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While no fully autonomous cars are currently in circulation—cars that will do the entirety of the driving for the “driver”—many companies have implemented driver support on their cars, including intelligent or adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assists and hands-free capability. What was once a thing of sci-fi novels and movies recently turned into a reality almost within reach; as engineers continue to conduct research into driver support expansion, it is safe to assume that fully autonomous, self-driving cars may be released in the near future.
The Biden administration’s promise to spend considerably on infrastructure and transportation, alongside the proposed goal of having half of all new vehicle sales in the United States be zero-emission by 2030, has fueled the automobile industry spending and development. A recent report predicts that sales of autonomous vehicles could reach 58M units by 2030, crediting governmental investments in digitization, advanced infrastructures, household smart gadget use and increasing overall per capita income.
This, of course, caused countless companies to invest significantly into self-driving cars. Following are the six hot companies to keep an eye on for automotive vehicle technology and innovation, in no particular order.
Since its founding in 2012, the California-based company has worked diligently on autonomous vehicle sensors and softwares. Luminar has likewise gained over 50 industry partners and struck profitable deals with companies such as Volvo Cars, Daimler Truck AG and Intel’s Mobileye. In 2020, Luminar signed the industry’s first production deal for autonomous consumer vehicles with Volvo Cars, and in 2021, became standardized in the next generation electric Volvo. The company boasts technology such as advanced perception, which can detect and classify objects out to 250 meters, even in the dark, as well as velocity definition and configurable field coverage.
Motional is an autonomous driving joint venture between Irish company Aptiv PLC and the Hyundai Motor Group. Aptiv technology, notably their 4D radar, helped create the fully-electric IONIQ 5 robotaxi, which features SAE Level 4 autonomy and is capable of mass production. Successfully tested in Las Vegas with more than 100,000 self-driving rides reporting zero at-fault incidents, the company is secure in its extensive data collections with testing across multiple generations in various climates. Motional and Uber will launch autonomous deliveries in a new partnership starting in Santa Monica in 2022.
GM expected to start production of the company’s first driverless vehicle in early 2023 through its subsidiary Cruise, which received investments from SoftBank Group Corp and Honda Motor Co, bolstered by a hefty $2 billion financing from Microsoft Corp. Cruise currently possesses a fleet of two self-driving cars: the Cruise First Generation AV, which logged significant miles in food delivery and boasts a new partnership promising all-electric and self-driving grocery delivery. The second make is the Cruise Origin, promising no driver, no pedal and no steering wheel, with the company stating it is nearly ready to roll off the assembly line.
The car services company has plenty of reason to invest into self-driving cars with the opportunity to cut labor costs on the line. In 2020, Uber Technologies, Inc. invested $400 million in the self-driving company Aurora, owning a reported 45% of their Class A stick. Aurora then acquired Uber’s self-driving unit, Advanced Technologies Group, with the main product being the Aurora Driver, a combination of sensors, software to plan paths and a computer that integrates the two into any vehicle, from a sedan to a Class 8 truck. Using a “smarter, not farther” approach to on road testing, allowing real events to inspire future tests and conducting online tests.
Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google and a giant in the technology sector, has made several steps towards releasing a fully autonomous vehicle. Waymo, the sibling company that operates Alphabet Inc;s vehicles segment, raised over $2.5 billion in 2021 towards development. The company has been working for years in this field and has accordingly gained considerable advantage.
In 2021, the expansion continued. The company reported serving tens of thousands of rider’s only trips in Arizona with the world’s first commercial, fully autonomous ride-hailing service. They have since expanded the service to now include San Francisco, using these initial cities and rides to gather even more data. The company even collaborated with J.B. Hunt to expand their UPS delivery partnership to include Class-8 trucks. Alphabet continues to invest in perfecting the fifth-generation Waymo Driver, designed to scale across multiple geographies, vehicle types and use cases, and is already being introduced to the complex landscapes of large cities such as Los Angeles and New York. To prove safety, in March, they released results of tests on their vehicles that showed the cars would have effectively avoided historical fatal crashes in Arizona.
Volkswagen Group has made significant investments into automotive technology, with plans to invest around €27B in digitization and increase in-house development of software from the current 10% to 60% by 2025.
The Group is now collaborating with tech giant Microsoft to build a cloud-based Automated Driving Platform on Microsoft Azure, a development that will further strengthen the relationship between the two companies that have been working together since 2018 on the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud (VW.AC).
Microsoft, however, is not the only technology company Volkswagen has been working with. In July of 2020, Volkswagen closed a $2.6B investment in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle start-up, having Argo take over the European self-driving unit. This collaboration has already led to ID Buzz AD, a van filled with Argo AI’s self-driving technology, lidar radar and optical sensors scattered about, displaying significant promise that this car will soon drive autonomously.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Maria is a Tech Innovation Fellow at Identity Review from Columbia University, where she has a background in industrial and financial engineering. She spends her time studying the intersections between finance and technology and integrity and ethics within the space.
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