Beyond trendy names like Tesla and Alphabet chasing self-driving cars, a host of auto brands and other tech heavyweights are also investing heavily in autonomous R&D.

Want to receive a weekly deep dive into all things auto, transportation, & logistics tech?
Click here to subscribe to our auto tech newsletter.

Private companies working in auto tech are attracting record levels of deals and fundingwith autonomous driving startups leading the charge. Besides early-stage startups, VCs, and other investors, large companies are also eagerly chasing a slice of the self-driving pie.

Using CB Insights’ investment, acquisition, and partnership data, we identified 44 companies developing roadgoing self-driving vehicles. They are a diverse group of players, ranging from automotive industry stalwarts to leading technology brands and telecommunications companies.

This list is organized alphabetically and focuses on larger corporate players in the space (as opposed to earlier-stage startups). Companies working on industrial autonomous vehicles were not included in this analysis.

A few of the companies or brands listed below belong to the same parent organization, but are detailed separately if they are operating distinct autonomous development programs. Some companies are also grouped together by key partnerships or alliances; given the complex web of relationships between these players, other collaborations are also noted in each profile.

Auto Tech Trends
This webinar analyzes the corporations working on auto tech initiatives, the startups looking to transform the future of transport, and the array of industries that face upheavals from these trends.

This brief was originally published on 9/25/2015 with 25 select corporations. As of 5/17/2017, it has been expanded to 44 select corporations and updated to reflect recent developments. This list is not intended to be exhaustive of corporations in the space.

Apple Plays Catch-Up

Apple’s “Project Titan” has been a perennial favorite within the automotive rumor mill. Initial reports suggested the project was targeting an advanced electric vehicle, but the initiative suffered setbacks in early 2016, with the departure of project head Steve Zadesky and a rumored hiring freeze, as well as strategic uncertainty over the vision of the project.

Cupertino responded in July 2016 by tapping its legendary hardware executive Bob Mansfield to lead its effort, as well as hiring the founder and former CEO of QNX. The hires were linked to a shift in strategy, with the project said to be prioritizing the development of an autonomous driving system, while deprioritizing an electric vehicle car itself. In April 2017, details emerged confirming this pivot, with Apple documents detailing an “automated system” and the company hiring robotics experts from NASA.

Apple’s vehicular patent activity has also started to pick up steam; CB Insights subscribers can view the company’s vehicle-related patents here.

Read More: The Guardian, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal

Audi Creates Autonomous Driving Subsidiary

Audi has revealed several autonomous vehicle prototypes derived from their A7- and RS7 models, including consumer-oriented test vehicles. Late in July 2016, news broke that Audi was joining many automotive peers with its own advanced subsidiary named SDS Company, focusing on self-driving tech. April 2017 reports indicate that Audi has hired a former Tesla Autopilot program manager as the unit’s CTO.

Audi plans to commercialize its technology in its next-generation A8 flagship, although the vehicle’s SAE Level 3 (conditional) automation will have limited availability pending regulatory approvals. The luxury brand operates under the umbrella of the Volkswagen Group, so developments within the division could have broader implications going forward.

Audi is part of the German consortium — including Daimler and BMW — that bought Nokia’s HERE precision mapping assets for $3.1B. HERE has also recently made strides in their initiative to design an open specification for vehicle sensor data collected and transmitted by connected vehicles.

Read More: AudiWiredDigital TrendsUSA Today

Autoliv and Volvo Cars Establish Zenuity


The Geely-owned Volvo car brand has also made progress with self-driving passenger vehicles. With a reputation for safety innovations, Volvo labeled its autonomous vehicle endeavors “Intellisafe,” with the goal of making Volvo cars “deathless” when the company fully rolls out these features to the public. For now, Volvo is planning to give 100 Swedish customers early-access to an autonomous XC90 SUV in 2017 (with restrictions on the area, time, and context in which autonomous mode will be used).

The company has stated that it will accept full liability when its vehicles are in autonomous mode, and has announced plans to expand its pilot program to China and the United States. Volvo has followed rivals like BMW in setting 2021 as a target deployment date.

