Top auto suppliers Delphi Automotive and Mobileye have launched a new technology partnership, which could see the commercial production of self-driving cars pulled ahead to as soon as the latter part of 2019, according to executives at both companies. Most major auto manufacturers have penned in 2020 – 2021 as the earliest time for deployment of Level 4, fully-automated vehicles to enter commercial production.
The two companies plan to develop an off-the-shelf, mass-market system which would be easy to plug into a wide variety of vehicles, from small cars to SUVs. Delphi and Mobileye plan to debut the new system at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, and follow it up with fleet testing soon after.
About Delphi and Mobileye
Mobileye is a major supplier of vision-based automatic sensing systems, while Delphi provides a range of automotive safety systems. The companies plan to bring together their combined expertise to start initial testing of the turnkey self-driving system early next year.
Following this major announcement, Mobileye’s US-listed stock rose by 8.3% to stand at $50.42, while Delphi’s shares jumped 3.2% to trade at $67.15.
Although both companies supply systems and parts to many leading global car makers, they declined to disclose if there were specific customers for the new system.
Worries about Regulation
The Delphi/Mobileye collaboration is the latest of several new partnerships that are looking to accelerate the development and deployment of completely automated driving systems. This raises questions with regard to the response of federal safety regulators to the new development.
Ephraim Levy, an S&P Capital Market Intelligence analyst, says that at the pace at which the technology for automated driving systems is developing, this may mean that regulators could be caught unprepared, but thinks that major suppliers and car makers will push for the acceleration of the necessary approvals.
When requested for comment, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not immediately issue a comment.
A Development Driven by Consumer and Corporate Demand for Autonomous Cars.
Last week, Ford Motor Corporation said that the company has plans to start selling autonomous vehicles to several ride-sharing commercial fleets by 2021. The company recently acquired a stake in Volodyne Technologies, which makes laser-powered lidar sensing systems.
On the other hand, ride-sharing company Uber Technologies has announced its acquisition of startup self-driving truck company Otto and plans to partner with Geely Automobile’s Volvo Cars to test self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh.
Several other large auto makers, such as Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors and Volkswagen, are also working on in-house autonomous vehicle programs.
A Boon for Smaller Car Makers
Delphi and Mobileye plan to make an investment of ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ in the self-driving system, which will be a combination of hardware and software from both companies. The new system will incorporate an array of sensing technologies that include lidar (Light Detection and Ranging), radar and cameras, as well as high-resolution mapping capabilities.
The two companies have indicated that the technology will be targeted at smaller automakers who may not necessarily be able to develop their own full-blown self-driving systems.
By making the CSLP system highly dependent on cameras and radar and having the lidar as a secondary, redundant sensor, the cost of the system can be kept low, meaning that the production version might only cost a few thousand dollars.
The Effect on Current Mobileye and Delphi Partnerships
Both companies insist that their arrangement will not conflict with or compromise the existing relationships they enjoy with other automotive and technology companies.
Earlier this month, Delphi had announced that it would provide a fleet of autonomous vehicles to Singapore to be used for its mobility-on-demand program. On its part, Mobileye had earlier this year unveiled a vehicle partnership with giant German car maker BMW and computer chip maker Intel, aimed at producing a production model in 2021.
Mobileye Chairman Amnon Shashua has sought to assure players that the new collaboration that his company has with Delphi would be ‘complementary’ to its deal with BMW/Intel, and that it did not mean that BMW had selected a new supplier for the components of its planned self-driving system. Mobileye sensors are also used by Volkswagen and General Motors.
However, Shashua has also indicated that Mobileye would not track back on its decision to end its partnership with Tesla Motors. The company severed its ties to Tesla last month after the Elon Musk-backed company’s autopilot system came under scrutiny from regulators in the wake of a fatal accident in May.
Mobileye and Delphi have said that their autonomous driving system will be ready for highway and urban driving demonstration at the Consumer Electronics Show to be held in Las Vegas in January 2017 and that they should be ready to start road testing shortly afterwards. The companies say that their CSLP system will be production-ready by 2019, much earlier than the timeline indicated by other major players in the industry. With all this said and done, seeing many self-driving cars on the road is likely to become a way of life in the not so distant future.