A ranking of players leading development of automated driving places Ford at No. 1 and General Motors at No. 2 atop a field of 18 companies that includes traditional automakers as well as suppliers and tech companies like Google’s Waymo.

Compiled by Colorado-based Navigant Research, rankings touched on several categories including vision; technology; product capability and reliability; marketing and distribution; and strategy. Once tabulated, raters categorized companies as Leaders, Contenders or Challengers.

Ford, GM, Renault-Nissan and Daimler were the only companies to earn the Leader label for development of self-driving cars.

At the top of the second tier, the Contenders, were Volkswagen, BMW, Waymo and the partnership of Volvo, Autoliv and Zenuity.

All of the top eight companies are working to bring vehicles to the level of autonomy where “all aspects of the dynamic driving task” are handled by the vehicle and not a human driver, according to Navigant.

“These eight companies are projected to lead the race in putting the first Level 4 automated driving systems into production,” Navigant said.

Navigant credited Ford with developing the technologies for its automated F-250 pickup in-house, as well as acquiring or investing in a roster of companies that includes Civil Maps, SAIPS, Velodyne and Chariot. Ford’s $700 million investment in its Flat Rock plant was highlighted as well as a steppingstone to level-four vehicle production.

In addition, the company’s $1 billion in artificial intelligence startup Argo AI was seen as augmenting Ford’s “ability to recruit software engineers from the technology industry.”

Raj Nair, Ford’s executive vice president of product development, wrote in a blog post, “This is an important report because Navigant takes a holistic look at what is required to bring self-driving vehicles to market at scale, looking beyond just the hardware and software development efforts that have dominated recent headlines.”

GM’s high ranking was partly due to millions spent investing in companies like Lyft and in purchasing Cruise Automation.

Having a pair of Michigan-based companies atop the rankings could be seen as a boon for the state, which is currently jockeying with locations like Silicon Valley to become the hub for autonomous vehicles and other mobility technologies.

A second tier in the Contenders group included a variety of companies ranging from traditional automakers like Toyota, Hyundai and PSA Group, to newer players like Tesla, to suppliers like Delphi and ZF. Delphi was identified as the highest-ranking automotive supplier in Navigant’s review.

“These are companies that could step up to join the group above if some of their weaker areas in strategy and execution are addressed,” Navigant’s evaluation reads. “While they have the basic infrastructure and capability in place, most have decided to be cautious in their roll-out plans.”

Tesla also earned inclusion in the Contender category. Navigant’s analysis notes the company’s approach has been “aggressive” but “limited” by issues such as “profitability and limited distribution.”

Uber was one of four companies rounding out the bottom of the rankings in the Challengers category. The San Francisco-based company’s relatively poor showing in the Navigant rankings was, in part, due to its dealings with regulators.

“The company refused to sign up for a California permit for testing self-driving cars, prompting the state to revoke the registration for the test vehicles,” the report reads. “Uber has a history of seeking to sidestep regulations covering taxi services. While this strategy has allowed it to expand its business rapidly, this desire to operate outside regulatory oversight could also put it in the cross-hairs of regulators concerned about automated vehicles.”


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Navigant ranked 18 companies for leadership on automated driving:


1. Ford

2. General Motors

3. Renault-Nissan Alliance

4. Daimler


5. Volkswagen

6. BMW


8. Volvo/Autoliv/Zenuity

9. Delphi

10. Hyundai Motor Group

11. PSA

12. Tesla

13. Toyota

14. ZF


15. Honda

16. Uber

17. nuTonomy

18. Baidu