Delphi plans self-driving leaps at CES in Las Vegas

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Troy — Delphi Automotive PLC will bring together Silicon Valley technology and Motor City experience next month in Las Vegas.

The global automotive supplier will showcase a fleet of advanced vehicles, including four Audi SQ5 self-driving SUVs that will take passengers on a nearly hour-long drive during the CES tech trade show.

The drive will include urban streets, highways — and tunnels, which are real challenges for GPS-guided devices. The route is a step above the limited demonstrations on city streets that Delphi has offered previously.

“We want to take you on a path in a complete automated feature from the time you leave our booth and take you on the city roads, convert to the highway and then back off highway to urban and bring you back — all in the automated mode,” Delphi vice president of engineering and program management Mary Gustanski told The Detroit News on Monday. “We’re excited. It’s going to be a great show.”

Other vehicles in Delphi’s fleet to be shown include connected cars that have the ability to communicate with each other and their environments, and an instrument panel with multilayer display screens that produce a 3-D effect.

CES, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, is an annual exposition where groundbreaking new technologies and products are shown. It increasingly has become a place for automakers and suppliers to unveil their advances.

“This is very much the coming technology, and it’s not pie-in-the sky ‘Jetsons’ technology,” said Rebecca Lindland, Kelley Blue Book senior analyst. “It’s what we’re going to see in the cars today and tomorrow.”

Delphi has been experimenting with autonomous technology for years. Two years ago it demonstrated such a system in a coast-to-coast drive across the country.

The Delphi-modified Audis use cameras, radars, sensors and software to give the SUVs 360-degree “vision” and sensing. All of the sensors, including six LiDAR (light detection and ranging) laser-light devices, are redundant as a fail-safe to ensure the vehicles are making correct decisions.

“When we look at something and we’re trying to make a decision, we want to make sure we have two sensors that are seeing about the same thing before we’re telling that car to make a safety-critical move,” Gustanski said at the company’s North American research and development campus in Troy.

This year’s vehicles benefit from Delphi’s partnership with Mobileye NV, an Israeli technology company that develops vision-based driver-assistance systems that can provide to real-time sensing of an environment without LiDAR.

The two companies in August announced plans to jointly develop a fully autonomous vehicle system that the suppliers expect will be ready for production in 2019.

“Vehicles are just becoming more and more technology-based,” Lindland said. “It’s really hard to differentiate where the automotive industry ends and the technology industry begins.”

The companies said automakers will be able to buy the system for everything from small cars to SUVs and crossovers. Those vehicles could be in showrooms in late 2019 or 2020.

The modified Audis were developed in Troy with help from Delphi campuses in Mountain View, California; Pittsburgh; and Europe and Asia.


Delphi will showcase two modified Cadillac CTS sedans that are able to “talk” to their surroundings.

The two V2X (“vehicle-to-everything”) cars can communicate with other connected vehicles as well as traffic lights to anticipate when they will turn yellow or red. Through chips in smartphones, they can alert pedestrians that the car is coming their way.

V2X is a step beyond current so-called “active” safety systems that use sensors, cameras and radar to detect a hazard. Through GPS, an on-board Wi-Fi router and diagnostics systems, V2X cars can communicate with one another and stay alert for icy roads, sudden stops in traffic, even crashes. The system could tell other autonomous cars to reroute and avoid a traffic jam.

“A good part of that is if you can’t see around the corner, it’s still broadcasting. It still knows there’s a vehicle coming,” said Scott LaForest, Delphi electronics and safety engineering assistant. “The automakers will determine what level of warnings that they want to apply.”

Dual-depth displays

Delphi will premiere at CES an instrument panel with three sets of screens — instrument cluster, infotainment screen and another small display with time, temperature and other information. Each screen uses two panels of glass to provide dual-depth displays and create a 3-D effect. The top glass highlights certain sections and features, while the back panel works as a background to display other functions.

“We wanted to bring a harmonious environment,” said Edmon Jiddou, Delphi multimedia designer. “All three displays, carrying the same technology.”

The speedometer is one example: The miles-per-hour array of numbers are in the background; the needle tracking speed is in the forefront.

Delphi is in talks with two companies in Europe to launch the displays in 2018 or 2019, according to Jiddou. The company declined to disclose what companies are interested.

“As we carry it on, we’ll be adding more features to it,” said Jiddou, referring to features such as hands-free communication and hand-gesturing.