After searching for collaborators to work with, Volvo announced a self-driving joint venture with Swedish supplier Autoliv in January 2017. Dubbed Zenuity, the joint venture is aiming to commercialize its first driver assist systems by 2019, also making them available to other automakers.

Note: Volvo Cars is now distinct from the independent Volvo Group brand, which focuses on heavy-duty commercial trucks, buses, and equipment.

Read More: Volvo, WiredIB Times

Baidu Plans Autonomous Car Spinoff, Mass Production


In April 2014, the Chinese search giant Baidu partnered with BMW to release a semi-autonomous prototype by the end of 2015. The partners tested their technologies on highways in China, a potentially fertile ground for autonomous development, but parted ways in November 2016 after disagreements on strategy.

In June 2016, Baidu CEO Robin Li disclosed a five-year goal for the mass production of driverless vehicles. The search giant has opened a Silicon Valley AI research lab, although Andrew Ng (its chief AI scientist) departed the company in March 2017. Baidu also intends to spin off its self-driving unit once it matures sufficiently (akin to Alphabet’s Waymo).

Read MoreGuardianBBC

BMW-Intel-Mobileye Alliance Forges Ahead; Intel Buys Mobileye


BMW has begun aggressively pushing its autonomous strategy, showing off an autonomous i8 concept at CES 2016 and announcing a formal initiative to promote automation in its vehicles under the banner BMW iNEXT, a pivot of its BMW i EV sub-brand.

The Munich-based automaker followed this announcement by securing an alliance with Intel and Mobileye. The coalition plans to create an open standards-based platform for bringing self-driving cars to market, aiming to put vehicles on the road by 2021.

Intel, of course, has been keen to push into the sector, having been beaten to the punch by companies like NXP and Nvidia to supply automotive silicon and autonomous processing power. In late 2016, it created a new Autonomous Driving Group (ADG) and committed $250M to auto tech investments through its Intel Capital arm. In March 2017, the chipmaker ratcheted its catch-up strategy to a new level by announcing a $15.3B acquisition of Mobileye, a deal expected to close in roughly nine months.

Mobileye itself has a number of other partnerships through its Road Experience Management (REM) mapping platform, including Nissan and VW as well as BMW.

BMW is also part of the group that bought Nokia’s HERE mapping assets for $3.1B. Intel has recently taken a 15% stake in HERE as well.

Read More: BMW Group, WSJ

Bosch, Mercedes Join Forces

Bosch, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, has responded to an increase in demand by dedicating more than 2,000 engineers to driver-assistance systems. The company is also partnering with GPS maker TomTom for the mapping data necessary for this endeavor. The company has projected that self-driving cars will be in action by 2020, at least on highways. In an April 2016 interview, a Bosch marketing director reiterated the company’s commitment to autonomous, connected, and electric vehicles.

Mercedes has also been taking other steps toward self-driving cars. Like other luxury marques, Mercedes has begun deploying semi-automated advanced driver assistance systems to many of its newer models. An ad characterizing its 2017 E-Class as “self-driving” landed the company in hot water, as the company pulled the ad in the face of fierce criticism from consumer advocates. Like Tesla’s Autopilot, the E-Class was capable of Level 2 (partial) automation.

Since April 2017, the two companies have joined forces to develop Level 4 (high automation) and 5 (full automation) vehicles, with Mercedes having two years of exclusivity on the co-developed system before it can be offered to competing automakers.

Mercedes-Benz is a brand of Daimler AG. We’ve examined how its parent company has become highly active in private markets as of late.

Read More: Forbes, Fortune, Wired

Continental AG Taking Incremental Approach


Continental AG, the longtime German auto supplier, has steadily been operating its own autonomous vehicle program. The company has been taking a gradual approach to self-driving cars, only committing to a vague “2020s” timeframe for its products, and preferring to gradually roll out driver-assist technologies such as its “Cruising Chauffer.”

In April 2017, Continental expanded its Silicon Valley research operations by opening an R&D lab in San Jose, California. The lab will focus on developing self-driving cars that can communicate with one another as well as with roadway infrastructure. Continental also said it would invest $300M to expand electric and hybrid vehicle technologies.

