Autonomous driving might seem like the province of startups and Silicon Valley, but a new independent research report from Navigant shows automaker Ford at the head of the pack when it comes to self-driving tech. The annual survey looked at 18 different companies, smeared across 10 different criteria, ranging from strategy, to core tech development, to manufacturing capability and staying power, and a company that’s over 100 years old ended up leading the list.

The Navigant list also included GM among the very top tier of companies with potential in the world of autonomous driving, which is a win for startups tangentially since that company picked up Cruise Automation to help boost its autonomous technology program. GM leads on execution, according to Navigant’s rating system, but Ford’s edge on Strategy gives it the overall claim to the top spot. Others in the leader category include the Renault-Nissan mashup and Daimler, with Waymo, Tesla, Delphi and others occupying a lower, Contender tier, and Uber, Baidu, nuTonomy and Honda ranking lower still in a group called “Challengers.”

Ford has already responded to their position in the study, with a Medium post from CTO Raj Nair expressing their satisfaction at being ranked number one. Nair writes that Ford especially values this recognition because of Navigant’s methodology, which looks at factors beyond just sensor hardware and software systems development in producing its ranking.

Nair talks about how Ford’s ability to actually make cars, and make them at scale, is a distinguishing advantage, and its mobility services approach, and subsidiary company, which will see autonomous vehicles launched first in ride-hailing and delivery fleets.

This Navigant Research Leaderboard Report examines the strategy and execution of 18 leading companies developing automated driving systems. These players are rated on 10 criteria: vision; go-to market strategy; partners; production strategy; technology; sales, marketing, and distribution; product capability; product quality and reliability; product portfolio; and staying power. Using Navigant Research’s proprietary Leaderboard methodology, companies are profiled, rated, and ranked with the goal of providing an objective assessment of their relative strengths and weaknesses in the global market for automated driving systems.

Top 10 Vendors:

1.  Ford

2.  GM

3.  Renault-Nissan Alliance

4.  Daimler

5.  Volkswagen Group

6.  BMW

7.  Waymo

7.  Volvo/Autoliv/Zenuity

9.  Delphi

10.  Hyundai Motor Group

Key Questions Addressed:
  • What are the top 18 companies developing integrated automated driving systems?
  • Which of these companies rank the highest in terms of strategy?
  • Which of these companies rank the highest in terms of execution?
  • Which companies are currently leading the emerging market for automated driving systems?
  • Which companies are best positioned to take the lead in automated driving?
  • What factors separate the Leaders from the Contenders and Challengers in the market for automated driving systems?

Ford’s investment and M&A strategy is another reason Navigant cites for its ranking in the study. During the past year, Ford has invested in Civil Maps, Velodyne, and autonomous AI startup Argo – plus it acquired Chariot, and algorithmic platform startup SAIPS. These combine with its existing industry expertise for potential in the market that outstrips its more tech-focused competitors, according to the report.

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