A mass rollout of self-driving cars is still years away, but more than 70 companies around the world are investing heavily in the technology. These companies span legacy automakers, suppliers, start-ups, and tech giants.

Every year, Navigant Research releases a report that ranks the top vendors who are developing automated vehicle (AV) compute platforms to power the artificial intelligence that could replace humans at the wheel. In the latest report for 2020, NVIDIA (NVDA 2.57%) came out on top, ahead of Intel's (INTC 2.13%) Mobileye.

A vehicle with the NVIDIA corporate logo displayed on the hood with screenshots of computer displays hovering around the car.

Image source: NVIDIA.

The leader of the most sophisticated computer technology

It's an impressive accomplishment to be ranked No. 1 in the report that looked at several factors to rate each company's position in the AV market. Navigant looked at each company's vision technology; go-to-market strategy; partners; production strategy; technology; sales, marketing and distribution; product capability; product quality and reliability; product portfolio; and "staying power." 

For NVIDIA, which generates $10.9 billion in annual revenue, to outrank the deep pockets of Intel with $72 billion in annual revenue, is impressive. 

Intel's Mobileye business generated slightly more revenue than NVIDIA's automotive segment over the last four quarters. While Mobileye brought in $879 million, NVIDIA's automotive business generated $700 million in revenue. Mobileye also grew faster at 26% year over year in 2019, while NVIDIA only saw 9.2% growth from its automotive segment. 

The slower rate of growth of NVIDIA doesn't reflect an inferior competitive position in the self-driving car industry, but likely reflects the slow progress toward automated vehicles for the broader transportation market. A year ago, Navigant pointed to the first automated-driving-related fatality in early 2018 as an indicator that the technology is not ready for a mass rollout. It will likely take several more years of testing and development before mass production is even considered.