In the growing autonomous car arms race, it appears that all of the talk is about Google, Uber, and major automakers. But a few weeks ago, if you remember, Intel bought Israeli “startup” Mobileye, which makes collision avoidance technology. Now, granted, Mobileye has been around since 1999 and is publicly traded, but I think its acquisition reminded us that there is space for startups in the autonomous car space — and it isn’t just a bravado contest between Google and Uber. So, how can startups contribute to self-driving cars? What third-party technologies will be key to the development of the autonomous car “ecosystem?”
I 100% believe startups can contribute to autonomous technology and it's not just for the "big boys". The current state of technology is nowhere close to it's full potential which leaves a lot of room for market opportunity. What if autonomous vehicles no longer need a steering wheel? That detail alone would result in a complete redesign of vehicle interiors and a market for third-party customization. Think living room on wheels, boardroom road trips, you name it.
There will always be room to contribute but the big question is, wait to see where the technology goes to make something needed for the big companies OR create solutions you believe will be a necessity and directly affect where that technology goes?
Incumbents, their existing suppliers and professional service providers are competent operators in their domain. IT startups take on political and legal risk when they try to enter a heavily regulated sector like the auto-industry. So, where can startups contribute? Sensors? Wireless connectivity?
I think the incumbents or their existing suppliers already have a moat around their stakes. If not, they can reprioritise internal efforts and reallocate resources.
For an IT startup, the most promising area is mapping. In fact, it is the single most strategic technology of the entire vehicle. If someone controls the map, they control logistics, and they control human migration not by thousands, but by millions.
It is a model Yahoo adopted in the 1990s.
Apple desperately needs a map overhaul. The Nokia HERE app is the closest substitute. Google Maps is the most advance to date, and the clear leader in consumer mapping. Military-grade maps are something else.
The key to autonomous car ecosystem is figuring out how to leverage mobile computing and mapping. GPS data and meta-data is one dimension of this.
There needs to be some sort of crowd-sourcing, and a way to manage the quality.
All these components, crowd-sourcing, database, meta-data, big data, cloud computing, web hosting, etc, are not automaker's core competency; therefore, an entry point for IT startups.
There is always a market for a good idea. Remember that even Uber and Tesla were startups and have been in industry for less than 10 years. I don't find a reason as to why they can succeed and if you have trouble growing you can always go to consultants and get your business plan fixed.