2016 was a big year for self-driving cars.
Alphabet’s self-driving car unit officially became its own independent company, Waymo. Tesla says its cars now come with hardware that will support full autonomy when the regulatory environment allows it. That doesn’t even mention the various startups, like AutoX, now vying for a foothold in the space.
Navigant Research assessed all the self-driving-car players and has released its leadership grid showing who is most poised to bring Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4 self-driving cars to market in the next decade. Navigant first released its leadership grid in the third-quarter of 2015, but says in its report that the “landscape for automated driving has advanced significantly” since then.
(For reference, Level 2 and 3 autonomous systems refers to vehicles that can handle some complex driving tasks, but still primarily rely on a driver. Level 4 autonomy refers to cars that can drive themselves without any human intervention, but only in certain geographic regions. You can get a better breakdown here.)
Companies on the 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.
Scores were boosted for those who have announced Level 2 autonomy plans for 2017 or 2018 as well as for companies that have publicly demonstrated Level 4 autonomy.
Scroll down to see the 18 companies slated to get their autonomous systems to market first, ranked:
Baidu, a Chinese internet company, has been publicly testing its self-driving-car technology since 2015. In December of that year, a BMW 3-series modified with the company’s autonomous tech completed an 18.3-mile route, performing tasks like lane changes and u-turns.
Baidu also let members of the public take rides in a fleet of electric cars retroffited with driverless tech in November 2016, but the trial only lasted a week. The company has an autonomous testing permit in California and an office in Sunnyvale.
The Beijing-based company plans to produce a limited number of autonomous vehicles for a shared shuttle service in 2018. It plans 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.
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 expanded that trial to its home city of Boston in November of last 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.
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.