The word disruptive suggests chaos or what challenges conventional wisdom to introduce something that is new. Technology Review, a publication founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1899, recently updated its annual 50 Disruptive Companies list, with both Toyota and Audi mentioned for 2013.
Audi, founded in 1909 and based in Ingolstadt, Germany, made it to the MIT list for the first time. The Review recognized Audi for pushing autonomous cars closer to fruition with a laser-scanning road detector that fits in a vehicles front grille. Autonomous driving received significant mention in Audi CEO Scott Keoghs address to the media at this years Washington Auto Show, a story that was reported by Auto Trends earlier this month.
Said Wolfgang Dürheimer, Board Member Technical Development, AUDI AG, “Piloted driving is a logical step for Audi, based on the in-car assistance systems already in use.”
Toyota has also made news about autonomous driving, but the Review recognized it in a different area, one that should be familiar to everyone. Of Toyota MIT lauded it for, Expanding its dominance of the hybrid-car market with its new plug-in version of the Prius. Toyota, founded in 1937 and headquartered in Tokyo City, Japan, continues to expand and update the Prius line, now offering five models to choose from.
When approached by Auto Trends for a comment, John Hanson, national manager, environmental, safety and quality communications at Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. said, “Toyota is focused on developing for the future and strives to be the safest, highest-quality, most fuel-efficient and innovative car brand. Whether it’s alternative energy sources, interconnected traffic & safety systems, human assisting robots or new modes of personal transport, we’re taking steps to innovate. He added, Hybrid technologies are regarded as our core technology, and we have endeavored to promote the mass-market adoption of hybrid-vehicles. By 2015, 10 percent of our cars will be hybrids, or about 990,000 units, based on sales projections.”
Of the 50 companies mentioned, 31 were new to the list this year. Audi and Toyota alone represented the auto industry with some companies including General Electric supplying components that are used in todays new cars. Apple, Google, IBM, Xerox, Corning and Phillips were among the more recognized disruptors mentioned. Others included Square, Kymeta, Ambri, BGI and Leap Motion.
MIT was quick to point out that its list is not based on a quantitive assessment. Nor is it a ranking. Rather, it is the Reviews way of bringing attention to innovations that get commercialized or what these companies do to improve their positions in their respective markets. Some have brought forth a breakthrough product, while others are innovating with new breakthroughs yet to be realized.
For Audi, making it to the MIT list represents the third time this company has been recognized this year for its autonomous or what it calls its piloted driving technology. Just in January, Popular Science named Audis technology as a product of the future. Vox Medias, The Verge, also included Audi in its 2013 CES announcement for best automobile technology.
In January, the publication took a slap at Googles self-driving car when Chris Ziegler penned, Audi working on making self-driving cars look like normal cars. Audis piloted technology when it goes mainstream will be incorporated within the vehicle. Google, on the hand, slaps its equipment right on top of the vehicle. Guess which technology layout is an eyesore?
Toyota has, of course, enjoyed its share of accolades for its innovative hybrid Prius line. Toyota sells more hybrid vehicles than the rest of the market combined and has placed its green technologies bets with hybrids not pure electric vehicles or with fuel cell vehicles. Toyota is still working on the two latter technologies, but it clearly wants to maintain its edge in hybrid technology even as competitors such as the Ford Motor Company continue to flex its own muscles.
The Toyota Prius c, the smallest model in the Prius family, took first place honors when the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy announced its 15th annual greenest vehicle list. The little Prius is EPA-rated at 53 mpg around town and 46 mpg on the highway for a combined 50 mpg, and can had for less than $20,000.
What other automotive companies might be considered disruptive? To the extent that groundbreaking technologies are offered, look for the first company that delivers a production-ready fuel cell vehicle to the market to make that list. A solar-powered vehicle may someday also be recognized as might any new vehicle that effectively eliminates the risk of a crash.
Innovating is the key to technological advancement, what Technology Review has been tracking for well more than a century.