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Matt Stone is a business development manager at Intel Capital, with a focus on automotive technology and transportation.
A tri-fold automotive renaissance, led by technology, has been playing out over the past few years. Electric vehicles finally have been embraced by mainstream consumers — and elevated by Tesla with long range and luxury quality. Meanwhile, rides on demand from Uber and Lyft have become a global movement that’s liberated personal mobility (and briefly snared China’s Didi the title of most valuable unicorn).
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The third dimension, and most significant catalyst of this renaissance, is autonomous driving. Already, more than 15 million vehicles feature fundamental, Level 2 autonomy, thanks to Mobileye, and Waymo is within reach of commercializing fully autonomous, Level 5 driving.
These innovations have earned enough momentum to draw luxury brands Mercedes and Cadillac into the fray. Yet vehicles combining all three aspects of this renaissance remain a niche market; EVs, for instance, last year accounted for only a little over 300,000 of the 18 million cars and trucks produced in North America.
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It is China that will push this market into overdrive, guided by the Five Year Plan the country passed in 2016. It mandated 1 million electric vehicles be sold domestically by 2020, and 3 million by 2025. In the past year alone, China made itself the world’s largest EV market by a wide margin: Sales in the country reached 777,000 vehicles, more than doubling North America’s results.
A massive flood of capital is being directed toward this Five Year Plan, both from incumbent automakers and investors funding hundreds of new Chinese automakers. The incumbents — global brands such as GM and Volkswagen, and Chinese leaders such as SAIC and Dongfeng — face tremendous pressure from the army of investors at the gates. Powered by this new funding, as many as a dozen...
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