Innovation constantly drives the human race further into the future. This week’s column focuses on the technology that is literally driving us around.
Self-driving cars are now becoming a true reality in our present. For years, the innovation for self-driving cars has been led by familiar names like Ford, Renault-Nissan and the top contender, General Motors (GM).
Navigant Research has released an annual autonomous driving scorecard that scores the roughly 20 companies that are working on self-driving cars. The scorecard has been used each year since 2015.
The scorecard is based on criteria of strategy, manufacturing and execution of the technology. Using their criteria, the scorecard ranks the companies as followers, challengers, contenders and leaders. Four companies were leaders in last year’s scorecard, but this year there are eight.
The eight leaders are GM, Waymo, Daimler-Bosch, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW-Intel-FCA, Aptiv and Renault-Nissan. The group of leaders demonstrates that automotive companies are accepting that autonomous cars are the future and that tech companies are interested in joining the driverless car market.
GM continues to lead the scorecard. GM spends a lot of money and makes aggressive promises of progress. The company acquired several startups focused on autonomous vehicles, expanded its car-sharing service and set goals towards releasing a fleet of driverless taxis with no steering wheel or pedals in 2019.
One of the big advantages that GM has is the ability to mass produce the self-driving Chevrolet Bolts. Navigant described GM as “well positioned to have a successful early deployment of highly automated driving in the coming years.”
Coming in at number two on the scorecard this year is Waymo. Waymo is a year-old Google spinoff company. After several bold moves last year and a strong showing in the North American International Auto Show, Waymo’s push into self-driving cars shot the company up the rankings. Partnering with more automotive companies like Fiat-Chrysler, Lyft and Avis helped Waymo build its experience in the building, maintaining an operation of a fleet of vehicles.
Waymo has plans for a fully driverless automotive ride service in Arizona by early 2018. It would be the first to remove the traditional human safety driver.
While these two autonomous car giants are looking sharp, familiar names like Apple and Tesla are at the bottom of Navigant’s ranking. Navigant describes Apple as having “never developed a product as complex as an automobile,” but having “existing capabilities that make it uniquely positioned to participate in the automated driving space.”
The company has a license to test in California, and its test runs have been spotted in public several times. Telsa has made huge promises for autonomous cars, but Navigant deemed Telsa’s actual progress to be underperforming. From company finances to software limitations, Tesla does not appear poised for a big run in self-driving cars.
With the strides that GM and Waymo made, Navigant has predicted the first driverless car that any of us may ride in is going to be manufactured by one of these two frontrunners.
The irony is that there is now a growing rivalry between a company spun off of Google only a year ago and a century-old automotive company.