Automated Vehicle Ecosystem Analysis

The Building Blocks of Automated Vehicles



About This Report

  This report was written by VSI Labs (VSI) for MarkLines' portal users. VSI is a technology research company that provides industry with deep insight and analysis on the enabling technologies used for active safety and automated driving.



Enter VSI’s AV Ecosystem Map
Latest Landscape of AV Technology

  • Functioning AV Builds - OEM
  • Functioning AV Builds - Mobility
  • AV Stacks
  • Sensing
  • Processing
  • Data/Connectivity
  • Mapping
  • Software/Algorithm
  • Safety/Security
  • Development Tools

About VSI Labs


VSI Labs reports:
CES 2019: State of the Autonomous Vehicle Industry (January 2019)


  Automated vehicle (AV) systems are a complex endeavor for anyone trying to compete in this space. OEMs and traditional automotive suppliers have been very active through tie-ups, investments, and acquisitions designed to improve their strategic position. Large tech companies are also very active developing complete platform strategies as well as aggressive investments through their venture funds.

  Beyond traditional auto and big tech, there are literally hundreds of other companies vying for a piece of the AV ecosystem. Many are startups with fresh rounds of capital, who are feverishly pursuing technology breakthroughs in the areas of sensing, localization, simulation, or mapping. Many companies enter from adjacent sectors such as geosciences, robotics, or artificial intelligence. Many also enter from adjacent industries such as aerospace, defense, mining, or logistics.

  The purpose of this report is to decompose the current AV ecosystem by looking at the latest version of VSI's infographic which reflects the major players within the value chain for autonomy. The report provides a high-level analysis of the global AV landscape by looking at each domain of the AV ecosystem.

AV Ecosystem
This infographic represents major players which provide in-vehicle technologies used in the development and build of AV systems.

Enter VSI's AV Ecosystem Map

  The AV ecosystem is a vast array of companies both large and small, that offer products and technologies to support automated driving. Making sense of this complex and evolving ecosystem is an ongoing task. It is changing all the time! VSI has been mapping the ecosystem of automated driving for nearly five years now. But doing so requires a framework from which you can categorize and classify with reasonable precision. While VSI's AV ecosystem map is rather high level, beneath it lies many categories and subcategories based on the products they offer. Companies featured in this infographic are chosen based on their known products or evidence of their commercialization strategy. A company operating in stealth mode does not necessarily qualify them to be on the chart unless we know precisely what they are doing and where their capital is coming from. In addition, it is important to point out that this infographic only covers the in-vehicle technologies and does not include infrastructure, cloud, or enterprise level technologies even though they are an important part of the greater mobility ecosystem.


Latest Landscape of AV Technology

  Let's decompose the ecosystem as per the latest infographic. In the following sections, we discuss the categories and share with you some insight on the composition of each category and what type of products are included.


Functioning AV Builds - OEM

  The Functioning AV Builds category represents companies which are building complete vehicle platforms with AV functionality. This field is also divided into two sub-categories; OEM and Mobility.

Functioning AV Builds
This image shows a list of automotive OEMs which are offering L2/L2+ production vehicles and/or developing L4 vehicles.

  The companies that are represented in the OEM category are traditional automotive OEMs that are actively developing AV technologies for their production models as well as future robo-taxi/MaaS (Mobility as a Service) vehicles. Their end goal is to sell their AVs to consumers and/or AV service operators.

  To qualify for AV Builds, the OEM may offer automated features at the production level (typically L2 or L2+) and/or are developing L4+ "robo-taxi" vehicles. These are typically separate business units as rarely does an OEM consolidate their automated activities into one group. Furthermore, the L4+ track is typically based on a mobility model which has huge implications in terms of timelines and go-to-market strategies.

  Many OEMs began offering L2 systems in their production vehicles in the past few years. Some OEMs offer more advanced safety features and advanced L2+ systems in their production models. There are a few OEMs which have introduced L3 capabilities in their production models. However, there are still many challenges to deploy L3 systems due to the regulation and handover issues. As a result, some L3 features are creeping into the L2 space but still requiring full driver engagement.


Functioning AV Builds - Mobility

Functioning AV Builds
This image shows a list of companies which are developing and testing complete AVs for future mobility services.

  The Mobility category includes companies which are developing and testing complete AVs for future mobility services. Many companies in this space retrofit current production vehicles and integrate systems from multiple suppliers coupling that with their own self-driving technology stack. Their end goal is to operate AV mobility service for the general public and commercial fleets.

  Many of the builds are designated for fleet-based operation as either ride-sharing platforms, robo-taxis, delivery vehicles or shuttles designed to operate within a restricted environment. Some of the largest fleets and fleet service providers occupy this space, as do well-funded start-ups.


AV Stacks

AV Stacks
This image shows a list of companies that offer AV hardware and/or software platforms

  The AV Stacks category includes companies that offer AV hardware and/or software platforms that can handle the tasks of perception, decision, and control. These companies are developing AV platform technology to control multiple domains of AV functions.

