It's been a major year in the driverless tech space, with the US government introducing the first-ever guidelines on autonomous vehicle development, ride-sharing giant Uber unveiling self-driving fleets to the public in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and Tesla announcing that all new vehicles will have the hardware required for full autonomy.
Beyond the announcements of any single automaker, tech company, or regulator, is a larger trend: A rush for the big players in the auto world to partner up with the tech that can help make driverless vehicles a reality.
Here's a list of TechRepublic's top seven partnerships in the autonomous vehicle world.
1. General Motors invests $500 million into Lyft
In January, one of the top three auto companies in the US made what the New York Times reported as the "single largest direct investment by an auto manufacturer into a ride-hailing company." The move also aimed to spur the collaboration of an on-demand fleet of driverless cars. It is likely that Lyft and GM may have some kind of announcement about the progress of this fleet in early 2017.
2. General Motors buys Cruise
In a second big announcement from GM, the automaker purchased Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based startup, for reportedly over $1 billion in March. Cruise Automation is part of GM's recently founded Autonomous Vehicle Development Team, based in San Francisco.
3. Fiat Chrysler announces partnership with Google
In a departure for Google, which had previously been working on developing its own autonomous car, the tech giant announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler in May—its first direct collaboration with an automaker. The project, intended to develop self-driving minivans, will use sensors and computer systems from Google.
4. Mobileye, Delphi, and Intel team up to develop driverless car tech
In August, two major driverless tech developers announced a groundbreaking alliance, aiming to deliver a tech package for level 4 autonomous vehicles that would be ready by 2019. Mobileye, an advanced visions system for the cars, had previously partnered with Tesla, and is now helping fuel driverless tech in GM, Nissan, VW, and other carmakers. And, in November, Intel joined the duo. Driverless car tech is likely to require huge amounts of processing power, so the team will use Intel's Core i7 chip to help vehicles scan the roads.
5. Ford acquired Israeli startup, Saips
In August, Ford CEO Mark Fields made a major announcement: The auto giant would mass produce fully-autonomous, steering wheel-free vehicles, by 2021. To enable this development, the company purchased an Israeli company that specialized in machine learning and computer vision. As John Dolan, principal systems scientist in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, recently told TechRepublic, "a major trend is the more intensive application of machine learning to autonomous driving."
6. Volvo and Uber teamed up on autonomous vehicle platform
A major alliance was announced In August, when Uber and Volvo came together in the development of driverless cars. Uber invested $300 million in the Swedish automaker, choosing Volvo as a partner because of its safety record. As we previously reported, Uber plans to release 100 self-driving Volvos on the roads of Pittsburgh, where its first driverless fleet is available to the public, by the end of 2017.
7. Uber buys Otto for over $680 million
One of the first places where driverless vehicles may appear en masse is in the trucking world. In Germany, Daimler's autonomous 18-wheelers are currently using driverless tech on public roads. By purchasing Otto, a driverless trucking startup, in August, Uber signaled its intention to get in on that development.
- When your driverless car crashes, who will be responsible? The answer remains unclear (TechRepublic)
- Tesla's New Autopilot Update (CBS News)
- Tesla's Musk says Autopilot update would have prevented fatal crash (ZDNet)
- When will we get driverless cars? Experts say public opinion is the critical factor (TechRepublic)
- Tesla launching 'major improvements' to Autopilot in coming weeks (ZDNet)
- Tesla's fatal Autopilot accident: Why the New York Times got it wrong (TechRepublic)
- Why the US government should take Tesla up on its offer to share Autopilot data (TechRepublic)
- Tesla speaks: How we will overcome the obstacles to driverless vehicles (TechRepublic)
- Autonomous driving levels 0 to 5: Understanding the differences (TechRepublic)
Hope Reese has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.