Delphi Partnering With Transdev For Self-Driving Vehicle Shuttle Service In Europe

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The prominent auto parts supplier Delphi Automotive PLC is partnering with the France-based firm Transdev Group to create and launch a new autonomous, on-demand shuttle service in Europe, according to a joint announcement from the firms. It was actually announced in June, but we somehow missed it and think it’s a big enough deal to cover now.

As Transdev Group is actually a public transport service controlled by the government of France, the news is particularly interesting as it’s yet another sign showing that various governments around the world are likely to be pushing hard for adoption of self-driving vehicle rollouts in major cities over the coming years.

Self-driving car critics often bring up potential issues that could effectively be sidestepped completely if official support is there — hence my reason for highlighting this here.

Even if initial launches and deployments are somewhat buggy, that isn’t likely to curtail a wider rollout owing to strong governmental support in many regions. In other words, I think it’s not the case that one or two high-profile deaths would stop wider adoption, as some have argued. (It’s an open question why there is so much support amongst some governments, but the location and tracking data generated by such services seems likely to be of interest to many parties.)

With regard to the Delphi + Transdev news, testing of self-driving vehicles will begin in Normandy and outer Paris beginning in 2019. The eventual launch of a commercial service will be more broadly based, though — with deployments in North America being possible, reportedly.

“This latest announcement will help accelerate the development of commercially viable automated vehicle solutions,” said Glen De Vos, Delphi senior vice president and chief technology officer. “With Transdev’s deep understanding of mobility operations, this collaboration will further strengthen our AMoD and data management capabilities, while expanding our automated driving platform to include a variety of different vehicle types. As a result, we’re confident this collaboration brings us closer to providing all of our customers and partners with an affordable, reliable and scalable automated driving and mobility-on-demand platform.”

Reuters provides more information: “Delphi is contributing a self-driving system that it has been developing with Israeli mapping and vision expert Mobileye NV, which is being acquired by US chipmaker Intel Corp. Transdev will manage the project and will provide ticketing, dispatch, routing, and remote control-command services, the companies’ statement said.

“French automaker Renault SA will supply the venture with Zoe electric minicars, according to Yann Leriche, Transdev’s chief performance officer. The test phase will start later this year with two Zoe minicars in Rouen in Normandy and a shuttle bus in the Paris suburb of Saclay, Leriche told the media briefing. Initially, the vehicles will have ‘safety’ drivers on board, but the plan is to move quickly next year to tests of fully driverless vehicles that are remotely controlled and monitored by human operators, he added. Delphi has been building its expertise and capability in self-driving vehicles through partnerships, investments and acquisitions.”

Notably, the Zoe was being used by nuTonomy, which Delphi bought in October (a few months after this Transdev partnership was announced).

The plan to use remote monitoring as a means of maintaining safety rather than the use of physically present “safety” drivers or engineers as soon as possible is a sensible one, and one reportedly now being pursued by a number of different groups and operators.

Such an approach is currently being deployed in limited circumstances by some operators, but overall remains a niche approach despite the potential advantages.

Back to the Transdev announcement: “Delphi and Transdev will share knowledge of AMoD systems to develop fully autonomous vehicles, a driverless vehicle infrastructure solution (DVIS) and cloud infrastructure to support a commercial AMoD system that can operate globally.

“To accomplish this, Delphi will integrate its turnkey CSLP platform into Transdev’s mobility service vehicles, including a centralized computer running Delphi’s Ottomatika vehicle control software, a comprehensive sensor suite, and all the required connectivity and data devices based on Control-Tec real-time analytics, Movimento’s secure, over-the-air (OTA) technologies and Mobileye’s REM technology. Transdev will integrate its Universal Routing Engine (URE) and remote control-command software, including intelligent infrastructure and additional software modules dedicated to public transportation and leverage its deep knowledge in client use-cases, safety and quality of service specifications for shared mobility services.”

As those reading this may remember, Delphi executives have revealed that they are expecting self-driving vehicle costs to be reduced by more than ~90% by 2025 — that’s the plan/goal, anyway. If that goal is achieved, self-driving (aka fully autonomous) vehicles will have a substantial cost advantage over conventional human-driven vehicles in the taxi, shuttle, and delivery sectors.

It’s not completely clear if Delphi will manage to achieve such an ambitious goal, but considering the speed at which LiDAR, electric vehicle battery pack, and camera sensor tech costs have been falling in recent years, it perhaps isn’t as unlikely as one may at first think.

Also worth mentioning here, before ending this article, is that Delphi is involved in a self-driving vehicle tech partnership with Intel, BMW, and Mobileye — which makes for a somewhat formidable group from a market-share and tech perspective. That group could well prove to be one of the leaders in the sector if all goes well, with the one caveat being that there is quite a lot of competition and that “breakthroughs” of various sorts could render current perceived advantages moot.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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