The Fuse

This Week in AVs: German Automakers Begin Chinese Testing; Argo Seeks Additional Funding; Increased Dialogue Required to Speed AV Deployment; and More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | September 27, 2018

Increased Dialogue Required to Speed AV Deployment

Chris Urmson, founder and CEO of AV startup Aurora, wrote an article for Axios about the “fuzzy” metrics the industry currently uses to track its progress. Describing these metrics – which include how many times an operator has to take over control, accidents and distances traveled autonomously – as “de facto” progress measures, Urmson concludes that AV companies “will have to engage in a dialogue with government and the public” demonstrating the safety of their systems as they approach commercialization. Such an approach has already been proposed: In January 2017, SAFE’s Commission on Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Safety released a series of best-practice recommendations designed to boost public confidence and speed AV deployment. Increased dialogue was one of these key recommendations.

German Automakers Begin Chinese AV Trialing

The incentive to forego their existing international systems to test in China is very attractive, as it is an opportunity to gain a foothold to deploy technology in the world’s largest car market.

Germany’s three largest automakers – Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW – have begun “quietly” testing AVs in China, despite rules that force them to partner with local software companies, according to a Financial Times report. The three carmakers are the latest to begin testing in China and have all agreed to use Chinese mapping and data providers, instead of using their existing international systems. Waymo registered a subsidiary in the country last month. The incentive to forego their existing international systems to test in China is very attractive, as it is an opportunity to gain a foothold to deploy technology in the world’s largest car market.

Seagulls, Snowfall Cause Confusion for Self-Driving Cars

As the technology for AV systems is still in its nascent stage, there are quirks and gripes that are yet to be ironed out. A Quartz article this week outlined some of these hurdles—namely seagulls, altered stop signs, falling snow, exiting vehicles, hills, bridges and tree shadows. On the one hand, there are clear technical hurdles that remain before broad deployment of AVs is realized, but on the other hand, the creation of a specific list of technical issues is evidence that companies are moving forward to broader deployment. Even if it is slower than initially anticipated one or two years ago.

Argo CEO Searches For Additional Investors

Argo AI, an AV startup that Ford has already invested $1 billion in and intends to invest $4 billion more, is open to additional investment according to its CEO Bryan Salesky. Ford has made the decision to open the door to outside backers in a bid to catch up with frontrunners Waymo and GM. These companies have already garnered significant financial backing – as well as the greater legitimacy this funding subsequently brings – from Google and Japan’s SoftBank respectively. As Argo retains its independence, Salesky is also in discussions to bring their technology to another automaker and is considering plans for an IPO.

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