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Self-driving Startups Make Ripe Targets
- Mar 17, 2017 -

Intel’s $14.7 billion acquisition of Mobileye may just be the tip of the iceberg for deals in the self-driving supplier space. Smaller autonomous technology companies specializing in areas like artificial intelligence, sensors or mobility services could be a boon to big players looking to gain market share and attract automaker partnerships. Though analysts don’t expect future deals to match the size of Intel and Mobileye, there are a number of acquisition targets ripe for the picking.

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Who they are: This Mountain View, Calif., startup is developing deep-learning technology that can serve as the “brain” for self-driving cars. It aims to create a smaller, more efficient computer processing system for vehicles, making it easier to deploy artificial intelligence at a commercial scale. Launched in August 2016, Drive.ai has been testing vehicles on California roads and published a demo video in February. 

Why they’re hot: With effective deep learning technology, manufacturers can expedite the process of “teaching” self-driving cars how to react to certain situations, shortening the development timeline. And a cheaper system can help reduce production costs. They also recently showed off a car driving autonomously in the rain – which has been a tricky task for self-driving cars to master. 

Nutonomy

Who they are: This self-driving software startup has been testing cars in Michigan, Massachusetts, the United Kingdom and Singapore as it gears up to introduce an autonomous taxi service next year. In August, Nutonomy launched a public trial of its ride-hailing service in Singapore. The Boston-based company raised nearly $20 million in funding in 2016.

Why they’re hot: Ride-hailing is one way to get autonomous vehicles on the road without banking on customers buying them. A successful service can be a steady source of income for a company, as well as garner consumer acceptance of self-driving technology.

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Who they are: Though Zoox has been less public than other startups about what it’s working on and how they plan to deploy it, its co-founder, Tim Kentley-Klay has said that it will introduce an “advanced mobility service.” Since it launched in 2014, Zoox has attracted top engineering talent from Tesla, Google and Apple.

Why they’re hot: Despite its secrecy, Zoox has raised nearly $400 million from investors with a valuation of $1.55 billion. The investor attention could draw in bigger players hoping to beef up their autonomous technology offerings.

Quanergy

Who they are: Quanergy, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is looking to make lidar sensors cheaper and more discreet. The startup is planning on manufacturing a $250 solid-state lidar sensor, meaning it will be smaller and stationary as opposed to the rotating coffee cans made popular by fellow lidar maker Velodyne. Quanergy has raised nearly $150 million from investors with a valuation of $1.59 billion.

Why they’re hot: If Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber is any indication, scalable lidar sensors will be key to the commercialization of self-driving cars. If Quanergy can deliver on its sensor targets, it will have a product that will be invaluable to any company looking to have skin in the self-driving game.

Velodyne

Who they are: Another lidar manufacturer in Silicon Valley, Velodyne is responsible for the current rotating rooftop sensor designs visible on many self-driving vehicle prototypes. While its current offerings are still too expensive for commercial production, Velodyne is also working toward developing an affordable and scalable sensor. Ford Motor Co. and Baidu invested $150 million in the company in August.

Why they’re hot: Velodyne is an acquisition target for the same reasons as Quanergy, but with backing from major players like Ford and Baidu, it may have more resources to reach its end goal sooner.