Who is playing with who?
Vision Systems Intelligence (VSI) have done a good job with a graphic listing the players in the autonomous vehicle space. They show them in various groupings, tools, mapping, vehicle builders, connectivity. The graphic is copyright VSI and shown at the top of the page.
It would take a more complex infographic to map the relationships between all of the organisations that have gone public with their plans. Apart from the obvious players, such as Tesla, Uber and Google there are others who appear to have a dog in the fight but as yet have not put their cards on the table.
Until the dust begins to settle and the shape of the future market becomes clear most businesses are naturally keeping their options open. They are positioning themselves by buying up smaller firms, investing in others, declaring alliances, opening research facilities, engaging consultancies and publicising any and all pronouncements as a major step forward.
GM have announced they will build a large number of automated Chevrolet Bolts, with Lyft as the customer. GM has invested $500m in Lyft, presumably as they see them as an outlet for their AVs.
Uber are working with Volvo on trials in Pittsburgh. They have stated they will stay open minded on who they eventually buy from. Perhaps Uber will be a customer for the Level 4 autonomous vehicle Ford plans to be mass producing by 2021. Uber have reached an agreement with Daimler already. The press report is warm and fuzzy but is short on practical detail. Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, has said that being the first to deploy autonomous fleets of taxis is an existential issue for his business.
Alongside these obvious players, how about First Group? A large UK company they operate 20% of the entire UK bus fleet and carry 3m passengers a day. They own Greyhound and the US School Bus service. They could see this as a big opportunity and as a defensive play. They could also make a mistake and see it as cannibalising their existing business. If they ignore the threat they could watch their business go the way of EMI’s music business, IBM’s mainframes, Barnes & Nobel bookstores and Blockbuster video rentals.
At least First Group have the opportunity to play an active part, they don’t have to be a victim of the change. There are other businesses who will be less lucky, an issue we’ll explore in another post.