Driveless Cars: who are the key players?

For car manufacturers such as Volvo, Tesla and BMW, driverless cars will shape the future of driving and their future manufacturing strategy. And with many (if not most) car manufacturers investing in some sort of vehicle autonomy, driverless cars could be around sooner than you thought. We’ve listed some of the car manufacturers working on driverless cars.




Apple's CEO Tim Cook has confirmed it is developing a self-driving car system. Although Cook didn't discuss what aspect of driverless car technology it would be working on, whether it be creating supporting software, licencing or building a car itself.

"We're focusing on autonomous systems and clearly one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars, [but] there are others," Cook told Bloomberg. "It's probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on."

Historically, Apple has kept its plans for autonomous technology under wraps, however in a leaked document which surfaced last year, details of a change in leadership within the car team suggested that Bob Mansfield, a hardware specialist, was put in charge last year.

A few images have also been leaked on rumour websites, reportedly showing images of test vehicles, although their legitimacy is not yet known.



This year, Intel bought Israel-based driverless car technology firm Mobileye for $15.3 billion (£12.5 billion), meaning Intel will pay $63.54 (£52.39) per share.

Intel and Mobileye are already in partnership together with BMW to put a fleet of 40 autonomous BMW 7 Series cars on the road by the end of 2017.

This announcement came some months after the initial partnership began in July 2016, when BMW, Intel, and Mobileye announced plans to produce an open platform for driverless cars by 2021.

At CES 2017 in Las Vegas, Intel launched 'Go', a 5G-ready software and hardware platform designed to support the development of self-driving vehicles, along with an SDK to go with it.



At CES 2017, BMW, Intel and Mobileye announced their partnership that was initially announced in July 2016 aimed to put a fleet of around 40 self-driving BMW cars on the road by the end of 2017.

Previously, BMW has teamed up with Baidu to produce a self-driving car designed specifically for the Chinese market. However, in November 2016 the partnership was called off. While no clear reasons were given for the dissolving of the partnership, according to Fortune BMW's China CEO Olaf Kastner said "we now have found that the development pace and the ideas of the two companies are a little different."

Before this BMW tested driverless cars in 2011 with a BMW 330i being tested on a closed circuit and later in 2014 with a 6 Series Gran Coupe. This year BMW used its i3 model in tests in Bejing.

Many BMW cars also have ConnectedDrive (a driver assistance system) and intelligent parking, driving and vision.



German car manufacturer Audi will use Nvidia technology to bring its driverless cars to market by 2020, both companies announced this week at CES 2017.

While the partnership between Audi and graphics cards maker Nvidia is nothing new, more recently, Audi has been using Nvidia's AI platform to intelligently monitor of road conditions and to deliver technology for its autonomous vehicles.

This continued partnership will see Audi and Nvidia develop a 'Level 4' autonomous vehicle - a car capable of driving entirely autonomously.



Late last year The Information reported that Google planned to stop the development of its own driverless car to pursue partnerships with existing car makers. The reports suggested the Google aimed to develop cars with known car manufacturers which will include some self-driving capabilities. 

However, days later Google's parent company Alphabet announced Waymo, its new self-driving technology company aiming to create software and sensor technology for driverless cars.

Google has been working on driverless cars for several years and last year unveiled a working prototype. What's more, Google has also equipped other car manufacturers with driverless car technologies such as the Toyota Prius, Audi TT and Lexus RX450h. Google's own autonomous vehicle uses Bosch sensors and other equipment from LG, and Continental.

In 2014, Google revealed their concept of a driverless car, without a steering wheel or control pedals with plans of making these cars available for public purchase by 2020, although highly unlikely now.



Created by a small group of graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), nuTonomy provides software and algorithms specifically for driverless cars.

Choosing Singapore as its test location, nuTonomy has already applied sensors to the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car prototype. nuTonomy algorithms can direct the car around complex urban roads by GPS mapping the streets and using localisation from the LiDAR sensors.

In August 2016, nuTonomy claimed to have launched the first-ever public trial of a 'robo-taxi' service in Singapore’s business district. Local residents can book a free ride via its smartphone app and try out nuTonomy's self-driving cars.

What's more, in November 2016 NuTonomy announced it would test its self-driving cars on public roads in Boston, MA by the end of 2016.



Earlier this year, Volvo launched 'Drive Me UK', an extensive UK-based autonomous driving trial, involving up to 100 driverless cars being driven on real roads by real people in 2017.

Volvo has been heavily involved in producing and testing driverless cars in real life situations:

"There will be driverless vehicles, vehicles without steering wheels, used just like an elevator, just to go up and down a shaft," says Erik Coelingh, senior technical lead at Volvo. "But that's not the type of building that we're intending to design.

"We intend to design luxury vehicles that you can either drive yourself or be driven. So there will always be a person in the vehicle that has the ability to drive."



Google, BMW and Tesla's driverless car tech supplier Bosch claimed last year that its automated driving systems will bring it €1 billion worth of annual sales by the next year with their own sales of surround sensors for driverless cars reaching 50 million in 2014.

During Automotive News World Congress 2015, Bosch's Wolf-Henning Scheider highlighted its 10 year plan, claiming that full auto-pilots (in which no driver interference is needed) will be launched by 2025.

Bosch is also part of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford, Silicon Valley Robotics Forum (SVRF) and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.



Uber launched its 'Advanced Technologies Center' in February 2015 in Pittsburgh and struck a deal with Arizona last September to test its driverless cars in public.

In April 2016, Google announced a partnership with Ford, Lyft, Uber and Volvo to aid the creation of self-driving car regulations and bring all companies closer to driverless cars, and taxis. This will most likely only effect the US at this point but as the UK has no formal legislation on driverless cars, this could cause a ripple effect over in the UK.

What's more, as of August 2016, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, revealed plans to test self-driving pickups in Pittsburgh by the end of the month.



Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk claims that all Tesla cars will be fully driverless in two years. Tesla already has a semi-automative car, namely the Tesla 'S' model that can train each other using ‘deep learning’ algorithms sent out and processed by the fleet’s sensors.Browse Server

This information teaches the cars about in-lane changing and spotting obstacles and should improve day-by-day.



Ford announced at CES this year that it would be developing an entertainment system for driverless cars. This entertainment system would act as an in-car cinema screen that uses a projector to cover the front end of the car. The patent issued by Ford for this product is called 'Autonomous Vehicle Entertainment System'

Ford has also ben pushing the boundaries by testing their driverless car fleet on snow-topped roads unlike most (if not all) other self-driving car manufacturers choosing to test on dry clear roads.



Founded by Stan Boland, Steve Allpress and John Redford, FiveAI is a UK-based autonomous vehicle software startup.

FiveAI uses AI and machine learning software intended to remove the need for the 3D mapping of environments, which is the current method used in autonomous vehicle research.

In July 2016, FiveAI secured $2.7 million of equity funding in an effort to apply strong artificial intelligence to driverless cars. Main investors include Amadeus Capital Partners with Spring Partners and Notion Capital.


TechWorld, 2017

Monday Jun 19, 2017