Plans to have a self-driving shuttle bus plying a research campus south of France might soon take shape later this year after Delphi Automotive PLC recently announced its partnership with French bus and train operator Transdev.
The two companies said the driverless on-demand transportation service will be the first such service to operate on public roads in Europe. Both firms are looking for additional pilot program sites in North America, with the French company targetting projects that offer short-distance commutes to and from train stations.
The project will showcase Delphi's system for automated braking and steering using multiple sensors in its bid to reinvent itself as a high-tech player in the development of next-generation vehicles.
Delphi plans to make the core technology involved commercially available to other customers by 2019, Glen De Vos, Delphi’s chief technology officer, said. He declined to say how much Delphi will invest in the pilot programs and whether, it expects to recoup those costs.
Delphi and Transdev, a subsidiary of France's state-owned bank Caisse des Dépôts, will also collaborate on a similar program starting this year in the Northern French town of Rouen in Normandy using a pair of Renault SA's ZOE compact electric vehicles also with Delphi's self-driving system.
A technician will be present in the vehicles during the startup phase this year, but the companies expect to phase that out in 2018 once the service is tested and has met all regulatory requirements. "Our goal is not to have a driver in the vehicle as soon as possible," said Yann Leriche, Transdev's chief performance officer.
The Transdev partnership is the latest move by Delphi to stake a claim in the still embryonic market for self-driving vehicles. Last May, the company decided to split itself into two companies -- one focused on advanced driving systems and the other on commodity components.
The as-yet unnamed higher tech company is viewed as having more growth potential and long-term value than the traditional "metal-bending" operations that have long been its core business.
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