Large automakers are acquiring start-ups, not to remove the competition from their way but to absorb their technology and talent. This is helping car manufacturers stay up to date with technology, and crucially advance toward autonomous technology.

In response, smaller companies are adopting a “plug and play” approach, says Brian Solis, Principle Analyst at Altemeter. This means soft and hardware tech is being designed to be easily fit into existing car models, and also means the company can exist as a supplier rather than waiting to be bought out.

From total autonomy, conditional or partial automated driving to driver assist, the levels of autonomy are classified from level 5 to level 1, the lowest of which Tesla has already installed in models sold around the world. Driver assist is a step up from cruise control but drivers are beginning to demand self-parking options and decreasing observation required.

Level 5 autonomy will barely resemble the cars we drive today, and carmakers have set 2021 as the date to achieve this. In the meantime, Google, Intel, Microsoft and Udacity are joining the suppliers contributing to autonomous development and UX design.

NVIDIA is working with Audi on a fully autonomous model that will be available before 2021 previewed date. In just 3 years, Audi plans to market an A8 with Level 4 “Piloted driving.” BMW began in 2014, working Intel and with Baidu, a Chinese search engine that have already contributed to 40 autonomous cars, currently spending this year moving driverless around the US and Europe. GM was even further ahead of the game as Mary Barra announced Bolts were being tested with autonomous technology in 2016.

Faraday Future, Fiat Chrysler and Ford are not missing out on the action. The latter’s CEO Mark Fields said the company was “rethinking” Ford’s entire business model to become a service provider rather than car seller. This is likely to be a trend that traces the same market penetration timeline as autonomous driving.

Data sources: Altimeter, Audi

Image sources:Naples Herald, Auto Week

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