The autonomous car is a project that requires a huge investment. To such an extent, that many car manufacturers have decided to join other brands to form alliances and share technology in order to accelerate the adoption of the autonomous car. These alliances anticipate us what the world panorama of the motor will look like for the next decade. Alliances oriented towards the autonomous car but in some cases have also derived towards sharing technology for the electric or connected car.
Strategic agreements between companies that in many cases their headquarters are separated thousands of kilometers. This is the case of companies as diverse as Uber and Toyota or Ford and Volkswagen. While there are still some manufacturers that go free, the prevailing trend in the automotive sector is the formation of these alliances.
According to the Global Automotive Report 2019, none of the brands will dominate the value chain alone, increasing the willingness to cooperate with each other in the future.
“One thing is clear: no company will be able to manage it alone.” The managers are becoming aware, 83% of them assume that with the emergence of new models, companies must rethink the need for cooperation to create a mobility ecosystem The company that offers the best customer experience for people and goods will probably own the platform, ” says Dieter Becker, Global Head of Automotive at KPMG.
Brands such as Ford, BMW, Audi or Volvo have set 2021 as the year where they will commercially start their autonomous cars of level 4. However other brands and analysts are not so optimistic. To accelerate this landing, as Timothy Lee points out, the industry seems to revolve around five major initiatives and alliances.
General Motors, Cruise and Honda
General Motors was one of the first brands to focus on other companies for the development of its autonomous car. In 2016, he bought the startup Cruise for 500 million dollars. An investment to launch the Cruise AV, a modified Chevrolet Bolt without steering wheel, without pedals or any manual control.
But the project does not end there. Honda and General Motors signed an agreement in 2018 with the entry of Honda into Cruise through an initially 750 million dollar stake. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, since this collaboration agreement between the American and Japanese manufacturer commits more than 2,000 million euros for 12 years.
Ford and Volkswagen
The alliance between Volskwagen and Ford reached a level of strength that the firm had to clarify that “Ford and Volkswagen will continue to be competitors, since the proposed cooperation is not related in any way to commercial strategies.”
The two brands formalized their alliance last January to develop light commercial vehicles for the global market, marketed after 2022. In addition, the two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in the research and development of autonomous vehicles, services mobility and electric vehicles. No further details, but Ford is expected to use Volkswagen’s MEB electric vehicle platform.
Ford will invest 4 billion dollars until 2023 in its Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC department, a team where the participation of Argo AI, the artificial intelligence startup for which Ford paid more than 1,000 million dollars, will be key.
This joint development is where the names of other companies such as Domino’s Pizza, interested in sending their food and Lyft appear, where the taxi service is just one piece of the puzzle that Ford wants to put together.
Toyota, Uber and Volvo
In August of last year, Toyota announced a $ 500 million investment in Uber, which will share its technology with that of Japanese vehicles. Uber will combine its autonomous driving system with Toyota’s Guardian technology, but it will not be alone.
The alliance also includes companies such as Denso and Softbank, which also participated with another 500 million dollars in the Uber financing round.
Additionally, Uber has maintained a relationship with Volvo since 2016. A joint work that has resulted in the autonomous driving Uber prototype based on the Volvo XC90.
Hyundai, Fiat Chrysler and Aurora
Imagine Uber, Google and Tesla working together in the autonomous car. It is the image that Aurora Innovation tries to transmit, a promising startup with 250 employees and created by three industry experts. Neither more nor less than Chris Urmson, head of the project of autonomous cars of Google, Sterling Anderson, product manager of Tesla who helped create Autopilot and Drew Bagnell, founding member of the Advanced Technologies Group of Uber.
Of course, so much talent is attracting the eyes of the great traditional manufacturers. Among them Tesla itself, companies like Amazon and recently Hyundai and Kia Motors, who will invest more than 600 million dollars in the company to take advantage of its development in autonomous cars. Although by the end of this year they work with Yandex, the Russian Google, in another autonomous car system.
Aurora had also received the attention of the Volkswagen group, but after allying with Fiat Chrysler the German manufacturer has decided to cut their relationship. Without a doubt an interesting consortium that will have to see how it evolves and if it finally manages to rival the rest of the great alliances.
Waymo, Jaguar, Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi
Waymo is the division of Alphabet specializing in autonomous cars. It is one of the most advanced projects, to such an extent that its rivals accept its delay in comparison.
The autonomous cars of Google have signed specific agreements with Jaguar Land Rover and Fiat Chrysler to use their vehicles, although there is no agreement with these brands to share technology. An alliance for which Walmart also participates in an attempt to stand up to Amazon’s deliveries.
However, the brands that have been most interested in forming an alliance with Google have been Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi. The Franco-Japanese alliance is experiencing convulsive moments but despite the interest in Uber, Amazon and Alibaba, Waymo’s autonomous cars are still the best positioned to form one of these great alliances.
BMW and Daimler
In addition to joining forces in shared mobility and connected car, the two major German manufacturers have announced that they will jointly develop the next generation of autonomous level 4 highway driving technology and driver assistance assistants by mid-2020 on a long-term but not exclusive alliance, since they are also looking for new partners.
It is not the first time that the two manufacturers work together. Recently they have announced important changes in MyTaxi and its mobility services, while in 2015 they bought the digital cartography company Here Technologies for 2.500 million euros.
Previously, BMW announced an alliance with Intel and Mobileye to incorporate its chips in future autonomous cars. In addition to having a parallel alliance regarding the software with Baidu for the development of the search system.
Other alliances and car manufacturers that go solo
The autonomous car is presented as the great battlefield in the automotive sector for the next decade. In addition to traditional manufacturers, brands such as TomTom, Samsung, Microsoft or Nvidia are also working to expand their business to the motor field, taking advantage of the new opportunities that the autonomous car brings.
Another manufacturer that could land with a strong bet is Huawei. As we can read in Financial Times, the Chinese giant could ally with Volkswagen and Audi to present their own autonomous car. A vehicle that took advantage of its developments in telecommunications and artificial intelligence.
According to the statements of Mr Dang, a senior manager of Huawei, “As I understand it, we are working together to have a car that will be launched in 2021 or 2022 using these autonomous driving components, this will be in China, but not only in China. It will also be in Europe.”
Other manufacturers such as the French PSA group have also been researching autonomous driving for years and developing their own piloted system. In the case of Peugout, in 2017 a strategic collaboration was announced with the nuTonomy specialist.
Beyond these great alliances there are also brands such as Elon Musk Tesla that have been developing their own autonomous driving system for years. A company that, without counting on the support of other major brands, has placed 2020 as the year in which its autonomous driving cars will be prepared and we will even be able to sleep while the car drives for us. A promise for the end of next year that at the moment seems difficult enough to assimilate.
Nor should we rule out Apple, who is involved in his Titan project and has the second largest fleet of autonomous cars. A strong investment in automation and machine learning for the car, however, has undergone major restructuring.
And despite everything, even Apple itself has partnered with another manufacturer such as Volkswagen to develop a fleet of autonomous electric shuttles to transport their employees in the Apple Park. Because when we talk about a project of such magnitude as the autonomous car, all innovation and technology is welcome.