Business & Tech

NuTonomy joins forces with French automaker

The nuTonomy system consists of lasers and scanners that provide a view of the surrounding street for the self-driving cars.
Craig F. Walker/Globe staff/file 2016
The nuTonomy system consists of lasers and scanners that provide a view of the surrounding street for the self-driving cars.

Boston-based nuTonomy, which makes software for self-driving cars, has struck an alliance with Groupe PSA of France, the maker of Peugeot and Citroen automobiles.

“We hope to get to the place where there are thousands of Peugeot cars on the road running nuTonomy software,” said nuTonomy chief executive Karl Iagnemma.

NuTonomy will integrate its software and sensors into the Peugeot 3008, a gasoline-powered crossover SUV. Converted vehicles will undergo real-world testing on the streets of Singapore, where nuTonomy last year launched the world’s first taxi service built around self-driving vehicles.

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Iagnemma said Peugeot and nuTonomy plan to “get a couple of cars on the road quickly in Singapore this summer, and then scale up rapidly from there.”

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Peugeot will become the fifth brand of automobile to be fitted with the nuTonomy system. The company has already installed self-driving technology in Renault, Mitsubishi, Lincoln, and Land Rover vehicles.

Groupe PSA is little-known in the United States; Peugeot abandoned the US auto market in 1991 and Citroen left in 1974. But in 2016, Groupe PSA sold 3.1 million cars worldwide, including more than 600,000 in China. Also last year, the company announced it will return to North America, building fleets of vehicles for the short-term rental market. Groupe PSA also purchased the European carmaking arm of General Motors Corp. in March for $2.3 billion.

Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor at the auto industry publication Kelley Blue Book, said the Groupe PSA deal with nuTonomy reflects American dominance in self-driving car technology.

“I think it’s a statement on how advanced our infrastructure is in developing the kinds of algorithms and software needed to do these tasks,” said DeLorenzo.

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But he added that traditional US automakers are also partnering with and acquiring autonomous vehicle startups, because they too lack the software skills to manage the entire process. For example, General Motors last year paid about $600 million for Cruise Automation, a San Francisco developer of self-driving technology. Fiat Chrysler has teamed up with Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, to create autonomous minivans. And Ford Motor Co. has invested in Velodyne, a company that makes remote sensors for self-driving cars, and in Civil Maps, a startup that makes highly accurate maps for automated cars.

“The car companies are smart enough to know that if they don’t have a certain level of expertise, they’re going to go out and get it,” said DeLorenzo. “You’re going to see a lot of these alliances.”

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.