- The gap between the self-driving industry’s leaders and their competitors is growing.
- The top tier includes Waymo, Cruise, Argo AI, Aurora, and Motional.
- Newcomers have the best chance to succeed if they target opportunities outside of ride-hailing.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In the decade after Google started working on self-driving cars, in 2009, a wave of startups, automakers, and tech companies decided to challenge the search-engine giant.
The denizens of the new industry, including the investors who fueled it, were optimistic. Venture capitalists and fund managers poured tens of billions of dollars into companies working on automated-driving technology, while Cruise and Tesla said customers would be able to ride in their self-driving vehicles by 2020. Cruise backed off its end of 2019 deadline in July of that year. Tesla has repeatedly pushed back its timeline for its “Full Self-Driving” feature.
Indeed, progress has been slower than expected. Only two companies, Waymo and Motional, are operating robotaxis that are available to the public, and those vehicles are confined to small portions of two states (Arizona and Nevada, respectively). Though driver-assistance systems are becoming more capable, consumer vehicles that can drive anywhere without human supervision are unlikely to arrive until the 2030s at the earliest.
The long, grueling road to…