BMW, In­tel, Mo­bil­eye part­ner­ship for self-driv­ing cars adds new player

San Francisco Chronicle - - CARS - By Pete Bigelow

Au­to­mo­tive and tech com­pa­nies con­tinue to form new part­ner­ships sur­round­ing self-driv­ing-car devel­op­ment at a fever­ish pace. The lat­est came Tues­day, when BMW, In­tel, and Mo­bil­eye an­nounced that global sup­plier Del­phi Au­to­mo­tive will join their ef­forts to de­velop and de­ploy self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles by 2021.

With an eye to­ward pi­lot projects later this year, Del­phi will serve as the group’s sys­tems in­te­gra­tor for cre­at­ing an au­tonomous-driv­ing plat­form, one that could be uti­lized not just by BMW but other OEMs in­ter­ested in build­ing their own highly au­to­mated driv­ing sys­tems. “This is not just a plat­form for BMW,” said Glen DeVos, Del­phi’s chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer. “This is a plat­form for the mar­ket, and that’s a truly unique as­pect of what’s be­ing done here.”

For Del­phi, in­clu­sion in the part­ner­ship is the lat­est am­bi­tious step among sev­eral the com­pany has made to pivot to­ward the in­dus­try’s au­tonomous fu­ture. Del­phi an­nounced its in­ten­tions ear­lier this month to spin off its pow­er­train divi­sion into a sep­a­rate com­pany, leav­ing the re­main­ing en­tity to fo­cus on ad­vanced con­nected and au­tonomous driv­ing ven­tures. Over the past five months, Del­phi has been busy ac­quir­ing, in­vest­ing in, and part­ner­ing with a laun­dry list of other com­pa­nies to en­hance con­nected-car ser­vices, which the com­pany’s ex­ec­u­tives view as a lu­cra­tive new rev­enue stream.

If the in­ter­min­gling of the play­ers in­volved in Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment sounds fa­mil­iar, that’s be­cause they’re al­ready work­ing with one an­other on a va­ri­ety of sep­a­rate au­tonomous-ve­hi­cle project per­mu­ta­tions. BMW, In­tel, and Mo­bil­eye first teamed up last sum­mer; then, in the fall, Del­phi and Mo­bil­eye formed a sep­a­rate part­ner­ship aimed at de­vel­op­ing an au­tonomous-driv­ing plat­form for the com­mer­cial-ve­hi­cle mar­ket, a part­ner­ship for which In­tel sup­plies chips.

This past Fe­bru­ary, BMW an­nounced an­other deal that re­volves around data from Mo­bil­eye’s com­puter-vi­sion tech­nol­ogy, and in March, In­tel said it in­tends to ac­quire Mo­bil­eye for $15.3 bil­lion, the most ex­pen­sive ac­qui­si­tion to date in the fledg­ling au­tonomous-ve­hi­cle in­dus­try. Given their prior re­la­tion­ships, the com­pa­nies said Tues­day it makes sense to make Del­phi their first in­te­gra­tion part­ner and to fur­ther con­join their for­tunes.

“We re­al­ized that our ap­proaches are very sim­i­lar, and could be aligned on the hard­ware side and a good part of the soft­ware stack,” said Richard Rau, BMW’s vice pres­i­dent of sen­sor, con­trol units, and soft­ware.

Fi­nan­cial terms of the part­ner­ship were not dis­closed, but all the com­pa­nies em­pha­sized Tues­day that this is not an ex­clu­sive agree­ment. Other in­te­gra­tion and devel­op­ment part­ners will be added by BMW, In­tel, and Mo­bil­eye. Rau says the com­pany al­ready is in­volved in “very deep dis­cus­sions” with OEMs that may be in­ter­ested in join­ing the al­liance within a mat­ter of weeks.

The plat­form un­der devel­op­ment aims to sup­port driv­ing in ve­hi­cles equipped with Lev­els 3, 4, and 5 au­to­ma­tion. At Level 3, sys­tems can han­dle many driv­ing tasks but re­quire mon­i­tor­ing from hu­mans ca­pa­ble of re­tak­ing con­trol if needed. At Level 5, fully self-driv­ing tech­nol­ogy is ca­pa­ble of han­dling all driv­ing in all con­di­tions.

“It will com­prise ba­si­cally all you need to im­ple­ment au­tonomous func­tion­al­ity in a spe­cific OEM car,” Rau said. “It is up to the OEM, like Del­phi, to in­te­grate it into their cars and tailor it to their spe­cific needs.”

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