Read More: ReutersSFGATE

Get Our Auto Tech Newsletter
A data-driven resource covering auto tech startups, innovation, and how incumbents are responding

DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania, and Volvo Complete Truck ‘Platooning’ Trip


In April 2016, six convoys of truck “platoons” completed the first-ever cross-border run of its kind. The experiment featured a dozen trucks from a diverse group of European brands, originating from various factories and converging in Rotterdam.

Within the semi-autonomous “platooning” concept, multiple trucks controlled by a lead truck are connected through wireless signals, forming a train with one truck following behind another. This allows more trucks to be controlled by fewer people, maximizes efficiency, and decreases drag. However, the trucks featured in the test still required human drivers on board as a precaution. Separately, Daimler has also been testing its own autonomous trucks in Nevada since May 2015.

Note: the Volkswagen Group owns a controlling stake in both MAN and Scania. Daimler Trucks is a division of Daimler AG, which was also part of the group that bought Nokia’s mapping assets for $3.1B. Volvo Trucks is now a distinct company from the Geely-owned Volvo Car Group mentioned above.

Read MoreBBCForbesBBC

Delphi Also Partnering With BMW-Intel-Mobileye

Delphi, a large automotive parts supplier headquartered in the UK, has created a network of software and sensors that can be outfitted into existing car models to make them autonomous. The company followed a 2015 cross-US autonomous drive by showing off an autonomous driving concept at CES 2016. The concept’s human-machine interface attempts to address the stepping-stone stage before full (or Level 5) automation is ready, encouraging consumers to trust that the car will keep drivers vigilant so they can take the wheel if necessary.

Delphi was also selected by the Singapore’s Land Transit Authority to begin an automated mobility pilot program in the city-state; it has also planned robotaxi pilots for the US and Europe. The company has partnered with the VC-backed unicorn Quanergy to develop and deploy solid-state LiDAR, which could dramatically lower the cost of these systems if successful (other startups are also working on improved sensing and vision solutions).

Most recently, reports in August 2016 indicated that the supplier would partner with Mobileye to develop a less LiDAR-reliant autonomous driving system that automakers could purchase beginning in 2019. Intel joined the collaboration in December 2016 (before its acquisition of Mobileye itself), and the BMW-Intel-Mobileye trio added Delphi as an integration partner in May 2017.

Read MoreArstechnicaDelphi

Didi Chuxing Hires Uber, Waymo Engineers For AI Lab


After absorbing Uber’s China unit, the ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is now following its US counterpart into self-driving research. In March 2017, Didi opened its own artificial intelligence lab in the heart of Silicon Valley, creating a distinct unit to drive its R&D for intelligent driving systems and AI-based security for transportation.

Didi Chuxing has already poached a number of noteworthy engineers for its new lab, including Charlie Miller (formerly of Uber’s autonomous vehicle security unit) and Jia Zhaoyin, a senior software engineer at Alphabet’s Waymo unit. It is also one of several companies to partner with Udacity to hire graduates from the startup’s self-driving “nanodegree” program.

Read More: Bloomberg

Ford Tapping Private Markets For Self-Driving, AI Capabilities


In early 2015, Ford announced its “Smart Mobility Plan” to move the company forward on innovation, including vehicle connectivity and autonomous vehicles. This plan culminated in the formation of Ford Smart Mobility LLC in March 2016, a new subsidiary focused on connectivity, autonomous vehicles, and mobility (e.g. car- and ride-sharing services). As part of its 10-year autonomous vehicle plan, Ford also announced that it would triple its test fleet to 30 total vehicles in January. It has pioneered the testing of self-driving cars in less friendly environments, such as snowy Michigan, as well as in complete darkness. The company plans to roll out highly autonomous vehicles within pre-mapped, geofenced areas by 2021.

The company has aggressively pursued external investment and acquisition opportunities since the latter half of 2016, backing or acquiring companies working in AI, LiDAR, and mapping. Its biggest move yet came in February 2017, when Ford announced that it would take a majority stake in AI startup Argo, investing $5B over the course of 5 years. Argo will operate with significant autonomy, becoming a de facto AI research (and recruiting) center for Ford.

