In a normal week, Boston Dynamics being acquired by Hyundai Motors for nearly $1 billion would be the biggest story. But this week has been anything but normal.
This has arguably been the best week ever for the development of autonomous vehicles. Robotaxis, in particular, marked new milestones. Waymo has officially opened up its robotaxi service to the general public in the Chandler, Ariz. area. Similar to how Uber works, anybody can download the Waymo One app and hail a ride in the Alphabet unit’s robotaxis. Hopefully this allows Waymo to expand the service into new areas.
Across the world, other leading companies are starting to be test robotaxis on public roads without human safety drivers behind the wheel. AutoX and Cruise began fully driverless tests in Shenzhen, China and San Francisco, respectively. AutoX will have remote operators standing by, while Cruise will have an employee sitting in the passenger seat with access to an emergency stop button. Some are criticizing Cruise for starting with less congested neighborhoods at night, but, hey, you gotta start somewhere.
And a few months after its robotaxis arrived in Beijing, Baidu received permission to test vehicles on the road without safety drivers. The tests haven’t begun yet, and Baidu will have remote operators on standby. This is the first time China’s capital city has issued such a permit.
The week kicked off with Aurora’s acquisition of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group. As part of the deal, Uber will invest $400 million into the Silicon Valley company that was co-founded by Chris Urmson, who used to lead Google’s self-driving car project. The deal is a certainly a head-scratcher as Uber’s self-driving unit has been troubled from the start. But if things progress perfectly, Aurora could supply its driverless technology to the world’s largest ride-hailing fleet.
An image leaked this week of Zoox’s first autonomous vehicle. Zoox, which was acquired earlier this year by Amazon for $1.2 billion, will unveil the vehicle next week. Not much is known about the vehicle at this point, but it appears to have bus-like sliding doors and four center-facing seats. Keep an eye out next week for more information about Zoox.
In the meantime, check out the infographic below for a quick recap of the week that was for autonomous vehicles. And who knows what Friday has in store for us.