Tech circles have been abuzz about autonomous driving for a while. It is the first and most obvious application of artificial intelligence advances, and it has been developing quickly over the last two years. Unlike LED lighting (2013) and 3-D printing (2014-2015), the move toward autonomous driving saves lives and can be easily adopted by the automotive industry, one that hasn’t seen an advance like this in decades.
Market observers have somehow been looking at the wrong place. A 2016 60 Minutes documentary focused on Mercedes and Google, both companies that have been perennial failures at doing anything outside their core industries. The larger market has been focused on Nvidia, the leader in AI chips and a 2016 stock market winner, and on Tesla as the plays on self-driving cars.
Meanwhile, Mobileye won the endorsement of major US car companies, including Ford and GM, and won BMW’s business (with Intel’s help) in 2016. As 2016 rolled on, it became obvious that for driving to become fully autonomous, cars would need to become networked with each other. While it lost Tesla’s partnership, Mobileye realized that to win the entire industry, everything from a pothole to emergency activity on the roads would need to be mapped and communicated from car to car, as explained here. As it pursued a strategy to incorporate networking front and center, it won VW’s business, the largest car manufacturer in the world.
Intel then used the chaos at Google to sweep in and become the instant leader in what is clearly going to be the most influential technology of the next decade.