There's a lot to love about NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA). The company continues to outpace Wall Street's expectations, its share price has shot up 78% over the past year, and the company's driverless car opportunities and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are riding some of the biggest tech trend waves right now.
The company's Drive PX Pegasus supercomputer and its recently announced Drive Constellation simulation software are laying the foundation for a new era of semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles. And the company's belief that AI will make existing technologies smarter and more efficient has led NVIDIA to develop more powerful graphics processors that are used in AI databases by the biggest names in the tech industry.
But perhaps you're not interested in NVIDIA's stock right now, or maybe you already own shares and you're looking for additional companies that are betting on AI and autonomous vehicles. If so, then you should consider what General Motors (NYSE:GM) is doing in the driverless car space and how Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is using machine learning to improve nearly every aspect of its business.
These companies don't have the same business model as the booming chipmaker, but their commitment to the same tech trends make them great alternatives to NVIDIA.
Amazon's artificial intelligence is taking over
Amazon doesn't make processors to be used for AI-powered servers like NVIDIA does, but the company is implementing AI in its Echo smart speakers, its e-commerce platform, and its Amazon Web Services cloud computing services.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has been touting the benefits of machine learning for a while now. One of the most significant ways the company is using this tech is to improve product suggestions on its website and in its app, and to help decide which products online shoppers are more likely to buy.
Bezos wrote in a letter to Amazon shareholders last year that "Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations, and much more."
Using machine learning to improve nearly every aspect of Amazon's vast e-commerce system is essential: Amazon earned 60% of its total revenue from sales on its U.S. e-commerce site in the most recent quarter. The smarter the company's platform is, the more efficient and valuable it becomes.
Of course, Amazon is using AI for more than just its e-commerce sales. The company's Echo speakers, which feature its virtual assistant, Alexa, have become the smart speaker of choice for consumers. This year Amazon is expected to take about 67% of the smart speaker market, outpacing Alphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google Home's share of 29.5%.
The success of the Echo is mainly due to the fact that Amazon has created a virtual assistant that not only answers simple questions and plays music but can also be used to control voice-activated smart-home devices. A recent collaboration between Amazon and Microsoft also allows Alexa to open up Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant, allowing users to access their calendars easily.
Amazon has also integrated Alexa into its mobile app, tablets, Fire TV devices, and growing Echo speaker lineup. That means that Amazon sees the benefit of bringing its AI-based virtual assistant to as many platforms as possible to drive user engagement and spur sales. RBG Capital estimates that Amazon's smart speakers alone could add $10 billion to the company's revenue just two years from now.
The last piece of Amazon's AI puzzle is the company's rapidly expanding cloud computing offerings through Amazon Web Services. Amazon holds about 62% of the public cloud computing market right now, and the company is using AI services within AWS to help boost its dominance.
Consider that last year Amazon teamed up with Microsoft to take on TensorFlow, Google's machine learning tool for developers. While Amazon can run Google's TensorFlow on its servers, it's trying to offer developers an alternative machine learning tool so that it can tie customers further into its network of technologies.
Amazon also offers an array of machine learning services through AWS, including video and image recognition systems, chatbots, text translation, and transcription, as well as platforms developers and data scientists can use to build and train their own machine learning services.
Offering the most sophisticated AI tools on AWS is Amazon's way of holding onto its dominance in the cloud computing market and ensuring that it earns the biggest piece of the $411 billion (by 2020) pie it can.
GM is the true leader in driverless cars
NVIDIA gets a lot of attention for its autonomous vehicle supercomputer and its potential to help bring fully self-driving vehicles to the road in the next few years. But when it comes to the company's actual sales in the automotive sector, NVIDIA is still just getting started. In the most recent quarter, only 4.5% of the chipmaker's revenue came from its automotive segment.
While NVIDIA has mounds of potential in the space, GM has already taken a leadership position. The company bought an AI driverless car company called Cruise Automation back in 2016, and has since integrated the company's tech into some of its vehicles.
GM aims to bring a new fully autonomous, all-electric Cruise AV (autonomous vehicle) to the road next year, and has already made significant changes to some of its existing manufacturing plants to mass-produce self-driving cars. GM's recent retooling of existing plants for autonomous vehicle production was a significant step, not just for GM but for the autonomous vehicle industry as a whole. It marked the first time that self-driving cars had been mass-produced on an assembly line.
The automaker already has a fleet of about 130 autonomous vehicles that it's currently testing, and its Cruise AV will join the fleet later this year.
GM's initial goal with its self-driving pursuits is to benefit from the growing ride-sharing trend. The global ride-sharing market is expected to spike from just $36 billion right now to $285 billion by 2030. The company already has a $500 million stake in Lyft, and its self-driving vehicles could be the perfect addition to ride-hailing companies across the globe.
Not only is the 125-year-old automaker poised to benefit from the autonomous ride-hailing market, it could also seize the opportunity to sell self-driving cars directly to consumers.
Research from IHS Markit estimates that in 2040 about 36% of all new vehicles sold will be self-driving. That may seem like an impossible figure to comprehend now, but consider how prevalent standard safety features like airbags, ABS, and traction control are now, when once they were add-on features consumers had to pay extra for. In the coming decades, we'll wonder how we ever used to drive around without semi-autonomous and fully autonomous features at the helm.
Whether it's through direct consumer sales in the coming decades or through autonomous ride-hailing services, GM is perfectly poised to benefit from either trend. GM CEO Mary Barra summed up the company's future outlook best when she said: "We've made very important and strategic investments in key technologies that have put us in a leadership position in the areas where this industry is being transformed. In fact, we plan on leading in that transformation."
Those words are more than just a CEO being confident in her company. GM has already taken the lead in the driverless car space, according to the most recent Navigant Research data.
Amazon and GM are vastly different companies than NVIDIA, but both of them offer great alternative plays in the artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle trends. That doesn't mean that NVIDIA isn't a great company to invest in (I personally think it's a buy right now), but investors should always have a few alternative options in mind when considering investing in any market.
GM and Amazon are already leading the way in autonomous vehicles and AI, and both companies are taking a long-term approach to the these trends, which should serve them -- and their investors -- well for years to come.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Chris Neiger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, and Nvidia. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.