Volvo is creating a joint venture to build new software for autonomous drive (AD) systems and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) with partner Autoliv Inc., which supplies vehicle safety systems to carmakers around the globe.
The two companies have signed a letter of intent to form their partnership as part of a new firm, which has not yet been named, according to a Sept. 6 announcement by Volvo. The new company will be headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden, and will have an initial workforce of about 200 people, who will come from both companies. The number of employees is expected to increase to more than 600 in the future, with the business expected to start operations in the beginning of 2017, the companies said.
"The joint venture will create a new entrant in the growing global market for autonomous driving software systems," the companies said, adding that the partnership "marks the first time a leading premium carmaker has joined forces with a tier-one supplier to develop new ADAS and AD technologies."
The plans are to use the systems that are created in future Volvo vehicles and for Autoliv to license them to other vehicle makers.
"By combining our know-how and resources, we will create a world leader in AD software development," Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, said in a statement. "This means we can introduce this exciting technology to our customers faster."
Jan Carlson, chairman, CEO and president of Autoliv, said in a statement: "There are no two companies that can claim to have done more for automotive safety worldwide than Autoliv and Volvo. This new company is a recognition of the fact that autonomous driving is the next step to transform road safety."
Autoliv has been developing and building active and passive in-vehicle restraint systems for more than 60 years. Both Autoliv and Volvo will license and transfer the intellectual property for their ADAS systems to the joint venture, which expects to have its first ADAS products available for sale by 2019, with AD technologies available by 2021.
Interestingly, while Volvo is joining the autonomous car industry, it appears that Apple is pulling back from the marketplace. Apple is apparently undergoing a "reboot" of its autonomous vehicle program, according to a Sept. 12 eWEEK report.
Apple has reportedly laid off dozens of employees and shuttered parts of the project, as executives decide how to proceed, the article said. Apple has never publicly acknowledged its self-driving car initiative—reportedly called Project Titan—although its hiring over the last few years has spoken volumes.
In July, Apple leased office space in Ottawa, across the street from QNX Software, and then hired the creator of the QNX operating system, Dan Dodge. Apple had also previously hired Doug Betts, who ran the quality control division at the Chrysler Group, as well as Paul Furgale, an autonomous vehicle researcher.
Earlier this year, Titan head Steve Zadesky left Apple, citing personal reasons, and Apple brought in Bob Mansfield—another previously retired executive—to replace Zadesky and oversee a "shift in strategy," Bloomberg reported in July.
Mansfield, who had worked closely with Steve Jobs, officially retired from Apple in June 2012—though two months later agreed to come back and work on special projects, for a salary that reportedly made him the second-highest-compensated executive on the S&P 500.
Whether the recent layoffs are a part of Mansfield's strategy or a sign that it wasn't working is unclear.
In the self-driving car space, Apple continues to face competition from old and new rivals. Google parent company Alphabet has been trialing cars for years, while Tesla introduced Autopilot software in late 2014—which was involved in a fatal crash; Tesla announced an update to its software on Sept. 11.
Uber has ambitious plans and in August acquired Otto—a company that makes self-driving modification kits for trucks—along with its intellectual property and development team.
Also in on the action are traditional automakers such as Ford, General Motors and Volvo—which has a software deal with Microsoft, as well as with Uber.