- Navigant Research
Lyft announced Wednesday that it will team up with Ford on self-driving cars, the latest addition to a growing list of partners.
The news shows how rapidly the self-driving-car space is shaping up. With so many players in the space, companies are exploring new tactics to get their product to market first.
We decided to take a step back and see where each company stands in the race to make robot cars a reality.
Navigant Research assessed all the self-driving-car players and released a leadership grid in April showing who is most poised to bring Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4 self-driving cars to market in the next decade.
Companies on the Leadership Grid were assessed on 10 criteria: vision; go-to-market strategy; partners; production strategy; technology; product capability; sales, marketing & distribution; product quality and reliability; product portfolio; staying power. The companies were then given an overall score out of 100 based on their performance in each category.
The leadership is bound to change next year as companies work to bolster their position in the space, but scroll down to see the top contenders this year:
Baidu, a Chinese internet company, has been publicly testing its self-driving-car technology since 2015.
The company allowed members of the public to take rides in its fleet of electric, autonomous cars for the first time in Nov. 2016, but the trial only lasted a week. The company has an autonomous testing permit in California and an office in Sunnyvale.
Baidu in September launched a $1.5 billion fund dedicated to autonomous-car development. The Beijing-based company plans to produce a limited number of autonomous vehicles for a shared shuttle service in 2018 and to mass produce self-driving cars in 2021.
Navigant Research gave Baidu an overall score of 47.1 out of a possible 100, noting that the company ended its partnership with BMW in November of last year.
- Thomson Reuters
NuTonomy, a Boston-based startup spun out of MIT in 2013, has been quietly making big moves in the self-driving-car space.
In August 2016, nuTonomy became the first company to launch a fleet of self-driving taxis under a pilot program in Singapore. The startup has since partnered with Lyft to launch a pilot in Boston before the end of this year.
NuTonomy has raised $20 million in venture funding through 2016. Investors include the government of Singapore and Fontinalis Partners, a venture fund founded Bill Ford, the executive chairman of Ford.
Navigant Research gave nuTonomy an overall score of 51.6 out of a possible 100.
- Business Insider/Corey Protin
Despite drawing a lot of attention when it launched its self-driving-car pilot in Pittsburgh last September, Uber is relatively low on Navigant’s list.
In December, Uber got into a public dispute with the California DMV after launching a self-driving-car pilot in San Francisco without first obtaining an autonomous vehicles testing permit. Uber left California for Arizona after the DMV revoked registration of its 16 self-driving Volvo XC90s.
In January, Uber formed a partnership with Daimler. “This could be a hedge by Uber in the event that its in-house technology development does not work out – or if it proves to be too expensive to operate its own fleet of vehicles,” Navigant wrote in its report.
Waymo is suing Uber, claiming the ride-hailing service stole the intellectual property for its lidar system.
Navigant Research gave Uber an overall score of 54.5 out of a possible 100.
- Reuters/Noah Berger
Honda has taken a conservative approach to self-driving cars.
The company is more focused on expanding its assisted driving features in its current vehicles rather than pushing for full autonomy. Honda has an autonomous vehicle testing permit in California, but only tested on closed courses in 2016, Navigant wrote in its report.
However, Waymo is currently considering partnering with Honda. Honda would most likely supply vehicles for Waymo’s test fleet.
Navigant Research gave Honda an overall score of 55.1 out of a possible 100.
- Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
German auto supplier ZF is surprisingly high on Navigant’s list.
Its score was largely boosted following ZF CEO Stefan Sommer announcement at CES 2017 that it will commercialize NVIDIA’s PX2 processing platform with its self-driving system, ProAI. ZF is therefore the first company to bring the NVIDIA computing platform into production. ProAI is slated to appear in production vehicles in 2020.
ZF also acquired TRW, a Michigan-based supplier of automated systems, in 2015.
Navigant Research gave ZF an overall score of 64 out of a possible 100.
Although Toyota is taking a more conservative approach to self-driving cars than other companies, the Japanese automaker is investing heavily in autonomous driving features.
