GM, Waymo Lead in Self-Driving Cars, New Report Says

But the self-driving car race is getting more competitive.

via GM

General Motors leads in self-driving cars, but Waymo is a close second, according to the annual Navigant Autonomous Driving Leaderboard report from The Verge. Waymo surged passed several automakers to take the number-two spot in this annual ranking of autonomous-car developers.

Navigant Research has ranked the companies developing self-driving cars since 2015, judging both the capability of a company's technology and the company's ability to commercialize that technology. Companies are divided into four categories, with Leaders at the top, followed by Contenders, Challengers, and Followers.

GM had a spot in the Leaders category last year, while Waymo was further back in the Contenders section. The former Google self-driving car project leapfrogged Ford, Daimler, and the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but all four companies remain in the top category. There were twice as many companies and partnerships in the Leaders category this year, including GM, Waymo, Daimler-Bosch, Ford, the Volkswagen Group, BMW-Intel-Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Aptiv, and Renault-Nissan.

Both GM and Waymo have made significant progress in not only developing self-driving cars but making them available to the public. Waymo operates a pilot autonomous ride-sharing service in Arizona and has already tested cars without human drivers onboard. GM says it will launch a self-driving car with no manual controls in 2019, pending regulatory approval.

Uber was much further back in the Challengers category, along with Honda, Apple, and Tesla. Uber's progress may have been stymied by an ongoing court battle with Waymo. Tesla and Apple have generated a lot of hype, but their rankings indicate actual progress may be falling short of that hype. Navigant did not place any companies in the bottom Followers category.

Apple aside, this year saw a greater mix of tech companies and automotive suppliers joining the automakers that dominated the list last year. But automakers maintain the crucial advantage of having the knowledge and infrastructure to actually build cars. Meanwhile, the whole business hinges on the willingness of regulators to accommodate driverless cars.