Tech RANKED: The 18 companies most likely to get self-driving cars on the road first

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Ford and General Motors are currently the leaders in the space, according to a report by Navigant Research.

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(Navigant Research)

2016 was a big year for self-driving cars.

Alphabet's self-driving car unit officially became its own independent company, Waymo. Tesla says its cars now come with hardware that will support full autonomy when the regulatory environment allows it. That doesn't even mention the various startups, like AutoX, now vying for a foothold in the space.

Navigant Research assessed all the self-driving-car players and has released its leadership grid showing who is most poised to bring Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4 self-driving cars to market in the next decade. Navigant first released its leadership grid in the third-quarter of 2015, but says in its report that the "landscape for automated driving has advanced significantly" since then.

(For reference, Level 2 and 3 autonomous systems refers to vehicles that can handle some complex driving tasks, but still primarily rely on a driver. Level 4 autonomy refers to cars that can drive themselves without any human intervention, but only in certain geographic regions. You can get a better breakdown here.)

Waymo's Firefly car, pictured here, lacked a steering wheel and pedals. play

Waymo's Firefly car, pictured here, lacked a steering wheel and pedals.


Scores were boosted for those who have announced Level 2 autonomy plans for 2017 or 2018 as well as for companies that have publicly demonstrated Level 4 autonomy.

Scroll down to see the 18 companies slated to get their autonomous systems to market first, ranked:

18. Baidu

18. Baidu play

18. Baidu


Baidu, a Chinese internet company, has been publicly testing its self-driving-car technology since 2015. In December of that year, a BMW 3-series modified with the company's autonomous tech completed an 18.3-mile route, performing tasks like lane changes and u-turns.

Baidu also let members of the public take rides in a fleet of electric cars retroffited with driverless tech in November 2016, but the trial only lasted a week. The company has an autonomous testing permit in California and an office in Sunnyvale.

The Beijing-based company plans to produce a limited number of autonomous vehicles for a shared shuttle service in 2018. It plans to mass produce self-driving cars in 2021.

Navigant Research gave Baidu an overall score of 47.1 out of a possible 100, noting that the company ended its partnership with BMW in November of last year.

17. nuTonomy

A nuTonomy self-driving taxi drives on the road in its public trial in Singapore play

A nuTonomy self-driving taxi drives on the road in its public trial in Singapore

(Thomson Reuters)

NuTonomy, a Boston-based startup spun out of MIT in 2013, has been quietly making big moves in the self-driving-car space.

In August 2016, nuTonomy became the first company to launch a fleet of self-driving taxis under a pilot program in Singapore. The startup has since expanded that trial to its home city of Boston in November of last year.

NuTonomy has raised $20 million in venture funding through 2016. Investors include the government of Singapore and Fontinalis Partners, a venture fund founded Bill Ford, the executive chairman of Ford.

Navigant Research gave nuTonomy an overall score of 51.6 out of a possible 100.

16. Uber

16. Uber play

16. Uber

(Business Insider/Corey Protin)

Despite drawing a lot of attention when it launched its self-driving-car pilot in Pittsburgh last September, Uber is relatively low on Navigant's list.

Uber set up shop in Pittsburgh after poaching several robotics experts from Carnegie Mellon in May 2015. After launching its Pittsburgh trial in September, Uber now also runs one in Arizona.

In December, Uber got into a public dispute with the California DMV after launching a self-driving-car pilot in San Francisco without first obtaining an autonomous vehicles testing permit. Uber left California for Arizona after the DMV revoked registration of its 16 self-driving Volvo XC90s.

In January, Uber formed a partnership with Daimler. "This could be a hedge by Uber in the event that its in-house technology development does not work out — or if it proves to be too
expensive to operate its own fleet of vehicles," Navigant wrote in its report.

Waymo is suing Uber, claiming the ride-hailing service stole the intellectual property for its lidar system.

Navigant Research gave Uber an overall score of 54.5 out of a possible 100.

15. Honda

15. Honda play

15. Honda

(Reuters/Noah Berger)

Honda has taken a conservative approach to self-driving cars.

The company is more focused on expanding its assisted driving features in its current vehicles rather than pushing for full autonomy. Honda has an autonomous vehicles testing permit in California, but only tested on closed courses in 2016, Navigant wrote in its report.

However, Waymo is currently considering partnering with Honda. Honda would most likely supply vehicles for Waymo's test fleet.

Navigant Research gave Honda an overall score of 55.1 out of a possible 100.

14. ZF

Former President Barack Obama gets a tour of ZF's crash-avoidance and automated driving technologies in January 2016. play

Former President Barack Obama gets a tour of ZF's crash-avoidance and automated driving technologies in January 2016.

(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

German auto supplier ZF is surprisingly high on Navigant's list.

