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Top 7 Autonomous Vehicle Stocks to Buy Now

Wayne Duggan

Check these leaders in autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous vehicle technology is one of a handful of tech fields that is generally considered a can't-miss long-term investment. The race to get the first fully autonomous vehicle on the market has been heating up in the past couple of years, and multiple companies have targeted 2020 and 2021 as potential launch dates for autonomous vehicle services. The autonomous vehicle market is still wide open, and investors who bet on the early market leaders could be handsomely rewarded. Navigant Research recently ranked these seven companies as the autonomous vehicle technology leaders based on 10 different criteria, including product quality/reliability and technological capability.

Alphabet (ticker: GOOG, GOOGL)

The first company to roll out a Level 5 fully autonomous vehicle may not be a traditional automaker. Navigant has ranked Alphabet subsidiary Waymo as the leader in autonomous vehicle technology today. Waymo is just a small portion of Alphabet's business. But a recent round of fundraising reportedly valued Waymo at more than $30 billion, roughly 50% higher than the total market cap of Ford Motor Co. (F). Waymo One is already offering self-driving ride services to Phoenix residents, but all rides include a human safety driver behind the wheel. Waymo has logged 20 million test miles on public roads in 25 different cities.

Ford Motor Co. (F)

Not long ago, investors were criticizing Ford for not being aggressive enough in investing and developing autonomous vehicle technology. Today, Navigant ranks Ford Autonomous Vehicles as one of the top two autonomous vehicle tech companies in the world. Ford has targeted 2021 as the launch date for its first Level 4 autonomous vehicle fleet. CEO Jim Hackett says the capabilities of the first-generation autonomous vehicle fleet will be "narrow" given the complexity of the technology and the company's focus on rider safety. Ford has committed $4 billion to autonomous vehicle development through 2023, including a $1 billion investment in Argo AI.

General Motors Co. (GM)

General Motors subsidiary Cruise missed its goal of deploying a public self-driving Chevrolet Bolt vehicle fleet in San Francisco by the end of 2019. However, it recently unveiled its Origin driverless electric shuttle, which has no steering wheel, pedals or other manual controls. It also doesn't yet have a launch date. GM has been pushing for a first-mover advantage in autonomous vehicle services for years and has operated a limited autonomous vehicle ride-hailing fleet in Phoenix since 2018. The most recent round of fundraising for Cruise valued the company at $19 billion, nearly two-thirds the value of GM's current market cap.

Baidu (BIDU)

Last summer, Chinese tech giant Baidu announced its fleet of 300 driverless vehicles had logged 1.2 million miles in 13 different cities. In September, Baidu launched its first fleet of 45 Level 4 self-driving cars for public test trials in Changsha. For now, Baidu's Apollo Robotaxi fleet will have human safety drivers behind the wheel and will be limited to routes within 31 miles of open road. Baidu said it plans to expand that coverage to 84 miles this year. Consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates the autonomous vehicle market in China could be worth $500 billion by 2030.

Intel Corp. (INTC)

Intel subsidiary Mobileye sold 17.4 million cameras, chips and software systems in 2019. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Mobileye released a video of an autonomous vehicle navigating the streets of Jerusalem using only 12 on-board cameras and no sensors. Intel and Mobileye have been testing self-driving cars in Jerusalem since May 2018 and plan to launch a robo taxi test fleet in Israel in 2020. In November, Mobileye announced a partnership with Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio (NIO) to develop self-driving vehicles to sell to consumers, a departure from the rideshare strategy most other companies are pursuing.

Aptiv (APTV)

Aptiv and partner Lyft (LYFT) have been offering driverless rides to the Las Vegas public since 2018, and the companies recently announced they have completed 100,000 driverless rides that have generated 98% five-star ratings from customers. Back in September, Aptiv made a huge splash by announcing a new joint venture with Hyundai to begin testing and developing Level 4 and Level 5 AV systems to deploy to robo taxi and fleet operators by 2022. Aptiv has autonomous vehicle research, testing and/or operational facilities in Las Vegas, Boston, Pittsburgh, Singapore and a new mobility center in Shanghai.

Volkswagen (VWAGY)

In October, auto giant Volkswagen established subsidiary Volkswagen Autonomy and says it plans to expand operations to Silicon Valley and China by the end of 2021. Volkswagen hopes to launch a Level 4 autonomous vehicle based on the I.D. Buzz electric van for limited commercial use by 2022. Last summer, Volkswagen announced a $2.6 billion investment in Pittsburgh autonomous vehicle startup Argo AI, which is also backed by Ford. Under the terms of the deal, Volkswagen and Ford would develop two completely separate autonomous vehicle businesses and strategies, but both companies would potentially utilize Argo AI technology and software.

Top autonomous vehicle stocks to buy now:

-- Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL)

-- Ford Motor Co. (F)

-- General Motors Co. (GM)

-- Baidu (BIDU)

-- Intel Corp. (INTC)

-- Aptiv (APTV)

-- Volkswagen (VWAGY)

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