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Say, Who's at the Wheel? Drivers of Self-Driving Cars

July 22, 2016
Steering wheel: Driverless cars and the publicly traded companies driving them

There’s excitement around the idea of self-driving cars and the potential for major changes in transportation, whether it’s for passenger vehicles or commercial truck fleets.

KPMG said there are great potential cost savings that could come with self-driving cars, including a reduction in vehicle ownership, lower costs to maintain road infrastructure, gasoline savings, lives saved because of accidents averted, and time Americans spend behind the wheel.

“The average American commuter now spends 250 hours a year behind the wheel of a vehicle; whether the value of that time is measured in lost productivity, lost time pursuing other interests, or lost serenity, the cost is high,” KPMG said.

Self-Driving Car Companies

The biggest names in the space are some well-known companies. Tesla Motors (TSLA) is considered the pure-play self-driving carmaker. According to, Tesla's plans fall around the notion of self-driving car companies, which might want to operate a taxi or mobility business. 

Many people automatically think of Google (GOOG) when they think about self-driving cars, and KPMG says Google already has hundreds of thousands of miles under its belt in a fleet of self-driving cars retrofitted with sensors. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, runs Sidewalk Labs, which appears to be looking to mesh autonomous cars in urban regions to make what it calls “smart cities.”

Other names in this space include software companies and auto suppliers such as Mobileye NV (MBLY), which is working on vision software that can spot objects (bicyclists, children, small animals) that may appear suddenly. Similarly, Autoliv (ALV) makes the sensors and cameras to run the vision software.

Components manufacturer Delphi Automotive (DLPH) is focusing on parts for driverless cars and has demonstrated some of that technology at recent Consumer Electronics Shows.

Not to be outdone, Ford Motor Company (F) and General Motors (GM) are pushing into the space. Ford announced its “Ford Smart Mobility Plan,” to be part of a fleet of self-driving cars.

GM has invested $500 million in Uber-competitor Lyft. GM has partnered with Chinese automaker SAIC Motor on plans to create a driverless car by 2030.

Some stocks involved with self-driving cars


This chart shows a basket of stocks involved with self-driving cars, including TSLA, GOOG, MBLY, ALV, DLPH, F, and GM. Data as of July 05, 2016. Data source: S&P. Image source: the TD Ameritrade thinkorswim® platform. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Handing Over the Keys to Robots?

The implications of self-driving cars are enormous and could disrupt the transportation industry, and could affect everything from hiring taxis and private cars to how goods are transported by trucks. There could also be an impact on the insurance industry.

We’re still a ways off from truly autonomous vehicles, KPMG says. What’s missing, so far, is the convergence of sensor-based technologies and connected-vehicle communications.

But some real-world applications have already filtered down to commercial vehicles, including self-parking, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping, to name a few, said the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in a roundup on the topic.

Self-parking may not be Jetsons technology, but it’s a start in that direction.

First Cars, Now Self-Driving Portfolios?

Amerivest brings together professional insights and advanced technology in a suite of managed, goal-oriented portfolios.

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