What’s going on with self-driving car companies, from Aurora to Zoox
The post has been revised. The first time it was published was in May 2022.
Waymo has become the latest company in autonomous cars to garner attention for incorrect motives. On May 21, 2023, one autonomous vehicle struck and killed an animal during an “unavoidable” incident. While the safety driver couldn’t observe the dog, the car’s independent driving system could have detected the dog but could not do anything to avoid the collision. Of course, it could happen to humans too. Still, considering the hostile public relations associated with autonomous vehicles in the past couple of years, it’s different than the type of company anyone in this area is looking for.
Yet, despite numerous cuts, delays, and shutdowns, several companies are progressing toward getting autonomous cars on the streets. If you’re interested in what Waymo and companies are doing, check out this alphabetized guide to the major companies that are worktonomous vehicles.
Argo AI, the autonomous car company that Ford and Volkswagen backed, shut down in October 2022. Both companies were dedicated to developing some automated drivers, and Ford moved to less advanced levels of technology for driver assistance.
The company purchased Uber’s old self-driving unit in 2020. Its self-driving freight service, Aurora Horizons, is quickly moving forward. The latest beta is ” feature complete,” which means it comes with all the features needed to be ready for launch, and the team is working out the issues. Aurora plans to launch the Aurora Driver service for commercial trucks next year. In May of this year, the company’s trucks carried 50 loads and covered over 14,000 miles every week throughout Texas with its partners in shipping, FedEx, Werner, Schneider, and Uber Freight.
After conducting tests with autonomous Toyota Siennas on the streets of the Dallas Fort Worth metro area in the past, The company is planning to begin the Aurora Connect ride-hailing service after it has successfully launched Horizons.
As a subsidiary of General Motors, Cruise has been quite profitable. The company’s robot axis is autonomous and operates throughout the day and night within San Francisco for employees; however, to the public (who are charged for the rides), the service is offered between 10 pm and 5:30 am within a small portion of the city, at least in the coming weeks. The company is rolling out its ride-hailing service within Houston in addition to Dallas and Dallas with a security driver inside the vehicle.
A joint venture of Aptiv with Hyundai, Motional is offering free public transportation via each Lyft and UberX–though the service is only offered in Downtown Las Vegas. The service is accessible 24/7, but the operator is a safety driver. It is expected to be fully autonomous by the end of this year.
Pony.ai has had a tough couple of months in California. In the year that ended, it lost its license to conduct tests on its auto-piloted vehicles due to concerns over the driving records of the safety officers they employed. This was after it had its permit to test its autonomous cars without any safety drivers earlier in the year suspended. However, things are suitable for this company in other places.
Since April of this year, it’s operated a completely autonomous ride-hailing service within Guangzhou, China, and can test its vehicles in Beijing. Stateside, it’s trying out its driverless cars equipped with security drivers in Tucson, Arizona.
Despite the dog-related issues and a cut in staff, things have generally been going well for the established company, which is part of the parent of Google, Alphabet. (A few Waymo vehicles encountered some issues in San Francisco on June 25.)
It has recently doubled its commercial ride-hailing zone within Phoenix, Arizona. It now covers 180 square miles, including the Downtown and Thandley areas. Like Cruise, the company can increase its testing facility to San Francisco to operate all day hours. In both cities, public riders are said to take 10,000 trips a week, which is a lot.
Purchased through Amazon at the end of 2020, Zoox operates its unique Bidirectional “toasters” on California public roads. Now, it’s in Nevada as well.
The electric robotaxis designed for purpose doesn’t come with a steering wheel or manual controls. The passengers are seated facing one another as in a traditional carriage drawn by horses. With four-wheel steering, these tiny robots do not have a rear or front and can quickly drive in all directions.
In California, the vehicles transport Zoox staff between two offices on a mile-long route that requires drivers to take left and right turns, navigate traffic lights, and interact safely with pedestrians, cyclists, and other cars. In Nevada, the company claims that the vehicles operate in “a one-mile loop around the neighborhood where our Las Vegas HQ is located.” Similar to California, the route is exclusively available to Zoox employees.
Overall, despite the frequently occurring failures, the autonomous vehicle industry has seen steady growth in the last one or two years. It’s still a long way from a ubiquitous driverless car, but this technology has been tested at more locations and in more ind with less,s angst. What a perfect time to become an automated vehicle (or one who enjoys being pushed through the streets in one).