Self Driving Cars – Who Will Win the Race?

Unless you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger running from authority in Total Recall, the idea of your personal Johnny Cab taking you where you need to go without worrying about driving there yourself is a fantasy dream.

To help that dream go from fantasy to reality, more and more companies are investing in autonomous cars, carving an interesting space for both enterprises looking to stay ahead of the game, and startups looking to make it big in a quickly growing marketplace.

Why Self-Driving Cars are Needed

While the prospect of catching some Z’s or being more productive on your commute to work sounds nice, it’s important to understand the impact self-driving cars can make on the global economy.

From a consumer demand point of view, it’s a wanted feature, signaling to car companies that consumers will pay a premium for autonomous functionalities – whole or partial.  That fact alone is enough to drive companies to integrate autonomous driving capabilities into their vehicles.

Self driving cars are anticipated to increase efficiency of fuel consumption, reducing the total petrol required to power the car (or, the ultimate dream, go completely electric and bypass the need for gas entirely) as well as reduce the amount of  car accidents, due to sophisticated sensors and lack of human emotion on the roadway.

The environmental impact of self-driving cars is also explored. Smart cities and shared-car/ carpool programs in large metropolitan areas are growing in popularity with the hopes that they will reduce overall traffic, thus improving the quality of life for city inhabitants both in terms of pollution and traffic.  

However not all enterprises have jumped onto the self-driving wagon. For example, insurance companies will be directly impacted by reduced accidents, less pollution and improved vehicle efficiency, an effect that will likely trickle down to reduced medical expenses and insurance premiums for drivers, leading to lower potential income.

Current Marketplace Leaders

The biggest name in the market today is without a doubt Google. Recognizing that 94% of accidents are caused by human error and that the visually impaired and physically
disabled need mobility, Google set out to find a completely self-driving car. Since 2014 Google has come a long way, racking up over
2.2 million miles on 34 prototype vehicles and 24 Lexus RX450h SUV’s.

Tesla, the pioneer in electric vehicles unveiled their Summon functionality in 2015 as part of their goal to unveil a fleet of completely autonomous cars. CEO, Elon Musks’ open call
for autonomous car program-engineers on
Twitter garnered immense social media buzz for the company competing with Google.  

Never too far behind any technological breakthrough, innovation powerhouse, Apple, recently hinted that they too are jumping into
the ring, working on a self-driving car. Apple said they are “excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”  

Other automotive leaders that have pledged to put driverless cars on the road include Mercedez-Benz with the F015, Audi, which plans to unveil the ‘Piloted Driving’ feature in their 4th Generation A8, BMW who plans to pilot their autonomous ride-sharing service in Munich as early as 2017, Volvo that will take full liability for cars using the autopilot mode, and more.  

One thing is for sure – 2017 will undoubtedly be a year we see more breakthrough in automobiles than in the past 50 years.

Who Else Can and May Enter The Market?

While it seems that the automotive industry dominates the self-driving car market, more and more collaborations are springing up between enterprises and automotive brands, and startups and enterprises, as all compete for the first mover advantage.  

Startups are leveraging their reputations for being out-of-the-box thinkers and are adjusting technologies to suit the rapidly growing self-driving car market. The largest chipmaker in the world, Intel, allocated $250M towards startups in the self-driving car vertical, signaling a demand for technological breakthroughs from enterprises.

Until the first enterprise shakes the self-driving scene, more and more startups will enter the market in attempt to conceive enterprises and automotive companies that they offer a needed technology. They will be there eagerly awaiting any opportunity to merge new technologies into existing solutions.

Good news – as long as you’re not in any rush, it’s looking like Johnny Cab isn’t as far away as you might’ve thought!