Intel's purchase of Mobileye is the latest push by a major tech company into autonomous vehicles. File picture: Carlos Osorio / AP Photo.

Santa Clara, California - Intel will buy Israel's Mobileye in a deal valued at about $15 billion (R197bn), instantly propelling the computer chip and technology giant to the forefront of autonomous vehicle technology.

The deal, announced on Monday, combines Mobileye's market-leading software that processes information from cameras and other sensors with Intel's hardware, data centres and its own software, giving car companies a one-stop place to shop for fully autonomous car systems.

"This acquisition essentially merges the intelligent eyes of the autonomous car with the intelligent brain that actually drives the car," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich wrote in a note to employees about the acquisition.

The combination will allow the companies to bring components to market faster at a lower cost, solidifying Mobileye's leadership position, officials from the companies said.

Carmakers and some technology companies are testing autonomous vehicles in California, Michigan and a few other states. Nearly all use Mobileye's software, which reads inputs from cameras, radar, and laser sensors and makes decisions on what an autonomous car should do. Jerusalem-based Mobileye says it has contracts with 27 different carmakers. It also makes software that runs automatic emergency braking and semi-autonomous cruise control systems that are in vehicles on the road today.

What does Intel bring to the party, then?

Autonomous cars will need higher levels of connectivity to the Internet and access to bigger data centres, which Intel can provide, Krzanich said. The two companies also will combine highly detailed mapping efforts. Carmakers, Krzanich said, want lower costs, faster times to market and the ability to get an autonomous driving system in one place.

"If you put all of that together, you really get an end-do-end solution for autonomous driving," said Mobileye Chairman and co-founder Amnon Shashua, who will continue to lead the combined autonomous car unit.