That’s most apparent by the company’s five-year, $1 billion investment in the Toyota Research Insistute. The TRI was launched with the mandate of making a car incapable of causing a crash. The TRI announced Wednesday that it is partnering with Luminar, a startup headed by a 22-year-old with connections to Peter Thiel, on autonomous tech.
Navigant wrote in its report that as one of the world’s largest and most profitable OEMs, Toyota has the resources and expertise to make fully automated vehicles.
Navigant Research gave Toyota an overall score of 64.2 out of a possible 100.
That’s right, Tesla didn’t make the top 10 in Navigant’s report.
Although Tesla’s self-driving features have come a long way, Navigant said there were reasons to doubt the automaker’s ability to achieve Level 4 autonomy.
Tesla cars are currently being built with new hardware that will improve Tesla Autopilot, renaming the system Autopilot 2, and set the foundation for full autonomy. A Tesla will drive itself from Los Angeles to New York before mid-2018 to demonstrate the technology, the company claims.
Crash rates for Tesla cars have plummeted 40% since Autopilot was first installed in 2015.
But Navigant wrote in its report that Tesla’s Autopilot system has faced its challenges, including a fatal accident in May 2016 while the system was activated. The National Highway Traffic Safety administration said Autopilot was not at fault because the driver had ample time to intervene and prevent the accident, but as the Navigant report notes, there’s a history of drivers misusing Autopilot and engaging in other tasks while it’s on.
Navigant also wrote it’s skeptical Tesla will achieve full Level 4 autonomy without embracing lidar technology, a sensor that shoots lasers so cars can detect obstacles.
Navigant Research gave Tesla an overall score of 64.5 out of a possible 100.
- YouTube/ PSA Peugeot Citroën
PSA is the second-largest car manufacturer in Europe and is planning to have fully driverless cars on the road in 2020. Four of the automaker’s self-driving cars drove 360 miles between Paris and Bordeaux in France in October 2015.
ZF announced in 2016 it will supply cameras, radar, and software for PSA vehicles with self-driving capabilities. Those cars will hit roads in 2018.
Navigant Research gave PSA an overall score of 65.3 out of a possible 100.
10. Hyundai Motor Group
- Cadie Thompson/Business Insider
Hyundai has been deploying advanced driver assistance systems, like lane-keep assist, in vehicles like the 2016 Elantra. Hyundai plans to have a suite of self-driving features in production vehicles in 2020, but won’t commit to full autonomy until 2030.
At CES 2017, Hyundai showcased an autonomous prototype of its Ioniq electric car.
Navigant Research gave Hyundai an overall score of 66.4 out of a possible 100.
- Thomson Reuters
Delphi also signed a deal with Intel in November 2016, agreeing to buy its high-powered computer processors for self-driving systems. Intel recently acquired autonomous tech company Mobileye in a deal worth $15.3 billion.
“Delphi is the highest ranking automotive supplier in this edition of the Leaderboard Report, having rapidly moved to the forefront of automated driving development over the past 3 years,” Navigant wrote in its report.
Navigant Research gave Delphi an overall score of 70.7 out of a possible 100.
Volvo said it plans to make its cars “deathproof” by 2020 by rolling out semi-autonomous features over time.
The Swedish automaker is letting families test self-driving Volvos in Gothenburg, Sweden and London this year as part of its Drive Me program. Volvo will also conduct an “advanced autonomous driving experiment” in China, where 100 volunteers will be able to test driverless Volvo XC90s on public roads, but the automaker hasn’t said when that trial will start.
Volvo and Uber agreed to a $300 million alliance in August to develop autonomous vehicles, which are currently being tested in Arizona.
Navigant Research gave Volvo an overall score of 73.4 out of a possible 100.
Since launching in 2009 as Google’s self-driving-car project, Waymo’s cars have driven over 2 million miles autonomously.
