Who’s winning the race to bring self-driving cars to the masses?
Sorry Elon, a new report doesn’t even have Tesla in its top 10 — instead, auto industry stalwart Ford finished first.
Navigant Research ranked 18 players in the self-driving game, ranked on a set of 10 criteria determined by the firm. It’s an inexact science, especially with intangible concepts like “vision” and “staying power” included for consideration.
Ford came away with the top spot because of its superior ability to execute on a “fully realized strategy,” i.e., controlling the means to actually manufacture cars, according to a blog post that followed the report. That reasoning extended to the other companies leading the ranking, as traditional automakers GM, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Daimler, and Volkswagen Group rounded out the top five spots.
Here’s a look at the top 10:
3. Renault-Nissan Alliance
5. Volkswagen Group
10. Hyundai Motor Group
Ford has arguably made the most noise from traditional automakers of late, which likely pushed it to the top of the group. The “mobility company” famously pledged to have a fully autonomous system ready for mass production by 2021, and has stayed in the headlines with improvements to its Fusion prototype and acquisitions, most notably its $1 billion investment in the fledgling startup Argo AI.
Ford was quick to respond to its favorable place in the study. Raj Nair, Ford’s executive VP of product development and CTO wrote a lengthy Medium post about the top ranking, touting the company’s autonomous strategy and capacity to manufacture vehicles to actually put its self-driving system on the streets.
No love for the new blood
Waymo was the first non-automaker in the roll, coming in at number six. Navigant called out the Alphabet spin-off and its peers for “putting the horse before the cart,” claiming they’ll need to invest “billions more to develop and manufacture vehicles or find an automaker partner willing to supply cars.”
That’s fair — but it’s also not even close to the strategy many of the non-automakers in the space appear to be following. Players like Intel and Nvidia have recently made massive investments in self-driving development projects, with no clear path to manufacturing any vehicles of their own. Instead, the tech companies will focus on creating independent autonomous platforms, which could be massively successful if they prove more effective than in-house developed systems.
Also notably stiffed from the top 10: Tesla. The Elon Musk-fronted electric automaker is arguably the closest company to having self-driving cars on the road. Its HW2-equipped vehicles, which are already in consumers’ driveways, supposedly have the means for Level 5 autonomy once a series of over-the-air (OTA) software updates for its Autopilot system are installed. A fully self-driving demo is slated to take place by the end of 2017.
But Navigant Research made its position clear: what matters most in the race for autonomy is the good old-fashioned means of production. Time will tell if that will hold true, or if the future of mobility will be shifted by unforeseen innovations hidden around the bend.