State Of Autonomy: October Recap

Every month, I recap the news articles I’ve consumed around autonomous vehicles, calling out the highlights and keeping track of market projections. This is also your chance, dear readers, to nominate a topic for discussion in the following month. If you’re interested in a broader and darker conversation around human obsolescence, try subscribing to my newsletter, The Whimper.

Big news of the month? Gotta be Delphi’s acquisition of nuTonomy. Delphi’s line in the business sand is freshly drawn, as a strategic split was recently announced between their traditional automotive supplier division and their developing technologies division: the former entity will retain the name Delphi, and the latter (the one who will benefit from the nuTonomy acquisition) will be named Aptiv. So, just to clarify, what you’ll probably be hearing next year is that nuTonomy’s tech and talent are working for Aptiv. That’s interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is that both the division of interests and the purchase of nuTonomy mark the first time a global OEM supplier has taken such steps. It’s a notable implication for this industry, as the suppliers work in a sort of coopetition to underpin vehicle production across the planet… while the car brands are becoming little more than artificial flavoring, and playing their own zero-sum game, at that.

While it’s hard to say that any one company in the AV space is clearly outpacing another, nuTonomy is a crowd favorite. Their team boasts a strong research pedigree in this space, and just as importantly, they’ve actually deployed several public trials (in fact, they were arguably the first) and worked to develop actionable commercial partnerships, both publicly and privately.

In a year where dropping $1B on transportation tech barely raises an eyebrow, $450MM seems like a great price for nabbing nuTonomy.

This Month’s Highlights:

Market Predictions:

BAIC Added To Self-Piloted, 2021, Speculation: Chinese automaker BAIC is in partnership with Baidu now, who in turn is in partnership with a bunch of other folks, and all that amounts to a shoulder-shrugging claim that they’ll “produce” Level 3 cars in 2019 and Level 4 of some sort in 2021. If I give an award out for hedge bet of the year, these guys are nominees. Nevertheless, it’s a market projection, so it goes here.

May Mobility Added To Self-Piloted, 2017, Public Trial: Dark Horse alert! May Mobility comes out of stealth and manages to get a public trial up and running in Detroit. Nothing we haven’t seen before, but notable if for no reason other than the fact that it happened in Detroit, and one would think the D’s politicians would poo-poo any such trials unless one of the big three carmakers’ names were attached to the project.

Voyage Added To Self-Piloted, 2017, Public Trial: Voyage is the spinoff of Udacity’s self-driving car nanodegree, which means that like May Mobility, it’s not so much notable what’s under the hood as it is impressive that they’ve scrapped their way to prominence by getting out in front of customers. In fact, Voyage now has an application you can fill out to request their robotaxi trial service in your (confined) community, which is such an obvious commercial idea that I can’t believe no one suggested it before. Oh, wait: many of us have suggested it, and carmakers are just balking at it because their lawyers continue to control the go-to-market strategy.

Coming In November:

Reactions From The Public:

Re: U.S. Government Tabling Previously Proposed V2V Mandate

Re: Voyage Robotaxi Public Trial In Retirement Community

Re: Tennessee Bill Declaring Automated Driving Systems Are People

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Mitch Turck

Mitch Turck

Future of work, future of mobility, future of ice cream.

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