April 4, 2017

Navigant Research has released an interesting new assessment which says GM and Ford are still leaders even in self-driving technology.

Auto industry is seeing a change…?

Just yesterday, Tesla set a new record for Q1 of 2017 by delivering a whopping 25,000 vehicles. For the first time ever, Elon Musk’s company surpassed the market cap of Ford, a “traditional” automaker that’s been around for more than 100 years. Many seem to think EVs and autonomous cars are the future, and often times, the past kings of Detroit’s auto industry – GM and Ford – are left out of the conversation.

However, according to the latest research published by Navigant, Detroit’s traditional car companies are not only doing well in terms of future car technology, but in fact, they are leading the market.

As you can see, this particular assessment indicates that GM and Ford are leaders in self-driving technology based on 10 different criteria related to strategy, manufacturing, and execution. The next up are companies like Daimler and Renault-Nissan although most are considered as “contenders”: BMW, Google’s Waymo, Hyundai Motor Group, Toyota, Tesla, and VW Group.

Where is Uber?

Another interesting aspect is that Uber is not even considered a contender; in fact, it’s grouped as one of the few “challengers” amongst Honda, Baidu, and nuTonomy. Considering the amount of press it’s been getting over its self-driving fleet and the scandal over Waymo’s lawsuit, it’s surprising that Uber is ranked so poorly.

As Sam Abuelsamid, a senior research analyst at Navigant, explains, Silicon Valley may have innovative ideas, but its lack of experience with actual vehicles could prove itself to be inadequate compared to traditional Michigan companies:

Waymo has what is arguably the best technology right now, although they probably aren’t that far ahead of the leading [original equipment manufacturers] but they will have to do deals with someone to get actual vehicles. There is also the issue of all the edge cases, bad weather, poor infrastructure, etc. All the little [Silicon Valley] startups may have some interesting ideas, but they don’t have the resources to produce something sufficiently robust to be commercially viable. If they have something good to offer, their best bet is an acquisition.

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