Like most anything else in the world of business in general or technology in particular, size, scale, deep pockets and alliances are going to be the determining factors in the race to build autonomous cars, according to a new report that handicaps that race - and gives Ford, GM, Renault-Nissan and Daimler the best chance of success.

Navigant Research looked at 18 companies working on self-driving technology, introducing its findings this way:

Automated vehicles are quickly nearing a level of maturity that will enable initial deployments for consumers. A large group of companies are actively developing complete automated driving systems and the components that go into those systems, including automotive OEMs, suppliers, non-automotive technology companies, and startups. Several of these companies entered this market recently but rapidly moved into contention through acquisitions, investments, and strategic hiring of key personnel. Others have been working on automated driving technology for decades.

This Navigant Research Leaderboard Report examines the strategy and execution of 18 leading companies developing automated driving systems. These players are rated on 10 criteria: vision; go-to market strategy; partners; production strategy; technology; sales, marketing, and distribution; product capability; product quality and reliability; product portfolio; and staying power. Using Navigant Research's proprietary Leaderboard methodology, companies are profiled, rated, and ranked with the goal of providing an objective assessment of their relative strengths and weaknesses in the global market for automated driving systems.

It handicapped the field with these players as the top 10:
  1. Ford
  2. GM
  3. Renault-Nissan Alliance
  4. Daimler
  5. Volkswagen Group
  6. BMW
  7. Waymo
  8. Volvo/Autoliv/Zenuity
  9. Delphi
  10. Hyundai Motor Group
The top four companies were singled out for the strength of their investments, alliances and acquisitions. Ford last week, for example, announced investments of $700 million at its Flat Rock plant for work on self-driving technology, and the hiring of hundreds of engineers to double its efforts in connectivity, a crucial component to autonomous driving. GM is testing self-driving Chevy Bolts in California and Arizona and will begin testing on Michigan roads this year. The rest of the top 10 were deemed very close behind the leaders but without such strong alliances or acquisitions.

This Navigant chart also shows the outliers. Honda, nuTonomy, the Chinese company Baidu and Uber were knocked for lacking coherent strategy and lagging behind in road testing.

You can read a bit more here or can purchase the full report.

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