Developing any kind of new technology involves huge costs. This has prompted automotive suppliers and automakers to collaborate in order to develop self-driving car technology that can be used by multiple manufacturers, as companies race with each other in a bid to put autonomous vehicles on the road. Some companies like Ford and Tesla have the means to develop such cars on their own but others do not and are forming alliances with suppliers to share technical and financial costs, especially when it comes to features like anti-lock brakes and radar-enabled cruise control.
When it comes to collaborations, Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute compared it to a game of musical chairs with everyone swapping partners. Some of the more popular technology partners are Delphi Automotive, Mobileye, and Nvidia, all of which have deals with multiple automotive companies.
Mobileye specializes in cameras, chips and software for driver assist systems which play an integral role in self-driving cars and has partnerships with over two dozen manufacturers spread around the globe. The company used to supply to Tesla but the partnership broke up after the driver of a Tesla Model S had a fatal accident while using Tesla’s Autopilot system. The company is still working with other partners like its supplier Delphi, BMW and US chip manufacturer, Intel on technology for autonomous cars.With Delphi, Mobileye has developed a turn-key system that can be used by smaller automanufacturers who do not have the capability to develop their own proprietary units. According to Jeff Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer, the system will be ready for production by 2019 and will be available for an estimated wholesale cost of about USD 5,000. The new alliances with Intel and BMW is expected to draw the attention of more players in the automotive industry. Elmar Frickenstein, BMW’s senior vice president for automated driving expressed his hope that a standard system will be available for everybody’s use by 2021. Collaboration would help defray the costs and expedite the process of development and adoption.”
In the long run, BMW and its partners plan to offer self-driving hardware and software sets or even a complete driverless system on a non-exclusive basis to companies like Google and Uber. This partnership can be modelled on BMW’s joint stake with Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi of Here, the mapping company the consortium acquired from Nokia in late 2015 from Nokia. Since then, both Intel and Mobileye have teamed with Here to pool and share data.
Chip manufacturer Nvidia is also working on partnerships for developing self-driving technology and systems, and recently announced deals with Audi and Here, as well as German suppliers ZF and Bosch.
Dirk Hoheisel, the member of Bosch’s board of management who oversees autonomous driving said that the company’s focus is not on developing a proprietary system but on collaborating with others to develop a standard platform and open standards for self-driving systems, especially when it comes to mapping and data.
As part of a similar drive, Audi is slowly transitioning from a vehicle manufacturer to a systems integrator through similar partnerships with suppliers.
Alejandro Vukotich, Audi’s head of development for driver assistance systems said that no one supplier can provide the whole solution – as they all have specific expertise and there is no one who knows everything that is needed to make an autonomous car.
Guillaume Devauchelle, head of innovation and scientific development at French supplier Valeo felt that while some key components of self-driving systems like cybersecurity, should be the preserve of vehicle manufacturers, car manufacturers will still need to depend on suppliers to provide specific self-driving technologies, as autonomous driving is quite a complex system (with) sensing, data fusion, artificial intelligence, connectivity, man-machine interface and so on.
Manju Mathew, an MBA in marketing, completed publisher training courses from the Oxford Brookes University and New York University. She started with marketing and PR roles before moving on to her current position as a full time writer. Currently living in Dubai, her life as an expat has sharpened her observation skills and flair for writing. She enjoys writing about luxury cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc even if she can only dream of owning them.
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