When it comes to pioneering innovations, it doesn’t get any more fantastical than fostering the ability for cars to drive themselves. While MicroVision (NASDAQ:MVIS) is specifically in the lidar business, if we’re being honest, the true investment thesis of MVIS stock is to sell the aforementioned dream.
Of course, the real threat to the underlying company is that this is what it only amounts to, a dream.
On the positive front, MVIS stock has substance. Through what MicroVision calls its “highest resolution, full velocity, long-range automotive lidar sensor,” the platform is able to identify objects and foster the “ability to predict those uncertain driving situations we experience every day.” Given that road rage incidents are on the rise during the new normal, such an innovation enjoys added relevance.
However, MVIS stock immediately faces a problem. Essentially, the underlying company will have a mountain to climb to prove the effectiveness of its platform. For example, while lidar has many advantages over optical alternatives, it also suffers drawbacks related to various environmental conditions. If MicroVision is to succeed in delivering autonomous driving solutions, establishing safety will be paramount.
Though not entirely related, I’m really starting to question the viability of using sensors with big data analytics to drive people around without operator input. Many of you have heard about the “unacceptable error” at Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), where the social media firm’s artificial intelligence system misidentified humans as non-humans.
Again, AI for social media and AI for autonomous driving are not related. However, I still got to ask the question: if AI can’t perform a simple task as identifying a person as a homo sapien, how the flying truck are we supposed to trust AI to navigate the 405 freeway?
If that wasn’t bad enough, the novel coronavirus made things much, much worse.
Chip Shortage Puts a Damper on MVIS Stock
Write about the investment markets as long as I have and eventually, you’re going to incur some regrets. While I have a boatload of them, a more recent one involves my discussion on the used car industry. I casted some doubt regarding the viability of these elevated prices we’ve seen but I’m probably going to be dead wrong on that matter. And that will likely have a huge impact on MVIS stock.
In fairness to myself, I think my opinion aligned with most everyone else’s. Don’t buy a used car this year because prices will come down in 2022. If so, that would make companies like CarMax (NYSE:KMX) suspect as investment opportunities. But that might not be the case after all due to the ongoing semiconductor shortage.
Major automakers have over the last few weeks announced huge production cuts, most prominently Toyota (NYSE:TM) saying that it will slash global production by 40%. From what I’m hearing, it’s going to be 2023 at the earliest where we might see price relief. But the thing is, nobody knows right now. Unfortunately, this is going to delay the underlying business of MVIS stock quite significantly in all likelihood.
Yes, there’s the component that MicroVision systems use computer chips and that those chips have now become precious commodities. Naturally, this will raise costs, hurting the company’s revenue outlook. But I’m looking at an even more basic level. Simply, automakers have better things to worry about than attempting to experiment with autonomous driving technologies.
Let’s face it. Who cares if a vehicle can drive itself if a customer can’t purchase it or access it? Sure, the technology is neat but currently, automakers are facing an existential crisis. They’ll worry about autonomous driving if and when they reach that bridge. And that might not come around for a while.
Liability Is Now a Bigger Concern
With driving autonomy, the big question has always been about liability. Just one serious or fatal incident and it could set back the industry for years. As a smaller firm, MicroVision can’t afford anything to go wrong, which imposes a severe risk profile on MVIS stock.
But now, the difference is that automakers probably don’t want to take that risk. With a backlog that could extend several years by the time the Covid-19 crisis is over, there is absolutely zero room for missteps. Installing autonomous systems that lead to catastrophic incidents (whether at-fault or not) is simply not on the cards for beleaguered auto manufacturers.
Unfortunately, this leaves MVIS stock as a purely speculative play. You might be able to ride enthusiasm from social media. But the intermediate-term fundamentals don’t seem to be aligning too kindly for MicroVision.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.