Aptiv, the U.S. auto supplier and self-driving software company, is opening an autonomous mobility center in Shanghai to focus on the development and eventual deployment of its technology on public roads.
The expansion marks the fifth market where Aptiv has set up R&D, testing or operational facilities. Aptiv has autonomous driving operations in Boston, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Singapore. But China is perhaps its most ambitious endeavor yet.
Aptiv has never had any AV operations in China, but it does have a long history in the country, including manufacturing and engineering facilities. The company, in its earlier forms as Delphi and Delco, has been in China since 1993 — experience that will be invaluable as it tries to bring its autonomous vehicle efforts into a new market, Aptiv Autonomous Mobility President Karl Iagnemma told TechCrunch in a recent interview.
“The long-term opportunity in China is off the charts,” Iagnemma said, noting a recent McKinsey study that claims the country will host two-thirds of the world’s autonomous-driven miles by 2040 and be a trillion-dollar mobility service opportunity.
“For Aptiv, it’s always been a question of not ‘if,’ but ‘when’ we’re going to enter the Chinese market,” he added.
Aptiv will have self-driving cars testing on public roads by the second half of 2019.
“Our experience in other markets has shown that in this industry, you learn by doing,” Iagnemma explained.
And it’s a remark that Iagnemma can stand by. Iagnemma is the co-founder of self-driving car startup nuTonomy, one of the first to launch a robotaxi service in 2016 in Singapore that the public — along with human safety drivers — could use.
NuTonomy was acquired by Delphi in 2017 for $450 million. NuTonomy became part of Aptiv after its spin-off from Delphi was complete.
Aptiv also is in discussions with potential partners for mapping and commercial deployment of Aptiv’s vehicles in China.
Some of those partnerships will likely mimic the types of relationships Aptiv has created here in the U.S., notably with Lyft. Aptiv’s self-driving vehicles operate on Lyft’s ride-hailing platform in Las Vegas and have provided more than 40,000 paid autonomous rides in Las Vegas via the Lyft app.
Aptiv also will have to create new kinds of partnerships unlike those it has in the U.S. due to restrictions and rules in China around data collection, intellectual property and creating high-resolution map data.