5 Plays on Self-Driving Cars

12/24/2015 9:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jason Stutman

Founder and Editor, Tech Investing Daily

The emerging market of self-driving cars is now expected to become a $42 billion industry within less than a decade. Here, we share five companies with you today that could see huge benefits from driverless tech, explains Jason Stutman in Wealth Daily.

While none of these companies are pure plays, they're all investing heavily in self-driving R&D today and have the capital to back up their lofty ambitions.

Google (ALPHABET) (GOOG)

In terms of hardware and software, Google has the largest head start in this space. It’s been working on driverless cars since around 2006 and has already begun developing 100 cars.

Google is giving its computers full control. Its engineers have decided that allowing a human driver to take over in an emergency didn’t actually make its cars any safer.

By not giving drivers the option and making autonomy mandatory, Google is setting itself up for regulatory hurdles, but if its plans succeed, Google could see drastically improved margins over its competitors by cutting out all operation expenses associated with manual, human driving.

Audi AG (AUDVF)

Luxury car manufacturer Audi was the second company behind Google granted a license to test autonomous cars in Nevada.

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, the company debuted its first self-driving vehicle, which could drive without human intervention at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. In 2015, Audi then developed an autonomous car that drove on a German racetrack, hitting speeds in excess of 140 mph.

Daimler AG (DDAIF)

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG has been on the forefront of innovation when it comes to driverless vehicles.

Its F-015 prototype is truly stunning and could prove to be exactly where the automotive industry is headed. Like something out of a science fiction film, the F-015 seems more like a futuristic limousine than a car.

With chairs that swivel towards the center of the vehicle, you wouldn't even have to face the direction you're traveling, but could instead spend time catching up on work or simply lounging with friends.

Tesla Motors (TSLA)

One of the more exciting stories surrounding self-driving cars comes from none other than Elon Musk's Tesla Motors, a company that has already proven its ability to disrupt the automotive status quo.

In late 2015, Tesla showed that it could stream a software update to vehicles already on the road, giving them additional driverless features with its Tesla Autopilot feature.

At the mere push of a button, Model S cars could now automatically steer, change lanes, and park on their own. This was possible because the vehicles were already equipped with the appropriate hardware.

Caterpillar (CAT) and Komatsu Limited (KMTUY)

While driverless cars have hogged the headlines recently, one fully autonomous vehicle market already exists, autonomous mining trucks weighing in at over half a million pounds.

In late 2015, mining giant Rio Tinto (RIO) began running its first two autonomous iron ore mines using remotely operated trucks from an operations center 1,200 kilometers away.

In total, the company is operating 69 driverless trucks that run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year without a driver.

Leading the charge in driverless mining are US-based Caterpillar and Japan-based Komatsu Limited.

Both companies have their own respective strengths in the emerging driverless market, but Caterpillar's fundamentals and 4.33% dividend payout make it the more attractive company to own.

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