Read More: Ford, Business Insider, Forbes

GM, Lyft Aim To Deploy Thousands Of Self-Driving Test Cars In 2018


General Motors made waves in 2016 with a series of aggressive moves within the tech sphere. In January, the company bought up Sidecar‘s assets and invested $500M into Lyft, and March saw GM’s acquisition of autonomous tech startup Cruise Automation. These deals have already borne fruit, with Cruise prototypes following Google in expanding their testing regimen to Arizona, and Cruise beginning to release a series of public videos of its drive system in action. GM and Lyft are prepping a dramatic testing ramp, planning to deploy thousands of self-driving Bolts beginning in 2018.

However, despite GM’s investment and deepening partnership, the relationship is not exclusive, with Lyft and Waymo inking a separate deal in May 2017 to collaborate on their own self-driving pilot projects.

Separately, GM has also been developing its own semi-autonomous technology in-house, with its delayed Super Cruise finally slated for launch in the 2018 Cadillac CT6. The company has also detailed plans to hire 700 engineers focused on autonomous R&D. The company is also actively experimenting with new go-to-market models in its Maven Reserve and Cadillac Book subscription concepts.

Read More: The VergeBloomberg

Honda Also Testing Autonomous Cars, Offers Semi-Autonomous Features On Civic

Honda has received approval from California to test autonomous vehicles on public streets (with restrictions on the number of vehicles and the testing methods). Like Apple, the automaker is also using the GoMentum Station proving ground, with 2,100 acres of testing area for its self-driving fleet. Honda also introduced semi-autonomous ADAS (advanced-driver assistance systems) options on its entry-level Civic, offering lane-keeping, automatic braking, and adaptive cruise control functionality. These features have become ubiquitous on luxury models offered by brands like Tesla, Mercedes, and so on, but are increasingly common at mass-market price points.

In December 2016, Honda was reported to be in talks with Alphabet’s Waymo to deploy the tech giant’s self-driving system, although no public announcement has been issued as of May 2017. However, in April 2017 the company launched its R&D Center X, following Japanese competitor Toyota in establishing a dedicated AI research lab.

Read MoreRe/codeSan Francisco Business TimesEngadgetHonda Press Release

Huawei Autonomous R&D Team Tops 200

Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei has shifted resources toward the development of autonomous vehicles. Recently, the company came out with a white paper detailing the ways in which mobile network operators could prove to be valuable to the connected cars space. Some of these areas include smart parking, fleet management, data related to in-car entertainment, LTE-based emergency services, and more. Reports also indicate that the company has assembled its own driverless car R&D team, with over 200 developers as of February 2017.

Huawei partnered with Vodafone to demonstrate some of their latest innovations at the 2017 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, including cellular technology used to connect cars called Cellular V2X (C-V2X).

Read More: ComputerWeeklyRCRWirelessNews

Hyundai aims for affordable self-driving system

After debuting a 2014 TV commercial that showed a convoy of cars outfitted with Hyundai’s driver-assistance tech, Hyundai sounded a more conservative note in September 2015. Its European head Thomas Schmid asserted that autonomous driving would come “by far not as quick as everyone says,” giving a timetable of 10 to 15 years. Nevertheless, the Korean motor group intensified its efforts in 2016, ramping up investments in AI and setting up a new business unit to develop “hyper-connected” and self-driving cars in the near future.

Much like its automotive philosophy as a whole, Hyundai is striving for an affordable system that it can offer to mass-market buyers, showing off its Ioniq autonomous concept at CES 2017. The automaker also hired the former head of GM’s autonomous technology development to run its new Intelligent Safety Technology Center, a combined research body for Hyundai and its affiliate Kia.

Read More: Hyundai

Jaguar Land Rover Wants To Introduce Assisted Driving But Keep Driving Fun

jaguar land rover

In June 2015, JLR Director of Research and Technology Wolfgang Epple stated that autonomous vehicles would run counter to the brand’s philosophy, as the company “doesn’t consider its customers as cargo.” He asserted that the Tata-owned companies would instead favor advanced assistance features that would help drivers without taking full control from them. However, in February 2016, JLR joined a $7.9M UK program to further autonomous driving R&D, aiming to gather data on driving habits and test vehicle communications technology.

