Automated vehicle systems are a complex endeavor for anyone
trying to compete in this space. OEMs and traditional automotive suppliers have
been very active through tie-ups, investments, and acquisitions designed to
improve their strategic position. Large tech companies are also very active
developing complete platform strategies as well as aggressive investments
through their venture funds.
Beyond traditional auto and big tech, there are literally
hundreds of other companies vying for a piece of the AV ecosystem. Many are
startups with fresh rounds of capital, whom are feverishly pursuing technology
breakthroughs in the areas of sensing, localization, simulation, or mapping.
The purpose of this report is to decompose the current AV
ecosystem by looking at the latest version of VSI’s infographic which reflects
the major players within the value chain for autonomy. The report provides a
high-level analysis of the global AV landscape by explaining each domain of the
Latest Landscape of AV Technology
VSI’s AV ecosystem is a vast array of companies both large
and small, that offer products and technologies to support automated driving.
Companies featured in this infographic are chosen based on their known products
or evidence of their commercialization strategy. In addition, it is important
to point out that this infographic only covers the in-vehicle technologies and
does not include infrastructure, cloud, or enterprise level technologies even
though they are an important part of the greater mobility ecosystem.
Let’s decompose the ecosystem by examining the companies and their associated categories within infographic. In the following sections, we discuss the categories and share with you some insight on the composition of each category and what type of products are included.
Functioning AV Builds – OEM
The Functioning AV Builds category represents companies that
are building complete vehicle platforms with AV functionality. This field is
also divided into two sub-categories; OEM and Mobility.
The companies represented in the OEM category are
traditional automotive OEMs that are actively developing AV technologies for
their production models as well as future robo-taxi/MaaS (Mobility as a
Service) vehicles. Their end goal is to sell their AVs to consumers and/or AV
service operators or fleets.
To qualify for AV Builds, the OEM may offer automated
features at the production level (typically L2 or L2+) and/or are developing
L4+ “robo-taxi” vehicles. These are typically separate business units
as rarely does an OEM consolidate their automated activities into one group.
Furthermore, the L4+ track is typically based on a mobility model which has
huge implications in terms of timelines and go-to-market strategies
The Mobility category includes companies that are developing
and testing complete AVs for future mobility services. Many companies in this
space retrofit current production vehicles and integrate systems from multiple
suppliers coupling that with their own self-driving technology stack. Their end
goal is to operate AV mobility services for the general public and commercial
Many of the builds are designated for fleet-based operation
as either ride-sharing platforms, robo-taxis, delivery vehicles or shuttles
designed to operate within a restricted environment. Some of the largest fleets
and fleet service providers occupy this space, as do well-funded start-ups.
The AV Stacks category includes companies that offer AV
hardware and/or software platforms that can handle the tasks of perception,
decision, and control. These companies are developing AV platform technology to
control multiple domains of AV functionality. Most companies in this space also
have their own research AVs for testing purposes. Their end goal is to provide
their AV hardware and/or software stacks to OEMs and mobility service operators
which are developing complete AVs.
Most companies listed in this category commercialize their
AV hardware and/or software stacks and supply these to the companies in the OEM
and Mobility categories. Meanwhile, several companies in this category open source
their software and are calling for participation and collaboration across the
industry to share knowledge and to contribute to their open source AV software
repositories. Some companies do this to generate revenue from other sources
such as selling the data they collected.
The Sensing category is the unsurprisingly largest category
of them all. Sensing is large piece of the AV stack and the components here
include all formats from raw sensors to complete sensing modules.
Although not shown in our high-level infographic, the
sensing category is further defined by sensor type including CMOS/CCD, radar,
LiDAR, ultrasonic, IR/NIR (or thermal), GPS/GNSS, and IMU (inertial measurement
Among the many functions, sensors are used to detect the 3D
environment around the vehicle as well as other actors in the scene including
vehicles, pedestrians, and even animals. For example, vision sensors are ideal
for classification of objects as well as scene segmentation while radar provides
the best object tracking (the exact movement) of other vehicles.
