Haifa-based Tactile Mobility announced earlier this week a commercial agreement paving its way to the heart of the global car industry: The car manufacturing giant BMW will incorporate Tactile’s road-sensing software in all of the car models it will produce starting in mid-2021. Techtime was the first to report Tactile negotiations with a German carmaker. BMW has selected so far three ground-breaking Israeli technologies for its next-generation models: Mobileye’s ADAS system, Innoviz’ LiDAR sensors, and Tactile’s road sensors .
This is Tactile Mobility’s first commercial agreement with an OEM, and BMW is the first car manufacturer to adopt such road sensing technology, and in such extent. In 2019, BMW sold a record 2.5 million vehicles. Tactile founder Boaz Mizrahi told TechTime that BMW didn’t hesitate to adopted the technology even though it is a new type of technology in the automotive world. “They are known as an early adopters of new technologies. We’ve invented a new kind of technology in the automotive world, and they wanted to be the first to leverage it.”
Tactile Mobility provides a software suite which utilizes vehicles’ built-in, non-visual sensors to collect and analyze data about vehicle and road dynamics, enabling smart and connected vehicles to analyze the road surfaces below their tires as well as modeling vehicle systems performance and road conditions. In-vehicle, real-time data includes attributes such as available grip level, which signifies the specific vehicle and road traction limits.
The missing piece for Autonomous Driving
Noteably, the solution was initially intended to supplement autonomous driving systems, as the company claims autonomous driving cannot be based solely on visual sensors like cameras and LiDAR, as they do not percieve other “sensory” factors such as tire condition and road conditions. Nevertheless, the collaboration with BMW illustrates that the technology has great value in non-autonomous vehicles as well. According to Mizrahi, the software will provide all of the vehicle’s systems with a new dimension of data that will improve the functionality of all other systems in the vehicle.
“This data will improve the functionality and safety of many in-vehicle systems. Take for example vehicle-to-vehicle distance measurement systems: when the road is slippery you should maintain a larger distance from the vehicle ahead as when the road conditions is optimal, but a visual sensor measures only the distance and does not take into account the condition of the road. The same goes for steering and other functions”
The company’s platform consists of two components: VehicleDNA is an anonymized representation of each vehicle’s systems characteristics, including suspensions, powertrain, braking efficiency, tire health and more, and SurfaceDNA is a bundle of mapping layers of road attributes, conditions and distresses that offers an in-depth view of driving environments to better anticipate road conditions ahead and pre-configure vehicle systems.
Tactile Mobility was founded by Mizrahi in 2011. He holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Technion university. In the late 1990s, he founded Charlotte Web Networks, which was purchased in 2002 by MRV Communications for an estimated $700 million.