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Delphi, nuTonomy and the gate to Singapore

Will Delphi and nuTonomy make The Lion City roar? (Photo: nuTonomy)

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Stephan Giesler
Stephan Giesler

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Hello, automated driving community! Delphi acquires nuTonomy with an eye on Singapore, an NYT columnist gets his wrist slapped and some self-driving rumblings from Russia: we bring you this week’s key stories from the world of automated driving!

Another week, another acquisition. This time it’s Automotive supplier Delphi Automotive who has announced its take-over of Boston-based driverless tech firm, nuTonomy. It has shelled out $450 million to do so – a hefty investment that, according to CTO Glen De Vos “helps us accelerate our scale and our expansion of capabilities." So Delphi gets new customers and new intellectual property while nuTonomy gets everything the backing of a big gun brings. The usual ‘he gets, she gets’ story.

The interesting thing here is the role that “The Little Red Dot” plays in the strategy. Singapore that is. nuTonomy has always had strong links to the sovereign city state – in fact it spun out of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology in 2013, not to mention it is already testing cars there. Delphi, it seems, will benefit from tapping into that regional expertise.

In a recent interview, nuTonomy CEO, Karl Iagnemma, said that Singapore is “the best place in the world to develop driverless car technology today". But why so? Sure, the climate plays a role; as does the shiny new infrastructure, but the one thing that puts Singapore right up there beside tech-focused San Francisco as the second epicenter of AD, is its vision. The government has a stated mission to develop a car-light society and is hence open to regulation that facilitates it – including autonomous fleets. Bottom line, the regulation is just easier to navigate. While San Fran has the industry, Singapore has the vision: prepare to see the Lion City roar.

Dear New York Times, nice read but please don’t overpromise!

There was (relative) uproar amongst the AD media this week in reaction to an Op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled: “Driverless Cars Made Me Nervous. Then I Tried One.” Why? Because the author didn’t try one. Because they don’t exist outside testing scenarios.

What David Leonhardt, the highly-respected Pulitzer-Prize-winning NYT columnist did try was a Volvo S90 sedan. A nice car with some Level 2 features such as “Pilot Assist” but certainly not “driverless” as he puts in the headline. Not even “semi-driverless” as he puts in the image caption.

The truth is – it just wasn’t needed. The article contributes some valuable insights into overcoming fear and the (un)willingness to surrender control. This is core to the acceptance issue and for that reason, a very worthwhile read – which is why we recommended it on our facebook channel (heartfelt invitation to join).

However, as Alex Roy wrote in his last column: “Every time a journalist reviews a semi-autonomous car with Self-Driving, Driverless or Autonomous in the headline, the case for autonomy is harmed”. Indeed. But one good thing to come out of this is the extent to which it was noticed. It seems the AD reporting world is taking ownership and setting some standards of its own.

Rumblings of Russian progress…

TASS Russian News Agency revealed last week that Russia’s equivalent of Google – Yandex  –  could have access to Uber’s self-driving technology under a new agreement. According to the news agency, Yandex finance director, Greg Abovski said on Wednesday: "On the one hand, we are developing our autonomous car project. We are sure that the basis for this is artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensors, maps, navigation and everything else. We have signed a deal with Uber, it allows access to technologies on an exclusive basis for our markets."

This follows the news from July that Uber and Yandex.Taxi have entered an agreement worth $3.4 billion to combine their business in Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan. Could these be the markets they are talking about?

Given what I’ve just said about reporting, I’m not jumping the gun here to say that self-driving cars are just around the corner for Kazakhstan. But we have long been awaiting a surge from this giant market and the fact that Uber is now onboard is certainly an indication of something stirring outside the classical automotive innovation markets of Germany, the US, Japan and China.    

So long, drive safely (until cars are driverless),

Stephan Giesler

Editor-in-Chief, 2025AD

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