Interestingly enough 1908 was a remarkable year for a number of reasons. Not only was it the year that the Ford Motor Co. popularized the automobile with the introduction of the Model T, but it was also the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
Fast forward to today, and the results of a poll we conducted among The Motley Fool's 634,000 Twitter followers revealed our readers have more faith in the continuing wave of innovation sweeping through the auto industry than the Loveable Losers' postseason prospects. See the results for yourself:
Which will happen first:— The Motley Fool (@themotleyfool) September 8, 2016
With all respect to Chicago sports fans, this line of thinking makes sense for a few reasons. Though the Cubs easily secured the best regular season record in baseball this year, winning the World Series is really difficult, plainly stated. Case in point, data analytics website FiveThirtyEight predicts the Cubbies have only a 26% chance of winning the World Series, despite their resounding regular season success.
On the other hand, most consumers and investors see self-driving cars as something of an inevitability; a "when" versus an "if." So, other other possible survey responses aside, let's review the important investing themes and companies shaping our all-but-assured self-driving car future.
Self-driving cars and the companies redefining the industry
Barring possible regulatory roadblocks, research from Goldman Sachs claims semi-autonomous vehicles -- where the car drives itself freely but the driver can still take over the controls as needed -- can be ready for deployment in the next 1 to 2 years. The Boston Consulting Group also suggests the market for self-driving cars could give rise to a $42 billion market opportunity by 2025.
Companies including Alphabet (GOOG -1.53%) (GOOGL -1.48%), Tesla (TSLA -3.25%), NXP Semiconductor (NXPI -2.13%), and many more figure to prominently factor into this booming market. Here's how each of the above companies appear likely to contribute to the on-going revolution in transportation.
- Alphabet: With 60 self-driving cars deployed across 4 states, Alphabet's Google recently announced it surpassed 2 million total miles recorded as of August as part of its autonomous vehicle (AV) initiative. This kind of impressive early scale clearly provides Alphabet with a powerful first mover advantage to gain significant market share as the industry evolves. What's more, Alphabet's driverless car technology continues to gain adoption by once-likely rivals among Detroit automakers, many of whom continue to see Alphabet's ownership of the underlying technology powering autonomous vehicles (AVs) as a key strategic threat. Earlier this year, Alphabet and Fiat Chrysler reached an agreement for Alphabet to power 100 Chrysler minivans while other major automakers continue to pursue their own self-driving technologies. Specifics on Alphabet's business model remain fleeting, but the company's presence as a major force in the budding market for self-driving cars seems all but assured today.
- Tesla: Perhaps more so than any name aside from Alphabet, electronic vehicle innovator Tesla has helped lead the charge toward making self-driving cars a reality, though not without some controversy. The company unveiled its Autopilot technology that controls steering, lane changing, and parking last year to great fanfare. Though at least one Tesla car has since been involved in a fatal collision, the company remains adamant that self-driving cars should actually help reduce traffic-related accidents over time. Unlike Alphabet, Tesla's business model for self-driving cars is crystal clear: sell more cars -- something the company should do as it continues to scale out its own production capacity and product offerings in coming years.
- NXP Semiconductor: Switching gears to the component suppliers likely to benefit from the increasing proliferation of AVs, one need look no further than NXP Semiconductor. Led by one of the savviest management teams in the semiconductor space, NXP has already shipped over 30 million of its self-driving automobile microprocessors as of this past May, and that's likely just the beginning. Earlier this year, NXP Semiconductor released its Bluebox platform that seeks to provide automakers a plug-and-play suite of sensors, processors, and software. NXP's turnkey approach appears to be the future of the self-driving car market -- 4 of the 5 largest automakers are already using NXP Semiconductor's Bluebox product -- which makes it a fantastic investment option as this industry continues to expand.
To be sure, this constitutes a mere fraction of the names that are likely to play prominent roles in the self-driving car future. Other auto stocks, consumer tech companies and semiconductor manufacturers will also undoubtedly benefit from this boom market.
As you saw with the above poll, nearly a majority of our readers see self-driving cars as the next big thing in tech, which is fantastic news for everyone but the Cubs fans reading this.