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In July, 2016, BMW, Intel and Mobileye top executives announced they would cooperate on an autonomous-driving platform (Photo: Intel)

Intel has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Mobileye, giving the California-based chip maker a stronger position in the automotive technology sector.

Intel said it plans to acquire the sensor specialist through a cash offer worth around 15 billion dlrs.

The move will let Intel combine its high-performance computing products with Mobileye's computer vision expertise. Together, those technologies are key to building autonomous cars and developing highly automated driving functions.

"This acquisition essentially merges the intelligent eyes of the autonomous car with the intelligent brain that actually drives the car," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a message to Intel staff.

The market for autonomous vehicle technologies, data and services will be worth as much as 70 billion dlrs by 2030, Intel estimates. The acquisition of Mobileye should help make it a strong competitor in this growth market, the company said.

For Mobileye, becoming part of Intel will provide access to a much broader market. "By pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms," Mobileye CEO and Co-founder Ziv Aviram said in a statement.

Although Intel is going to be Mobileye's parent company, automotive operations of the combined group will be managed from Mobileye headquarters in Tel Aviv. Intel's Automated Driving Group will be integrated into the Israeli company and Mobileye Co-founder and CTO Amnon Shashua will lead the division.

Aviram and Shashua said in a letter to Mobileye staff that "combining forces will help accelerate our plans and lower our execution risks." And they added: "We aim to become the leading team in autonomous driving.

Last July, Intel and Mobileye jointly teamed up with BMW to develop technologies for highly and fully automated driving . The German premium car maker said the partners would develop a common platform for so-called level 3 to level 5 autonomous driving. It will  be made available to other carmakers as well.

-By Arjen Bongard