Vehicle autonomy is the way forward for automotive industry. Though how much time it takes for the industry to cover the journey from L1/L2 to L4 is domain of research for industry consultants and market research firms. But, irrespective of all these there are various automakers and startups who are on their way to pinnacle of self-driving. In fray are many automakers working on self-driving initiative. Below is compilation of some of the initiative in self driving domain by the automakers and startups.
Audi ventured into autonomous driving with budget close to $16B to spend by 2023. It is said to deploy hands-free driving in its A8. The 2019 A8 model included suite of semi-autonomous features, including adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation capabilities, as well as improved object recognition. The Audi A8 with self-driving features has only been initially approved for release and made street-legal in Europe in April 2020. But company seems to be taking a step back: its A8 sedan won’t be equipped with the Level 3 partial automation system, called Traffic Jam Pilot, due to safety concerns and the lack of a legal framework.
In 2016, the company announced an alliance with Intel and Mobileye, which Chrysler and Magna also joined in 2017. The alliance plans to create an open standards-based platform for bringing self-driving cars to market, aiming to put its first vehicle, the BMW iNEXT, on the road by 2021. In 2018, BMW opened an autonomous driving campus near Munich, Germany, to work on self-driving pilot projects. In September 2020, it inked an agreement with Tactile Mobility, an Israel-based startup whose technology detects road conditions by analyzing wheel speed, gear position, and other non-visual sensors.
Daimler announced it would be investing $570M in autonomous truck technology at CES 2018. In March 2019, Daimler acquired the US-based self-driving company Torc Robotics and integrated it into ATG (Autonomous Technology Group, an organization focused specifically on developing “automated roadmaps”). The new partners have expanded the testing of autonomous trucks to New Mexico. Their goal is to bring SAE Level 4 vehicles on road by 2030. Daimler has also invested in Luminar, to gain access to vital sensors that will be a part of its autonomous trucks. Daimler has teamed up with Waymo in late 2020, wherein Daimler will provide a customized truck chassis that will be integrated with Waymo’s self-driving system.
Ford Motor Company
As part of its 10-year autonomous vehicle plan, Ford is steadily increasing its fleet and currently has around 100 autonomous test vehicles. Ford is testing out Argo’s technology with its third-generation Fusion model sedan. And in October 2020, Ford and Argo AI released its fourth-generation autonomous test car. The new vehicle is equipped with better sensors, sensor-cleaning technology, and an upgraded battery cooling system. Ford also has testing projects underway in Michigan, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC.
In January 2020, GM unveiled a self-driving 6-seater, Origin, calling it “the beginning of the future beyond the car.” The vehicle lacks a steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals, a rear-view mirror, etc. It announced in October 2020 that it will soon seek regulatory approval to deploy several Origin vehicles for testing purposes. Origin will not be available for purchase by customers but will be used as a ride-hailing vehicle through GM’s Cruise service. The goal is to start producing the vehicle in GM’s Detroit factory by the beginning of 2022. Amid the Covid-19 crisis, GM shut down its car-sharing service Maven and has delayed the relaunch of its Book by Cadillac luxury vehicle subscription service.
Honda has received approval from California to test autonomous vehicles on public streets. In November 2020, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism approved Honda’s plans to mass-produce its Level 3 Honda Legend. The car will be equipped with autonomous tech called Traffic Jam Pilot that can navigate through congested highways. The system will collect data on the vehicle’s movement. When drivers want to take back control over the vehicles, the software will first check whether they are looking at the road ahead. The launch is planned for March 2021.
In February 2020, Nissan achieved a major milestone in its self-driving journey: its battery-powered autonomous car Leaf successfully undertook a long and complex road journey in the UK, covering a total of 230 miles. The car was on self-drive mode 99% of the time, though 2 engineers were present in the car the entire journey. This is part of the project, HumanDrive, jointly funded by UK government through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and Innovate UK, and nine other consortium partners.
Tesla offers two tiers of self-driving capability in its vehicles: Autopilot and Full Self-Driving. Full Self-Driving (FSD) costs an additional $10,000 and includes features like Summon and Navigate on Autopilot, which enables lane changes and interchanges. In October 2020, Tesla launched the Full Self-Driving beta, an update that initially went to a small group of customers. A full release is expected in the months ahead. Tesla’s vehicles are only designated autonomy Level 2 by SAE, meaning they are capable of some autonomous maneuvers but are not considered fully autonomous. Development is currently underway on a next-generation chip.
Volvo Car Corporation
Volvo labeled its autonomous vehicle project “IntelliSafe,” setting a zero-fatality goal for when it fully rolls out autonomous features to the public. In June 2019, Volvo and Uber announced that they had created “a production car capable of driving by itself”- Volvo XC90 SUV, which has Uber’s self-driving system. In June 2018, Volvo announced partnership with LiDAR startup Luminar to work on both physical, car-mounted sensors and the software designed to process, label, and tag captured data. Volvo plans to integrate LiDAR and a perception stack into select vehicles, starting with the XC90, in 2022.
