Tesla’s work to accelerate the movement of electric vehicles is undeniable, but his work on fully autonomous driving capabilities is a bit more controversial. All Teslas ship with Autopilot, an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) that features adaptive cruise control and automatic steering that keeps the car in a lane. The company’s full self-driving (FSD) upgrade package comes with many more features that still require the driver to be alert and ready to take the wheel. fsd beta, a limited test among some owners with the fsd system, promises to take advantage of these features with autopilot navigation and autosteer around town. however, CEO elon musk’s promise that fsd will achieve full autonomy still appears to be unfulfilled.
unlike most other automakers, tesla is attempting to develop self-driving technology without lidar (“light sensing and ranging,” which is basically the use of lasers to help a car plot a map of your environment). instead, it is devoting research to computer vision, which gives a computer system the ability to see and make driving decisions using cameras. To help in its development, Tesla is building a supercomputer called a “dojo” to train its artificial intelligence algorithms. the company has hinted that it might allow other self-driving car developers to use dojo as well.
Semiconductors are the building blocks of all computing systems, including autonomous vehicle technology. NVIDIA is leading the charge on this front with its unique chip and software design. nvidia was a strategic partner of tesla years ago (they made tesla’s original stand-alone chips before tesla opted to design their own using samsung’s design and manufacturing platform).
Today, however, nvidia has used its early learnings to launch a full-fledged autonomous vehicle platform. encompasses cloud computing services (called drive) to help train artificial intelligence algorithms to design the hardware (power hyperion) that will power many automakers’ autonomous driving capabilities. premium cars, such as daimler (otc:dmlr.y) mercedes-benz, will feature nvidia’s advanced self-driving kits, beginning in the 2024 model year.
All sorts of semiconductor companies are cashing in on the boom in auto technology, but Qualcomm could be an overlooked winner. the company is known for its electronic components that can be found in almost every smartphone on the planet. But Qualcomm’s mobility chip specialty is taking on new life in the automotive industry.
the snapdragon digital chassis is a complete platform that powers vehicle connectivity, computing and adas. Qualcomm also acquired the autonomous vehicle software business, formerly part of auto supplier veoneer (nyse:vne), to help accelerate its development of a vehicle autonomy platform.
6. micron technology
Memory chips have been a key ingredient in vehicles for decades. however, self-driving cars will rely on digital memory like never before. micron is a leader in this space and is reporting rapid growth as automakers need more memory chips to enable autonomous driving and ADA car capabilities.
In fact, micron believes that autonomous cars will be its main growth engine in the coming years. In addition to vehicles, cloud computing, used to train artificial intelligence software and manage vehicle fleets, is also driving increased demand for Micron’s memory chips. As a manufacturer, Micron is a highly cyclical semiconductor company historically prone to wild swings in sales and earnings. however, there is huge potential for expansion in the coming years, thanks to autonomous driving technology.
7. general motors
general motors is a legacy automaker and one of the oldest. Its brands, including Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac, are hardly a growth business. However, in 2016, GM acquired Cruise, a leader in autonomous vehicle technology. Like Alphabet’s Waymo, the Cruiser operates at a heavy loss. but the company is beginning to see the first results of years of patient development.
cruise operates a small driverless robotaxi and a last-mile delivery fleet in select cities. However, in early 2023, GM says the cruise source driverless taxi (which has no steering wheel or pedals) will be available for purchase. Within a few years, the company hopes that some of the cruise technology will be more widely available for mainstream consumer vehicles.