When it comes to dominating online chatter about driverless cars, there's one name that rises above all others: Google.
Not Toyota, Ford, Audi, Honda or General Motors. Not even Nissan, which is one of the companies that has made the biggest commitments to cars that can drive themselves.
Rather, the space is dominated by Google, according to findings of a study by Appinions, which says he culls hundreds of millions of news, blog, forum and social media posts to see which companies or individuals are moving opinion on a subject.
When it comes to autonomous driving, the influencer scores soared when Google, which was the first company to develop and test driverless cars in Nevada, announced it was building its own driverless car from scratch — with no steering wheel.
Until now, it has been testing the technologies on converted Toyota Priuses.
"Google has made this thing real," says Craig Danuloff, executive vice president of Appinions.
Interestingly, though, traditional car companies are falling behind when it comes to generating buzz for their efforts on driverless cars, finds the study, which looks at social media from April to July.
Google's scores absolutely swamp them. The distant second goes to Intel, which says it plans to try to develop products to market to driverless car makers. After that come the automakers: General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Nissan. Nissan is sixth
despite CEO Carlos Ghosn having pledged the automaker would have driverless cars on the market by 2020.
Seventh places goes to Apple, which Danuloff notes has barely made a peep about autonomous driving technology. "Apple didn't do anything," Danuloff says.
Despite all the interest in driverless cars, some automakers were virtual no-shows. They included Ford, Kia and Hyundai.
If it's any consolation, though driverless cars are making headlines, they still aren't registering large on the public's radar. Other tech issues like smart watches, online privacy, civilian drones and, especially, "wearable tech," all generated much higher buzz.