Delphi is already working with BMW and Intel to develop self-driving passenger cars, but the company is now engaged in another joint venture to develop a different kind of autonomous transportation system. The automotive supplier is teaming with Transdev Group, a French public transportation operator, to launch an on-demand shuttle service using self-driving cars. A pilot version of the service will launch in Paris and the Normandy region of France later this year, and the partners hope to scale it up to a commercial operation by 2019.
Delphi will combine its own control software, over-the-air update capabilities from tech company Movimento, and image-recognition tech from Israeli firm Mobileye. Transdev will contribute a routing system.
The project will use electric Renault Zoe hatchbacks in Normandy, and minivans in Paris. A pair of Zoes will drive on public streets in Rouen in Normandy initially, while minivans will run between Paris and the suburb of Saclay on a fixed route. Riders will be able to hail the vehicles using a smartphone.
Human operators will be onboard each vehicle as a backup, at least at first. However, Delphi and Transdev hope to quickly transition to fully-driverless vehicles, which will be coordinated remotely by human dispatchers.
The partnership is the latest in a growing web of alliances to develop both autonomous-driving technology and services to exploit it. Delphi joined Mobileye parent Intel and BMW in their autonomous car efforts last month. The first product of that partnership is expected to be a fully-autonomous BMW production car, appearing around 2021.
Delphi also operates a small autonomous taxi service in Singapore, and plans to bring a similar service to the U.S. later this year, chief technical officer Glen De Vos has said. Boston-based startup NuTutonomy also operates self-driving taxis in Singapore, and is now teaming with Lyft to give ride-share customers rides in self-driving cars in its hometown.
The consensus among companies seems to be that self-driving cars will work better in shared services, but most companies don’t have the means to implement that concept on their own. Some companies have the technology to build autonomous driving systems, others have ride-share platforms, and others are building the actual cars. If nothing else, self-driving cars certainly seem to be teaching corporations how to play well with others.