In October 2019, Volkswagen spun off its self-driving startup into a subsidiary, Volkswagen Autonomy, in a bid to “make autonomous driving market-ready.” This was followed by Volkswagen’s parent, Porsche SE, taking up a minority stake in self-driving tech startup Aeva. Volkswagen has also struck a deal to launch fully-functional autonomous van service in Doha, Qatar, by the end of 2022. In July 2019, Volkswagen announced, a joint venture with Ford to develop autonomous vehicle technology. It merged its autonomous vehicle initiative- Autonomous Intelligent Driving with Argo AI, which was being funded by Ford. Now Ford and Volkswagen have stakes of 40% each in Argo AI. Despite multiple partnerships, the company launched an internal organization, called Car.Software, in June 2020. The unit is tasked with increasing VW’s share of its vehicles’ software to 60% by 2025, up from the less than 10% it currently owns.
Jaguar – Land Rover
Up to 20,000 new Jaguar I-PACE models will be built to serve in Waymo’s fleet for its ride-hailing transportation service, with production on the vehicles beginning in 2020. In February 2020, JLR unveiled an electric and “autonomy ready” shuttle pod designed for shared use in urban settings. “Project Vector” is just a concept, but JLR said it hopes to have some version of the vehicle on the road for testing by 2021. In November 2020, JLR set up a testbed for autonomous ground and air systems in Ireland, starting with the electric i-Pace. The driverless car testbed will work on autonomous, connected, electrified and shared vehicles in a smart city zone to test technology in the real world.
Hyundai is working with Yandex on building a driverless car. In June 2020, Yandex announced it would buy 100 customized versions of Hyundai’s Sonata cars. Test drives will initially be carried out in Detroit. The duo is working on creating both a driverless car and a self-driving software system that could be sold to automakers and car-sharing startups. Hyundai said that it would test 6 autonomous vehicles on the roads of Seoul, with plans to take this number to 15 by 2021. In January 2018 at CES, Hyundai said it would begin testing an autonomous SUV, aiming to test the technology by 2021 and to go to market by 2025.
In April 2016, PSA Groupe announced that two Citroën cars had driven without driver supervision from Paris to Amsterdam. The vehicles navigated over 300 km without supervision on authorized stretches of road, with PSA claiming the cars had achieved Level 3 automation in this mode. The “eyes off” mode is slated to arrive by 2021, while Level 2 semi-autonomous “hands off” modes are already available with models such as DS7 Crossback, DS 3 Crossback, and Peugeot 508 & 508 SW. These features, along with electric vehicles and new models, form the core of PSA’s broader Push to Pass growth strategy. PSA is also working with roads operator VINCI Autoroutes on testing autonomous cars as part of its “Autonomous Vehicle for All” (AVA) program.
In November 2020, FAW’s J7+ commercial truck, jointly developed with the startup Plus, passed a certification test conducted by the China Automotive Technology & Research Center. This means it can begin on-road operations. Mass production is set to start in 2021. FAW J7+ is the first intelligent truck that passed the certification test in China. FAW Group has invested in autonomous tech startup Pony.ai as well.
Chinese bus manufacturer Yutong has been researching driverless buses since 2012. Yutong revealed a range of mobility solutions in September 2020. Its L4 autonomous driving buses were showcased operating in different scenarios. They were capable of autonomously navigating open roads, arriving at bus stops, and parking themselves.
Tier 1 (Supplier)
Aptiv is a global technology company that develops safer, greener, and more connected solutions, which enable the future of mobility. In February 2020, self-driving software company Aptiv and Lyft reached a major milestone: the companies crossed 100,000 rides of its autonomous passenger service in Las Vegas. The expansion into China is a major strategic move for Aptiv. Another major Aptiv initiative is Motional, its autonomous driving venture with Hyundai. The venture was officially unveiled in August 2020. Motional aims to build and commercialize SAE Level 4 vehicles, and make this technology available for robotaxi fleets in 2022.
Mando Corporation, a major car parts supplier, successfully tested Level 4 autonomous tech in February 2019 with a vehicle called Hockey. The car navigated 2.7 km of public roads in the city of Pangyo, moving at a speed of 40 km/h (24 mph). Mando plans to commercialize this technology by 2021.
Startups & subsidiaries
In the compilation of startups in autonomous vehicle space, we have also included the year of their launch and their present Crunch Base ranking (CB Rank).
2015 / CB Rank: 4195
TuSimple is a self-driving truck company based in San Diego and operating self-driving trucks out of Tucson, Arizona. In July 2020, Navistar and TuSimple have entered into a partnership to co-develop SAE Level 4 self-driving semi-trucks targeted for production by 2024. In September 2020, TRATON and TuSimple have launched a development program to operate the first SAE level 4 autonomous hub-to-hub route between Södertälje to Jönköping in Sweden using Scania trucks. It is patterning with ZF to co-develop sensor solutions, cameras, lidar, radars used in autonomous vehicles.
