Insider Q&A: Aptiv spins off to speed automated driving

TROY, Mich. — Delphi has long been active in the fast-growing autonomous vehicle market. Its spinoff of Aptiv may speed things up even more.


Delphi Technologies PLC, which itself was spun off by General Motors Co. in 1999, will continue to make car parts, including gasoline and electric engines. Aptiv PLC, which Delphi spun off this month, will focus on self-driving vehicles and the software and hardware needed to run them.

Chief Technology Officer Glen De Vos says Aptiv split so it can be more nimble and pursue relationships that are different than the traditional one between auto suppliers and the automakers they sell parts to.

Aptiv wants to supply automated driving systems to automakers, fleet operators and even cities that can use them on buses or shuttles. In Singapore, where it’s operating automated taxis with backup drivers, it intends to have a fully self-driving taxi by 2020 or 2021.

The company also wants to retain control of some of the data that the systems collect so it can constantly improve and update them and make money by selling the data.

“We have to be part of that broader ecosystem that’s using the car as a digital platform as opposed to just supplying components that go into it,” De Vos told reporters at a recent event at Aptiv’s U.S. headquarters near Detroit.

Here are more of De Vos’s comments. They have been edited for length.

Q. You have so many partners, like BMW and Intel. Why should Aptiv control the data?

A. In some cases you do share. Absolutely. But ultimately we want to be controlling how that sharing is done. What gives us a position of control, if you will, is having the automated driving system, the thing that actually makes the car work. If you own that and you control that, you’re in a much better position to control and influence everything around it. That’s actually been one of the learnings we’ve had over the past year. We see a lot of people that do other things that are now trying to move into automated driving. That’s the hardest thing to do. We actually started there and we’re now moving into the other spaces that surround automated driving that enable the service to be provided. It puts us in a much stronger position.

Q. How will automated driving change the car market?

A. There’s not a unanimity of opinion about what will happen to sales as automation comes onto the market. But in general, however you do the math, your car is a horribly underutilized asset. Automation brings in the ability to drive up more efficient utilization of that capital asset. Now, that in turn says, I need a lot less cars. At the same time, I burn through them a lot faster, because the life of a car is miles dependent, not time dependent. So there’s been a lot of analysis showing that I’m going to need a lot more cars. It also may force more commoditization of the car itself.

Q. When will we first see Aptiv systems operating on a larger scale?

A. We’re going to engage with cities — Boston, Singapore, Las Vegas, some others — to help operationalize micro transit or public transportation services because it gets the platform on the road, you get cycles of learning, you can actually commercialize quickly. But the broader market is going to be the private ride-hailing services so we need to participate in that market as well.