The Processing category includes companies that offer
processing logic or licensed IP. The processor technologies and types
represented in this domain typically include digital signal processing (DSP),
field-programmable gate array (FPGA), graphics processing unit (GPU),
microcontroller, and a system on a chip (SoC). There are also application
specific integrated circuits (ASICs) which are essentially customized
instruction sets coupled optimized for a specific computing function. This
category would also include processor optimized for computing and AI-based
Within the context of automation, these processing
technologies are used for the areas of perception, localization, prediction,
planning, control, AI inferencing, connectivity, security, and safety. Most of
the major semiconductor companies in the automotive industry offer solutions
(i.e., nodes) for the various domains within active safety and autonomous control.
Some silicon providers provide physical chips while others may offer licensable
instruction sets for some custom configuration.
Within the context of processing, the demands required from
an AV are similar to gaming computers where millions of pixels (or data points)
must be processed in real time. Therefore, processing methods often require
massively parallel architectures where multiple streams of data can be
processed in parallel.
The Data/Connectivity category includes companies offering
hardware and/or software solutions that support the movement of data along the
in-vehicle networks or via wireless networks outside the vehicle. Some of the
companies are “Tier 1” suppliers that make connectivity modules (i.e. gateways)
that can handle the data traffic, compressing/decompressing or encrypting
messages where needed. Others in the space produce network interfaces and
switches that may be a component within the network architecture of the
Companies that make external communication modules such as
V2X devices and telematics control units (TCUs) are also included in this
category. These companies are a vital part of the data connectivity stack as
future AVs must communicate with other vehicles and infrastructure.
Furthermore, the AV must maintain connectivity to service providers and
monitoring centers for various applications including the maintenance of
vehicle software assets, or remote tele-operation.
Mapping assets used for automated vehicle functions is vital
for performance and safety. Maps for AVs are highly detailed and include a
precision lane model so the vehicle can operate when lane lines are not visible
or are covered by environmental elements. Furthermore, Maps for AVs contain landmarks
and other physical structures from which the AV can localize. Lastly, mapping
assets contain other data including speed limits, curve warnings, lane closures
and the like. This category includes map companies which provide digital map
data for AVs. These map companies harvest, process, and update map data and
provide them to OEMs and other AV companies.
It is clear that maps for automated vehicles are gaining in
importance to enhance the safety or control the operational domain from which
that vehicle can operate within. The Level “2+” category typically adds mapping
assets including lane level intelligence and/or localization markers.
The Software/Algorithm category is very broad and includes
companies that offer middleware, run-time software, application software, and
Software products are applied to many of the functional
elements of autonomous control. For example, the perception domain includes
software for feature detection and classification, while the localization
domain has software for pinpointing relative locations.
Many algorithms are applied to perception, such as feature
detectors, or object classifiers. Other algorithms are used for predictive
applications such as trajectory planning or predictive movements of other
This category includes companies that offer products and/or
services related to functional safety and cybersecurity. Functional safety,
ISO26262, has become a core element of active safety and certainly of autonomy.
It is further defined by Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL) including
ASIL A, B, C, D.
Many of the companies in this space offer safety-rated
components (either hardware or software) that are designed to minimize
malfunctions, spot abnormal behavior, and even instruct a safe failure. Many of
these technologies are applied to the runtime components deep within the
software stack (such as real-time operating systems).
There is a growing list of players who have taken on
cybersecurity for automotive. Cybersecurity products can be hardware and/or
software. Most suppliers of processing logic have this built into the processor
but there is gateway security as well as modem security which is coming from
partner companies. In the case of L4/L5 autonomy, there should be security
assets in the cloud as well.
The Development Tools category includes companies that offer
software development tools for algorithms, code generation, development
environment, network analysis, data annotation and validation, and
debug/compile. There are also companies which offer tools for simulation,
modeling, prototyping, recording/examination, and validation/verification.
Development tools are vital for designing sophisticated AV
systems. Modeling comes into play early in the development cycle followed by
various stages of simulation to test the performance against a virtual
environment where scenes, actors, sensors, and physics can be modeled. Some of
the simulations offer the ability to test individual components, while others
are used to test the performance of algorithms.
AV technologies are worth trillions when you look at the big picture. Every company from technology, telecommunications, data center, IoT, transportation, and commerce is looking to capture a piece of future automated vehicle technology and the mobility trends behind it. Therefore, understanding the AV ecosystem is important for any companies and organizations that are involved or try to enter the AV market.