In yet another acquisition move within the vehicular autonomy market, UK-based Delphi Automotive has purchased Boston-based NuTonomy, to double its research staff and add compatible software systems for its Automated Mobility on-Demand (AMoD) solutions. Neither of these companies is as yet a major player within the autonomous automobile sector. Delphi Automotive PLC is a General Motors spinoff and NuTonomy is a Carnegie Mellon startup. Delphi’s fully autonomous solution, called the Centralized Sensing Localization and Planning (CSLP) system is planned for a 2019 launch. It is based on Blackberry OS and Delphi’s other recent acquisition Ottomatika’s software. Meanwhile, NuTonomy was founded in 2013 by long-time industry players, Dr. Karl Iagnemma and Dr. Emilio Frazzoli, and is developing a full stack autonomous drive software solution for the AMoD market. The result of the acquisition will be to combine NuTonomy ‘s hundred member team with Delphi’s hundred member team to double research staff in an area where skills are in extreme demand.
While this acquisition could raise Delphi to a higher level of visibility among major autonomous vehicle challengers, it also comes with important implications for the other industry players. Delphi and NuTonomy were pursuing different collaborations to achieve success. Delphi was in a partnership with the BMW and Intel/Mobileye but NuTonomy is allied with Nvidia–which some believe has a more mature autonomous software stack. Inevitably, this brings into the fray the ongoing competition between Intel and Nvidia over artificial intelligence processors and supporting software–particularly as industry awaits the upcoming Nvidia Xavier SOC which should become available in 2018.
NuTonomy’s employees will remain in Boston while Delphi remains in the United Kingdom—though it also has offices in Boston. Both have been running experiments. and have a presence, in Singapore. The combination leaves Delphi with self-driving operations in Boston, Boston, Pittsburgh, Singapore, Santa Monica, and Silicon Valley. Combined with NuTonomy efforts, Delphi will have 60 autonomous cars on the road by the end of 2017.
Another point of interest is that, as with Google’s Waymo, Delphi Automotive intends to split off the vehicle autonomy business in 2018. It will create two new standalone companies: Delphi Technologies to handle the powertrain business, looking at next generation vehicle propulsion systems based on electrification; and Aptiv, which will include Electronics & Safety and Electrical/Electronic Architecture—including the “brains” to drive vehicles. Separating the autonomous vehicle units in the current context makes sense due to the special dynamics of this sector. Smaller companies are being bought by larger companies to obtain resources and skills that are hard to amass in the current environment and separate companies are more easily integrated into the competitive alliances that will be necessary to incorporate an increasing range of specialized products and expertise.
According to Delphi’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Clark, “The combination of the nuTonomy and Ottomatika AD teams, along with Delphi’s industry-leading portfolio of perception systems and smart vehicle architecture solutions, further enhances our competitive position as the industry’s most formidable provider of autonomous mobility solutions.”
In short, the autonomous vehicle sector is likely to remain volatile for some time and the search for talent will continue until the next generation of engineers in AI solutions becomes available.