This is the second part of "Software Platforms as Engines of Change" -- a story posted last week looking at the growing cooperation among autonomous vehicle company...
This is the second part of “Software Platforms as Engines of Change: AV Cooperation Overview” — a story posted last week looking at the growing cooperation among autonomous vehicle company. The first part looked at recent announcement from the first five companies listed in the next table. More information and announcements are appearing and have been added to the table.
TuSimple got another important customer as Navistar announced that it plans to sell L4 autonomous trucks in 2024 based on TuSimple’s AV software platform. Navistar also made an undisclosed investment in TuSimple. The Navistar announcement is also good news for Nvidia since TuSimple uses Nvidia’s AV hardware.
Waymo also made recent autonomous trucking news with additional information on its Waymo Via division. Via is focused on goods delivery using both autonomous trucks and local delivery using its Chrysler autonomous vans. Waymo Via launched its first autonomous truck test in 2018, delivering loads to Google’s data center in Atlanta. Waymo has also tested autonomous trucks in California and Arizona. Waymo Via will soon be testing in Texas and New Mexico. Initially, Waymo will offer services through its proprietary fleet of autonomous trucks. Long-term, Waymo will only be a technology provider to truck manufacturers and fleet owners.
When the Covid pandemic started, Cruise had to stop its robo-taxi testing on public roads. Cruise increased its virtual testing via AV software simulation. Cruise also started using its AV test vehicles for food deliveries in San Francisco. Cruise volunteered all its Battery EV-AV fleet in April to deliver meals across San Francisco. As of July 12, Cruise had made over 50K deliveries of groceries and meals to San Francisco’s most vulnerable and underserved population. All pick-ups and drop-offs were contactless and followed CDC health guidance to protect the Cruise employees performing the essential service. Cruise also published an article that proposed another use-case: AV fleets for crisis relief applications such as natural disasters and pandemics. Cruise suggested “autonomous vehicle companies can and should be pursuing research and development today that could enable our AV fleets to be important tools in moments of crisis.”
Aurora has a similar strategy to Waymo, which is not surprising since its CEO Chris Urmson was leading Waymo’s AV effort before he became a co-founder of Aurora. Aurora call its AV software platform “Driver” as does Waymo and both are focused on multiple AV use-cases. Aurora has integrating its Aurora Driver with six different vehicles—ranging from sedans and minivans to tractor trailer trucks.
Aurora’s Urmson participated in virtual panel hosted by Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) and had some interesting perspectives with the following: “If AVs had been available during this pandemic, we could have augmented our supply chains to make it easier for people to get places without the risk of transmission. Now, I would say there’s even more clarity about the benefits of and the demand for this technology.” Aurora basically said the pandemic amplifies the advantages of self-driving.
On July 8, 2020 Aurora introduced its FirstLight lidar as a sensor on Aurora’s next-generation test vehicles. This frequency modulated, continuous wave (FMCW) lidar helps the perception system to see and track objects farther, faster and with greater precision than before. This lidar is the result of Aurora acquiring Blackmore, a lidar startup with expertise in FMCW lidar technology. The outlook for FMCW lidar is very promising since it has several advantages versus traditional lidar. Key advantages are long-range (300+ meter), object velocity measurement (Doppler effect) and minimal interference from other lidars. When will other AV developers introduce their own FMCW lidar?
Argo is well positioned as it has two major auto OEMs as its customers and investors—Ford and Volkswagen (VW). Ford made five-year commitment to invest $1 billion in Argo in 2017. VW is investing $2.6 billion in Argo as part of Ford and VW’s cooperation across AVs, Battery EVs and other technologies. The Argo and VW investment deal closed in June 2020. Argo can also sell its AV software platform to other companies.
Argo is focused on robo-taxi and goods AV use-cases. Ford and Argo are testing both use-cases in Miami and has a 2022 goal for some type of deployment. Argo has released less information on their AV activities than other leading AV software companies.
Argo has also used its AV test vehicles to deliver thousands of Covid-related goods in its hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.
