Automakers, technology companies, and other startups are racing to introduce the first truly viable self-driving vehicle to market. The race is far from over, but a new study from Navigant Research shows Cruise Automation, the General Motors subsidiary, and Waymo, Google’s self-driving endeavor, are far ahead of the pack. Companies that are significantly trailering the industry include Silicon Valley darlings Tesla and Apple.
The study, which looks at 10 different criteria, is fascinating. Waymo and Cruise Automation are big players in the space, but development at Ford, in third, has flown under the radar. Tesla, on the other hand, is well-known for its misleading Autopilot suite of advanced driver-assistance systems. However, it still lags far behind the competition in the Navigant Research study, according to The Detroit Free Press.
The study, titled “Navigant Research Leaderboard: Automated Driving Vehicles: Assessment of Strategy and Execution for 20 Companies Developing Automated Driving Systems,” looked at 10 criteria ranging from the technical capability to the viability of a business plan. On a scale of 100, Cruise Automation and Waymo nearly tied, scoring 86.6 and 86.7, respectively. Ford scored 84.2.
The study shows why General Motors is restructuring its business model to facilitate better the development of self-driving cars going forward. It also shows why technology companies and investors are partnering with legacy automakers such as General Motors. Both Honda and SoftBank invested a total of $5 billion into Cruise Automation.
General Motors bought Cruise Automation in 2016, growing its staff of around 400 to over 1,000 by the end of last year. The company is expanding, too, opening new offices in Seattle, Pasadena, and San Francisco while also planning to double its staff. General Motors is also doubling its autonomous vehicle efforts, too.
Cruise Automation is set to launch its autonomous ride-sharing service sometime this year likely in San Francisco. The Navigant Research study shows Cruise and General Motors are on the right course for now. However, anyone following the technology or automotive industry knows followers can become leaders and vice versa.