In July 2016, JLR formalized plans to deploy a fleet of at least 100 research vehicles over the next four years to test self-driving and connected car technology on roadways in Britain.

Read More: Autonews

Electric Vehicles Webinar
Electric vehicles are gaining mainstream traction as EV economics improve, infrastructure expands, and the autonomy rush fuels interest. We'll dig into how EV private markets have seen a resurgence as auto giants, investors, and newcomers ramp up their efforts in the space.

Magna Also Pursues LiDAR, Autonomous Tech


The Canadian auto supplier giant has long been the subject of self-driving interest as the world’s largest automotive contract manufacturer. The company is often dubbed the “Foxconn of cars” in an autonomous world, manufacturing vehicles designed by tech companies like Apple and Waymo.

However, the company is already supplying legacy automakers with capabilities for ADAS applications. Towards the close of 2016, Magna teamed with solid-state LiDAR startup Innoviz to round out the sensor package for its self-driving system. The supplier has also tapped iPod visionary and Nest co-founder Tony Fadell for its tech advisory committee.

Read More: Bloomberg

 Microsoft Pursues Collaborative Strategy With Automakers

Microsoft has begun to dip its toes into self-driving car research, though much later to the game and less directly than other tech giants. Its initial strategy appears to focus on collaborations, such as a November 2015 deal with Volvo that will see the companies collaborating in autonomous vehicle R&D and leveraging Microsoft’s HoloLens technology.

Recently in March 2016, Microsoft and Toyota also announced the expansion of their five-year-old partnership to support Toyota’s research in robotics, AI, and self-driving car development (see Toyota’s other partnerships below). As of June 2016, the company’s strategy remains focused on providing automakers with this type of technological assistance, as opposed to developing a car themselves. Business from auto clients is now driving strong growth in Microsoft’s Azure cloud business.

Microsoft has also reportedly weighed taking a stake in the HERE high-definition mapping service, currently owned by BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen.

Read More: WSJ, The Verge

Nissan/Renault Promises ‘Significant Autonomous Functionality’ By 2020

nissan renault

At April’s New York Auto Show, Chairman and CEO of Nissan and Renault Carlos Ghosn promised that the group would have 10 vehicles on sale by 2020 with “significant autonomous functionality.” Nissan unveiled its first public prototype in 2013 at the Nissan 360 event in California, and has since been testing an autonomous Nissan LEAF on the roads of Tokyo. Nissan and Toyota also announced a joint effort to develop standardized “intelligent” maps, perhaps in response to German automakers’ acquisition of the mapping company HERE.

Nissan expanded the scope of its projects in 2016, with plans to test single-lane autonomous driving in Japan, as well as a wider range of experiments from its Future Lab mobility research center. Most recently, in April 2017 Nissan joined Mobileye’s crowdsourced autonomous vehicle mapping effort. (Mobileye also powers Nissan’s planned ProPilot system, which resembles Tesla’s Autopilot.)

Read More: Nissan, IB Times, Re/code

Nvidia, Paccar Working On Autonomous Trucks


At CES 2016, GPU and semiconductor company Nvidia unveiled the Nvidia Drive PX 2, the second generation of its computing platform expressly designed for autonomous cars. Packing 8 teraflops of processing power, the platform was oriented towards deep learning, sensor fusion, and computer vision applications — all key elements of a potential self-driving car.

Since then, Nvidia has been rewarded for its early bet with an impressive list of automaker, supplier, and tech partners, from Baidu and Tesla to Bosch and Toyota. The company’s upcoming Xavier system-on-a-chip, built on its new Volta architecture, promises further improved processing power and efficiency.

Of note is Nvidia’s partnership with truckmaker PACCAR to develop self-driving trucks, unveiled in March 2017. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has asserted that the “Amazon effect” of autonomy in logistics and transport will be a major opportunity for the company.

Investor optimism surrounding Nvidia’s early commitments to machine learning and AI processing hardware has sent its share price rocketing up since early 2016.

