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Companies have invested ~$80 billion in self-driving tech with no clear leader

There are so many companies investing in self-driving technology that it’s hard to keep track of them all. The Brookings institute tried anyway with their latest report on the industry.

After tracking deals and investments, they estimate that ~$80 billion has been invested in the race to bring the technology to market. Yet, there’s still no clear leader in that race.

Again, it’s difficult to track the data and the Brookings institute actually suspects that the total sum of the investments is greater than what they could find:

“The data collected related to more than 160 separate deals, including investments, partnerships, and acquisitions. The announced figures for these deals approach $80 billion dollars. Given the limitations on available information discussed above, it is reasonable to presume that total global investment in autonomous vehicle technology is significantly more than this.”

The plotted those deals in some interesting charts:

As Cameron F. Kerry and Jack Karsten, the two researchers behind the study, put it, it looks like this insane amount of money is a symptom of AI investments as companies see self-driving cars as one of the first major commercial applications of the technology.

The landscape makes it hard to identify leaders in the field. They wrote:

“Every major car manufacturer in the world wants to be an early mover – or at least to avoid competitive disadvantage. They are joined by automotive suppliers like Bosch and Delphi Automotive. The technology-intensive aspect has drawn in tech companies that see their core competencies involved; Google’s self-driving cars have been the poster children of the sector for several years, but Apple, Microsoft, Alibaba, and Baidu are increasingly involved and players such as Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm are investing in making the microprocessors required. Fleet operators are also involved, including rideshare and logistics companies that are likely to be the earliest adopters and have a ready supply of vehicle miles to supply data for machine learning.”

All the companies have different timelines and goals for different levels of automation  – most of them appear to be between 2018 and 2022.

Tesla is already producing cars with what the automaker is calling “fully self-driving capable hardware” while Alphabet’s Waymo is talking about launching its self-driving ride-sharing service as soon as next year. On the other hand, some automakers, like BMW and Mercedes, are aiming for 2020-2022 to incorporate fully autonomous technology in their cars, but they are still using some forms of it to currently release increasingly more advanced driver assist features.

The authors of the study agree that there seems to be a consensus that fully autonomous driving should become reality “in a matter of years rather than decades.”

It’s hard to disagree since there’s not a lot that $80 billion won’t do.

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