  Most companies in this space also have their own research AVs for testing purposes. Their end goal is to provide their AV hardware and/or software stacks to OEMs and mobility service operators which are developing own complete AVs.

  Some companies listed in this category offer a more complete package for the buildup of self-driving functionality by providing a hardware reference design coupled with a software development kit (SDK). Other companies are more focused on AV software platforms by using other companies' AV hardware and components.

  Most companies listed in this category commercialize their AV hardware and/or software stacks and supply these to the companies in the OEM and Mobility categories. Meanwhile, several companies in this category open source their software and are calling for participation and collaboration across the industry to share knowledge and to contribute to their open source AV software repositories. Some companies do this to generate revenue from other sources such as selling the data they collected.

  Apple is listed in this category, but it is uncertain what they are aiming to achieve in the AV space as Apple is being very secretive about its AV program. They have been testing their AVs and have the third largest AV fleet in California, behind only Waymo and GM-Cruise. Although Apple probably won't reveal any information until it is ready to launch, VSI believes that they won't become an AV manufacturer but rather be a technology provider of their own AV stack.



This image shows a list of companies which provide sensor modules or sensor components suitable for vehicle autonomy.

  The Sensing category is the largest category of them all and to no surprise. Sensing is huge piece of the AV stack and the components here include all formats from raw sensors to complete sensing modules.

  Although not shown in our high-level infographic, the sensing category is further defined by sensor type including CMOS/CCD, radar, LiDAR, ultrasonic, IR/NIR (or thermal), GPS/GNSS, and inertial measurement unit (IMU).

  Among the many functions, sensors are used to detect the 3D environment around the vehicle as well as other actors in the scene including vehicles, pedestrians, and even animals. For example, vision sensors are ideal for classification of objects as well as scene segmentation while radar provides the best object tracking (the exact movement) of other vehicles.

  LiDAR is most typically used for relative localization against a base map. Most LiDAR is expensive and not suitable for series production vehicles but there are no less than 70 companies developing lower cost LiDAR devices. LiDAR is typically scanning 360 degrees, but several start-ups are developing solid state devices that will be much lower in price compared to the mechanical devices.

  GPS positioning is vital for AVs, but by itself does not provide the precision necessary so many AV makers will use enhanced GNSS receivers that rely on ground-based transponders to improve GPS functionality.

  IMU sensors are used to predicting vehicle position against a known position when other methods such as GPS are compromised. Lastly, there are various in-cabin sensors that are used for driver and/or occupancy monitoring.



The Processing category includes companies that offer processing logic or licensed IP.

  The Processing category includes companies that offer processing logic or licensed IP. The processor technologies and types represented in this domain include digital signal processing (DSP), field-programmable gate array (FPGA), a graphics processing unit (GPU), a microcontroller, a system on a chip (SoC), and a vision processing unit (VPU).

  Within the context of automation, these processing technologies are used for the areas of image recognition, localization, control signals, running neural networks, connectivity, security, and safety. Most of the major semiconductor companies in the automotive industry offer solutions (i.e., nodes) for the various domains within active safety and autonomous control. Some silicon providers provide physical chips while others may offer licensable instruction sets for custom configuration.

  Within the context of processing, the demands required from an AV are similar to gaming computers where millions of pixels (or data points) must be processed in real time. Therefore, processing methods often require massively parallel architectures where multiple streams of data can be processed in parallel.

  GPUs are a popular choice for handling this type of computing environment. These architectures are also well suited for processing AI-based algorithms.



This category includes companies that offer HW/SW supporting movement of data along in-vehicle or wireless networks

  The Data/Connectivity category includes companies which offers hardware and/or software solutions that support the movement of data along the in-vehicle networks or via wireless networks outside the vehicle. Some of the companies are "Tier 1" suppliers that make connectivity modules (i.e. gateways) that can handle the data traffic, compressing/decompressing or encrypting messages where needed. Others in the space produce network interfaces and switches that may be a component within the network architecture of the vehicle.

  Moreover, companies that make external communication modules such as V2X devices and telematics control units (TCUs) are also included in this category. These companies are a vital member of the data connectivity stack as future AVs must communicate with other vehicles and infrastructures. Furthermore, the AV must maintain connectivity to service providers and data centers for various applications including the updating of software assets in the vehicle.



This category includes map companies which provide digital map data for AVs.

  Mapping assets used for automated vehicle functions is vital for performance and safety. Maps for AVs are highly detailed and include a precision lane model so the vehicle can operate when lane lines are not visible or are covered by environmental elements. Furthermore, Maps for AVs contain landmarks and other physical structure from which the AV can localize against. Lastly, mapping assets contain other data including speed limits, curve warnings, lane closures and the like.

  This category includes map companies which provide digital map data for AVs. These map companies harvest, process, and update map data and provide them to OEMs and other AV companies. Some of the companies provides full map as a service while other offer mapping as a service.

