Aptiv (NYSE:APTV), which is positioned to help develop the next generation of vehicle safety solutions, driverless vehicles, and ways vehicles connect to and work with the evolution of smart cities, has caught the eye of investors across the industry -- especially considering there are few pure-play driverless vehicle investments. Management recently announced second-quarter earnings that beat estimates on the bottom line, and even raised 2018 guidance. Here are some of the key takeaways.

Q2 by the numbers

Starting from the top: Aptiv reported revenue of $3.68 billion during the second quarter, topping analysts' estimates calling for $3.55 billion. Adjusted earnings checked in at $1.40 per share, ahead of analysts' estimates of $1.37 per share. It was healthy growth on both the top and bottom lines, with its revenue moving 12% higher year over year, adjusted for currency exchange, commodity movements, acquisitions, and divestitures. Its adjusted earnings gained an impressive 24% over the prior year.

"During the second quarter, we delivered record double-digit revenue growth, operating income, earnings per share and free cash flow," said Kevin Clark, president and chief executive officer, in a press release. "We continued to see strong new business awards, totaling $11 billion year-to-date, focused on delivering the software capabilities, advanced computing platforms and networking architecture that are making the future of mobility real."

Driverless partnership and acquisitions

Another intriguing note from Tuesday was that The Hertz Corporation (NYSE:HTZ) announced that it plans to partner with Aptiv. The partnership will launch this fall with a call for Hertz to help Aptiv operate and maintain driverless fleets at scale. Aptiv's Las Vegas operations have recorded 3,500 rides given on the Lyft network, with a 4.96 out of 5 rider rating. These developments are hugely important for Aptiv not only to test its technology in different applications but also to build partnerships with companies that could eventually operate massive driverless fleets -- and in a driverless economy that Intel projects to be $7 trillion annually by 2050, these partnerships could become critical down the road.

Aptiv and Lyft partnered vehicle driving in Las Vegas

Image source: Aptiv

Also worth noting is Aptiv's completed acquisition in June of KUM, which Aptiv calls "a leading provider of highly engineered connectors and cable management solutions" for the auto industry, as well as an agreement in July to acquire Winchester Interconnect, "a leading provider of custom-engineered interconnect solutions for harsh environment applications," for roughly $650 million, or 10.6 times 2018 estimated EBITDA. The latter acquisition helps Aptiv expand its connectivity solutions and revenue streams beyond the auto industry into adjacent markets such as aerospace, defense, and semiconductors, among others, which will only strengthen and diversify its Signal and Power Solutions business segment. 

Furthermore, one part of Aptiv's bullish thesis has been the company's track record (including during its time as a part of Delphi Automotive before being spun off) of successfully bolting on acquisitions. That's important because there are so many innovative start-up companies within the driverless-vehicle technology space, and companies with management adept at picking strategic and valuable acquisitions, and with a track record of integrating them effectively, will have a huge advantage going forward. The competition for the brightest minds, top talent, and most innovative technology is fierce, and investors will want Aptiv to snatch up the best opportunities to continue building its business strategically.

The road ahead

Aptiv's strong first half of 2018 enabled management to raise its full-year guidance for both earnings and net sales. Management now expects earnings to be in the range of $5.30 to $5.40 per share, raising the bottom of that range by $0.10, and expects net sales in the range of $14.35 billion to $14.55 billion, compared to the prior range of $13.95 billion to $14.35 billion.

Even as new-vehicle sales in the U.S. market plateau, Aptiv is still positioned to thrive as vehicle electronics, safety technology, and connectivity continue to become more complex and more common as we move toward a future of electrified vehicle fleets, driverless cars, and everything connecting with increasingly smart cities. Expect the company to continue producing top- and bottom-line growth and to continue scooping up strategic acquisitions along the way to further entrench itself as a leader in the evolving automotive industry.

Daniel Miller has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.