A lucrative robotaxi business, according to Ford CEO Jim Farley, was still many years away when Ford and Volkswagen ended their partnership with Argo AI in November 2022. General Motors, a competitor of Ford, spent roughly $2 billion at its Cruise robotaxi unit last year and stated that it expects to spend considerably more in 2023.
- Despite lofty claims of having running fleets of autonomous vehicles by the start of the 2020s, automotive producers and robotaxi startups have had to re-adjust their claims
- Making cars that can drive more safely than humans is much more complex than initially thought
- This is due to the fact that current systems currently can't forecast and assess risk as quickly as humans can, especially when confronted with unexpected situations
From Simpler To Simple
Starting in 2021, investors switched their focus away from robotaxis and onto self-driving truck businesses that offered a quicker path to market by transporting freight autonomously, saying that it would be simpler to create AVs to operate on roads at high speed without pedestrians.
- But even these trucking startups have been through a bumpy road
- And many investors are now focusing on even less-complex, less cash-intensive kinds of autonomy with a clearer road to payback and operating at lower speeds with little to no traffic
This has led many venture capital firms and automotive companies to invest in autonomous vehicles destined for the construction and agricultural markets.
"U.S. agricultural equipment maker AGCO Corp, for instance, is using the Palo Alto, California-based startup's software for an experimental automated electric planter. [...] Deere has already acquired a number of AV-related businesses as it moves towards autonomy, including self-driving tractor firm Bear Flag Robotics for $250 million in 2021.
San Francisco-based Trucks Venture Capital had invested in Bear Flag before its sale and managing partner Reilly Brennan said the firm is "actively looking for another autonomous ag (startup)." [...] Trucks Venture Capital has also invested in Teleo, a maker of semi-autonomous retrofits for heavy construction and mining equipment that announced $12 million in funding last June." By Nick Carey and Paul Lienert for Reuters (edited by author to remove ticker names)
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