Delphi Automotive and Mobileye NV aim to develop an advanced autonomous driving system that will be available to automakers by 2019.
The suppliers last week announced plans to jointly develop "SAE Level 4/5" autonomous vehicle technology for use on highways or city streets. The goal is for a system to be production-ready by 2019, which means automakers would roll it out by 2021.
SAE Level 4 designation means that driver attention is not required to operate the vehicle. Level 5 means that a driver can set a destination, and no other human involvement is necessary to arrive there.
In announcing the plans last week, Mobileye Chairman Amnon Shashua said partnering with Delphi -- separately from automakers -- will speed the industry's move to the technology "without the need for huge capital investments."
The industry is moving toward safety systems that eventually will enable vehicles to autonomously negotiate an entire trip door to door. But some observers remain skeptical that the complex technology will be ready soon, or that ordinary motorists will have access to it.
"I don't think anyone will sell Level 4 vehicles to consumers in 2020 or 2021," said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Navigant Research, "With the possible exception of Tesla, every manufacturer will want to keep very tight control of their vehicles to make sure they work and are maintained properly."
The partnership between multiproduct supplier Delphi and Mobileye, an Israeli producer of computer vision and machine learning systems, is intended to appeal to automakers by lowering development cost.
But the key to such a third-party solution will be in how Delphi and Mobileye test it, Abuelsamid said.
Delphi is already planning to test an advanced system. Next year, it will begin using six self-driving cars to take travelers from mass-transit stations in Singapore, while having trained drivers in the vehicles as backup.
Abuelsamid believes that, despite the widespread rush to the new technologies, automakers will for some years only deploy the advanced technologies "as fleets in test programs, and only in locations where people have high confidence that they'll actually work."