Self-Driving Cars: What Investors Need to Know

Companies such as Google, Tesla, and Sierra Wireless could be big benefactors from the self-driving revolution.

Feb 8, 2014 at 8:32AM

Nissan promises to have more than one fully self-driving vehicle on the market by 2020. That's still several years off, but the good news is that many autonomous features – such as smart cruise control and lane assist – are already in some vehicles today.

What will the self-driving future look like as different brands attempt to navigate the same roadways? As investors, we should be paying attention to companies that can help facilitate machine-to-machine, or M2M, communication, such as Sierra Wireless (NASDAQ:SWIR) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL).

Motley Fool analysts Austin Smith and Rex Moore saw this technology first-hand at the recent 2014 International CES. In this video from the floor of the exhibit hall, they talk about the exciting things for investors should watch for.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Rex Moore: Let's shift a bit. Still technology in the car – we're talking self-driving vehicles, autonomous features – a lot of that already in the cars now, but what did you see here?

Austin Smith: Self-driving cars, to me ... what's really interesting about this industry is that you've seen a lot of the auto manufacturers experimenting with these things over the years, but for these cars to really become a reality and really become ultra-safe, and really effective in the way that you need in the mass market, they have to be able to communicate with each other.

What's crucial to that is the Google Open Auto Alliance, that was announced here at CES. Chevy can't just have its own homegrown self-driving cars. It needs to be able to communicate with the Fords and the BMWs and the Audis that are right next to it on the highway, and that Open Auto Alliance makes that a reality.

I think there are going to be a lot of winners from the autonomous vehicle revolution. Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) – look to them to be an obvious player here – obviously the auto manufacturers that are here at CES, but I think it's those companies that bring it all together, the companies that are allowing these automobiles to seamlessly communicate with each other, that actually may be a bit more interesting from an investing perspective.

Now, we're not really sure of all the hardware, but expect some M2M companies, like maybe a Sierra Wireless, or companies of the like, to be involved in that cross-vehicle communication. Definitely an interesting thing from the manufacturer perspective, but from the investor perspective let's maybe look to a smaller company that's doing some M2M stuff, vehicle-to-vehicle.

Austin Smith owns shares of Ford, General Motors, and Google. Rex Moore owns shares of Google. The Motley Fool recommends BMW, Ford, General Motors, Google, Sierra Wireless, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford, Google, Sierra Wireless, and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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