Car Industry

Delphi acquires nuTonomy to speed up self-driving development

There are no immediate timetable changes, but they plan on expanding their efforts, and quickly.

Delphi

Delphi and nuTonomy have been working separately in the autonomous-vehicle space for years, with each taking different approaches. But now, they're combining forces to bring autonomy to the masses.

Delphi has agreed to purchase nuTonomy for $450 million, with $400 million coming up front and $50 milling arriving as earnouts. Similar to GM and Cruise Automation, nuTonomy will continue to operate in a quasi-standalone manner -- that is to say, nuTonomy's name won't be going anywhere.

nuTonomy's fleet is based off the electric Renault Zoe, similar to the Nissan Leaf.

nuTonomy

On a conference call, executives from Delphi laid out the three main reasons why this acquisition is happening -- skills, speed and scale. In terms of skills, nuTonomy will add more than 100 employees to Delphi's Ottomatika autonomous-driving team. Delphi acquired Ottomatika, itself a spinoff of Carnegie Mellon, back in 2015. Its software is used as the "brain" of Delphi's self-driving systems.

In terms of speed and scale, the hope is that putting this many heads together will accelerate Delphi's goal to deploy an autonomous-driving platform on a large scale. The original timetable pinpoints this deployment in either 2020 or 2021, and while Delphi has not yet updated any specific timeframes, the hope is that this acquisition can speed things up a bit.

This acquisition will not have any effect on either company's current partnerships. Lyft and nuTonomy are partners in Boston, where the ride-hailing giant will put the startup's cars in its local fleet. Prior to that, it's had success with its efforts across the ocean in Singapore. Delphi is a Tier 1 supplier in the automotive industry, and as such, it has inroads with a significant number of automakers. 

In developing a platform, rather than a specific car, Delphi can sell its system to any number of automakers that lack either the time or the money to develop platforms on their own. Waymo is doing the same thing with its platform, as is Apple with Project Titan.

In a conference call, nuTonomy's executives claim that selling the company is the best possible move for it. By taking advantage of everything Delphi has in place, and with Delphi adding a bunch more talent to its efforts, both companies are walking away from this deal with more than they had previously.