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Delphi buys CMU spinoff that makes self-driving car software

| Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, 5:33 p.m.
An autonomous car developed by Michigan-based auto supplier Delphi Automotive made the 3,500-mile journey across the United States in April 2015.
An autonomous car developed by Michigan-based auto supplier Delphi Automotive made the 3,500-mile journey across the United States in April 2015.

Vehicle technology giant Delphi Automotive bought a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off that supplied the software used to pilot a self-driving Audi across the United States this year.

Combined with Uber's work in Lawrenceville on driverless systems and CMU's continued research, the acquisition of Ottomatika Inc. by U.K.-based Delphi adds to Pittsburgh's reputation as a center for innovation in self-driving technology.

“This is great for the region,” Ottomatika founder Raj Rajkumar said Tuesday.

Rajkumar, a Carnegie Mellon professor of electrical and computer engineering, said financial terms of the acquisition were confidential. He said he hoped the company's 11 employees would be retained by Delphi and that Harmar-based Ottomatika would maintain a presence in the region.

A spokeswoman for Delphi did not respond to a call for comment.

“The Ottomatika deal exemplifies how CMU researchers and entrepreneurs are bringing technologies to market that benefit not only the university and the private sector, but society as a whole,” university Provost Farnam Jahanian said in a statement. “CMU remains the destination for faculty and students who seek a culture of innovation, collaborative problem-solving and entrepreneurship.”

Ottomatika was formed in 2013 with initial seed money from North Side nonprofit Innovation Works to market the technology Rajkumar developed at CMU. Its software provided what CMU called the “brain powering Delphi's advanced network of sensor technology for autonomous vehicles.”

Delphi, which last year employed 127,000 people and reported sales of more than $17 billion, invested more money in Ottomatika in November.

“They were our first customer and major investor,” Rajkumar said. “We had worked together for quite some time. So this was a natural progression. It's a good match.”

The companies' combined system won an award at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January and powered a 3,400-mile cross-country trip by the Delphi-equipped Audi in April.

Rajkumar said he left Ottomatika as part of Delphi's purchase but will continue his research into automated driving systems at Carnegie Mellon. The university has worked on the technology with General Motors and Uber.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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