Its score was largely boosted following ZF CEO Stefan Sommer announcement at CES 2017 that it will commercialize NVIDIA's PX2 processing platform with its self-driving system, ProAI. ZF is therefore the first company to bring the NVIDIA computing platform into production. ProAI is slated to appear in production vehicles in 2020.

ZF also acquired TRW, a Michigan-based supplier of automated systems, in 2015.

Navigant Research gave ZF an overall score of 64 out of a possible 100.

13. Toyota

Toyota's self-driving concept car at CES 2017. play

Toyota's self-driving concept car at CES 2017.


Although Toyota is taking a more conservative approach to self-driving cars than other companies, the Japanese automaker is investing heavily in autonomous driving features.

That's most apparent by the company's five-year, $1 billion investment in the Toyota Research Insistute. The TRI was launched with the mandate of making a car incapable of causing a crash.

Navigant wrote in its report that as one of the world's largest and most profitable OEMs, Toyota has the resources and expertise to make fully automated vehicles.

Navigant Research gave Toyota an overall score of 64.2 out of a possible 100.

12. Tesla

12. Tesla play

12. Tesla


That's right, Tesla didn't make the top 10 in Navigant's report.

Although Tesla's self-driving features have come a long way, Navigant said there were reasons to doubt the automaker's ability to achieve Level 4 autonomy.

Tesla cars are currently being built with new hardware that will improve Tesla Autopilot, renaming the system Autopilot 2, and set the foundation for full autonomy. A Tesla will drive itself from Los Angeles to New York before the end of 2017 to demonstrate the technology.

Crash rates for Tesla cars have plummeted 40% since Autopilot was first installed in 2015.

But Navigant wrote in its report that Tesla's Autopilot system has faced its challenges, including a fatal accident in May while the system was activated. The National Highway Traffic Safety administration said Autopilot was not at fault because the driver had ample time to intervene and prevent the accident, but as the Navigant report notes, there's a history of drivers misusing Autopilot and engaging in other tasks while it's on.

Navigant also wrote it's skeptical Tesla will achieve full Level 4 autonomy without embracing lidar technology, a sensor that shoots lasers so cars can detect obstacles.

Navigant Research gave Tesla an overall score of 64.5 out of a possible 100.

11. PSA

11. PSA play

11. PSA

(YouTube/ PSA Peugeot Citroën)

PSA is the second-largest car manufacturer in Europe and is planning to have fully driverless cars on the road in 2020. Four of the automaker's self-driving cars drove 360 miles between Paris and Bordeaux in France in October 2015.

ZF announced in 2016 it will supply cameras, radar, and software for PSA vehicles with self-driving capabilities. Those cars will hit roads in 2018.

Navigant Research gave PSA an overall score of 65.3 out of a possible 100.

10. Hyundai Motor Group

10. Hyundai Motor Group play

10. Hyundai Motor Group

(Cadie Thompson/Business Insider)

Hyundai has been deploying advanced driver assistance systems, like lane-keep assist, in vehicles like the 2016 Elantra. Hyundai plans to have a suite of self-driving features in production vehicles in 2020, but won't commit to full autonomy until 2030.

At CES 2017, Hyundai showcased an autonomous prototype of its Ioniq electric car.

Navigant Research gave Hyundai an overall score of 66.4 out of a possible 100.

9. Delphi

9. Delphi play

9. Delphi

(Thomson Reuters)

Delphi, an auto electronics supplier, aims to release self-driving vehicles to the public in 2022. Delphi's autonomous Audi, pictured above, made a cross-country trip across the US in 2015.

Delphi also signed a deal with Intel in November 2016, agreeing to buy its high-powered computer processors for self-driving systems. Intel recently acquired autonomous tech company Mobileye in a deal worth $15.3 billion.

"Delphi is the highest ranking automotive supplier in this edition of the Leaderboard Report,
having rapidly moved to the forefront of automated driving development over the past
3 years," Navigant wrote in its report.

Navigant Research gave Delphi an overall score of 70.7 out of a possible 100.

8. Volvo

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Volvo said it plans to make its cars "deathproof" by 2020 by rolling out semi-autonomous features over time.

The Swedish automaker is letting families test self-driving Volvos in Gothenburg, Sweden and London this year as part of its Drive Me program. Volvo will also conduct an "advanced autonomous driving experiment" in China, where 100 volunteers will be able to test driverless Volvo XC90s on public roads, but the automaker hasn't said when that trial will start.

Volvo and Uber agreed to a $300 million alliance in August to develop autonomous vehicles, which are currently being tested in Arizona.

Navigant Research gave Volvo an overall score of 73.4 out of a possible 100.

7. Waymo

Waymo is testing its self-driving cars in Phoenix, Arizona. play

Waymo is testing its self-driving cars in Phoenix, Arizona.


Since launching in 2009 as Google's self-driving-car project, Waymo has driven over 2 million miles autonomously. Waymo became its own company under Google' parent company Alphabet in December.

