In November 2020, U.S regulators opened a formal regulatory proceeding that could change the safety standards of autonomous vehicles. Despite the pushback it faced when self-driving vehicles first hit the roads in 2018, private companies have been making strides in developing and funding the industry safely and smartly. Here’s a list of tech companies and their status on their development of autonomous vehicles, according to a CB Insights report.
Amazon acquired Zoox in June 2020, and the self-driving startup company developed a fully autonomous electric taxi in December. Amazon also deployed Scout, a cooler-sized delivery robot in select cities throughout 2020. Amazon has also been collaborating with Toyota on E-Palette, a self-driving shuttle, and planned on debuting the vehicle at the Japan Olympics. The company has also financially backed automotive start-up Rivian in producing electric fleet vehicles to compete head-to-head with Tesla.
In 2020, Apple secured a patent that recognizes when optical sensors fall out of alignment from hitting bumps in the road and a patent for autonomous driving, in addition to several others. The Cupertino-based company also announced that it aims to produce its own driverless vehicle with a new battery design by 2025. Apple’s automotive team, Project Titan, is focused on designing the vehicle battery to reduce costs and increase range, adapt a “monocell” design and reexamine the chemical makeup to reduce overheating.
Cisco announced a partnership with Hyundai in 2018 with the intent to tackle the data-transfer aspect of smart cars. The company has plans to bring gigabit-speed ethernet connectivity to smart cars. This would allow vehicles to update faster and analyze roads and road conditions quicker, setting a better foundation for self-driving technology. The company is partnering with Oxbotica and testing OpenRoam, a platform for uploading and downloading data through Wi-Fi hotspots from places like parking lots and gas stations.
Acting independently from American automakers, Huawei has been partnering with China-based mapping company NavInfo for mapping data in developing self-driving cars. Huawei is also reported to be providing chips, AI and 5G technologies to electric car maker BYD.
Microsoft is focusing on using Azure cloud data to inform a wide range of autonomous vehicle functions while providing vehicle companies free Azure credits and access to Microsoft engineers. In 2019, Microsoft announced that Ericcson would be allowed to build its connected vehicle on top of Microsoft’s connected vehicle platform. Microsoft also announced in January that the company will be investing in Cruise, a self-driving car start-up largely owned by GM.
Samsung purchased Harman, a leading supplier of in-car technology and connected vehicle systems back in 2017, which led to the development of Digital Cockpit 2020, an infotainment system that uses 5G to link vehicles with home and office spaces. In 2018, the company announced their new car technology platform DRVLINE but shifted focus a year later to pursue full autonomy to advanced driver assistance tech. The company has worked on map data storage and data transfer technologies to ensure the safety of autonomous vehicles as well.
Tesla pushed its Autopilot software update in 2015, enabling auto-steering, lane changing and parking features. In 2019 Tesla announced the upcoming release of Autopilot Hardware 3, which uses custom chips manufactured in-house and enables two tiers of self-driving capabilities: autopilot and full-self-driving. The company followed suit by rolling out the Full Self-Driving beta to a small group of customers in October 2020.
Uber showed initial interest in self-driving car technology back in 2016 to curb the major cost of human drivers to the company, planning on having driverless taxi services fully up and running in major cities by 2022. While the rollout changed direction and the company focused on developing better mapping and optical safety technology, the company partnered with Volvo and unveiled a new self-driving car model in 2019, operating without a driver. Uber announced in December 2020 that the company would be selling its robot vehicle division to Aurora.