Read More: Nvidia

Samsung Enters The Driverless Race


The Korean tech giant secured a May 2017 permit from South Korea’s transport ministry to begin testing self-driving cars on the nation’s public roads. Samsung’s self-driving cars are based on Hyundai vehicles equipped with cameras and sensors. In March 2017, the company also completed its $8B purchase of Harman, a leading supplier of in-car technology and connected vehicle systems. Samsung is already planning to leverage its new acquisition to shape the in-vehicle experience for self-driving cars.

Read More: Forbes

SoftBank Group’s SB Drive Venture Pushes Forward


SoftBank Group’s SB Drive, an autonomous vehicle joint venture between the Japan-based giant and research company Advanced Smart Mobility, received a $4.4M investment from Yahoo Japan in March 2017. SB Drive focuses on advancing self-driving technology, especially related to public and community services such as buses, as well as trucking.

Specifically, SB Drive is conducting trials and testing the commercial viability of fixed-route buses for community public transportation, as well as truck convoy-based freight transportation utilizing self-driving technology. SB Drive has smart mobility partnership agreements with four municipalities in Japan, including Kitakyushu City and Yazu Town in Tottori Prefecture. The joint venture plans to commence self-driving trials on public roads.

Read More: Deal Street AsiaTechCrunchVentureBeat

PSA Groupe Finds Startup Partner

In April 2016, French PSA Groupe (including Peugeot, Citroën and DS) announced that two Citroën cars had driven “eyes off” from Paris to Amsterdam. The vehicles navigated over 300 km (186 miles) without supervision on “authorized stretches” of road, with PSA claiming the cars had achieved Level 3 Automation in this mode. The “eyes off” mode is slated to arrive by 2021, while semi-autonomous “hands off” modes will be available by 2020. These features, along with electric vehicles and new models, form the core of PSA’s broader “Push to Pass” growth strategy (including a return to the US).

In May 2017, Peugot announced a partnership with the MIT self-driving spinoff nuTonomy to install the startup’s self-driving systems in Peugot 3008 vehicles. The automaker aims to use the collaboration to learn about autonomous driving components and suppliers.

Read More: PSA Groupe

Tata Elixsi Showcases Valet System And Focuses On Autonomous Vehicle Security

Tata Elixsi, a division of the TATA group, showcased technology in January 2015 for an autonomous parking valet, in which the car understands where open spots are and uses sensors to park itself. While it’s unclear when these features will be rolled out to Tata Elixsi’s lineup, the company has made it clear that it is moving towards autonomous vehicles. It is also putting a priority on security, designing a central unit in the car with extensive security measures that govern internal and external automotive communication.

Read More: Tata, GoAuto

Tesla Asserts New Autopilot Hardware Enables “Full Self-Driving”

Tesla Logo

In the public eye, EV manufacturer Tesla has become a leading banner-carrier for advanced driver assistance and self-driving technology. CEO Elon Musk is particularly bullish on the field, believing the technology behind fully autonomous vehicles is only “two to three years away,” with another “one to five years” needed for regulatory approvals. Tesla pushed its “Autopilot” software update to properly equipped Model S vehicles in October 2015, enabling auto steering, lane changing, and parking features. Tesla’s deployment strategy and messaging were criticized following a series of crashes and its first Autopilot-driven fatality in summer 2016, although the NHTSA’s official report was favorable towards Autopilot and did not find a safety defect.

Since the accident, Tesla and Mobileye severed ties, with the California automaker seeking to consolidate control over the development of its radar- and camera-based system (eschewing costly LiDAR sensors). Telsa promises to bring semi-autonomous and autonomous features to the mass market with its much-hyped Model 3, which has attracted over 400,000 pre-orders (although the company’s ability to scale its manufacturing volume remains uncertain). According to Travis Kalanick, Tesla has also rebuffed a partnership with Uber to collaborate on self-driving vehicles.

