Applying knowledge graphs to Motional’s new partnership with Uber Eats

Hyundai and Aptiv’s joint AV venture Motional hits the road with Uber

Strategic partnerships between automotive companies and tech companies have disrupted the traditional construct process of vehicles. In 2020, vehicle manufacturer Hyundai and automotive tech expert Aptiv announced the launch of their new autonomous driving joint venture, Motional.

In our previous article “Why Lyft’s sale of their autonomous driving division doesn’t mean they’re out the AV game,” Centrly’s relationship mapping shows that despite Lyft’s decision to sell its self-driving unit to Toyota, Lyft simply selected to rely heavily on the benefits of partnerships instead of focusing on in-house technology development. One of those partnerships was their 2020 robotaxi pilot with Motional.

This week, Motional and Uber Eats announced the launch of their autonomous delivery pilot in California. This shines a light on the interesting inter-connectivities in this space, where a single entity (Motional) can be a shared partner of two clear competitors (Lyft and Uber). The relationships are distinct due to the application of AV technology in two different spaces – personal mobility and deliveries. It will be interesting to see how the Motional-Uber and Motional-Lyft partners evolve over time as each ride-share company decides how specifically to play in the autonomous vehicle space.

Identifying an unexpected player in Motional’s network

One unexpected entity in this relationship graph is Cox Automotive, which owns businesses like Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader. Cox Automotive, one of Motional’s strategic partners, developed Pivet, a periodical cleaning and disinfecting service. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic shifted the focus of not only providing modern safety standardization in AV, but also in providing end-to-end services to autonomous vehicles. Cox’s Pivet service is being implemented in Motional’s fleets to meet consumer expectations and increase uptime.

Through the network graph, Centrly identified that Cox is also an investor in Rivian and a partner of the Drive LTV innovation hub. This suggests the company is looking at broader players in the autonomous and EV ecosystems. This could be a way to diversify from its traditional auto trading services that focused on dealerships. Cox may also be able to leverage their relationship with Motional to make further inroads with Lyft and Uber as trends point more towards a sharing economy.

Challenges faced in today’s competitive automotive industry

It’s no secret that the automotive industry is evolving rapidly. The key drivers for change –autonomous driving, electrification, and connectivity in cars – are pushing vehicle manufacturing companies to seek partnership and acquisition opportunities. Building and training driverless cars in-house would require significantly higher investment and may have a longer time to market. Centrly’s relationship map reveals the landscape of automakers increasingly looking to establish cross-industry partnership to minimize a substantial financial burden in the development of AV.

One result of the rapidly forming partnerships is that automotive manufacturers are within 1-2 degrees of each other in the autonomous vehicle space as they share more partners. Motional’s second degree network already contains established automotive players like Ford, Toyota, Volvo, General Motors, along with newer players like Rivian and Waymo. Understanding the nature of the relationships between all entities in a market will become increasingly more important as the number and complexity of partnerships evolves. This is a natural fit for knowledge graphs, that structure this volume of information into a more digestible format.

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