Delphi, Mobileye team up to produce self-driving system

Both automotive supply companies intend to provide self-driving components to automakers by the end of 2019

Self-driving cars are evolving so rapidly that traditional carmakers are jumping on the bandwagon.
Self-driving cars are evolving so rapidly that traditional carmakers are jumping on the bandwagon. PHOTO: REUTERS

The race to build self-driving cars is becoming an increasingly crowded field.

There are carmakers such as Ford Motor intent on doing it themselves. There are those such as General Motors that are acquiring the technology companies they hope can make it happen.

And then here are suppliers, such as Delphi Automotive and Mobileye, that intend to develop turnkey self-driving systems that automakers could build into their vehicles.

Delphi, formed out of the former parts division of General Motors, and Mobileye, a rising Israeli company known for producing the sensors and other technology that help cars recognise obstacles on the road, said on Tuesday they had formed a partnership to provide self-driving components to automakers by the end of 2019.

Mobileye and Delphi said they expected to demonstrate an early version of their system in January at the 2017 International Consumer Electronics Show, the annual consumer electronics show, in Las Vegas and to begin production of a commercial version within two years.

Mobileye is already a vendor of computer-vision technology and other related systems to carmakers. For Delphi, the partnership is an extension of its other efforts to develop self-driving cars, including a project with the Government of Singapore to field a test fleet of driverless taxis.

Last year, a driverless car built by Delphi completed a 5,472km trip from San Francisco to New York in nine days.

The Mobileye-Delphi collaboration "will accelerate the time to market" and enable carmakers to produce vehicles capable of driving themselves "without the need for huge capital investments", Mr Amnon Shashua, chairman and chief technology officer of Mobileye, said. Delphi's chief executive Kevin Clark added: "We believe this reshapes the automated driving landscape."

Not so long ago, it seemed that Google and, separately, the electric carmaker Tesla Motors had clear leads over the traditional auto industry in developing technology for autonomous vehicles.

Google has been testing its self-driving cars for a few years.

Tesla grabbed the spotlight for a time after introducing its Autopilot feature last autumn, although a fatal accident in May of a driver using the system has made clear that Autopilot is still far from being a self-driving car technology.

But efforts to create self-driving cars are evolving so rapidly that traditional carmakers see an opening.

Ford said last week it would have a fully autonomous vehicle - with no steering wheels or pedals - operating in a ride-hailing service such as Uber within five years. It expects to have 30 self-driving test cars on public roads by the end of this year and up to 90 by the end of next year.

Uber said last week that it was intent on developing its own autonomous vehicles. It plans to start on-the-road tests of adapted Volvo sport utility vehicles in Pittsburgh.

The conventional car companies, with millions of vehicles already on the road, are trying to create a transition from driver-assistance and collision-avoidance systems already in their most advanced vehicles to a future of fully self-driving vehicles.

BMW said last month it was partnering Mobileye and Intel, the chipmaker, in plans to offer a self- driving model by 2021. GM and Audi expect to offer enhanced cruise control and collision-avoidance systems in some 2018 models that they say will be the equals of, or more capable than, Tesla's Autopilot.

Tesla's position is also uncertain because of the fatal crash in which Autopilot failed to recognise a truck crossing a road. Since news of that crash emerged, the company has emphasised that Autopilot is not intended to be a fully autonomous system and that drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road while using it, although YouTube videos show that some drivers do not follow the company's instructions.

Autopilot uses Mobileye's sensor and processing technology. But the companies have recently parted ways. Mr Shashua said Mobileye was unhappy with the way Tesla was using its technology.

Not all carmakers predict that self-driving cars will proliferate rapidly. Honda Motor argues that more advanced technology is needed beyond the cameras and radar systems that are in use for the current driver-assist and collision- prevention systems, said Mr Jim Keller, chief engineer at Honda's research centre in Michigan.

Delphi, in the partnership with Mobileye, plans to provide automated driving software it has developed, as well as technology that uses cameras, radar and lidar, a type of radar based on laser beams.

Delphi's current radar and sensing technology is used by many automakers for collision-avoidance, lane keeping, cruise control and automatic braking systems.

The system the partners produce is intended to go first into automobiles that have steering wheels and gas and brake pedals, and it will be meant to assist drivers. But the aim is to adapt those systems for fully self-driving cars.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2016, with the headline 'Delphi, Mobileye team up to produce self-driving system'. Subscribe