Canada's Magna International, North America’s largest parts supplier, is becoming more of a software company on some levels, says one of its top autonomous vehicle managers.
“Magna is evolving from the parts company it still is and will continue to be, as we become a total vehicle-capable organization,” said Tom Toma, the company’s global product manager for automated driving. “We’re becoming more of a software company.”
Toma made the comments in Windsor, Ont., after taking an autonomous vehicle on an international jaunt through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel on July 31.
The trip was to demonstrate the company’s Level 3 autonomous software and celebrate a new memorandum of understanding between Ontario and Michigan. The two governments have pledged to “promote and foster growth of connected and autonomous technology testing and deployment” between the United States and Canada.
“With our commitment to innovation and ongoing work in helping define the future mobility landscape, our involvement is a natural fit and we are pleased to join with our partners in this hands-free road trip,” Toma said when the trip eventually ended 500 kilometres away in Traverse City, Mich.
Magna has developed Level 3 autonomous technology that allows a driver to become a passenger. They can take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and feet off pedals.
“This technology would make your commute to work or commute up north on vacation more enjoyable and more relaxing,” Toma said “The focus is to ease the pressure of driving long distances by using automated driving systems.”
Toma said fully autonomous vehicles, those categorized as Level 5 and that lack a steering wheel and pedals, are a long way off.
“We can look at the complete market and by 2025 we still see less than one per cent of fully automated vehicles on the road,” he said. “Even with Level 4, there are some bold predictions. But Magna plans to stay in line and in lockstep with latest and greatest technology, and by doing so, we can offer our OEM customers any level of driving functionality they are seeking.”
Despite the technology still being years away, Magna CEO Don Walker said Magna is fully onboard with it.
“It’s all coming and no one is going to stop that,” he said Aug. 2 at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
Walker said Magna is investing in nearly a dozen new technology companies and is consulting with future technology experts at universities as it maps its future.
For example, Magna has already announced a partnership with Israel-based startup Innoviz Technologies. The two will develop lidar remote sensing solutions for the development of self-driving vehicles. Magna also owns a stake in a U.S. company Peloton Technology, which is developing vehicle-to-vehicle technology that would improve the fuel efficiency of commercial trucks.
And anticipating growth in AVs, Magna has spent C $5 million in an artificial intelligence research centre in Toronto.
Magna expects to grow its autonomous-related business from US $450 million in sales of components and technologies today to US $1 billion by 2020.