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The Many Changes of the Autonomous Mobility Landscape

During our summer break, new developments and changes in the autonomous landscape have been unfolding at a rapid pace. New partnerships and mergers between a substantial number of OEMs and tech start-ups signal that the race to introduce autonomous services to the market just got kicked up into next gear. [1]

Amazon backed tech start-up Aurora seems to have strong winds in their sails, as Fiat-Chrysler recently partnered up with the firm in their goal to put self-driving commercial vehicles on the road. Simultaneously, Hyundai-Kia extended their commitment by injecting more funds in the company as part of their $600 million Series B funding round. [1]

It seems though that everything comes with a price, as Volkswagen is pulling out of their partnership with Aurora and instead brokered a deal with Ford and their autonomous subsidiary Argo.ai. The whole deal will see Volkswagen cough up $2.6 billion in funds, with $1.6 billion of that transaction constituting a transaction over the entirety of their own in-house autonomous company AID to Argo and Ford, which includes 200 employees along with AV technology and intellectual property. Argo is currently running self-driving tests in numerous cities and states across the U.S., and as part of this new partnership, testing is also set to begin in Europe next year. Ford currently expects commercial uses of their autonomous technology in 2021, with Volkswagen aiming for an “early 2020s” deployment. [2]

It seems that more intercontinental partnerships have been brewing during the summer as Waymo recently announced a partnership with Renault-Nissan to develop self-driving systems to carry both passengers and packages [3]. The partnership aims to jointly “research commercial, legal and regulatory issues related to driverless transportation-as-a-service offerings” to be deployed in Japan and France, which marks Waymo’s first real step beyond North America [4].

A lot seems to be happening in Sweden as well. First off, AB Volvo announced that they are joining forces with Nvidia to develop AI solutions to be used in driverless trucks in a long-term partnership spanning several years [5]. Next, the Volvo Cars-backed enterprise, Zenuity, announced a partnership with Chinese OEM Geely to develop assisted and self-driving software [6]. Moreover, EV manufacturer NEVS announced a partnership with AV start-up AutoX, which will focus on integrating AutoX’s self-driving tech into the next generation of NEVS vehicles, with the aim of putting a fleet of driverless taxis on the road in Europe by the end of 2020 [7].

Lastly, there is some exciting news out of Germany as well. BMW and Daimler have announced a deeper collaboration, now turning their eyes and efforts toward developing autonomous driver assistance systems, expecting to deploy this in mass-market vehicles by 2024 [8]. Simultaneously, BMW announced a partnership with Chinese tech-giant Tencent, who will help the German automaker with the IT-architecture and platforms required to launch automated driving solutions in the future [9].

 

Personal comments

This global array of partnerships and mergers clearly signals that AV development has taken yet another step closer to real market implementations. This continued consolidation of fewer and even larger players now inch closer to each other, as well as to the finish line when it comes to putting a working product on the market. The reasons behind this consolidation tactic is partly because actors want to split the substantial cost of developing and launching AV services among themselves, but even more so because missing out or being late on this development could cost them everything as we approach a new dawn in mobility, its services, and how we as consumers interact with it.

 

Written by Darijan Jelica, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-06-13. Shifting alliances hint at new balance of power in autonomous cars.

2. 2019-07-15. VW gives startup infusion of cash, talent, potential to grab global AV leadership.

3. 2019-06-20. Waymo signs mobility partnership with Renault, Nissan.

4. 2019-06-20. Waymo goes global with Renault-Nissan partnership.

5. 2019-06-18. Nvidia partners with truckmaker AB Volvo for driverless AI.

6. 2019-06-19. China’s Geely selects Swedish software firm as driverless car supplier.

7. 2019-06-13. NEVS and AutoX to collaborate on large scale RoboTaxi deployment in Europe.

8. 2019-07-04. BMW, Daimler team up to develop self-driving technology.

9. 2019-07-19. After Baidu tie-up, BMW taps Tencent for autonomous driving in China.