Tech companies, mobility services, and legacy automakers are all racing to be the first to deploy self-driving cars at scale. The stakes are undeniably high — for automakers, the self-driving revolution, coupled with the advent of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, threatens to reduce individual car ownership, a sizeable share of their core businesses. Meanwhile, tech companies are hungrily vying to get a piece of the self-driving car market, which Apple CEO Tim Cook called "the mother of all AI projects" earlier this year. These companies are all looking to deploy autonomous cars as part of a commercial ride-hailing service, which would operate similarly to how Uber and Lyft do now, allowing customers to request rides to a specified location through a mobile app.

In this research note, BI Intelligence takes an in-depth look at the most expansive Level 4 self-driving car tests taking place in the US, and offers insights on the leaders in the autonomous car race. Level 4 and 5 are the two highest classifications of autonomy, according to SAE International, an international automotive standardization organization. Level 4 autonomy refers to cars that can drive themselves under certain scenarios, while Level 5 cars can drive themselves under any conditions, eliminating the need for steering wheels, pedals, or a human operator. Thus far, no company has tested a Level 5 self-driving car on public roads in the US, but most of the companies currently conducting tests of Level 4 autonomous cars are eventually planning on testing, and then deploying, Level 5 vehicles.

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Waymo

Waymo, the self-driving car spinoff of Google parent company Alphabet, is widely considered to be a frontrunner to bring self-driving cars to market as part of a commercial ride-hailing service.

  • The company began testing vehicles with self-driving features back in 2009, and has logged over 4 million miles on public roads in the US. No competitor has come close to matching that number. Additionally, Waymo's vehicles drove 97% of all the miles driven by autonomous test cars in California in 2016. And it has [...]