Since October 2016, all Tesla vehicles have been built with Autopilot Hardware 2, a sensor and computing package the company says will enable “full self-driving” capabilities once its software matures. The system has traded Mobileye’s EyeQ3 for Nvidia’s Drive PX 2 platform, and requires an activation fee to unlock the full autonomy promised. Users reported poor performance during the initial rollout of Autopilot 2.0 software, although the system has improved with subsequent updates.

In typical fashion, Elon Musk has promised an aggressive timeline for full self-driving capability, with the feature slated for release by the end of 2017. The company has updated its data gathering policy, now gathering videos using customers’ vehicle cameras to feed its new system. Tesla’s self-driving user agreement also stipulates that owners will only be permitted to share their vehicles for revenue purposes on the upcoming Tesla Network.

Separately, the automaker’s proposed acquisition of SolarCity (helmed by Musk’s cousins) factors heavily into the Musk’s “master plan” of creating an entire sustainable transport ecosystem.

Read MoreNikkeiForbesWired

Toyota Develops “Guardian Angel” Approach To Autonomy

Toyota has notably reversed from its 2014 claims that it would not develop a driverless car on safety grounds. In 2015, it announced a $1B budget for autonomous driving research, establishing its advanced Toyota Research Institute (TRI) headed by Gill Pratt. Toyota has also hired professors and researchers from Stanford University, MIT, and the entire staff of the autonomous vehicle company Jaybridge Robotics. Just this April, it also announced its third US university partnership with an automotive engineering stalwart, the University of Michigan.

Toyota plans to divide labor among its research partners, with the University of Michigan campus responsible for fully autonomous cars, Stanford working on partially autonomous vehicles, and MIT working on machine learning. Toyota doubled down on its university efforts in August 2016, with a further $22M investment to the University of Michigan to drive robotics and self-driving research. The company has targeted 2021 as a goal for deploying “AI car features” to the road.

TRI CEO Gill Pratt has been a vocal proponent of a “guardian angel” system, where the vehicle would monitor a driver’s inputs and intervene only when a human is about to make a dangerous mistake. TRI is also researching a second system (dubbed Chauffeur) targeted towards traditional Level 4 and 5 autonomy, which would be deployed after Guardian. The institute showcased its latest autonomous research platform in March 2017.

Read MoreWiredTechcrunch

Uber Program Bogged Down In Legal, Cultural Issues

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is a noted champion of his ride-sharing company embracing autonomous cars, with the technology representing both an existential threat and an opportunity for the startup to validate its stratospheric valuation. The company has made several moves in that direction, such as poaching nearly the entire Carnegie Mellon Robotics Lab (40 engineers) to work on the project in Pittsburgh. Uber has also partnered with the University of Arizona to develop better mapping and optical safety technology. In 2015, the company acquired both mapping startup deCarta and mapping assets from Microsoft, which could be leveraged to drive autonomous vehicle efforts, among other initiatives. However, Kalanick’s overtures to Tesla for a self-driving partnership were rebuffed in 2016.

In May 2016, Uber revealed its in-house autonomous prototypes for the first time, showing off retrofitted Ford Fusions from its Advanced Technologies Center (now Advanced Technologies Group). The company acquired self-driving truck startup Otto later in the year. Otto was co-founded by a group of ex-Googlers including Google car veteran Anthony Levandowski, who Uber tapped as the head of its self-driving project.

The acquisition has now embroiled Uber in the self-driving complex’s biggest legal controversy to date, with Waymo alleging that Levandowski stole confidential files relating to its proprietary LiDAR sensors. As of May 2017, Levandowski has been barred from further work on LiDAR technology as the case proceeds to trial (although a federal judge stopped short of issuing a temporary injunction against Uber’s program).

Besides the Otto lawsuit, the company has also faced waves of negative press on sexual harassment and poor culture, in addition to deceiving authorities and ignoring autonomous testing regulations. The company has suffered from a subsequent exodus of both engineering and non-engineering talent.

Read More: New York Times, The Verge

Valeo Shows Off Autonomous Driving Tech At CES 2017


Like many other suppliers, Valeo has been working on its own ADAS and self-driving systems, with the company’s innovation chief tapping autonomous driving as Valeo’s main growth driver by 2020. The auto supplier showed off its eCruise4U automated concept at CES 2017, equipped with connected camera and laser sensors as well as a reconfigurable cockpit.

