Four Tech Companies Behind The Autonomous Car Evolution

The race to develop Self-Driving or Autonomous vehicles is not only on, it’s smoking. Initially, the development of autonomous technology started slow. Back in 2009, Google’s self-driving car project was in its infancy, starting with their self-imposed challenge of driving uninterrupted 100-mile routes in a specially equipped Toyota Prius vehicles. It wasn’t until 2012, and after clocking over 300,000 highway miles, that Google shifted the route for their self-driving cars to include complex city streets. The following year, domestic and overseas auto manufacturers, started testing their own driverless car systems and the race started to pick up steam.

Flash forward to today and auto manufacturers have made alliances with technology companies to incorporate innovations in assisted driving and connectivity and integrate future autonomous driving systems. Tesla, for one, has boasted that all of the vehicles currently produced in their factory are equipped with full self-driving capability when the software is ready. Autonomous driving systems require sophisticated security, enhanced computer processing, built-in mapping systems, cameras, radar, sensors, and even ‘Artificial Intelligence’ that can mimic or exceed the skills of a safe driver. The first self-driving car on the mass market could be a huge game-changer for the entire industry and reshape how we interact with our cars, streets, and cities. But it is safe to say that most consumers don’t even know who is working behind the scenes on the technology that will underpin potential self-driving cars from Tesla, Uber, or Apple. So, what are some of the publicly traded companies that are competing to develop the mass-market self-driving car? These are the biggest players:

Intel/Mobileye: In a $15.3 billion transaction announced earlier this year, Intel acquired Israel-based Mobileye, the largest supplier of automotive collision detection systems in the world, to develop autonomous driving systems. Mobileye previously worked with Tesla but severed their relationship last year amid controversy over the self-driving technology platform after a fatal crash in Florida. After the closing of the Mobileye deal, Intel announced that it will build a fleet of 100 Level 4 fully self-driving vehicles for testing in select markets, with the first vehicles hitting the road before the end of 2017. In addition to developing their own fleet, Intel has alliances with Fiat Chrysler, BMW and Toyota to develop technology ecosystems for connected cars.

NXP Semiconductors: One of the largest suppliers of chips to the auto sector, and currently the target of a potential merger with Qualcomm, NXP recently launched what it claims to be the world’s first one-chip system to enhance vehicle infotainment connectivity. This device could replace multichip systems and bulky circuit boards, saving space and reducing costs. This would be very important in an industry with thin margins and expensive production costs. NXP has also developed a portfolio of automobile self-driving solutions that include sensors, radar, and vision technologies. Should the merger with Qualcomm proceed, the combined company will be in direct competition with Intel.

Qualcomm: US computer chip behemoth Qualcomm has been active in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) space for over 10 years, focusing on AI implementation for end devices such as smartphones, robots, and vehicles, enabling processing ability with or without a network or Wi-Fi connection. Most recently they launched Drive Data Platform, which is used for collating and responding to a vehicle’s sensor inputs, such as camera and radar. Yesterday Qualcomm upped the AI ante by announcing the acquisition of University of Amsterdam-affiliated Scyfer B.V., a company focused on cutting-edge machine learning techniques, which has successfully built AI solutions for companies across the world. Should the merger with NXP succeed, the combined entity could take on Intel in automotive chips and software technology.

NVIDIA: NVIDIA’s AI computing architecture incorporates a suite of systems for self-driving autos, designed to seamlessly function throughout the vehicle and offering an end-to-end AI solution: NVIDIA Drive PX, the AI car computer, Driveworks software for autonomous driving, and HD Mapping. Toyota and Volvo selected NVIDIA Drive PX for their autonomous vehicle projects. Audi just announced this week that the forthcoming A8 model, the first production car complete with a Level 3 self-driving feature, will be powered using NVIDIA’s technology. The Audi A8 will have six processors that power not only the autonomous driving features, but also the infotainment system, virtual cockpit instrumentation system, and headrest tablets for those riding in the back seat.

When you’re shopping for a new car, it might say Chevrolet, Toyota, or Hyundai on the hood, but there’s a whole other company under the dashboard working to change the way you drive forever.

These companies listed above are for information purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation for investment. Those considering investment in any company shares should do their own research and due diligence.