Autonomous Cars are well on their way. Research, which started with the DARPA Grand Challenge, has been going on for more than fifteen years, so at the 20-year mark (circa 2024) we should fully expect this technology to be a regular part if our lives. Even if this only stretches to getting an autonomous cab at the weekend. Here are the top 5 companies that we think will play a critical role in this technology.
Volvo has just announced their ambitions in this market. Their aim is to launch in 2021 with a focus on trialling with families in the Drive Me project (seen in this promo video). This gives Volvo an advantage over the other companies on this list. They will get direct feedback from families, Volvo’s target market. When parents will be deciding on which autonomous car to get in 2025 Volvo with have features Tesla and Fords won’t have. This will be a key factor in solidifying Volvos growth in this autonomous car market.
Aurora bought Uber’s self-driving unit, Advanced Technologies Group in 2020. Uber launched their live testing early in 2017, to some trouble. This recklessness isn’t great for the public’s perception of the autonomous car, but the damage will be limited by the other companies’ successes. As Autonomous vehicles start to take over, personal vehicle sales will start to decline significantly in 2030. Autonomous taxi services will explode, but with Uber abandoning their autonomy dreams, the company doesn’t look like it has much future. We anticipate Uber to go into serious decline circa 2024 and may be out of business by 2027.
Waymo is taking a different approach to the other companies on this list. By being the software partner, they can be the go-to company for the older car companies. Waymo carries the Google brand, something that is readily sellable. Especially given the public are already aware of the vigorous testing that Google has done. Waymo will emulate the success of Android for a while. We anticipate that by 2025 Waymo will be producing their own hardware, likely by partnering with legacy automakers. The limitations of Waymo will be their geo-fenced learning/operational approach. While it may look like Waymo is ahead in offering autonomous services, they will be limited to localised areas. In the end, this is still okay, Waymo will likely fill a need in the heavily urbanised areas and tourist spots (including theme parks)
Ford plans include bringing an autonomous taxi fleet to the world. Which means they can foresee the decline in personal vehicle sales. They have the capital invested (over $1billion) and a century of experience in building, marketing and distributing cars. They have global brand recognition. Though Tesla’s solution will be superior, customer loyalty for Ford may result in Ford being a leader in commercial vehicle autonomy. Particularly if they transfer this technology to the Transit. This means they won’t have to solve the “ugly” issue with their autonomous sensors.
Tesla has an enormous lead in autonomous driving. Indeed, about 1000 Tesla owners are paying for the privilege of beta testing their FSD (Full Self-Driving) solution. already has a head start in the market. Tesla has been collecting enormous amounts of data over the past few years, so it is likely they have the quantity and quality of data needed to solve autonomy. The key aspect of this data reservoir is edge cases. Having an abundance of real-world edge-cases is a technological advantage that cannot be overstated (Elon has referred to this as chasing the 9s, i.e. it works in 99.9999% of cases). In the event that Tesla deems the autonomy problem to be solved, the rollout to potentially millions of vehicles could happen, literally, overnight, if the owners choose.