Waymo has partnered with Fiat Chrysler and there are reports that the two will launch a robot taxi service by the end of 2017. The company is also building all of its hardware in-house, allowing it to slash the price of its lidar system by 90%, Waymo says. Lidar is notoriously expensive and high-end systems can cost as much as $75,000 a pop.
Waymo has also announced partnerships with Lyft, Avis, and Intel.
Navigant Research gave Waymo an overall score of 73.4 out of a possible 100. That’s the same score as Volvo, but Waymo edged out Volvo in execution.
BMW has released advanced driver assistance tech in its luxury vehicles, like the BMW 7-Series and 5-Series, pictured above. For example, its Driver Assistant Plus package offers lane-keep assist, parking assist, and traffic jam assist.
BMW plans to release a fully driverless car in 2021 and has teamed up with Intel and Mobileye to do so.
Navigant Research gave Waymo an overall score of 75.2 out of a possible 100.
5. Volkswagen Group
Volkswagen Group has been developing autonomous systems ever since winning the DARPA grand challenge in 2006. Volkswagen’s brand Audi was the first company to receive an autonomous driving permit in Nevada in 2012 and has also obtained one in California.
In 2015, an Audi A7 drove 550 miles in autopilot mode from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas.
Audi recently announced it was teaming up with NVIDIA to bring self-driving cars to market in 2020.
Navigant Research gave Volkswagen Group an overall score of 75.9 out of a possible 100.
Additionally, a Mercedes big-rig truck made history in 2015 when it drove itself on a public highway in 2015. Daimler aims to have its driverless trucks road-ready in 2020.
“Daimler is likely to continue as a leader in technology development; however, its position as a premium brand makes it inherently less accessible to mainstream audiences,” Navigant wrote in its report.
Navigant Research gave Daimler an overall score of 77.7 out of a possible 100.
3. Renault-Nissan Alliance
- Thomson Reuters
The automaker has released ProPILOT, a self-driving feature that lets cars drive autonomously on highways, in its production vehicles in Japan. Renault-Nissan also plans to roll out ProPILOT in Europe, the US, and China as well. Its ultimate aim is to keep adding autonomous features to ProPILOT until it’s cars are fully self-driving in 2020.
Nissan is currently exploring using call centers so someone on standby can intervene if its self-driving car can’t handle a certain driving scenario.
Navigant Research gave Renault-Nissan an overall score of 82 out of a possible 100.
2. General Motors
GM has made several, big investments in self-driving cars.
The Detroit-based automaker invested $500 million in Lyft in January 2016 to create a network of ride-hailing, self-driving vehicles. GM also acquired self-driving-car startup Cruise Automation for $581 million in July 2016. Cruise said in Septemeber that it’s ready to mass-produce a self-driving car.
GM CEO Mary Barra said in December that the company will start testing its self-driving Chevy Bolt electric cars in Michigan. The company is also testing its cars in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Barra told Business Insider’s Cadie Thompson that its first self-driving car for public use will be its all-electric Chevy Bolt. She also said GM is focused on testing its cars on different road conditions to ensure safety.
“A lot of the conversation has been about, ‘Oh, we have this many miles,’ but it’s not as much about the miles as it is about the experiences that the car learns,” she told Business Insider.
Navigant Research gave General Motors an overall score of 84.8 out of a possible 100.
Lastly, that brings us to our leader: Ford.
The Detroit-based automaker aims to roll out a fleet of driverless vehicles in a ride-hailing or -sharing service in 2021. Ford is tripling the size of its autonomous test fleet to 100 cars this year, which are currently being tested in Arizona, Michigan, and California.
The Big 3 automaker has been pursuing autonomous vehicles since it entered the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005.
Ford and Baidu invested $150 million in Velodyne, a lidar manufacturer, in 2016. In February, Ford invested $1 billion (to be spread out over 5 years) in Argo AI, a secretive artificial intelligence startup based in Pittsburgh, to aid its autonomous car efforts. Ford also announced Wednesday that it will partner with Lyft on self-driving cars.
Navigant Research gave Ford an overall score of 85 out of a possible 100.