Delphi buys self-driving startup NuTonomy for $450M

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(Bloomberg) -- Delphi Automotive Plc agreed to acquire self-driving startup NuTonomy Inc. for $450 million, speeding up its plans to supply carmakers with autonomous vehicle systems.

NuTonomy will add more than 100 employees, including 70 engineers and scientists, to roughly double Delphi’s team developing autonomous driving software, according to a statement. The company was spun out from a research and technology alliance between Singapore and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its backers include Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford’s venture capital fund.

Delphi is in the process of splitting into two companies by early next year, with one producing powertrains and the other developing self-driving systems and other newer technology. It’s planning to use NuTonomy to hasten the introduction of an autonomous robotaxi test fleet in Singapore by a year, to 2019, and expand driverless testing to more cities, Delphi Chief Technology Officer Glen De Vos said.

“While we were really happy with the assets that we have, we recognize that to win in the market, we need to move fast,” De Vos said on a conference call. “We’re getting larger fleets deployed earlier -- we see that as a critical enabler.”

Delphi shares rose 0.5 percent to $98.27 at the close of trade in New York. The stock has surged 46 percent this year.

Startup Acquisitions

Delphi acquired Carnegie Mellon University spinoff Ottomatika in 2015 to bolster its self-driving software capabilities and has snapped up other startups to assemble the pieces of an affordable self-driving system it’s developing with Intel Corp. and its Mobileye unit that it will begin selling to carmakers in two years.

NuTonomy, founded in 2013 by Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli when they were researching robotics and intelligent vehicle technology at MIT, has previously partnered with major automakers including Jaguar Land Rover and Peugeot SA and ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. In addition to engineering headcount, the startup has special expertise in fleet management that will make autonomous vehicle testing more efficient, De Vos said.

When the deal closes later this year, Delphi will have autonomous driving operations in Boston, Pittsburgh, Singapore, Santa Monica, California, and Silicon Valley. Delphi said it’ll have 60 self-driving cars on roads across three continents by year-end. That number will grow to 150 by the end of 2018, a spokesman said.

Bloomberg News