The world of automotive engineering is currently undergoing a bit of an arms race. Almost every car manufacturer it seems, has decided to develop its very own driverless car technology. That’s all well and good, but considering someone is going to make the best of the best, it seems a little redundant them all working on the same sort of thing. That’s Delphi’s argument anyway, which is why the auto-supplier has developed its own piloted car system which it can then license to car-manufacturers for use in the development of their vehicles.
This is something Delphi has been doing for over a hundred years. Not developing driverless car technology, but rather, supplying auto-makers with technology that they then don’t have to develop themselves. As Wired points out, it was the first to figure out how to add a radio to a car and it developed the very first electric starter motor, way back in 1911.
This new system however is literally an off-the-shelf solution that would allow any car manufacturer in the world to offer a competitive, driverless technology in its vehicles. What Delphi’s system essentially does, is bring together many of its previously developed safety protocols, like smart cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane assist and puts it all into a singular technology that can be added to a vehicle.
This isn’t all Delphi however. While the parts supplier developed much of the technology and will be providing all of the sensors, lasers, radar and detection equipment, it’s making use of a firm called Ottomatika to provide a powerful central processing core to output all of that raw data into something actionable by the driver.
All of this tech was recently bundled into an Audi SQ5, giving it much of the world’s top end automated features at the moment and the ability to get itself around. It’s very safe and comfortable, though a little slow compared to a human driver. However Delphi confirmed that this is exactly what it wants. It’s not trying to build the fastest system from A to B, it’s trying to build the safest.
“If everything’s working, it should be boring,” said John Absmeier, director of Delphi’s research lab in Silicon Valley. “We want boring.”
However, it’s not convinced that we’re at a stage where you can take your hands off the wheel and forget about the drive altogether. While Google thinks we’ll be at that stage in half a decade, Delphi is more conservative:
“There’s a lot of romantic speculation—hype—around in the industry about that now,” a spokesperson said. “I don’t know when we’ll get there, or if we’ll ever get there.”
It doesn’t make sense for Delphi’s business either. As it stands, it wants to be able to offer multiple levels of automation to end users and auto-makers alike. Some companies may opt for assistive technologies, while others might want the whole shebang.
It will be interesting to see which opts for which and whether Delphi or Google turns out to be right when it comes to fully automated cars.