software-defined vehicles.

Vehicles equipped with Intel's AI chips will have better voice assistants, improved video conferencing capabilities, and gaming options for rear-seat passengers, the company promises. Instead of struggling with multiple menus and submenus to activate certain functions, you could simply ask the car to do it, Weast said. Enhanced safety features, such as driver monitoring systems for hands-free driving, are another possibility. A car with Intel's AI system could even