The autonomous vehicle industry is still young, and it is still too early to know what company, if any, will have the lead on designing a fully functioning, fully autonomous car. The fact that such a diverse array of companies have turned their attention to this space -- automakers, tech companies, startups -- makes it even harder to establish a hierarchy or leaderboard of any sort.
Time will tell what company will be the first to produce Lidar at scale, which one will design the 3D mapping system that will be widely adopted, and what firm will be the first to get a Level 5 autonomous vehicle on the road.
That said, the picture becomes more clear with each passing day.
Autonomous vehicle development is accelerating at a blistering rate, and 2017 feels like the first year where we've seen a consistent stream of concrete announcements on new autonomous vehicle products and initiatives instead of just vague predictions.
And for those with contacts closer to the source, the picture is even clearer.
Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache is certainly someone with those contacts, and, on September 24, Lache issued a bold proclamation on the future of one of the world's biggest automakers.
"GM's AV's will be ready for commercial deployment, without human drivers, much sooner than widely expected (within quarters, not years), and potentially years ahead of competitors," Lache wrote in a note to his clients. "We believe that businesses built off of this platform will ramp much faster than is widely expected. A fast ramp could perpetuate sustainable advantages. And we believe that this will be material, even to a company of GM's size."
Lache estimated that the autonomous vehicle sector could become a $7 trillion global market, with GM having the potential to possess a 17.5% market share. He projected that 2% of miles driven in 2025 will be from AV services, and that that number would balloon to 10% by 2030. He also predicted that, in American cities, 60% of households will prefer using autonomous vehicle ride-hailing or ride-sharing services to owning their own vehicles.
"This is a massive market opportunity," he wrote. "The monetization model is recurring in nature (vs. the transactional/cyclical model that automakers live in today), and likely to receive a healthy valuation," Lache said in his investor note and raised the GM share price target from $36 up to $51.
When a firm like Deutsche Bank speaks so strongly on an investment opportunity, people listen. GM's share prices rose immediately the next morning, and then topped $42 a week later on October 2, topping the stock's previous record from December 2013. Of course, if Lache's projections bear out, there will be plenty more good news to come for General Motors' shareholders.