Delphi launches autonomous car pilot in Singapore

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Troy — Delphi Automotive PLC on Monday said it is launching a self-driving car pilot program in Singapore that will have driverless cars ferrying passengers and goods around a business park in the island nation by decade’s end.

The U.K.-based automotive supplier will outfit six yet-to-be-determined electric vehicles with its self-driving software and will make them available for rides-on-demand along a 4-mile route at One-North, a business park in the country’s southern region. The cars will operate at low speeds — about 25 mph — along three fixed routes to ferry people from their homes or offices to mass transit stations. Delphi will also develop a cloud-based software platform to run the service.

As driverless-car advances continue, automakers and suppliers are increasingly looking to commercial applications like rides-on-demand, car-sharing or other services to replace traditional vehicle ownership in cities. Delphi said this program allows them to test the feasibility and popularity of having people pay to have autonomous cars take them around the city.

“It allows us to demonstrate we have the complete ecosystem of knowledge and capability in the vehicle,” said Glen DeVos, vice president of Delphi’s services business unit. “You have to get the technology to work first, but you also have to implement it in a way that the end consumer feels comfortable and actually excited about using.”

For the first phase of the project, which starts Monday, Delphi will operate along three predetermined routes; cars will have “safety drivers” to take over in emergencies. But DeVos said that in 2019 the supplier expects to offer custom cars — without pedals, steering wheel or driver — that customers can summon through a smartphone app to take them beyond the initial fixed routes.

DeVos said they have not determined if passengers would have to pay per use, or sign up for a membership.

Delphi has not selected an automaker to provide its fleet of six vehicles, but will start the service with an Audi SQ5 outfitted with its autonomous technology developed at its locations including Michigan, California and Europe.

In the later stages of the pilot program, DeVos said Delphi could offer to move goods or services. For example, someone could request the driverless car stop to pick up milk from the grocery or shirts from the dry cleaners, before it picks the passenger up.

“You’re not talking just about a mobility or transportation service, you’re talking about getting other stuff done,” DeVos said. “Those services can be offered very cost-effectively and very quickly ... the combinations and types of services we think will be available are countless.”

In phase one of its project Delphi will operate six electric cars with self-driving software along three routes.

Delphi said the pilot program will allow them to capture a large amount of data and experiment with how they use it. One example could be providing a real-time progress map, showing passengers where they are and when they’ll arrive.

Testing will last for three years, with operational service targeted by 2022. Delphi expects to announce later this year plans for similar testing in North America and Europe.

Singapore has become a prime destination to test self-driving systems. The country’s Land Transport Authority selected Delphi to lead the pilot program after hearing of the supplier’s 2015 coast-to-coast drive in an autonomous car and driving with them around Mountain View, California.

The country in 2014 formed the Singapore Autonomous Vehicle Initiative to oversee and manage driverless car research and testing. The Delphi experiment is part of the program.

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority will outfit the business park with autonomous car infrastructure, including roadside beacons that can communicate with the vehicles. Delphi mapped the routes itself.

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