When people think of the first-ever car, they most immediately jump to the Ford Model T.
And while the Model T was crucial for the growth of the auto industry, cars had been around for over 20 years when it was first completed.
The first modern car was built in 1885 by Karl Benz under the much-less-memorable name “Benz Patent-Motorwagen.”
The daring souls of the 19th century who were brave enough to own one could spend $150 for the privilege.
Although most people were skeptical that this would ever be a revolutionary technology, it completely changed how we live within a few decades.
Now there’s been another huge shift in the auto industry.
That shift is being made using self-driving technology.
And although the idea of an autonomous car has floated around since the 1920s, it’s always been associated with the “futuristic world.”
However, self-driving cars are no longer a thing of the future.
Making Self-Driving Cars a Reality
One of the biggest pioneers that’s brought this technology to the mainstream has been Waymo, a company started by Google all the way back in 2009.
And since then, it has made amazing progress, logging over 7 billion simulated miles, and 10 million on public roads.
Then in 2017, a select group called the “Early Riders” tested out the new technology by using Waymo’s fleet to drive their commutes to work, school or on miscellaneous errands.
When this service began, it made autonomous driving a reality.
For years, the technology had been tested and was seen as something that would eventually “be something.”
But the moment they gave the public the opportunity to use autonomous cars in their daily life, it became clear that the adoption of self-driving cars is much closer than we realized.
Last December, Waymo came out with its most groundbreaking project to date: Waymo One.
This is an ongoing service in Phoenix, Arizona, where users can request to be picked up via an app. It’s just like Uber, except with self-driving cars.
And of course, one of the main benefits of having no driver is that there is no risk for human error.
Since Waymo cars have been out driving on public roads, there has been no instance where they’ve caused a crash.
In over 10 million miles of driving, the only causes of accidents have been people running into them.
Another benefit of having a driverless taxi service is the cost.
As the technology becomes cheaper, people will be able to pay lower prices to be driven around.
For example, Waymo’s LiDAR systems, which give self-driving cars the ability to “see,” have dropped from $75,000 to around $7,500 per vehicle.
Right now, the price of hailing a ride with Waymo is comparable to an Uber or Lyft ride. And it’ll only get cheaper from here.
Waymo’s CEO has said that one day it might be completely free in some cases.
If businesses are trying to increase the traffic in their stores, Waymo could charge them instead of the passenger.
It makes sense; the businesses have deeper pockets and would be benefiting from the service.
Gearing up for Mass-Production
More evidence that Waymo’s cars are becoming cheaper to produce is the fact that it just announced plans to open its first self-driving car factory.
Although it might be over a year before its vehicles are built there, it’s a great sign that this technology is gearing up to be mass-produced.
In the meantime, Waymo currently has contracts with Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar Land Rover to add over 80,000 self-driving vehicles to its fleet. These deals are in preparation to expand its taxi service throughout 2019.
Waymo also plans to remove the safety driver, who currently rides along in the car to make sure everything is running smoothly.
The “Google of China”
Of course, with any promising industry in growth mode, there’s bound to be some competition.
In the self-driving car industry, a huge competitor to Waymo is Baidu, which is often referred to as the “Google of China.”
Baidu also has an open-source software platform called Apollo that its cars use to drive. This can be thought of as the “Android” for self-driving cars.
Since Apollo was first launched in late 2017, Baidu has built quite an impressive list of high-tech partners.
So far, it has partnered with big chipmakers Intel and Nvidia. And last November, it teamed up with Ford to test self-driving cars on Chinese roads, as well as Volvo to build cars using Apollo software.
Right now, Baidu is behind Waymo in terms of putting its technology to work in the real world.
However, it plans to begin an automated taxi service, just like Waymo One, in Changsha, China, later this year.
Profit From the Race to Automation
This new “race to automation” is a clear example of how the world is making a gigantic shift in the way we live.
The global autonomous vehicle industry is expected to grow from $54.23 billion in 2019 to $556.67 billion in 2026. That’s 926% growth over the next seven years!
And since this has been such a hot industry over the past few years, there have been several exchange-traded funds (ETFs) created around it.
However, the best option is the KraneShares Electric Vehicles & Future Mobility ETF (NYSE: KARS).
This ETF holds shares of 57 companies, all of which are directly related to the autonomous vehicle revolution.
Its holdings include everything from car manufacturers to chipmakers to companies that make parts such as fuel cells, lithium batteries and copper wiring.
Editor, Rapid Profit Trader