At least $80 billion has been funneled into driverless car technology over the past three years, according to a new report, underscoring how the pace of development has accelerated in recent years.
The Brookings Institution published research on Monday that tallied all the investments and transactions associated with self-driving cars and technologies from August 2014 to June 2017.
The report found that the total price tag for 160 separate deals, investments, partnerships and acquisitions associated with autonomous vehicles topped $80 billion during that three-year period
The researchers acknowledged that there were several limitations to their data collection, however, so “it is reasonable to presume that total global investment in autonomous vehicles is significantly more than this.”
While it’s debatable when driverless cars will be available to the masses, Congress is already taking steps to create the first federal laws governing their testing and deployment. The House passed autonomous vehicle legislation earlier this month, while a similar bill is making its way through the Senate.
Most of the autonomous vehicle investments were announced in the past two years, according to Brookings, with autonomous vehicle developments accelerating significantly as 2016 went on.
“The trend indicates that investment in 2018 should be substantially more than the $80 billion disclosed from 2014 to 2017 and continue upward for some period of time as the race to deploy self-driving moves on,” the report said.
Self-driving cars not only encompass the machine-learning software that operates the vehicle but also include sensors, navigation technology, adaptive mapping, vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems and other core technology.
That’s why a wide range of players have been racing to get in on the action, including automakers, tech companies, ride-hailing firms, logistics companies and auto parts suppliers.
The Brookings report also noted that the surge in driverless car technology could be a precursor to developments in other artificial intelligence areas.
“If autonomous vehicles are the leading edge of artificial intelligence investment and development, then the $80 billion or more invested in that sector is a precursor of things to come in fields like natural language processing, image recognition, and others as these technologies gain commercial momentum,” the report said.