It’s almost 2019, which means flying cars are just around the corner.
OK, maybe they aren’t ready to fly yet. Still, plenty of startups have made major breakthroughs in automated driving, and 2019 promises even more progress. Founders and investors who push the industry forward in the next year stand to secure significant rewards in a fledgling market.
Unfortunately, not every player in the autonomous vehicle game is ready for prime time. AI-assisted driving is one of the biggest tech trends in the startup world, which means thousands of people are racing to get their ideas to market. It’s a new Wild West of innovation, and this time, the horses have headlights.
Racing Toward Automation
As car manufacturers create hardware that can handle automation software, startups are eager to get their products under the hood. The autonomous vehicle tech market will gain massive traction in 2019 as more founders look to capitalize on the hottest thing on the road.
Investors are placing big bets on startups in this arena. Companies that enhance the safety, convenience, or monetization of automated vehicles could make their backers insanely wealthy (or wealthier) overnight. There’s plenty of money on the table — but too many players scrambling for seats.
With autonomous vehicles set to enter the mainstream, some companies will ride the automated road to success. Others, however, will crash and burn before they get out of the driveway. Makers of autonomous vehicle software need to understand what makes their products special (and how to market those products) if they want to rise above the competition.
Is Your Product Ready to Roll?
You might think your startup holds the key to the future of automated driving, but guess what? So do thousands of other founders. If you want to thrive in a packed market, you can’t rely on your innovative spirit alone — you need a plan.
To avoid failing in the autonomous vehicle revolution, follow these four steps to test and verify your product’s commercial potential:
1. Check Out Your Competition
It doesn’t matter how smart your team is or how awesome your product is. If another company with a similar product beats you to market, you’ll have a hard time convincing your prospects to wait for you.
Look around to see what’s already on the market and what’s coming next. Keep up with the latest industry publications. Don’t let competition scare you. But do use your competitive analysis to hone in on what makes your product special — then use that knowledge to gain an advantage.
2. Handle the Legal Stuff
Nothing feels worse than creating an amazing product and then finding out that you shot yourself in the foot on paperwork. Consult a lawyer — maybe even multiple lawyers — to keep your product on track.
Does your innovation need a patent? Not every invention does. But when you work hard to make something new, you should protect your hard work if you can. Even if your product doesn’t qualify for a patent on its own, one or more of your features might.
The future of insurance for automated driving remains a mystery, but you shouldn’t wait for the smoke to clear to protect your business. Cover your bases by working with an attorney on a continuing basis to stay up to date on your liability.
3. Play the Long Game
Autonomous vehicles might not be popular for several years, but they will arrive eventually — and once they do, they will be here to stay. Companies that build products without staying power will find their advances ignored by car manufacturers who are more interested in decades-long dominance than a quick buck.
Don’t limit your vision for your product to the next year or even the next few years. Think about how your solution will grow with the industry. How will the automated cars of the future operate? Will your software be redundant? Focus on the features with the biggest potential to help you survive the initial wave of automated development.
4. Get an Outside Opinion
It doesn’t matter if you love your own software or wish it were better. You cannot be an unbiased judge of a product you helped create. That means you might be blind to flaws in your product, superior existing solutions, or applications for your software outside your target niche.
Consult with third-party experts to evaluate your product, then listen to their feedback. If they tell you that your product is unique and desired, great. If they say your product lacks differentiation, take their advice and adjust your approach. Speed is important, but if you release a product no one wants, you’ll wish you had made changes when you had the chance.
The future of autonomous vehicles is exciting, both for consumers and for the people behind the scenes. But before you put the pedal to the floor, take the time to evaluate the market, your product, and your vision, so you can maximize your odds to secure a future in this emerging industry.