Israel's landscape for self-driving cars and electrical vehicles

03 February 2022 6 min. read

Over the past years, Israel’s has groomed one of the world’s most bustling automotive ecosystems for corporates, suppliers as well as start-ups. Ben Woolf, a consultant at Tel Aviv based Herzog Strategic, explores the state of two of the hottest segments within the landscape: self-driving cars and electrical vehicles.

The world of mobility is changing rapidly. Driven by trends such as digitization, automation, advanced manufacturing, lifestyle changes and evolving consumer habits, the sector is undergoing a profound revolution. No more is mobility about getting from A to B, nowadays and increasingly so in the future, it is about comfort, convenience, safety, and a seamless experience while respecting the planet and society.

Israel’s automotive ecosystem

Israel is quite well known globally for its innovation ecosystem. With one of the largest number of start-ups per capita in the world, Tel Aviv ranks among the top 10 cities for innovation and start-ups in several well-cited rankings, and as world leader of national investment in research and development and in technology expertise.

Inbound innovation connections

In the mobility space, analysis of investments into the scene demonstrate the richness and variety of the sector. And although it’s true that Israel does not manufacture cars, there are still over 400 mobility startups in Israel, who have received over $600 million in investment through 29 deals during H1 of 2021. So, clearly, they’re onto something.

Another ‘common to Israel’ fact is how Intel was one of the original pioneers in the country to develop its own R&D center in the late 1970’s, and in recent years the company succeeded in an acquisition of Mobileye for $15.3 billion in 2017. As of 2019 there were over 350 multinationals operating in Israel, most of which have established R&D centers, with more than 10 dedicated to automotive, such as GM, Ford, BMW and Porsche.

Furthermore, accelerators were created, such as DRIVETLV or VW Konnect by Volkswagen, founded by automotive experts to support the business development of new companies. These initiatives are backed by investors such as Maniv or Next Gear, who are automotive focused, or funds with automotive arms such as Ourcrowd or MizMax.

Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking 2017-2021

All in all, this infrastructure provides companies with partners to work with in terms of product development, operations, raising funds and strategic relationships.

Also essential to the direction and focus of the country’s automotive sector are university technology transfer programs, along with government initiatives and taxes on carbon fuel, improving trade and increasing the costs associated with owning a car to ease the speed of congestion and apply more focus on public transportation. As well as the strength and differentiator of this sector in Israel spanning from it’s commercialized defence research and development.

1. Autonomous vehicles

One of the major trends in mobility is autonomous vehicles. Touted from boosting comfort and bringing down the number of accidents, a progressive estimate by McKinsey & Company estimates that by 2030, autonomous cars could account for up to 15% of all passenger vehicles sold worldwide.

Benefits of autonomous vehicles

Looking at Israeli companies we see the initial achievement of autonomous vision by technologies such as Lidar, Radar, thermal and NIR Infrared Gated Imaging with regular cameras, through what is called a sensor fusion – literally a ‘fusing of sensors’. Some successful examples of this include recent milestones with the Spac merger of Innovize (Lidar) in 2020 raising $350 million, Arbe (Radar) raising $55 million, and the commercial successes of Bright Way Vision Gated Imaging or Foresight automotive technologies. 

The big challenge to adopting these technologies is the price associated with buying and integrating sensors, as the end consumer price of a car is increased to accommodate. These sensors collect real-time ‘raw data’ into an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) to identify objects, their range and velocity, then calculating what decisions to make in terms of automatic emergency braking, and scenarios that account for potential danger, how to turn and or accelerate.

Israeli companies such as Cartica AI or Hailo make sense of this data to enable self-driving models.

Meanwhile, with so much data being collected and transmitted to operate autonomous vehicles, cyber security is of paramount importance. Israel has been an immediate forerunner and leader in cyber, and companies like Argus (bought by Continental) focus their efforts towards helping OEMs to deliver over-the-air vehicle software updates – a high risk operation that seeks to ensure the privacy of a user's data.

Autonomous vehicles travel target.

Furthermore, companies have developed ways to track every piece of the vehicle. This also provides an intelligent way to monitor vehicle health, expired or stolen parts.

And it’s worth noting that the increase of information flow is specifically affecting the insurance industry, whether it’s determining user trends, or to calculate more precise insurance claims by better understanding the situations that took place. As a result, regulators will need to broaden their scope of measuring incidents, accidents, hacking and more.

2. Electrical vehicles

Around 15% of Israeli automotive companies focus on electric vehicles. This segment is forecasted to be larger than autonomous vehicles. Boston Consulting Group for instance forecasts that electrified vehicles will take half of the global passenger car market by 2030, with the dominant type of electrical car on the road.

Electrical vehicles sales to 2030

Israel’s automotive landscape focuses on alternative fuels and power in the areas of hydrogen, or aluminum-air and zinc-air batteries resulting in more than three times the driving range of current EVs. And the maintenance of batteries overheating through thermal management solutions, powertrain, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, etc. offering optimal boiling that manages heat fluxes for charging – which preserves battery life.

Exciting is Israel’s contribution to structural advancements of motors for multi-category electric vehicles, including creating 3D trapezoidal teeth and windings that generates optimized magnetic flux, with an integrated cooling system, therefore being able to create a new type of chassis which improves energy consumption cost by reducing the overall weight of the vehicle.

In addition, some companies are exploring innovations in the entire structure and chassis of a car, providing a gateway for customizations and revolutionary new capabilities that better meet the needs of electrical driving.