In recent years, the automotive industry has come under the pressure of evolving consumer demands, global climate change concerns, and the imperative to reimagine the future through innovation. In response, tech developers have launched next-generation technologies and tools, with a focus on road safety, fuel efficiency, driver convenience, and security. Collectively referred to as “Auto Tech”, these technologies comprise Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and other sensors, safety and driving assist tools, autonomous and connected passenger vehicles, data capture and analytics platforms, infotainment, and Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled vehicle security. Notably, these auto technologies are synergistic and inter-dependent. Most have already been commercialized, with the exception of the autonomous passenger vehicles segment, which is still in the pre-commercial stages.
Startups dominate the auto tech space, particularly in segments like LiDAR and other sensors, autonomous passenger vehicles, and data capture and analytics. Despite being relatively capital-intensive, segments like LiDAR and other sensors and autonomous passenger vehicles have attracted significant startup activity, boosted by the self-driving vehicle industry and the declining cost of autonomous technology. For example, Waymo managed to bring its Laser Bear Honeycomb LiDAR prices down by around 90% to roughly USD 7,500 by 2019 from the industry norm of USD 75,000 a few years before.
Almost all the players in the LiDAR and other sensors, connected vehicles, data capture and analytics, IoT-enabled vehicle security, and infotainment segments have commercialized their product offerings and today operate either in early or growth stages. However, most of the autonomous vehicle tech developers and some safety and driving assist tools providers are yet to commercialize their product offerings and are hence classified as seed or pre-seed.
Most of the incumbents operating in the space are either automotive companies such as Toyota, Tesla, and General Motors or tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Nvidia, and Apple. Incumbents dominate the infotainment segment, likely given the level of research and development (R&D) required to truly distinguish these offerings in response to pressing consumer demands. Incumbents also hold a notable presence in autonomous passenger vehicles, safety and driving assist tools, and connected car segments.
Most incumbents in the auto tech space develop autonomous passenger vehicles and safety and driving assist tools. Well-established automakers such as Tesla, Toyota, and General Motors (GM) and tech giants like Google, Apple, Nvidia, and Amazon alike operate in these segments.
Several incumbents operate across multiple segments in the auto tech industry, likely driven by the interrelated nature of the tech. Players like Bosch, Tesla, Toyota, Nvidia, and GM operate in as many as three to six segments. Only a few incumbents—Velodyne LiDAR, Apple, Amazon, Bridgestone Americas, and Intertrust—appear to specialize in a specific technology and operate in a single segment.
Acquisitions represent a popular means for incumbents to enter the auto tech space or strengthen their offering by acquiring related tech startups that can complement in-house product development efforts. In fact, several well-known incumbents such as Amazon, Intel, and Samsung only entered the auto tech space after acquiring related startups—Amazon via the acquisition of Zoox, Intel via Mobileye, and Samsung via the addition of Harman International Industries. Meanwhile, companies such as Google, GM, Tesla, Toyota, Apple, and Ouster engage in in-house product development, coupled with inorganic growth to support tech development.