The partnership between Magna International Inc. and ride-sharing company Lyft Inc. demonstrates how determined Magna is to play a key role in the development of autonomous driving systems, chief executive officer Don Walker says.
"If anybody had any questions about our resolve to be a leader in the ADAS [advanced driver-assistance systems] space, hopefully this shows the amount of work we're putting into it and how important it is to Magna," Mr. Walker said.
He made his comments one day after the company announced it would invest US$200-million in Lyft as part of a collaboration to develop self-driving systems for Lyft vehicles.
As a measure of how things are changing at a company that many investors view as being dominated by its metal-forming division, the news release announcing the deal described Magna first as "a mobility technology company."
The partnership underscores "that Magna intends to become a major player in emerging autonomous technologies," industry analyst Peter Sklar, who follows the company for Bank of Montreal, wrote in a research note.
Magna shares jumped almost 6 per cent to $73.09 in afternoon trading on the TSX.
Magna estimates the market for self-driving technologies will be between US$80-billion and US$95-billion by 2030 as auto makers and other companies attempt to transform driving so that it's out of the hands – and out of the minds – of the person at the wheel.
At an investor presentation last month, Magna said 97 per cent of vehicles built by 2030 will contain some level of autonomy, including 7 per cent at Level 5, which is full automation.
Magna's current focus is on cameras, radar, sensors and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) that provide some driver assistance and perform some driving functions, but the partnership will also develop software that will control vehicles.
"The intention here with Lyft is to be working with someone who's got a real interest in getting this right and getting it to market quickly," Mr. Walker said, "because their business model will be enhanced by it."
He noted that the number of vehicles that will be fully autonomous or highly autonomous will be small in the short term.
The landscape is changing rapidly, however.
General Motors Co. said Thursday that it will start building production versions of its Cruise AV autonomous vehicle next year at its Lake Orion assembly plant north of Detroit. Previous versions of the car were for test purposes.
Separately, the University of Waterloo said it has signed an agreement to work with institutions in China to do advanced research on autonomous and connected vehicles.
"The agreement outlines a number of initiatives, including the establishment of a shared research centre for automated driving, faculty and graduate student exchanges, a Waterloo PhD program focused on autonomous vehicles, and the potential for Chinese startup companies to establish research and development facilities in the Waterloo Region," the university said in a news release.