The frontrunners among companies vying to develop and deploy autonomous vehicles face tenuous futures.

That’s one key takeaway in a new report issued Tuesday by research and consulting firm Guidehouse Insights. The company’s report assessed and ranked the strategies of leading AV developers. Collectively, it spotlights the difficulty most are navigating in building viable businesses around self-driving technology.

The clock — not the competition — is the chief challenge.

“It’s a race against time to some degree, because of the financial challenges,” Sam Abuelsamid, the report’s co-author, told Automotive News. “The prospects of having a profitable business based on this technology keep slipping into the future, and the costs have increased dramatically.”

Those headwinds became apparent last October when Argo, once ranked among the leaders in this mostly annual report, folded.

They’re also the reason why there’s a new leader atop this year’s rankings. Mobileye sits in the Guidehouse pole position now, and that’s in part because the company’s $17.3 billion revenue pipeline related to its current driver-assist system business provides a financial bridge to an autonomous future, Abuelsamid said.

The company, which spun out from Intel in an initial public offering in October, has already delivered 70,000 units of its SuperVision hands-off, eyes-on-the-road advanced assist system to Geely Group brand Zeekr in China.

Waymo, last year’s leader, Baidu and Cruise ranked behind Mobileye in second, third and fourth position, respectively, among the 16 overall companies ranked on the leaderboard.

Companies like Motional, Aurora, Gatik and Zoox are among the next group of contenders. Tesla ranked last among all companies evaluated.

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