Self-driving car models and fleets get most of the media attention, but it is the suppliers that design and make the technologies underpinning the driverless revolution, says Guillaume Devauchelle, the vice president of innovation and scientific development for leading tier-one supplier Valeo.
Driverless spoke with Devauchelle about the role suppliers will continue to play in the driverless revolution and how the OEM and supplier relationships are evolving.
Driverless: How have your partnerships with Mobileye changed following Intel's purchase of the company?
Guillaume Devauchelle We are still working with Mobileye. We use their software like many other suppliers do. After Intel's acquisition of Mobileye, not much has changed. Our existing agreement with Mobileye is still in place: we design and make front-facing camera and LiDAR (light detection and ranging sensor) systems using Mobileye's EyeQ microprocessors and computer vision algorithms. That said, it is possible that Mobileye is our competitor as well, such as with cameras.
D: Your driverless OEM customers can offer self-driving trucks and other vehicles as well as cars. Waymo, which has begun testing driverless commercial trucks, is a good example. How, as a supplier, do you adapt by offering systems for different types of vehicles?
GD: The underlying technology is the same, whether the application is driverless private vehicles, public transport, or in this case, commercial vehicles. Google is not going to reinvent the wheel for driverless trucks. Given the enormous development costs and resources, no one is going to develop different artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle solutions for commercial vehicles. That just not viable.
D: Despite all of the hype, driverless vehicles remain at the nascent stage in their development. Has one common sensor configuration emerged or are OEMs still trying different ways to collect visual data?
GD: The OEMs are still mixing and matching the different sensor configurations they use. At least in the beginning, the OEMs will have different sensor solutions.
D: As one of the world's largest automotive suppliers, how has driverless car applications affected what Valeo does?
GD: Driverless cars are the foundation of mobility solutions. The challenge is developing solutions before everybody else does. The winner does take it all. To do that, we are relying on the best-and-brightest engineering talent around the world. Our major research centers are in Germany, Ireland, China, and in the US. Our major research centers in the US are in Silicon Valley and near Detroit.
The number of people we have working in Silicon Valley is actually relatively small, but their impact has been tremendous. In many ways, our Silicon Valley team is like an iceberg — you only see the tip of it and think it is far away, but the ice, just lurking below the surface, can sink chips. That, we suppose, is how our competition thinks of us, especially in Silicon Valley.