Tech leader shares his views on innovation, autonomous vehicles, and purpose

Mois Navon, one of the founding engineers of Mobileye and currently the ASIC Department Project Manager for Mobileye, an Intel company, spoke to a full Deloitte Auditorium on August 31 on the topic of “Innovation, Autonomous Vehicles, and Purpose.”

In his talk, he recalled comments from the CEO of Mobileye, who told a group of company employees one day, “You know what, guys, we are saving lives.”Mois Navon

Mobileye, one of the leaders in driver assistance technology and autonomous vehicle research, had learned that their products were having a real impact on the lives of people. The demonstrated ability of their products to help prevent accidents led insurance companies to give discounts to people who used them. People were getting into fewer accidents, and the accidents they did get into were less severe. That is, fewer people were dying in accidents.

Navon described how the CEO’s statement, at first, was surprising because the employees had thought they were simply bringing an interesting technology to the market and earning a paycheck. What they learned that day was that there was a greater purpose to their company, something they may not have even known they were striving for.

Mobileye is based in Israel. Navon had moved there in 1992 and later moved to Jerusalem in  2000 to join a startup in the growing Israeli tech industry. That initial company folded during the dot-com bubble, but he soon joined Mobileye. During his time in Israel, Navon was part of, and witnessed, the growing importance of Israel in the high-tech industry—to the point that it is often referred to as the Start-Up Nation.

Navon asked the audience, what sets Israel apart? Why has it had such growth in its tech industry? To answer, he quoted historian Barbara Tuchman who had stated—even before Israel’s tech boom—that “With all its problems, Israel has one commanding advantage: a sense of purpose.”

Mobileye’s original product was an adaptive cruise control that used a single image camera rather than radar. As they saw their company’s purpose develop into saving lives, they began looking at other applications they could find for the technology they had developed that would likewise improve safety. Brake assist technology and lane control technology followed.

With so much of the vehicle’s control automated, or nearly automated, engineers at Mobileye realized they had enough basis to start working toward developing an autonomous vehicle. Today, Mobileye is one of the leaders in developing technology for autonomous vehicles.

Navon sees Mobileye’s purpose as an example of tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that means “fixing the world.” It means part of one’s purpose is to make things better. “I think that technology is that driving force for fixing the world—even though new technologies can engender difficult transitions,” Navon said.

Navon praised the interdisciplinary research opportunities he saw for students at the University of Illinois. “Getting ideas from other places—even having ideas that you hold sacrosanct attacked—is healthy. You learn more about yourself, and you learn more about the way you think,” he said. “What is going on here seems to me to be incredibly promising.”

Navon ended his time with the audience with a plea for discovering purpose: “I think humanity is ultimately driven by purpose,” Navon said. “We’re here to fix ourselves. We’re here to fix the world. And I hope you’ll join me.”

Mois Navon’s lecture was sponsored by the Origin Ventures Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership and The Chabad Center for Jewish Life.