Delphi Automotive (DLPH) - Get Delphi Technologies Plc Report announced a partnership with BMW, Intel (INTC) - Get Intel Corporation (INTC) Report and Mobileye (MBLY) in which Delphi will act as the "integrator" of a self-driving system developed by the partnership and offered for sale to other automakers starting in 2021.
Speaking on behalf of the partnership, executives of the companies acknowledged that their agreement to work jointly will address problems of cost, scale and technological difficulty that automakers are facing as they race to create vehicles within the next few years that can drive themselves.
Automakers such as General Motors (GM) - Get General Motors Company (GM) Report , FordF , VolkswagenVLKAY and Toyota (TM) - Get Toyota Motor Corp. Sponsored ADR Report have mounted costly individual efforts to create their own self-driving technology, relying on suppliers to furnish know-how and hardware, such as computing platforms. GM and Ford have invested heavily in start-ups to gain expertise in software development and artificial intelligence; Toyota said it is investing $1 billion to create Toyota Research Institute, dedicated to artificial intelligence.
Alphabet's (GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report Google subsidiary also is developing its own self-driving technology, as is Uber and Tesla (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report with assistance from suppliers.
Glen DeVos, Delphi's chief technical officer, said the new partnership won't be exclusive. "We couldn't feel prouder to have been selected by the group as systems integrator," said DeVos, acknowledging that other systems integrators might be selected in the future. Delphi last August announced its own partnership with Mobileye to create a self-driving platform by 2019; in the meantime, Intel has agreed to acquire Mobileye for $15 billion.
In its earlier partnership with Mobileye, Delphi said the goal was to create Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving standards, the first designation indicating full functionality within a defined location such as a limited access highway and the second designation meaning full self-driving in all locations. That latest agreement that includes BMW aims to create Level 3, which means a driver may relinquish control of the vehicle but must be ready to resume control immediately when notified.
Delphi demonstrated its Central Sensing and Localization Platform (CLSP) in a self-driving Audi crossover at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. DeVos said CSLP remains a separate project to its latest partnership.
The Society of Automotive Engineers created the definitions of self-driving levels now used by automakers and suppliers.
Doron Levin is the host of "In the Driver Seat," broadcast on SiriusXM Insight 121, Saturday at noon, encore Sunday at 9 a.m.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.