The companies that are deciding if you have to drive at all

There was a time when Americans believed that, by the year 2000, there would be flying vehicles.  This idea was largely credited to a popular cartoon, The Jetsons.  It can now be stated with greater certainty that, by 2025, residents of the world’s most powerful countries will not have to drive their own vehicles.

The United States, Great Britain and Japan have made commitments for vehicles to be partially automated by 2016, highly automated by 2020 and fully automated by 2025 according to Continental Tire Manufacturer. Not quite flying yet, but surely a step in that direction.

Autonomous driving is also taking hold in non-traditional ways.  Traditionally, automotive companies manufactured vehicles.  However, with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and heavy technological integration into vehicles, non-vehicle manufacturers are also entering this space. Along with a traditional car maker, Tesla, both Apple and Google, which are tech companies, have begun developing automated cars.  Though the market is becoming crowded with competitors, these companies are leading the pack vying for the $2 trillion market according to HIS and Marketline estimates.



Modern luxury car manufacturer specializing in electric and automated vehicles



The leading smartphone designer and manufacturer entering into the automated car industry



A global search engine tech company breaking into the automated car industry



1. Apple

“When I look at the automobile, what I see is that software becomes an increasingly important part of the car of the future. You see that autonomous driving becomes much more important.”–Tim Cook, CEO


Apple’s determination in data privacy and data encryption may earn them points from their users.  However, this may have inadvertently reduced the speed of their AI development programs that enable them to accelerate automated driving technologies.

Apple has found a solution to this challenge that would allow them to analyze user data without disrupting their privacy.  Additionally, they have hired high-profile experts in automated vehicles to develop and prepare to sell their first iteration of an autonomous vehicle in 2019.  The structure for a complete vehicle exists with their operation system CarPlay to bring the iPhone experience into cars.


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2. Tesla

“I think we’re basically less than two years away from complete autonomy,” he said, adding that it could be a few more years after that until cars win regulatory approval. “Because [regulators] also want to see billions of miles of data that it is statistically true that autonomous driving is safer.”–Elon Musk, CEO


Founded in 2003 in California by Elon Musk, this new car maker has broken into an established market to compete with luxury companies like Lexus and BMW, which have been manufacturing for decades. With nearly 125,000 care sold since 2008, they have been wrought with production delays despite a slew of pre-paid vehicle deposits.  The more than 13,000 employees, their mission is “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market cars to market as soon as possible.”

Tesla’s business model is also relying heavily on the electric vehicle trend.  They have demonstrated this commitment by investing in and building a lithium-ion battery plant of which electric vehicles rely as a power source. The electric vehicle market feeds the market for autonomous vehicles.

Additionally, they have made a commitment for their vehicles to have automated capabilities. Tesla Motors is leading the pack in this segment with their suite of autonomous features including Autopilot, automated lane changing, and self parking.  The Autopilot feature current allows drivers to automate highway driving.

Though Apple has made great strides with automating vehicles, Elon Musk believes that Apple’s technology is behind the technology of his own company, Tesla Motors.


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3. Google

“We’ve been investing in machine learning and AI for years, but I think we are at an exceptionally interesting tipping point where these technologies are really taking off.” –Sundar Pichai, CEO


Founded in 1998 in California as a search engine tech company, Google has entered into many markets outside of its core business.  Google began its work with automated vehicles (AV) in 2009.  By 2016, their test vehicle drove more than 1.4 million miles on public roads autonomously according to Continental. They are committed to commercialize a fully automated car by 2017. This goal is also pushing faster development of automation technologies and corporate partnerships to put these vehicles to commercial use.

Comerica Bank reported that Google has invested $75 million in a Trenton, MI plant for the development of automated driving technologies.  Their underlying theory is that computers can operated a vehicle better than humans. Among its recent technology developments include Android Auto, which is the ‘non-operating system’…system.  It is a secondary interface or HMI layer that sits on top of the operating system that is dashboard-friendly for infotainment in cars.

In 2016, Google announced the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets to lobby for uniform regulations across states.


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