Daimler, Audi, BMW, GM Lead on Autonomous Vehicles: Study

Oct. 15, 2015
Tesla is more in the middle of the pack, the analysis found. 

Around the same time today that electric car innovator Elon Musk was heralding the release of Tesla’s new autopilot 7.0 software, with automatic lane changes and speed limit handling, a research firm declared that Tesla is more in the middle of the pack for autonomous vehicle development. The automakers who are really leading are Daimler, Audi, BMW and General Motors, the analysis by Navigant Research  found.

The study only considered OEMs, not technology companies including Google, which already has tested its self-driving electric cars on the road.

The analysis looked at the strategy and execution of autonomous vehicle technology for 18 automakers. The OEMs were rated on 12 criteria: vision, go-to market strategy, partnerships, production strategy, technology, geographic reach, sales, marketing and distribution, product capability, product quality and reliability, product portfolio, pricing and company commitment. The scoring was based on how established and comprehensive the company’s deployment of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) is, what public announcements it has made regarding its next generation of self-driving features and the extent of its commitment to long-term goals of autonomous vehicles.

The study found that safety and the potential to reduce overall energy use are the biggest factors driving automation. Reliability, security, and liability issues are the major barriers to adoption, but the market is moving forward. By 2020, the report predicted, manufacturers will widely offer enhanced self-driving capability including the ability to change lanes and follow simple directions from a navigation system.  

The lead author on the study , Navigant Senior Research Analyst David Alexander, worked as an engineer and consultant for GM, Ford, Volvo and Magna for 22 years before moving into research. Alexander could not immediately be reached for comment.

Daimler’s self-driving truck, tested two weeks ago on a highway in southern Germany, has cruise control that also steers the truck,  but the truck will switch back to human driving in particularly difficult conditions. It has radar, cameras and sensors to make decisions on braking, steering and accelerating.

In April, an Audi A7 Sportback outfitted with Delphi technology drove itself 560 miles without the driver having to take the wheel.

Here are the rankings from the report,  Autonomous Vehicle OEMs:

Leaders—Strategy and execution scores greater than 75

  1. Daimler
  2. Audi
  3. BMW
  4. General Motors

Contenders—Companies that are capable of taking the lead in the near future

  1. Volvo
  2. Ford
  3. Toyota
  4. Honda

Challengers—companies that could challenge for leadership in the near future

  1. Volkswagen
  2. Nissan
  3. Jaguar Land Rover
  4. Tesla
  5. Hyundai/Kia

Contenders and Challengers—Companies that are trailing behind the other OEMS and will need to make significant changes to attain a leadership role in the autonomous vehicle market.

  1. Fiat Chrysler
  2. Mazda
  3. Renault
  4. PSA Peugeot Citroen
  5. Mitsubishi
About the Author

Laura Putre | Senior Editor, IndustryWeek

I work with IndustryWeek's contributors and report on leadership and the automotive industry as they relate to manufacturing. Got a story idea? Reach out to me at [email protected]


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