Most of the world's biggest technology companies are betting that driverless cars will be one of the next big markets, and they're probably right. By 2035, nearly 76 million vehicles will have some level of self-driving capability, and the market is expected to be worth $42 billion by 2025.
Within this space, there are a few companies whose stocks have taken a hit over the past year but could still prove to be wise long-term investments in driverless cars.
Is Baidu a bargain?
Baidu is the go-to search engine of China much in the way Google is throughout the rest of the world. The company is anything but a pure-play in driverless cars (most of its revenue comes from online advertising) but like Google, Baidu is investing lots of time and money into developing driverless car technology.
The company is already testing self-driving vehicles on China's public roads, with the goal of launching self-driving public transportation in cities by 2018.
Baidu also has a growing list of driverless car patents in the county and the blessing of the Chinese government to test out its vehicles, something that could propel China ahead of the U.S. in the driverless car space.
The tech giant's stock is down 14% year to date, and about 8% over the past 12 months. But its stock trades at just under 12 times its earnings, much lower than the technology industry average of 26.
Baidu hasn't even specified how it plans to make money from its driverless car efforts (for the record, nor has Google), but if investors are looking for a driverless car bet that has a lot of promise and is cheaper than most tech stocks, then Baudi definitely looks like a bargain right now.
Is Delphi Automotive a bargain?
Delphi Automotive isn't exactly a household name, but if you've ever ridden in a car, you've likely used its parts and technology.
Delphi's claim to fame in the self-driving space came when its cameras, radar, and driverless car software helped an Audi SUV drive nearly all on its own from San Francisco to New York last year.
Being that Delphi is an auto supplier, investors can be sure the company is taking self-driving technology very seriously, and the fact that Audi -- which is a self-driving tech leader -- is already using its tech is a good sign.
Delphi's stock has been hit pretty hard this year and is down about 23% YTD, and 16% over the past year. But its P/E is just over 11 right now, putting its price well below the auto parts industry average of about 20. Delphi's current position in the self-driving space and its low P/E mean it certainly deserves a look from bargain investors.
Is NXP Semiconductors a bargain?
NXP is a chipmaker that's made two huge moves in the automotive space recently. The first came when the company purchased Freescale Semiconductors earlier this year. That gave NXP about 14.5% of the automotive chip space with both of the company's combined operations.
The second move came just a few months ago, when NXP debuted its open-source self-driving system, called BlueBox, which easily allows automakers to add driverless technology to their vehicles.
BlueBox includes radar and lidar sensors, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications, and NXP's semiconductors, to create an off-the-shelf self-driving solution for carmakers.
The company's stock is flat since the beginning of the year (though it's had some big swings) and is down 12% over the past 12 months. It trades at about 28 times earnings right now, which is not as cheap as Baidu or Delphi, but not high in the context of the industry either. It's harder to call NXP a bargain right now for that reason, but I don't think investors should write off the company completely.
I think NXP still has a lot of room to grow, and it's positioning itself very well in the driverless car space, even if its P/E is little higher than those of the other bargain stocks.
Investors looking to jump into the driverless car trend should certainly give these stocks some serious consideration. I recommended Baidu and NXP just a few months ago, and I still think they top the list for driverless car stocks.