The automated-driving leaderboard shifts
In this issue’s Tech Systems, you can read about Navigant’s latest assessment of strategy and execution for the top companies in the automated-driving-system space. According to report published last month, 2017 saw a continuing acceleration of development as many of the leaders shifted from an R&D to production-engineering focus.
Improved safety is the biggest driver of vehicle automation, with governments and industrial leaders focused on eventually reducing to zero the lives lost on the world’s roadways due primarily to driver error. However, new business models aimed at improving mobility for every social strata and providing new services for captive occupants are also contributing to a quickly shifting development landscape. One notable example is the increasing focus on ride-hailing/sharing mobility-as-a-service programs as a primary means of initially deploying automated vehicles.
The Navigant leaderboard is based on evaluations related to 10 criteria, from company vision to staying power. There are some major changes in the rankings this year, with the addition of new companies as well as new partnerships driven by the cost and complexity of developing and deploying technologies. The top companies are separated into three classifications:
Leaders: General Motors, Waymo, Daimler-Bosch, Ford, Volkswagen Group, BMW-Intel-FCA, Aptiv (A spinoff from Delphi), andRenault-Nissan Alliance
Contenders: Volvo-Autoliv-Ericsson-Zenuity, PSA, Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota, Navya, Baidu-BAIC, and Hyundai Motor Group
Challengers: Honda, Uber, Apple, and Tesla
Notable changes in the top leaders category are a rise by Waymo (five spots), drops for Ford (three spots) and the Renault-Nissan Alliance (five spots), and a recognition of contributions from Bosch to Daimler’s efforts and the increased support of BMW development by Intel and FCA. Surprising to most is that Tesla is now trailing in the rankings at the bottom of the challenger category.
A sampling of key January developments support the top rankings:
GM filed a safety petition with the U.S. Department of Transportation asking for permission to deploy its fourth-generation self-driving Cruise AV, which the company says is the first production-ready vehicle built to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals, or manual controls.
Waymo selected Metro Atlanta as the next testing venue for what it claims is the world’s first fully self-driving vehicles on public roads, now without anyone in the driver’s seat, the latest step a project after more than eight years of development.
Daimler completed the final leg of its five-month-long Intelligent World Drive using a modified Mercedes-Benz S-Class production sedan, the aim of which was to gain insight into real traffic conditions on five continents so that future, more automated driving systems can be adapted to country-specific traffic and user habits.
While the companies tracked in the Navigant top 19 are well known names that have worked hard to attain top status, they can’t rest on their laurels. In addition to the next tier of automotive suppliers, new entrants into the industry are looking to challenge the status quo. Those companies to watch, according to Navigant (in alpha order): Aurora Innovation, AutoX, Comma.ai, Didi, Drive.ai, Embark (previously Varden Labs), FiveAI, Lyft, Magna International, May Mobility, Nauto, Next Future Transportation, Nuro.ai, Valeo, Voyage, ZF Friedrichshafen AG, and Zoox.
No matter how you classify them, the companies to watch will continue accelerating the innovation revolution, helping to drive automated driving systems forward. The tech advancements make for exciting times in the automotive industry.