Ford tops the list of automated driving leaders in new study

Autonomous driving might seem like the province of startups and Silicon Valley, but a new independent research report from Navigant shows automaker Ford at the head of the pack when it comes to self-driving tech. The annual survey looked at 18 different companies, smeared across 10 different criteria, ranging from strategy, to core tech development, to manufacturing capability and staying power, and a company that’s over 100 years old ended up leading the list.

The Navigant list also included GM among the very top tier of companies with potential in the world of autonomous driving, which is a win for startups tangentially since that company picked up Cruise Automation to help boost its autonomous technology program. GM leads on execution, according to Navigant’s rating system, but Ford’s edge on Strategy gives it the overall claim to the top spot. Others in the leader category include the Renault-Nissan mashup and Daimler, with Waymo, Tesla, Delphi and others occupying a lower, Contender tier, and Uber, Baidu, nuTonomy and Honda ranking lower still in a group called “Challengers.”

Ford has already responded to their position in the study, with a Medium post from CTO Raj Nair expressing their satisfaction at being ranked number one. Nair writes that Ford especially values this recognition because of Navigant’s methodology, which looks at factors beyond just sensor hardware and software systems development in producing its ranking.

Nair talks about how Ford’s ability to actually make cars, and make them at scale, is a distinguishing advantage, and its mobility services approach, and subsidiary company, which will see autonomous vehicles launched first in ride-hailing and delivery fleets.

Ford’s investment and M&A strategy is another reason Navigant cites for its ranking in the study. During the past year, Ford has invested in Civil Maps, Velodyne, and autonomous AI startup Argo – plus it acquired Chariot, and algorithmic platform startup SAIPS. These combine with its existing industry expertise for potential in the market that outstrips its more tech-focused competitors, according to the report.