Innovation

How a pair of auto industry giants are fast-tracking 'level 5' driverless cars for 2019

Mobileye and Delphi are teaming up on the software, cameras, and mapping for driverless cars, promising semi-to-fully autonomous vehicles in the next three years.

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Image: Volvo


Ford has promised autonomous vehicles by 2021. Tesla's upcoming Model 3, slated for 2017, could be capable of a more advanced form of self-driving than it currently offers with its Autopilot beta. But on Tuesday, a partnership announced by Mobileye and Delphi—developers of parts for driverless vehicles—promises to bring level 4 and 5 autonomous driving capability to automakers across the globe by 2019.

"Regulators want fewer injuries and fatalities, city planners want to reduce congestion and commuters want less traffic and to more productively use time during their commute," said Kevin Clark, president and CEO of Delphi Mobile.

"We all agree that autonomous vehicles are the key to addressing these challenges," he said. "They're the promise-land."

To get there, the companies, who have collaborated for 15 years, plan to deliver an

"active safety solution to major OEMs to produce a production-ready, Central Sensing Localization and Planning" (CSLP) platform to global customers for 2019."

SEE: Ford plans to mass produce a 'no driver required' autonomous vehicle by 2021

The alliance with Mobileye, an Israeli company focused on real-time, vision-based collision avoidance camera systems in autonomous vehicles, is one of the "strongest and most strategic" partnerships that Delphi has been part of, said Clark. By combining the companies, the investment, as well as technology and execution risk will all be merged, he said, so "it does not have to be duplicated by multiple OEMs." In other words, the development of level 4-5 driving will be accelerated.

The companies will have a working demo at CES in January 2017, and will begin fleet-testing shortly thereafter. The cars, which will have a steering wheel and pedals, will have the capability to work at level 5 as well.

SEE: How Mobileye is shaping the future of autonomous cars, as it signs up its third major automaker

Despite the promise these vehicles offer, they pose challenges as well. "Getting there is extremely complex from an engineering standpoint, and can lead to significant technology risks," said professor Amnon Shashua, chairman and CTO of Mobileye.

He pointed out several key ways the partnership will overcome the obstacles:

  • Data from test miles. The combined track record of hundreds of millions of test miles, Shashua said, have provided "an immeasurable amount of collected data and delivering active safety production programs for virtually every global OEM for over a decade."
  • Mimicking human driver behavior. "When you think about what is needed to bring 4-5 capability," Shahus said, "you need to build an environmental model that shows the moving obstacles, as well as being able to merge into traffic that mimics human driving behavior." (This is similar to Toyota's approach to achieving autonomous driving.)
  • Machine learning. "This partnership is more than the sum of its parts," said Shahua. "The synergy between Delphi's core intellectual property of motion-planning and Mobileye's deep-reinforcement learning algorithms. Together, we're planning to build a new kind of machine intelligence, capable of mimicking true human driving capability." (PULL)

According to Bryant Smith, professor at the University of South Carolina, and one of the leading experts on the legal aspects of self-driving vehicles, "the race is on" for developing driverless cars.

"A few years ago, when Google's research became public, a number of established automotive companies rushed to point to their own efforts toward automated driving," said Smith. "But the latest series of press releases is something different: Each company is promising a specific product or, more often, service by a specific time within the next five years." (PULL)

The move suggests, he said, that there's been a shift from research to development.

"The relationships among all of these companies are incredibly complex," said Smith, "both in the automotive industry and in the broader technology and information services industries."

SEE: Tesla's Master Plan 2.0: AI experts, auto insiders, and Tesla customers weigh in

Smith pointed out that companies can be suppliers, buyers, and partners—all simultaneously. "Delphi is one of those massive companies that isn't as publicly recognizable as, say, its former parent GM, because it doesn't make the actual cars, but it does make many of the parts," said Smith. "This announcement suggests that Delphi and Mobileye continue to see a role in supplying increasingly sophisticated systems to a variety of assemblers."

In another significant move, Mobileye has announced it will no longer support Tesla.

When can we see the cars on the road? According to Clark, as early as late 2019, but more likely 2020 or 2021.

"The goal is to build a technology that can be delivered to our customers. It will help any alliance we have with car manufacturers," said Clark. This partnership, he said, will "reshape the automotive driving landscape."

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About Hope Reese

Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.

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