The self-driving car market has felt like one of those “on the horizon” events that was perpetually only 5 years away, but with recent technology advancements, it has begun to feel like the future has finally arrived.
The stakes are high, with forecasts from the Boston Consulting Group projecting that the autonomous driving market will grow to $77 billion by 2035. Most articles have discussed the role of the major technology companies, like Alphabet, Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL), and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), and also which auto-markers are the furthest along in creating full driverless cars for commercial use, specifically, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA).
Also discussed have been which chip-makers will most benefit from the need for increased back-end computing power, like Intel Corporation (NYSE:INTC), through their acquisition of Mobileye, and others like STMicroelectronics NV (ADR) (NYSE:SYM), whose automotive group now represents 40% of their revenues.
What has been less considered is the safety issue, specifically, what companies are specializing in securing these driverless cars? How do we prevent hackers from breaking into the system and taking control of the cars? What companies are keeping us safe? Here are three names that we think focus on the safety aspect of the autonomous car revolution that is coming.
A blast from the past is BlackBerry Ltd. (NYSE:BB), based in Canada, which has gotten out of the hardware smart-phone space and has been entering new markets, leveraging their reputation as the architect of secure environment software systems. Through their QNX unit, they were one of three companies approved to begin testing driverless cars on the roads of Ontario, Canada in 2017, specifically with Ford’s Lincoln Division.
Ford already uses QNX for its Sync 3 in-car infotainment systems, and as part of the agreement it has in place, BlackBerry will dedicate a team to work with Ford on expanding the use of BlackBerry's QNX Neutrino Operating System, Certicom security technology, QNX hypervisor and QNX audio processing software into Ford’s cars.
A much smaller Company that will be part of the autonomous car safety eco-system is Integral Technologies, Inc. (OTC:OTCPK:ITKG), based out of Indiana. The Company’s main product is called Electriplast, which is a non-corrosive, electrically-conductive plastic with major battery and automotive applications.
A recent significant signal this company has become a part this market was in June 2017. ITKG announced that their products are going to be in 2 million cars with two major auto companies, specifically for an electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding application in an automotive optical sensing system.
Now lets go back in the time line a little and you will see the great potential this company has.
In June 2013, ITKG and Delphi entered into a co-development agreement.
In March 2016, ITKG and LeddarTech (leddartech.com) announced the use of Electriplast in the LeddarOne Sensing Module lens barrel.
In September 2017 LeddarTech announced a $101 Million series C financing that included Delphi. https://leddartech.com/leddartech-announces-usd-101-million-series-c-financing/
From the LedderTech Press Release - “Delphi aims to be at the forefront of autonomous driving developments and LiDAR is a key component thereof” said Glen De Vos, Delphi Automotive senior vice president and chief technology officer.
Shielding from EMI is important, because electromagnetic waves pass through the air and interfere with the proper operation of essentially all electrical equipment. There will be an extreme need for shielding with the autonomous vehicles, nearly every component will need shielding. Most of the EMI shielding today is done with metal parts or conductive paint. The use of Electriplast for EMI not only shields, it also reduces weight. With the recent inclusion of ElectriPlast for shielding with major car companies, it should be a natural fit to use it in the autonomous applications as well.
Another interesting company to watch in this space is Autoliv Inc. (NYSE:ALV), based in Sweden, that has traditionally been focused on making car-safety parts (like driver-side impact air-bags systems, seatbelts, steering wheels, inflator technologies, etc.) The world’s biggest maker of car-safety parts is seeking acquisitions and joint ventures in systems such as lidar, a technology that uses lasers to detect objects.
The Company already has a joint-venture with Daimler AG’s new Mercedes-Benz E class, which can steer itself in auto-pilot mode, brake in emergencies and evade obstructions, and recently partnered with Volvo AB in a project called Drive Me that aims to have self-driving cars on the roads in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2018.
The Company has also been building up capability in cameras, software and collision-warning systems, and has been working with Japan’s Nissin Kogyo on brake control systems.
So far, only four states — Nevada, California, Florida, and Michigan — have allowed driverless cars on public roads, but this will be changing rapidly as consumers are clearly interested, with a 2014 study by Insurance.com found in a study of 2,000 American drivers, more than 75% would consider buying a self-driving car. As these cars become more popular, its important that we keep them safe from outside parties who may seek to harm our transportation system. These three companies each have a unique role to play in ensuring that is the case.
Disclosure: I am/we are long ITKG.