As investors, corporations, and startups look towards the future of personal transport, they often invoke the concept of self-driving taxi fleets, providing mobility-as-a-service and supplanting traditional ownership models. Tech companies and startups are racing to deploy the first of these solutions; just this past last week nuTonomy began trialing the world’s first autonomous taxi in Singapore, while Uber announced its first formal initiative slated for Pittsburgh.
In response, traditional automotive OEMs have begun making deals at a frantic place, seeking to remedy their shortcomings in auto tech and ride-hailing disciplines. Using CB Insights data, we mapped out the key auto tech partnerships, investments, and acquisitions of these corporations over the past three years.
We focused on auto OEMs’ private markets activity within our definition of auto tech, which includes startups using software to improve safety, convenience, and efficiency in vehicles (and excludes activity in fields such as energy/powertrain, parking, and rentals/marketplaces). We also looked at their major engagements with ride-hailing companies and large tech corporations.
Click on the image to enlarge. Venture investments are placed at the date of first investment.
Scanning the timeline, the acceleration of activity seen in 2016 is immediately obvious. In May, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) struck a partnership with self-driving pioneer Google, putting to bed rumors of the tech giant partnering with other automakers such as Ford.
The flurry of May activity also featured three ride-hailing and ride-sharing tie-ups in a single week, with Volkswagen and Toyota making corporate minority investments in Gett ($300M) and Uber (amount undisclosed), respectively. Although not included here, Apple also made waves by committing $1B to the Chinese ride-sharing leader Didi Chuxing during the same month.
Deal pace has only accelerated in the months since, no doubt fueled by pressure to keep pace with rivals and secure partnerships with the finite pool of top tech and ride-hailing companies. Since July 2016, Ford and Daimler have been especially active with direct corporate deals. Ford has invested in mapping (Civil Maps), LiDAR (Velodyne, with Baidu), and computer vision (Nirenberg Neuroscience), while also acquiring the Israeli startup SAIPS for self-driving machine learning.
Daimler’s recent moves have focused on ride-hailing and ride-sharing, with Stuttgart taking a corporate majority stake in Hailo while leading a Series C to Germany-based Blacklane. Under its moovel subsidiary, Daimler plans to merge Hailo with myTaxi (which it acquired in 2014) to create a ride-hailing challenger of credible scale.
These moves follow GM’s January 2016 purchase of Sidecar‘s assets and its $500M minority stake in Lyft; the latter partnership has already put self-driving Chevy Bolt vehicles on track to be trialed with Lyft within a year. Even before 2016, GM’s Opel brand invested in Germany-based flinc through the GM Ventures unit.
The venture arms of BMW, GM, and Volvo have also steadily invested in startups working in key fields of auto tech. These CVCs have deployed multiple funding rounds to fleet automation and telematics companies, such as RideCell, Telogis, and Peloton. Beyond these, BMW i Ventures has invested in the connected car app Zendrive, while Ford acquired the in-car software startup Livio in September 2013 to improve the connectivity of its vehicles.
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