Baby, You Can Drive My Car

For decades, science fiction has whetted our appetites for vehicles that don’t need human drivers and transcend conventional boundaries. The future is approaching faster than most analysts expected.

Research consultancy IHS Automotive projects that 21 million self-driving cars will be plying the roads worldwide by 2035. IHS also estimates that global autonomous car production will reach 600,000 units by 2025, at which point production will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 43% for the following 10 years. Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) estimates that the autonomous driving systems market is on track to generate $290 billion in revenue by 2035, up from $3 billion in 2015.

The available technology for autonomous cars is starting to match our imaginations and even lawmakers are catching up. So far, legislation has been passed in four U.S. states and Washington, D.C. allowing driverless cars. Soon you’ll be able to text-and-drive to your heart’s content.

Below, I interview an expert on the topic: Nathan Slaughter, chief investment strategist of Takeover Trader and High-Yield Investing.

Pictured here, Nathan agreed to speak with me for today’s question-and-answer session, with a focus on investment opportunities in autonomous vehicles. My questions are in bold.

How much of the autonomous vehicle boom is real and how much is hype?

Oh, it’s very real, alright. Did you ever see the film Total Recall? The movie is full of things that were definitely in the realm of science fiction 30 years ago, but are slowly but surely creeping into reality.

Mind implants, vacations to Mars… those are still a ways off.

But there’s one scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character hops in an unmanned “Johnny Cab” that was driven by a robot.

Turns out that one is closer to reality than you think and rapidly gaining consumer acceptance.

I recently examined this topic in my Takeover Trader premium service. In our discussion, I won’t dig too deep into the technology, though. I simply want this conversation to serve as a primer for readers to get acquainted with what’s happening so that when the time is right, they’ll be ready.

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All you need to know for now is that developers are perfecting systems that utilize lasers, sensors, and cameras in conjunction with sophisticated software that scans the roadways and sends real-time steering, acceleration, and braking commands to the vehicle.

But isn’t there still a big problem with safety?

Actually, in theory, self-driving cars would be safer. They would eliminate aggressive driving behavior. No more tailgating or running red lights. Not only that, but computers would always keep their “eyes” on the road and never get distracted by incoming texts or the need to change radio stations.

Personally, I would feel a bit nervous about climbing into a vehicle with nobody behind the steering wheel. Americans are still divided on the issue, with at least 70% showing some level of anxiety according to polls. But the technology is still in its infancy. There was similar fear in the early days of commercial air travel before it was proven safe.

Plus, this transition is being gradually phased in. Already, many vehicles leave the factory outfitted with autonomous safety features, such as lane departure alerts or automatic emergency braking to avoid a collision. The newest Acura, for example, offers adaptive cruise control that can maintain the pace of traffic down to a full stop. The BMW 5 can even parallel park itself.

Can you pinpoint for investors the major publicly traded players in autonomous cars?

Whatever your personal feelings about being a passenger in a driverless vehicle, there are dozens of companies investing billions of dollars in this race. You probably already know about Tesla (NSDQ: TSLA), which is at the vanguard of this movement. All-new Tesla Model 3s are now equipped with full self-driving hardware, including rain and fog-piercing radars, eight surrounding cameras for 360-degree visibility, and 40 times the onboard computing power of the prior generation.

Traditional automakers are also venturing into this new world.

General Motors (NYSE: GM) invested $1 billion to acquire Cruise, a start-up company working on driverless passenger vans. A prototype Nissan Leaf driverless electric car just completed a 230-mile test drive in England. Honda has pledged to invest $2.75 billion over the next decade in autonomous vehicle development. Volvo has developed self-driving cars for Uber.

Big tech firms are also angling for a piece of the pie. Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), for example, has provided financial backing to a Chinese ride-hailing firm that plans to launch a fleet of 1 million robotaxis.

Google parent Alphabet (NSDQ: GOOG, GOOGL) has been a pioneer in this space since 2009. And it just might have the inside track.

Google’s self-driving car project is now a fully fledged subsidiary called Waymo, which stands for a new way forward in mobility. Waymo has overseen 300,000 autonomous test miles and partnered with automakers such as Lexus and Chrysler to integrate self-driving hardware on mass-production vehicles. The company is now using the Phoenix, Arizona market as a testing ground for driverless ride-hailing services.

Based on what you’ve just told us, what specific actions should investors take?

All of this brings us to the point of how to invest in this space. The short answer is that there aren’t a lot of ways to directly invest in this trend. For now.

That will change soon. But if you follow all the billions in investment capital, you see a common thread. Developers aren’t necessarily focusing their efforts on putting a fully autonomous vehicle in your garage. At least not yet. Most consumers aren’t ready for that; it’s probably another decade away.

But they might be willing to take a ride in one across town. Hence the application of this game-changing technology to taxis and ride-sharing services. There is big potential at the intersection of these two trends. How big?

Well, Morningstar forecasts the global ridesharing market to more than double to $550 billion in annual revenue by 2024. With the biggest names from Detroit to California choosing sides and forming alliances, I’m predicting this will be the next shoe to drop in the self-driving revolution.

I’ve got a couple of ideas for how my premium readers can get in on this trend in the early stages. But bottom line, growth-minded investors need to pay attention to this trend now, because there will be big profits to be had as self-driving technology becomes a reality.

One mega-trend that I’ve been watching is the rollout of 5G wireless technology. Isn’t 5G directly related to autonomous vehicles?

Yes, indeed. As fast as 4G is, its latency (the time required for data to go from one place to another) of about 50 milliseconds is still too slow for applications that require a real-time response.

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5G (aka “fifth generation”) could reduce the latency to around 1 millisecond. Ultra-fast 5G will be instrumental to the development and operation of autonomous vehicles.

Editor’s Note: In the context of my interview with Nathan, I was interested to learn about our colleague Stephen Leeb’s top pick for the 5G revolution. To put it simply, the 5G rollout will be impossible without this small company’s key technology.

If you buy these cheap shares today, you could see a life-changing gain over the next few months. But there may be only a few days left before Wall Street catches wind of this company and spoils the party for everyone. This report shows you how to get started right away.

John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily. Send your questions or comments to mailbag@investingdaily.com. To subscribe to John’s video channel, follow this link.