We’ve seen quite a few ads from Jim Pearce at Personal Finance about his favorite “self driving cars” idea, so it’s time to feed the Thinkolator and get some answers for you, dear Gumshoe readers.
The basic backdrop for this is, of course, pretty well known — cars are becoming smarter and smarter, self-driving cars and the baby steps toward real self-driving cars (like Tesla’s autopilot) are getting a lot of press, and car sales are at record highs so everyone in the auto business has money to throw at the next big thing.
But what is it that Pearce says is the “one small company” that owns the patents and software on this “Auto Intelligence” network that will be the foundation for the self-driving car revolution? That’s what we’re here to find out today.
Here’s a little taste of the ad, just to get your juices flowing:
“Get Your Piece of the New Billion-Dollar Internet of Cars
“Earn 8,840% As The ‘Next Cisco’ Builds The Essential Network That Will Connect Self-Driving Vehicles…
– In the 1990’s Internet companies like Cisco shot up 74,034% when they created the network that connected computers…
– Today, one small tech company is building the vital network that will connect SELF-DRIVING CARS…
– And this innovative little company just locked up a new round of contracts – including a groundbreaking partnership with General Motors.
So who is it? Well, we’ll need a few more clues… let’s dig in…
“I’m about to tell you how you can get rich by investing in an unexpected company that’s building the critical parts for the self-driving car network….”
We all know, of course, that anyone who tells you you’re going to get rich because of one stock investment is not acting in your best interest. That’s not the way to approach a stock, you need much more of a balance of optimism and pessimism in order to have a fair chance at making a rational investment decision.
But still, man, that gets you excited… right? After all, if we didn’t each harbor at least a little lust in our greedy little minds, well, we’d just do the rational thing and put our investment savings into a global index fund every month. Where’s the fun in that?
More about this little company…
“Self-driving cars are already driving thousands of miles on America’s roads each and every day.
“And the network that they’ll rely on is already worth billions of dollars…
“… an exclusive syndicate—a group of elite auto manufacturers—just wrote a check for $3.1 billion just to buy a half-finished prototype of this self-driving network…..
“But there’s more to this story.
“…. their $3.1 billion prototype is still missing the key ingredients that’ll ignite this revolution…
“Because all those essential features are locked up by one small company.”
OK, so that’s some pretty compelling logic — there’s one key technological component of this “network” of “auto intelligence”, and one company has it sewn up. The reality is almost certainly not that black-and-white, since it never is with intellectual property and emerging technologies, but we’ll keep reading…
“THIS ESSENTIAL NETWORK connects all self-driving cars – it’s impossible to drive without it, and it’s being built today…Are you getting our free Daily Update
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“ONE SMALL TECH COMPANY owns the patents and software – they collect royalties from all competitors and will earn more from everyone (even Google!) when the network expands…
“IT’S SET TO HIT A TIPPING POINT SOON – shares of this company are expected to ignite when new contract partners are announced” ….
“It’s impossible for self-driving cars to work without this vital network.
“As General Motors CEO Mary Barra says: ‘You need embedded connectivity to make autonomous work.’
“And it’s being constructed right now by one small technology company.
OK, so that’s the sum-up for “why” you want to buy this company. How about some more clues so your friendly neighborhood Gumshoe can tell you what it is?
We’re told that BMW, Ford, Volvo, Toyota, Nissan, Mercedex, GM and Audi have all “signed contracts to put Auto-Intelligence in their upcoming cars”
The big deal with GM is, according to the ad, about upgrading their OnStar network and taking more advantage of the data it provides…
“A brand-new contract is set to turn this collection of 7 million individual OnStar cars into a living-breathing real-time Auto-Intelligence network.”
And Pearce says that VW is also partnering with them on this “network”…. and that there’s a third partner in this “groundbreaking arrangement” that they haven’t yet announced. He says that part of his rationale for investing is that he expects this third partner to drive a lot of interest, with more national headlines and stories.
There are other catalysts for the growing “revolution” in autonomous cars as well, of course, including both technological and regulatory changes — and Pearce cites one of those regulatory changes as critical…
“On February 4th, 2016, the highway safety division of the U.S. government ruled that AI software could legally be considered the “driver” of a car.
“That’s right, for the very first time in history, the U.S. Government has officially recognized computer software is a person.
“This isn’t a sci-fi movie and it isn’t hypothetical.
“In fact, the U.S. Government is now willing to let this new “person” get into your car and drive it for you.
“From a legal standpoint that is hugely significant.
“Notable scholar Bryant Walker Smith of the University of South Carolina School of Law says, ‘This letter will one day be in a museum.'”
I’d say that those regulations so far have been flexing gently to permit early autonomous cars, but that the full regulatory framework for self-driving cars is going to evolve over at least five years and more likely much longer… just like the cars themselves, and the (mostly state) traffic laws and regulations are going to have to evolve. There’s a good short piece on this from Wired if you’d like more of the story… and, of course, I’m sure more people saw the story about Google’s self-driving car hitting a bus a few weeks later than saw the story about the new regulatory flexibility coming from the NHTSA.
So now, finally, we get to talking about this “one small company” who Pearce claims is the keystone to building this “auto-intelligence” future. Some clues for the Thinkolator…
“This small company holds 18 key U.S. patents and 6 E.U. patents.
“And with 28 more U.S. patents pending, and 24 more in the E.U., they’re an unstoppable force in this industry….
“Current contracts are slated to bring 250% growth in sales over the next four years—and that’s just from current contracts, not the new ones being signed weekly.
“They also have a patent for “Systems and methods for detecting obstructions in a camera field of view.”
“Virtually all carmakers will need to pay a royalty in order to use it…
“After all, it’s hard to make a self-driving car that can’t avoid obstacles!
“In essence, they have a total monopoly on the key technologies fueling the self-driving car revolution.”
Pearce compares the potential of this company to Cisco, which created much of the routing and communications technology that allowed computers to talk to each other and helped the internet to explode….
“The Biggest Profits Didn’t Come from the Computer… They Came from the Network….
“This principle is STILL true today. That’s right—even though it’s been a while since the Internet revolution began, the network approach is still working…”
Pearce says that we’re in a three-phase adoption cycle for self-driving cars… and that Phase 1 is “right now” as features are added to cars one at a time. He says this “one small company” is putting those features into cars now, and has locked in contracts with 90% of major auto manufacturers to install some features.
And he says that we’re about to enter Phase II, in just a year — that’s when the “Auto-Intelligence” technology goes to widespread adoption, and he thinks this “network-enabled mapping software” (first time he’s used that term, I’m not sure what it means — perhaps that’s a reference to the souped up OnStar deal with GM) will be worth at least $6 billion… and that very little of that is reflected in the stock price of his secret company.
So that’s where he thinks the “biggest money” will be made, in the early frenzy to get this technology into lots of cars… though he also goes on to say that “Phase III” over the next decade as the technology gets into every car and becomes ubiquitous faster than most people expect.
There’s quite a bit more chatter in the ad about the vast market potential, most of it based on the huge time savings enabled when self-driving cars help erase traffic congestion or the lives saved because computer