The Fuse

This Week in AVs: Uber valued at $7.25 billion; Musk Predicts 1 Million Self-Driving Teslas by 2020; and More

by Kristen Hernandez | April 29, 2019

Uber’s self-driving unit valued at $7.25 billion in new investment

A trio of investors including SoftBank, Toyota, and Denso have contributed $1 billion to Uber’s autonomous vehicle arm

A trio of investors including SoftBank, Toyota, and Denso have contributed $1 billion to Uber’s autonomous vehicle arm. SoftBank will contribute $333 million from its Vision Fund, with Toyota and Denso providing the remaining $667 million. Over the next three years, Toyota will invest an additional $300 million. While Uber will retain control over the Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), it will be spun out into its own legal entity with its own board. This new funding will help ATG offset the significant cost of developing autonomous vehicle technology, something the industry as a whole has been grappling with by seeking investors and forming partnerships.

Musk Says a Million Self-Driving Teslas Will Be on the Road Next Year
At Tesla’s Autonomy Investor Day on Monday, CEO Elon Musk announced the company intends to have one million vehicles with Level 5 self-driving capabilities on the road in 2020. Tesla owners will be able to add their own vehicles to a shared network of robotaxis and Tesla will provide additional vehicles to the network when there are not enough to meet demand. This announcement was met with skepticism from some. Carnegie Mellon’s Raj Rajkumar said, “Claiming that the Tesla cars have the hardware for full autonomy and only need the software is like saying that we have seeds, we just need to plow, plant, nurture, harvest and then eat.” The PAVE Campaign also warned of the dangers of mischaracterizing automated features: “It is damaging to public discussion about advanced vehicle technologies – and potentially unsafe – to refer to vehicles now available for sale to the public using inaccurate terms.”

Waymo picks Detroit factory to build self-driving cars
Waymo has announced a partnership with American Axle & Manufacturing to repurpose a Detroit factory for autonomous vehicle manufacturing. They intend to begin moving into the facility by the middle of the year to prepare it for manufacturing Level 4 autonomous versions of Jaguar’s electric I-PACE and Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid, among other vehicles. Automotive supplier Magna will assist in building the vehicles. This announcement follows on news from January that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation would grant Waymo $8 million to set up the facility. The new employment opportunities created by the factory, particularly in a state that has been the epicenter of the traditional automotive manufacturing industry, may help offset concerns about automation’s effect on jobs.

China accelerating toward AV deployment
Recent news has highlighted the significant interest in autonomous vehicle development in China. At the Shanghai Auto Show, Pony.ai unveiled its PonyPilot autonomous taxi service, which operates in a geofenced area of Guangzhou and is currently only available to employees and select others. Aptiv last week announced the opening of its new autonomous mobility center for testing and development in Shanghai. The company hopes to map roads and eventually launch a commercial service in China. Additionally, a state-backed company will be building an autonomous vehicle testing site on an existing highway in China’s Shandong province. These developments show an avid interest in autonomous vehicle development and deployment in China and suggest the country may become a major player in the space.

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