Israeli Drivers Leading Tech Charge

Israel is a hot new tech center.

Timothy Healey
    May 12, 2017 11:00 AM  PT
Israeli Drivers Leading Tech Charge
author: Timothy Healey    

Silicon Valley isn't the only region involved in developing new car tech. Nor is the Southeast Michigan area that surrounds Detroit.

Israel is also getting in on the game.

For example, Israeli companies are working on self-driving cars, cars that can "talk" to each other wirelessly about road conditions, and cars that can use sensors to analyze their own surroundings.

One Web site suggests that the Israeli tech efforts will be a positive development for a country that's infamous for reckless drivers.

Regardless of how reckless Israeli drivers are or aren't, Israel has long been considered a tech center, although the interest in the automotive space is relatively new.

Who Are The Major Tech Players In Israel? 

The country has been in the spotlight in part because of Intel's purchase of Mobileye back in March. The American chipmaker spent $15.3 billion to acquire the Israeli company that makes technology that supports self-driving cars. It was the largest-ever deal involving the purchase of Israeli technology.

Another Israeli company, otonomo, has brought in over $20 million for investment in its technology, which will facilitate car-to-car data communication.

The data-sharing firm isn't the only one to get a windfall – Foresight Autonomous Holdings, which makes video cameras used for safety purposes in vehicles, got $12 million in funding from investors.

EcoMotion is an Israeli company that promotes "smart" transportation business in Israel, and its executive director says that all told, investors have poured $4 billion into Israeli automotive startups and tech companies over the past four years.

 "In the last 12 months, the global interest is rising more and more," Zeno-Zamansky told the Associated Press. "Everyone is looking for the next Mobileye."

One of the touted benefits of self-driving cars is that they will make roads safer, and after a decade of declining accident rates, Israel has seen a recent increase.

Israel Is Primed For An Autonomous Future

Perhaps more interesting is that Israel hasn't ever really had an automotive industry of its own. Earlier endeavors in the ‘50s and ‘60s never amounted to much, and Israel imports the vehicles that are sold in the country.

"If you were to ask BMW to name the 10 biggest nations in the automotive industry, Israel wouldn't likely be included," Uri Pachter of the government's Israel Export Institute said to the tech Web site NoCamels. "However, when you talk about adopting and implementing innovative technologies into motor vehicles, it would be almost impossible to take Israel out of the mix."

Some argue that Israel's lack of a traditional auto industry makes it more responsive to today's tech climate.

"Israelis don't have a tradition of an old and heavy auto industry, so there was no traditional industry lobby here. This is one reason for the rise of a whole slew of new companies that are looking at the automotive field from a different angle," Boaz Mamo, the CEO of Israeli automotive tech incubator Drive, told Irsaeli publication Haaretz.

Drive was founded in February, with the assistance of Honda and Volvo.

"At the same time, while automakers used to be slow to adopt new technologies, they now understand that they have to do everything quickly and see Israel as a center of innovation in the field," Mamo said.