The self-driving car market is growing. Innovation is bringing the concept closer to widespread implementation. Both technology giants and successful newcomers are carving out the market to take on — or enhance — the legacy automobile industry.
Wireless technology such as 5G is expected to propel self-driving car capability. With it, each vehicle will be able to communicate with one another as well as with traffic lights and other data sources. Technology that has only been seen in sci-fi films is expected to become a reality in the years to come.
You might recognize some of the big players in the space. However, others are still on their way up the popularity ladder. Many startups have big corporations behind them and are likely to be household names before long.
There’s no need for introductions when it comes to Tesla. Elon Musk’s company is currently bigger than the top auto manufacturers combined. Tesla is a pioneer in self-driving cars and is combining this aspect of automotive engineering with their other business endeavors.
As of early 2021, Tesla vehicles do not have full self-driving capability. Drivers of Tesla cars are instructed to keep their attention on the vehicle at all times. However, small steps are constantly being made toward complete autonomous driving capability.
Advancements made in the wireless technology space will provide greater communication between Tesla vehicles and the environment around them. While not exclusively focused on self-driving technology, Tesla vehicles benefit from the company’s related objectives; namely, energy generation and storage.
Tesla’s market cap is flirting with the trillion-dollar mark as expectations are high for the technology that the company plans on bringing to market. Musk, the company’s eccentric CEO is confident that full self-driving capability is on its way. As recently as the summer of 2020, Musk described self-driving Teslas as being “close.”
With Tesla focusing on several aspects of the automotive experience, the company is betting that it will create the perfect automobile. Smooth driving, mileage, acceleration, design, and safety are concurrent concerns for Tesla. Other self-driving car companies are currently focused on building an automobile that solves the autonomous capability first. This distinction places Tesla in an advantageous position in the eyes of consumers.
Intel is a juggernaut in the technology space. You may be surprised to find the computer processor manufacturer on this list. Intel is linked with the next company to be mentioned: Waymo. The leader in the computer chip market is partnering with innovators in the self-driving car space intending to position itself as a major supplier for car manufacturers. Furthermore, Intel is putting its money behind its autonomous vehicle endeavors.
The tech giant created Automated Driving Group in 2016. This new venture is a $250 million investment in auto tech. A year later, Intel poured over $15 billion into Mobileye, a subsidiary that supplies safety technology for millions of vehicles worldwide. Intel’s goal is to take the ‘Powered by’ motto and apply it to the self-driving car industry, making the company an integral part of the production process and propelling its business into the future.
If you don’t keep up with the market, Waymo may not sound like a giant in the self-driving car space. You’ll immediately change your mind once you learn that besides partnering with Intel, Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube.
Industry experts agree that Waymo is the leader in the race for producing the first fully autonomous car. Analysts cite the vast pools of funding and the access to groundbreaking technology as the biggest arguments in favor of the Alphabet subsidiary.
Waymo has the necessary liquidity to pursue its endeavors with many investors flocking to put their money in the company. Venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz and car dealer AutoNation recently placed close to $2.3 billion into Waymo.
After this windfall of funding, an additional $750 million was invested into the company in May of 2020; a further endorsement of its potential. With estimates placing Waymo over a year ahead of its competition, a modified Chrysler Pacifica is being tested in suburban Phoenix with Waymo technology. Waymo One in the company’s ride-hailing service. Waymo One interfaces with other Google-powered services, providing customers a seamless, familiar experience.
4. GM Cruise
General Motors, the iconic American car manufacturer, is back at the cutting edge of the auto industry. Having lagged for many years in terms of market presence, GM has invested over nine billion dollars in Cruise Automation. Cruise is a company GM bought in 2016 with the hopes of propelling General Motors into the future. With Honda by its side, GM aims to become a market leader by focusing on its San Francisco ride-hailing service.
Navigating the San Francisco streets with a modified Chevrolet Bolt that utilizes Cruise technology is the starting point for success. Once Cruise irons out all the kinks, GM hopes to be ready to flourish as it did in decades prior. Until recently, challenges to be overcome included making complicated turns and accounting for all safety issues. Currently, the company is moving forward with full force and will be expanding its operations overseas to Dubai and other locations.
Much like Alphabet, Apple is seldom left out of any discussion regarding technological innovation. With devices and software that handle the communication needs of billions of users, Apple is entering the self-driving car space with dozens of vehicles currently registered with the California DMV and being tested in the state.
Besides its tech, Apple is leveraging acquired knowledge as it has hired former NASA engineer and Waymo employee Bob Mansfield. Apple’s self-driving vehicle is scheduled to start hitting production in 2024. The car is set to be manufactured at the Kia plant in Georgia. Apple maintains a partnership with the Korean manufacturer and will leverage its know-how in battery technology and hardware. Kia brings synergies to the partnership with decades of market presence and experience.
There is a marked difference between the self-driving cars Apple is designing and the vehicles its competitors are testing. Apple plans to create driverless cars from the get-go. In this respect, Apple hopes to jump ahead of competitors like Waymo that already have operational models on the road. This is a big bet that stands to pay off if successful. On the other hand, it may set Apple back if there are delays in rolling out the final product.
The Road to Self-Driving Success
As the self-driving car market grows, players from different technology fields will join the race to capture market dominance. Silicon Valley giants are already staking their claim to self-driving supremacy. Traditional auto manufacturers are set to partner and compete with them, depending on the circumstance.
Self-driving cars will occupy more of your periphery over the coming years until they become the automotive standard. Meanwhile, observe as your favorite tech meets your beloved car models in a process of relentless technological evolution.