2009 / CB Rank: 108
Waymo is a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around. The company revealed a partnership with logistics company UPS in late January 2020 to test delivery of packages along a pre-set route in its self-driving vans in Arizona. Waymo has further expanded its footprint in the logistics sector by signing a deal with FCA in July 2020. The duo will develop a range of autonomous vehicles designed for moving goods, including cargo vans. In October 2020, Waymo announced that members of Waymo One in the Phoenix area will be able to take fully driverless rides with no safety driver present.
1997 / CB Rank: 760
Yandex’s self-driving unit was initially integrated into MLU BV, a ride-hailing venture with Uber. But in September 2020, Yandex announced that it was spinning out the unit into a separate company and investing $150M into it. Yandex has assembled 130 vehicles that run tests across Russia, Israel, and the US.
2014 / CB Rank: 81
Zoox, a startup developing autonomous driving tech geared toward ride-hailing customers, was acquired by Amazon in June 2020. Last month, Dec’20, Zoox unveiled its fully autonomous, electric robotaxi, which can seat 4 passengers and reach speeds of up to 75 mph. The vehicle is currently in testing.
1999 / CB Rank: 721
Baidu is a Chinese website and search engine. Apollo, Baidu’s open-source autonomous driving platform, which originally launched in 2017. On Jan. 7, 2020, Wind River announced its collaboration with Baidu to develop an autonomous vehicle solution. On Mar 25, 2020, Baidu announced it received an RMB 52.8 million ($7.3 million) government contract to build an autonomous vehicle testing site within the Chinese municipality of Chongqing. The 20-kilometer square test region will be fully equipped with vehicle-to-infrastructure communication technology using 5G networks.
2016 / 4,346
Nuro was established by two ex-Google engineers in 2016. Nuro specializes in developing electric autonomous vehicles that have one purpose: the transportation of goods from storefronts to customers’ homes. In November 2020, Nuro has raised $500 million in its latest funding round. The company has partnered with a list of big name companies, including Walmart, Domino’s Pizza, CVS Pharmacy, and Krogers. In Feb 2020, Nuro unveiled its second-generation vehicle, the Nuro R2. It was granted an exemption by the U.S. Department of Transportation, allowing it to be tested on public roads without certain features of traditional, passenger-carrying vehicles.
2017 / CB Rank: 2,490
Voyage aims to accelerate the autonomous vehicle market’s community impacts by building networks of driverless cars in retirement communities, helping senior citizens access better and safer transit options. In May 2020, Voyage has inked a deal with Fiat Chrysler to supply purpose-built vehicles, a partnership that will help accelerate its plan to launch a fully driverless ride-hailing service. The Voyage launched its next-generation robotaxi, Voyage G3, in Aug 2020. It is designed to drive without the need for anyone behind the wheel.
2016 / CB Rank: 2,883
Embark is building self-driving truck technology to make roads safer and transportation more efficient. Embark’s autonomous trucks are already moving freight for five unnamed Fortune 500 companies in the southwest U.S. Embark has done autonomous truck testing with Ryder, Frigidaire and Amazon. Embark also have a relationship with Peterbuilt, which is part of Paccar.
2016 / CB Rank: 520
Argo AI is an autonomous driving technology company. The company was co-founded in 2016 by Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, veterans of the Google and Uber automated driving programs. It is an independent company with two major investors: Ford Motor Co. (2017, $1 Billion) and the Volkswagen Group (2020, $2.6 billion). In June 2020, Audi’s Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) unit merged with Argo AI, and became its European headquarters and fifth engineering center. In October 2020, Argo AI released its fourth-generation autonomous test car with Ford.
2013 / CB Rank: 131
Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors has autonomous fleet of 180 vehicles that are undergoing testing. In December 2020, Cruise has started testing self-driving vehicles without driver monitors in San Francisco. Cruise autonomous vehicles, on the road in San Francisco, navigating some of the most challenging and unpredictable driving environments.
2012 / CB Rank: 9,975
Tactile Mobility, an Israel-based company whose technology detects road conditions by analyzing wheel speed, gear position, and other non-visual sensors. In March 2020, Porsche announced to integrate automotive tech developed by Tactile Mobility into future vehicles. In September 2020, BMW Group has signed an agreement with Tactile Mobility to install sensing software across its product line and brands that will provide information about road and vehicle conditions to increase performance and safety.
Autonomous Technology Group
Autonomous Technology Group is part of Daimler Trucks’ global effort to put highly automated trucks onto the roads within a decade. To achieve this, Daimler Trucks announced an investment of more than EUR 500 million at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. In commercial trucking, level 4 is the logical next step after level 2 to increase safety as well as efficiency and productivity. In 2020, Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics have expanded the testing of autonomous trucks to New Mexico. Their goal is to bring SAE Level 4 vehicles to the roads by 2030.
Dec 2016 / CB Rank: 11,630
Pony.ai is builds full-stack autonomous driving solutions. Pony.ai announced on Feb 2020 that it has raised $400 million from Toyota Motor Corporation to deepen and expand the two companies’ collaboration in mobility services. In November 2020, FAW Group has invested in autonomous tech startup Pony.ai as well. Pony.ai’s technology will be integrated into a vehicle platform used in the Red Flag electric vehicle brand.
Published in Telematics Wire