Delphi Joins BMW, Intel in Building Driverless Car Platform

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  • System intended for broader adoption across multiple carmakers
  • Partners to deliver 40 pilot cars in the second half of year

Delphi Automotive Plc is partnering with BMW AG, Intel Corp. and Mobileye NV to develop an autonomous vehicle platform that can be adopted by other automakers, a cost-sharing effort that the German carmaker says is gaining momentum.

Delphi will act as an integrator of the driverless technology, making sure the system the group develops can reach multiple auto manufacturers quickly. Other carmakers are expected to sign on to use the platform in the coming weeks, said Richard Rau, a BMW director of product development.

Mobileye, bought by Intel for $15 billion in a deal expected to close this year, has been lobbying traditional car manufacturers to collaborate more closely to speed development of self-driving technology and fend off competition from the likes of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which has clocked almost 3 million miles of public road testing. The platform the companies are developing will be ready to go into cars by 2021 and give automakers a basic building block of technology so they can differentiate themselves in other ways, BMW’s Rau said.

“There will be a consolidation of platforms, and there’s most likely to be a small number of platforms remaining that will for a longer time determine the market,” Rau told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “That’s why we believe it’s so important to not just build now an exclusive BMW solution, but really start to process opening this approach to as many OEMs as care to join.”

Collaboration will allow automakers to achieve greater scale, lower costs, and deal with questions of safety and legal liability topics related to autonomous vehicles, Rau said. In less than a year, the partners have made “substantial progress” toward the autonomous-driving platform and are expected to deliver 40 pilot cars in the second half of 2017, Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said in a statement.

Building Ties

Delphi’s role as system integrator builds on a web of relationships that already tie the companies together. Delphi teamed up with Mobileye in August to develop a low-cost system for self-driving vehicles that’s slated to begin sales to carmakers in 2019. The technology relies less on costly lidar sensors, which bounce light off objects to assess shape and location, and instead emphasizes cameras and radars, which are less expensive. The result, they say, is a more affordable system for carmakers that lack the resources to develop it on their own.

Technology and Car Companies Are More Intertwined Than Ever

Delphi may also provide hardware components such as sensors and is already working together with Intel and Mobileye in the areas of perception and sensor fusion, the companies said. Delphi shares rose as much as 0.9 percent to $87.47 as of 10:08 a.m. in New York trading.

BMW already uses Mobileye’s chips and cameras to collect mapping data for autonomous driving and has agreed to allow data to be merged with information collected from competitors’ fleets.

Intel, which said its data centers will be key to processing testing data for the autonomous driving platform, in January bought a 15 percent stake in mapping consortium HERE, which is jointly owned by German automakers BMW, Audi AG and Daimler AG.

“We recognize how complex these systems are, and when you’re talking about automated driving where the vehicle is in control, you have to have the most robust, best technology at every link in the chain of that platform,” Delphi Chief Technology Officer Glen De Vos said on the call. “You’re going to see a number of companies that are trying to do everything on their own or in a very closed system are going to really struggle.”

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