If Valeo’s plans proceed without a hitch, it will be able to offer self-driving vehicle platforms to automakers before this decade ends. Valeo, an auto parts maker based in France, intends to utilize its partner Safran’s drone software and other military technologies.
Last Friday, Valeo was demonstrating autonomous car and other prototype systems that were jointly developed with Safran. Valeo revealed that the first applications may be available to its automaker buyers in the next three years.
The two French companies have a research and development deal forged in 2013. They’re in collaboration to build self-driving systems with final applications that range from hatchbacks to unmanned aircraft.
When interviewed by Reuters, Guillaume Devauchelle (Valeo’s innovation chief) said that the two companies came to realize that they had “much more in common” than they first thought. He added, "It turns out that an autonomous vehicle is really a terrestrial drone."
Eradicating human input in driving entire trips won’t be possible in the foreseeable future but some automation may be around very soon. In fact, there are already vehicles on sale that could drive themselves in slow traffic and stop the car when there’s a pedestrian at risk of being hit.
Analysts believe that the market for these vehicles as well as the connected services that drivers will be able to use is booming. The traditional car industry has to be prepared for some disruption as new players, including Google and Apple, want to be in this market.
Valeo CEO Jacques Aschenbroich said that because Valeo and Safran serve distinct markets, this collaboration works. Valeo will sell joint technology to automakers while Safran can offer defence, aerospace and rail applications.
Currently, Safran offers to equip armoured vehicles with 360-degree camera software made by Valeo to aid with parking. Valeo’s self-driving cars will make use of infrared imaging, algorithms and "dynamic mapping" that are found in Patroller drones and other Safran hardware.
Aschenbroich also said that the joint agreement has resulted to “an absolute outpouring of ideas." He added that “within a fairly short space of time,” Safran technology will be more frequently seen in Valeo-equipped cars while Valeo will be visible in Safran aerospace and security products.