What’s going on with self-driving cars right now?
Pony.ai has been the latest autonomous car company to make headlines. It has just lost its permit in California to test its fleet autonomous vehicles. This was due to concerns about the driving record of its safety drivers. This is a huge blow to the company and highlights the current state of the autonomous car industry. After years of very poor publicity ,, a number of companies have made significant progress in getting self-driving vehicles on the road.
If you’re curious to see what Pony.ai or some of the other major outfits have been up to, this alphabetized guide will show you some of the most important firms involved in autonomous vehicles.
Ford’s self-driving car play has expanded to a few cities. It announced last week that it was expanding driverless operations to Miami and Austin , where it will operate during normal business hours. Initially, the service will be available to employees. However, it will soon integrate with Lyft to offer a ride-hailing service with a driver and Walmart to provide driverless grocery delivery. Argo AI now has one the largest testing pools. It is currently testing in Palo Alto, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., as well as Austin.
This company bought Uber’s former self-driving division in 2020, and is testing its self-driving Toyota Siennas on the streets of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. It plans to launch a ride-hailing service with Uber in 2024. It also announced this month that it was expanding the self-driving freight pilot with FedEx HTML1. Its trucks, which currently operate a 240-mile trip every night between Dallas and Houston with two safety drivers in the cab, will soon start hauling goods between Fort Worth and El Paso, a roughly 600-mile journey.
Cruise is a General Motors-owned company that has been quietly successful. It is offering rider-only autonomous trips to the public in San Francisco and is expanding its driverless Walmart delivery service in Phoenix. Its parent company is seemingly happy with the progress it’s making; GM expects to spend $2 billion on the autonomous vehicle subsidiary in 2022.
A joint venture between Aptiv and Hundai, Motional is offering free rides to the public, albeit with a safety-driver behind the wheel. It is currently testing in downtown Las Vegas, where it plans to launch a commercial driverless ride-hailing service with Lyft in 2023.
Its California dreams are not coming true. The aforementioned permit the DMV just revoked was for it to test its fleet of 41 autonomous vehicles with safety drivers behind the wheel (it currently employs 71 drivers in this role). The permit was revoked due to issues with three employees’ driving records, and the approval process that allowed these drivers to monitor its cars. Its license to test its autonomous vehicles without a safety driver was suspended in November last year, after a collision with a lane divider and a street sign. The Chinese company appears to be doing better at home. It recently obtained permits to operate in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.
This well-established firm is owned by Google-parent company Alphabet, and is expanding its Waymo One ride-hailing test service in Phoenix, Arizona. Its vehicles are now operating in both the East Valley and the city’s downtown area. It also just started offering fully autonomous rides to employees in San Francisco. The service has also demonstrated its practicality: One rider had taken more than 400 trips as of October last year.
Bought by Amazon in 2020, Zoox is expanding from California and Las Vegas to new environs. It will be operating in Seattle, the home of its parent company, in order to test its sensors in wet conditions. It’s exciting to see autonomous vehicles being tested in different climates. Zoox, like Cruise, hopes to eventually use a bidirectional vehicle with no driver.
Despite the occasional setbacks, the autonomous car industry has made steady gains over the past year. Although we are still far from ubiquitous driverless cars, the technology is being used in more places, in more ways and with less drama. It’s a great time to be a robot.