Auto giants — some of which were increasingly aware that they were moving into relatively uncharted territory – began buying up or otherwise forging partnerships with tech startups. GM acquired Cruise and partnered with Lyft. Ford acquired Chariot and Israeli machine learning and computer vision startup SAIPS.
As the hype around driverless cars grew, so did the demand for teams with backgrounds in AI and machine learning — both relatively nascent fields. Even the biggest tech companies, namely Uber, were left wanting.
So, Uber also went on somewhat of a purchasing tear and acquired then six-month-old self-driving trucking startup Otto and put Anthony Levandowski, its co-founder and one of the founders of Google’s self-driving project, at the head of all of Uber’s autonomous efforts. The ride-hail company then bought out AI startup Geometric Intelligence and tapped its co-founder Gary Marcus to head up Uber’s new AI lab.
Investors took notice and also began placing their bets — if they hadn’t already.
Around the same time as the Cruise acquisition — which was seen as a coup for Silicon Valley — A16z invested in aftermarket autonomous startup Comma.ai. Shortly after, Andy Rubin’s Playground invested in aftermarket car tech startup Nauto. The list goes on.
This demand will likely continue as companies trudge forward in the competition to build and develop self-driving cars. That means investors will be paying attention to startups with the skills to build any aspect of the self-driving stack as some of them increasingly become potential acquisition targets while the others take on the biggest names in transportation.
In no particular order, here is a non-exhaustive list of the startups we’ll be watching:
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