The arms race to build the first commercially-ready autonomous car has become a top secret business. Many of the world’s top data scientists are working on stealth projects that sometimes their fellow employees don’t even know about. The only way to learn about industry advancements is from product unveilings, press releases — and sometimes the occasional leak.


Across the major automakers, every corporate communications team is constantly on the lookout for competitive scraps of information that shed some light on who is closer to the finish line in creating an autonomous vehicle. Some organizations have been using media intelligence platforms to surface this information that would otherwise be lost amongst the noise. This information can then be used to shape strategy and act as a barometer for the industry.


In recent years, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has become the primary venue for revealing the latest breakthroughs in self-driving cars. Zignal Labs monitored all forms of media over the four-day period around autonomous vehicles. Zignal also tracked the top car manufacturers in the US, as well as Uber, who are expected to play a large role in this growing industry.

The Big Winner Was…

Nvidia. The technology company’s CEO was featured as the opening keynote speaker at CES where he revealed a new autonomous vehicle named BB8. Media coverage describing their demo of BB8 navigating the Bay Area with no intervention generated over 1,100 mentions, which was 2x more than any other story. The GPU manufacturer also announced a partnership with Audi with the aim of delivering self-driving cars on the road by 2020. This partnership was mentioned over 600 times. Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 2.08.14 PM

Share of Voice

American brands lost out on share of voice to the three large Asian brands, who made up 60% of the conversation. Nissan’s 29% was driven by their announcement that technology from NASA will be used to control their autonomous fleets. The top US brand from the companies Zignal tracked was Uber, who held 14% of share of voice.

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Some manufacturers are more bullish than others

Ford came out with the boldest prediction, stating that the company would commercialize autonomous vehicles by 2021. The American manufacturer went as far as saying that these vehicles would have no steering wheels or brake pedals — a practice that is currently illegal in many states.

Many companies are not quite as optimistic as Ford. Both Nissan and Toyota believe that completely autonomous vehicles are a long way off.  As such, both companies have been working on intermediate steps to bridge the gap. Toyota has developed a personal assistant that keeps the driver focused on the road, while Nissan has developed call centers where humans can take control of the vehicle when Artificial Intelligence fails.


Ford Fully autonomous vehicles

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In a hotly competitive market — especially one that represents billions of potential dollars — corporate communications teams need to surface vital information about their market and key competitors. This information is needed across the entire enterprise to shape strategy and provide insights into competitive activity.

Uncover more insights around self-driving cars from the key U.S. car manufacturers by downloading our FREE CES Autonomous Vehicle Report.