Delphi to drive fully autonomous car in Vegas at CES

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Troy – Delphi Automotive’s fully autonomous vehicle and latest in-car features — which will debut next month at CES 2016 in Las Vegas — are further proof that automotive suppliers are a leading force in pushing automotive technology forward.

Last year, Delphi’s automated car drove itself across the country. In January at CES, Delphi will demonstrate the next step in something it is calling V2Everything. Delphi’s car will “talk” to other cars, to pedestrians and cyclists crossing the street, to traffic lights and signs, parking garages, coffee shops and burger joints. Widespread adoption of the active safety Delphi is working on has the potential to cut traffic fatalities in half. (Photo by John F. Martin for Delphi)

Among the futuristic functions to be shown:

■Cockpit temperatures and radio stations that can be changed with eye movements and hand gestures.

■A three-dimensional digital instrument cluster that can be customized to look like a 2016 Chevrolet Corvette or 1960s Mustang.

■Cup holders that can wirelessly charge smartphones.

■And most impressively, a fully autonomous Audi SQ5 that’s been retrofitted by the auto supplier and can interact with other cars, buildings, traffic lights and pedestrians.

That vehicle will take to the streets of downtown Las Vegas as part of CES 2016, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show. It’s at that annual show where groundbreaking new technologies and products are unveiled.

Delphi and other suppliers are working behind the scenes to develop the microchips, sensors and radars that will be vital to bringing driverless cars and advanced systems to market for automakers like Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

“If you look at everything that’s going on in the technology sector, we’ve got great partners there and they’re bringing us more things all the time. Some of it is extremely valuable, some of it will never get to the car,” said Jeff Owens, Delphi’s executive vice president and chief technical officer. “It’s our chance for us to show where we think things are going.”

CES 2016, which runs Jan. 6-9, showcases the latest automotive, home and entertainment technologies. Over the years the trade show has gained a larger automotive presence, and this year a number of executives will speak, including GM CEO Mary Barra and Herbert Diess, Volkswagen AG’s chairman of the board of management for passenger cars. CES officials said more than 115 automotive tech companies will be at the show, and nine automakers plan to debut products.

Delphi, which was spun off by GM in 1999, has had a presence at CES for 20 years, but the 2016 show will feature its most advanced features ever.

At the 2015 show, the supplier debuted a driverless Audi that it then drove across the country during a nine-day trip crossing 15 states. Delphi gathered lots of data, improved a number of algorithms and next month will debut a V2E (vehicle-to-everything) SUV that can interact with most other objects on or in the road.

The Delphi-modified vehicle will be able to “talk” to traffic lights and anticipate when they will turn yellow or red. Through chips in smartphones, it can interact with pedestrians and alert them that the car is coming their way. Drivers’ friends and family can be alerted to the vehicle’s position so they can request rides or know where exactly where they are.

Delphi, based in England and with research labs in Troy, said autonomous vehicles are a long-term project and, despite the advances, their development and public acceptance face challenges.

“This is a very very tough environment, both hardware-wise and software-wise,” Owens said. “You can’t have system resets in a car. You can’t have the blue screen of death. Companies like us are working hard to bring the technology in as fast as it can be made automotive grade — but not until then.”

In January at CES, Delphi will demonstrate the latest advances in driverless cars.

Owens thinks the industry is still a decade away from fully self-driving cars.

“You’ve got a regulatory environment that’s not there yet, you’ve got a legal framework that’s not there yet, and how much are consumers going to be willing to pay?” he said. “I think it’s going to be a progression of technology applied. I think we’re 10 years away from automated vehicles where you can take the driver out of the seat. It won’t be because you can’t do it, it will be because of all those other things.”

Delphi’s industry-first original-equipment V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) technology will appear on the GM Super Cruise system for the 2017 Cadillac CTS. At CES, Delphi will unveil another industry first with an aftermarket V2V unit to retrofit cars that didn’t come with that capability from the factory.

Other features to be shown at CES include:

■3D instrument clusters: Delphi developed instrument clusters that show gas levels, fuel economy and other features in a three-dimensional digital screen by using two displays over an LED backlight. The clusters can be customized to look like anything from new cars to 1960s classics. And they’re incredibly detailed, with shadows underneath fuel-gauge needles, and blinking check-engine lights. Delphi developed the feature in partnership with PureDepth, a company in New Zealand. Delphi officials say the feature could be in cars by 2020.

■Eye movements and hand gestures: Delphi is trying to make the center stack — the part of the dashboard where drivers pick a radio station, navigate a map or turn up the air conditioning — 100 percent hands-free. It will show off a new eye-movement feature that uses two infrared lasers to track eye movement to select those features.

For example, if a driver looks at the temperature control, the screen will lock onto that feature; the driver then can sweep a hand left or right to adjust the setting, all without touching the screen. The hand-gesture feature is available on the BMW 7 Series. Delphi has developed the technology with a number of partners.

■Apple CarPlay: Delphi will show off a new port that can be plugged into a vehicle’s head unit. It will include two USB ports, room for an SD card and a digital auxiliary plug. That way, multiple devices can be used at once.

For example, a driver could plug an iPhone into a USB port to access contacts and music on the center stack, and plug a flash drive into the second USB port to play a movie for the kids in the backseat. It’s available on a number of cars, including GM vehicles, Delphi said.

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