Waymo has teamed up with Fiat Chrysler and there are reports that the two will launch a robot taxi service by the end of 2017, but that has yet to be confirmed. The company is also building all of its hardware in-house, allowing it to slash the price of lidar by 90%. Lidar is notoriously expensive and high-end systems can cost as much as $75,000 a pop.

Waymo doesn't intend to build vehicles, but to partner with other companies and provide its autonomous platform.

Navigant Research gave Waymo an overall score of 73.4 out of a possible 100. That's the same score as Volvo, but Waymo edged out Volvo in execution.

6. BMW

6. BMW play

6. BMW


BMW has released advanced driver assistance tech in its luxury vehicles, like the BMW 7-Series and 5-Series, pictured above. For example, its Driver Assistant Plus package offers lane-keep assist, parking assist, and traffic jam assist.

BMW plans to release a fully driverless car in 2021 and has teamed up with Intel and Mobileye to do so.

Navigant Research gave Waymo an overall score of 75.2 out of a possible 100.

5. Volkswagen Group

5. Volkswagen Group play

5. Volkswagen Group


That's right, we're on to the Top 5!

Volkswagen Group has been developing autonomous systems ever since winning the DARPA grand challenge in 2006. Volkswagen's brand Audi was the first company to receive an autonomous driving permit in Nevada in 2012 and has also obtained one in California.

In 2015, an Audi A7 drove 550 miles in autopilot mode from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas.

Audi recently announced it was teaming up with NVIDIA to bring self-driving cars to market in 2020.

Navigant Research gave Volkswagen Group an overall score of 75.9 out of a possible 100.

4. Daimler

4. Daimler play

4. Daimler


Daimler clinched fourth place for successfully executing semi-autonomous features in brands like its Mercedes S-Class and E-Class cars.

A Mercedes big-rig truck made history in 2015 when it drove itself on a public highway in 2015. Daimler aims to have its driverless trucks road-ready in 2020.

"Daimler is likely to continue as a leader in technology development; however, its position
as a premium brand makes it inherently less accessible to mainstream audiences," Navigant wrote in its report.

Navigant Research gave Daimler an overall score of 77.7 out of a possible 100.

3. Renault-Nissan Alliance

3. Renault-Nissan Alliance play

3. Renault-Nissan Alliance

(Thomson Reuters)

The automaker has released ProPILOT, a self-driving feature that lets cars drive autonomously on highways, in Japan. It also plans to roll the system out in Europe, the US, and China as well. Renault-Nissan plans to keep adding to ProPILOT until it's fully autonomous in 2020.

Nissan is currently exploring using call centers so someone on standby can intervene if its self-driving car can't handle a certain driving scenario.

Navigant Research gave Renault-Nissan an overall score of 82 out of a possible 100.

2. General Motors

The Chevy Bolt can drive 238 miles on a single charge, edging out Tesla's base Model 3. play

The Chevy Bolt can drive 238 miles on a single charge, edging out Tesla's base Model 3.


GM has made several big investments in self-driving cars.

The Detroit-based automaker invested $500 million in Lyft in January 2016 to create a network of ride-hailing, self-driving vehicles. GM also acquired self-driving-car startup Cruise Automation for $581 million in July 2016.

GM CEO Mary Barra said the company will start testing its self-driving Chevy Bolt electric cars in Michigan in December 2016. The company is also testing cars in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Barra told Business Insider's Cadie Thompson that its first self-driving car for public use will be its all-electric Chevy Bolt. She also said GM is focused on testing its cars on different road conditions to ensure safety.

"A lot of the conversation has been about, 'Oh, we have this many miles,' but it's not as much about the miles as it is about the experiences that the car learns," she told Business Insider.

Navigant Research gave General Motors an overall score of 84.8 out of a possible 100.

1. Ford

A self-driving Ford Fusion. play

A self-driving Ford Fusion.


Lastly, that brings us to our leader: Ford.

The Detroit-based automaker aims to roll out a fleet of driverless vehicles in a ride-hailing or -sharing service in 2021. Ford is trippling the size of its autonomous test fleet to 100 cars this year. The cars are currently being tested in Arizona, Michigan, and California.

"What we have said is, we may not be the first, but when we do, it will be true to our brand, which means accessibility," Ford CEO Mark Fields told Business Insider in March 2016. "We want to make sure it's available to everyone, and not just folks who can afford luxury cars."

Ford has been pursuing autonomous vehicles since it entered the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005.

Ford and Baidu invested $150 million in Velodyne, a lidar manufacturer, in 2016. In February, Ford invested $1 billion (to be spread out over 5 years) in Argo AI, a secretive artificial intelligence startup based in Pittsburgh, to aid its autonomous car efforts.

Navigant Research gave Ford an overall score of 85 out of a possible 100.

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