Finding a Niche

One of the intriguing aspects of the autonomous vehicle race is the uncertainty it has generated, even among long-established automobile companies.

Ford is partnering with Google, GM is partnering with Lyft, Toyota is scrambling to keep up, and none of them has as good an idea of what the future will look like as they did ten years ago.

Uber is first and foremost a transportation service, but it has also bought out Carnegie Mellon University’s vaunted robotics department, in hopes of building its own autonomous vehicles. And Uber has a mapping project underway.

Mobileye, until now a computer vision company, is also entering the mapping space.

Elon Musk has begun to muse about Tesla launching a ride-sharing service to compete with Uber.

All of this looks like a lot of hedging, as companies try to cover their bases until the best niche for them clarifies.

One of the things they teach in business school is that entrepreneurs shouldn’t hedge. So who’s not hedging?

Toyota, although maybe just due to a slow start. Perhaps Google and Ford, although they are partnering. Apple, maybe, although they’re so secretive it’s impossible to know what they’re doing.

It’s hard to say that there’s a single company that has a crystal clear vision for what the future will look like and their role in it.

And that just points to how uncertain the future has become in the auto industry.

Originally published at on January 7, 2016.

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