  It is clear that maps for automated vehicles are vital to the performance and safety. There will be new opportunities for many companies, including both existing players and emerging start-ups, to introduce new services and business models by utilizing digital map assets.



Companies offering middleware, run-time software, application software, & AI software

  The Software/Algorithm category is very broad and includes companies which offer middleware, run-time software, application software, and AI software. These products are applied to many of the functional elements of autonomous control. For example, the perception domain includes software for feature detection and classification, while the localization domain has software for pinpointing relative locations.

  Many algorithms are applied to perception, such as feature detectors, or object classification. Other algorithms are used for predictive applications such as trajectory planning or predictive movements of other actors.

  Software development tools are not part of the software category but are included in the Development Tools domain. Companies that offer software development tools generally provide what is referred to as a software development kit (SDK) where the developers are responsible for making their own applications. Software that resides deep in the hardware stack-such as real-time operating systems and associated run time components-are usually tailored to the processor architecture.



Companies that offer products and/or services related to functional safety and cybersecurity for automotive

  This category includes companies that offer products and/or services related to functional safety and cybersecurity for automotive. Functional safety, ISO26262, has become a core element of active safety and certainly of autonomy. It is further defined by Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL) including ASIL A, B, C, D. Many of the companies in this space offer safety-rated components (either hardware or software) that are designed to minimize malfunctions, spot abnormal behavior, and even instruct a safe failure. Many of these technologies are applied to the runtime components deep within the software stack (such as real-time operating systems).

  In the case of cybersecurity there is a growing list of players who have taken on cybersecurity for automotive. Cybersecurity products can be hardware and/or software. Most suppliers of processing logic have this built into the processor but there is gateway security as well as modem security which is coming from partner companies. In the case of L4/L5 autonomy there should be security assets in the cloud as well.


Development Tools

  The Development Tools category includes companies that offer software development tools for algorithms, code generation, development environment, network analysis, data annotation and validation, and debug/compile. There are also companies which offer tools for simulation, modeling, prototyping, recording/examination, and validation/verification.

Development Tools
This image shows a list of companies that offer development tools to build and develop AV systems.

  Development tools are vital for designing sophisticated AV systems. Modeling comes into play early in the development cycle followed by various stages of simulation to test the performance against a virtual environment where scenes, actors, sensors, and physics can be modeled. Some of the simulations offer the ability to test individual components, while others are used to test the performance of algorithms.

  There are also many tools for the development of runtime components. These are often called code checkers, and they look for errors or anomalies in the code base and optimize it for deployment against a target hardware stack.

  Meanwhile, data annotation and validation companies have been increasing the presence in the AV ecosystem and value chain in the past few years. Data annotation and validation is a critical process in the overall development of autonomous vehicles. Data annotation and validation is required in order to make sense of a large amount of data generated from sensors fitted onto the AV (i.e. cameras, radar, LiDAR), and to train algorithms to properly understand and act on the myriad of scenarios a driver encounters daily. The annotated data provides AVs with their intelligence. These companies specializing in data annotation help speed up the development of AV/ADAS technology by delivering high-quality data labeled at scale.



  AV technologies are worth trillions when you look at the big picture. Every company from technology, telecommunications, data center, IoT, transportation, and commerce is looking to capture a piece of future automated vehicle technology and the mobility trends behind it. Therefore, understanding the AV ecosystem is important for any companies and organizations that are involved or try to enter the AV market.

  To capture this fast-moving and growing market, VSI offers a digital version of the AV ecosystem infographic through our portal service. The digital version reflects any changes to the AV industry landscape dynamically. VSI is also planning to enhance our AV ecosystem analytics tools by offering sub-category infographics, providing the ecosystem analysis at a more granular level. The new analytics tools will be available as part of our portal service later this year. For more details on our portal service, please contact us.


About VSI Labs:

  Founded in 2014, VSI Labs has become a leading provider of research and advisory to companies that develop or supply into the automated vehicle space. VSI is unique in that it conducts applied research using its own fleet of test vehicles. Through this hands-on research, VSI provides thought leadership at the technology level like no other research or advisory firm out there.

  From high level component or tool chain research, to deep decomposition of AV applications, VSI's services save companies time and money. VSI Insights and its AV ecosystem research are ideal for suppliers looking to break into the AV space or want to sharpen their competitive positionings or improve their technology planning. For AV developers looking to speed up their development, VSI Pro offers a thorough decomposition of AV functions and applications. VSI Pro also offers code base necessary to build bridges between the different systems or functions within the AV software stack.

  For more information about VSI Labs' portal services, please visit our website( or contact Grant Faulkner( for English or Natsuki Schwartz( for Japanese.

VSI, autonomous driving, automated driving, autonomous vehicle, AV, ADAS, ecosystem, mobility, AV stack, AV platform, sensing, LiDAR, GPS, IMU, processing, DSP, FPGA, GPU, microcontroller, SoC, VPU, connectivity, hardware, software, V2X, telematics, TCU, mapping, software, algorithm, safety, security, cybersecurity, development tool

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