All about the Benjamins: Study ranks Toyota ahead of Tesla on self-driving

A study by Lux Research on self-driving initiatives among automakers suggests monetization trumps technology.

Lux Research rated the top 12 automakers on their self-driving car efforts.

Lux Research

It may seem odd to rank Toyota ahead of Tesla when it comes to self-driving cars, in light of Tesla's very advanced Autopilot feature, but Lux Research's ranking of automakers in a new study does just that. The reason? Self-driving technology has become ubiquitous among automakers, but Toyota has developed a business plan to take advantage of this technology in future mobility scenarios.

The study, called "Determining Who's in the Fastlane for Autonomous Vehicles: A Comparison of Automotive OEM Plans for Driverless Development," looks at self-driving car initiatives among 12 automakers, not only comparing technology but also looking into how those automakers will monetize that technology in the future.

In its rankings, Lux Research puts Toyota in the lead, followed by Mercedes-Benz and Honda. BMW and Tesla both rated relatively highly, but were not in the lead. Renault/Nissan came in last.

Kyle Landry, Research Associate at Lux Research, said "Technology is pretty much the same across the board" when it comes to the automakers in the study. He noted that most automakers, and even Google, have bought companies or raided research laboratories to gain technology expertise when it comes to self-driving cars.

The biggest differentiating factor in the study involved business plans. "New business models will bring in revenue beyond traditional sales. If a car company sticks to traditional sales, it won't be able to grow," said Landry.

As an example, Landry noted Mercedes-Benz's Car2Go sharing service, suggesting that car-sharing business models will increase in importance for automakers.

However, Landry also said he didn't think fully self-driving cars will become available until 2030.

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