The company’s quarterly sales rose 22% in the first quarter of 2017, partly driven by the company’s push in ADAS technology alongside partner Mobileye. The two have an agreement dating back to 2015 to build an affordable robocar, combining Mobileye’s camera vision expertise with Valeo’s LiDAR units.

Read More: Spectrum IEEE

Volkswagen Pushes Autonomous Research As It Tries To Move Past Emissions Scandal

In 2015, Volkswagen revealed the V-Charge project, where a Volkswagen e-Golf equipped with sensors, 3D maps, etc. will find open parking spaces in a garage and park without human input. The company suggests that there will be a prototype for demonstration available within four years. Besides this, in March 2016 VW Group CEO Matthias Muller announced that the board had just signed off on a huge autonomous driving initiative, boldly claiming that their goal was to “[bring] these technologies to market faster than the competition.” The Group’s head of digitalization asserts that self-driving cars will be “commonplace” by 2025.

The auto giant unveiled its new Moia brand towards the close of 2016, joining other automakers in creating a unit dedicated to new mobility services including fleet-based shuttles and autonomous on-demand transportation. Shortly thereafter, the company unveiled its “Sedric” concept, a shuttle-like vehicle designed for ride-hailing applications.

Read More: Digital Trends, V-Charge, Reuters

Waymo (Alphabet) Readying FCA Vehicles For Public Trial In Arizona

waymo logofca logo

The Google Self-Driving Car Project has been one of the most iconic and tenured autonomous vehicle programs. In September 2015, Google hired ex-Hyundai and TrueCar exec John Krafcik to lead the program, and also brought a legal lead onboard in July 2016, indicating an increased focus on commercialization under the new Alphabet structure. The project was formally spun out as an Alphabet company under the Waymo banner in December 2016.

Through 2016, Waymo’s testing expanded beyond Mountain View and Austin to Kirkland, Washington in February (wet, rainy conditions), and Phoenix, Arizona in April (high temperature, dusty conditions). Google also found its first automotive partner in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), which remains its only disclosed OEM partner as of May 2017. The new Alphabet company publicly revealed its custom-designed self-driving hardware in February 2017, planning to sell an integrated hardware and software package. In April 2017, Waymo opened signups for the first public tests of its customized Chrysler Pacifica minivans, quickly followed by the aforementioned Lyft partnership.

Engineers and key figures have regularly departed the project for new ventures, buoyed by generous compensation packages. Departures have included technical lead and founding member Chris Urmson, as well as two machine vision engineers who left to found a still-stealthy startup. The company is currently embroiled in a high-profile lawsuit against Anthony Levandowski, a longtime Waymo engineer and founder of Otto (acquired by Uber), over the alleged misappropriation of Waymo’s proprietary LiDAR designs.

Read MoreWall Street JournalThe GuardianWired

Yutong Has Successfully Tested Driverless Buses

Chinese bus manufacturer Yutong has been researching driverless buses since 2012. The company claims to have successfully navigated a bus on an inter-city road in central China’s Henan Province. The bus can switch between manual and automatic mode. The company has yet to announce a firm release date for its autonomous buses, but has begun demoing the buses on public roads.

Read More: Economic Times, Yutong

Looking for more data on companies working in auto tech? Sign up for CB Insights tech market intelligence platform free below.

  • eiffair
  • calzolaio

    now Advanced Micro Device (AMD) is in too, whit full graphics and x86 way to process data and an open source software pack.

  • Brian Ramsey

    What I want to know is “Who’s parts are these companies using?” Many of these companies are Automotive Parters listed on NVidia’s website. Honda, Volvo, BMW, Baidu, Tesla, Mercedes Benz, VW, Porsche, Luxgen, Mini and Rolls Royce. They are using NVidia’s processors and Drive PX 2 boards. Though not listed, Toyota has also signed on with NVidia. If you want to invest in self-driving cars, NVidia is where to go, though Intel/Mobileye is in the race if you look back far enough. That and NVidia is growing at a rate of 30% year over year growth lately.