Aptiv has been the leading Tier 1 automotive supplier in developing AV technology. Aptiv was early in acquiring AV startups such as Ottomatika in 2013 and nuTonomy in 2017. Aptiv did an excellent job of leveraging these acquisitions into a strong AV software platform for robo-taxi use-cases.
Aptiv and Hyundai Motor Group announced that they are forming an autonomous driving joint venture, which became active on March 26, 2020. Aptiv and Hyundai’s combined contributions total $4 billion, with each owning 50% of the joint venture. They will develop an AV driving platform to be available for robo-taxi providers, fleet operators and automotive manufacturers in 2022. The joint venture operates more than 100 AVs in multiple cities including Las Vegas, Boston and Singapore. In January 2020, the AVs had completed over 100K self-driving ride-hailing trips with safety drivers present.
Mobileye is the leader in supplying ADAS systems globally. Mobileye ADAS deployment has reached 60 million vehicles, availabile on 300 auto models from more than 25 automakers. Some of the ADAS systems include Mobileye’s mapping system for acquiring detailed AV location maps. The map collection system is called REM or Road Experience Management. Currently 3 million + vehicles collect REM data with BMW, Nissan and VW as publicly disclosed customers. Mobileye projects around 25 million vehicles will use REM in 2025.
Mobileye is also a leader in developing AV software and systems. Mobileye AV testing is mostly done in Israel, where it has done robo-taxi testing for several years. Mobileye also has recent collaborations to test and deploy self-driving vehicles in France, Japan and Korea. The latest AV test permit for Germany was received on July 16, 2020. This allows Mobileye to perform AV testing anywhere in Germany, including urban and rural areas as well as the Autobahn at driving speed of up to 130 kilometers per hour. Mobileye expects to scale open-road testing in other countries before the end of 2020.
To show its AV driving capabilities, Mobileye on May 26, 2020 released a 40-minute unedited video of a drive in a small section from Mobileye’s 160 miles of Jerusalem streets it uses for AV development. Mobileye followed the drive with a drone to provide context for the decision-making logic of its AV software platform. The video (26 min due to speed up) is well worth a view:
Unedited 40-minute ride in Mobileye’s Autonomous Vehicle (Source: Mobileye)
Mobileye acquired Moovit, a leading Map As A Service (MaaS) solutions company, on May 4, 2020 for $900 million. Moovit is a leader with its MaaS platform with more than 800M users and services in 3,100 cities across 102 countries and serves over 7,500 public transit operators.
Mobileye and Willer, one of the largest transportation operators in Japan, Taiwan and the Southeast Asian region, on July 8, 2020, announced a strategic collaboration. They will launch robo-taxi services in Japan, Taiwan and markets across Southeast Asia. The two companies plan to begin testing robo-taxis on public roads in Japan in 2021, with plans to launch self-driving ride-hailing mobility services in 2023, while exploring opportunities for similar services in Taiwan and other Southeast Asian markets.
Nuro is a leading goods AV developer with an interesting strategy. Nuro initially used cars for goods deliveries to develop its technology, and these Toyota Priuses are still in use. Nuro’s focus is now on a special-purpose AV for goods delivery, called the R2. The Nuro R2 delivery AV is half the size of a passenger car. R2 carry only goods and can operate in urban and suburban streets, with a top speed of 25 mph.
Nuro received permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation in February 2020 to deploy R2s, despite lacking conventional driving controls, pedals, windshields and mirrors, which is the first such DoT permission. This permit can be considered an early version of new regulation being developed for zero-occupant vehicles.
In April 2020, California also gave Nuro a permit to use R2s for goods delivery in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in the San Francisco Bay area. Nuro is hoping to soon start R2 deliveries in its hometown of Mountain View.
Nuro has partnered with Kroger and CVS to offer R2 goods delivery to some Houston communities. In certain Houston zip codes, Kroger customers can have their groceries delivered to their homes. CVS customers can have prescriptions and other necessities brought to their curbside by Nuro R2s. By 2021, Nuro plans to operate over 50 R2s in U.S. cities.
Nuro’s business has picked up in the Covid economy as goods deliveries have become very desirable. Nuro has received inquiries from many other retailers that want to get on the goods AV bandwagon.