Self-driving technology is rapidly advancing as companies like Waymo, Uber, Tesla, Ford, Daimler and Nissan develop technologies to get fleets of autonomous cars on the road. Florida recently passed legislation to allow fully autonomous vehicles on the road without safety drivers, but most of the U.S. still restricts the free range of self-driving cars. Currently, 30 states including D.C., have approved varying degrees of legislation related to autonomous vehicles and only seven states permit fully autonomous vehicle testing on public roads.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) designed a rating scale to classify the level of vehicle automation. Most companies are developing cars around the second or third level, but the end goal is to successfully reach level five—full automation. Strategic partnerships play an important role in developing self-driving technology.
The following companies recently teamed up for autonomous vehicle research and development:
The U.S. Postal Service partnered with TuSimple to experiment with autonomous mail trucks for a two-week trial period. Restricted to a 1,000-mile route between Dallas and Phoenix, the trucks each contained a safety driver and an engineer. The USPS currently spends more than $4 billion a year contracting highway drivers due to a national shortage of drivers, and it hopes that investing in driverless technology will help reduce emissions and costs.
Volkswagen broke off its partnership with Aurora to partner with Ford’s autonomous vehicle unit, Argo AI. The companies recently announced a global alliance to develop vehicle technology, including electric and self-driving cars. Aurora announced a new partnership with Fiat Chrysler to develop autonomous commercial vehicles just prior to the end of its partnership with VW.
Avinew and Betterdrive, working under the umbrella company Pear Insurance, hope to provide real-time data to customers and suggest safe driving routes. Betterdrive uses weather and accident data along with a proprietary model to predict the riskiness of a given route for alternative directions. By combining this technology with Avinew’s autonomous tracker, the firms hope to offer transparent premium pricing and an insurance product that increases customer safety.
Liberty Mutual publicized its partnership with Edge Case Research to gain further insight into autonomous vehicle technologies. Currently, the firms are developing a pilot of Edge Case Research’s Hologram solution to test autonomous vehicle software and hardware.
Volvo and Nvidia announced a long-term partnership to work on commercial autonomous vehicle technology. The project will start immediately in California and Sweden, and Volvo hopes to pilot its first truck by winter 2019. Nvidia also has active partnerships with competitors such as Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota. Volvo plans to leverage Nvidia’s full software package, including software processing, perception, map localization and path planning.
Two new startups—Boxbot and Gatik—recently emerged onto the scene this past month with backings from major companies. Boxbot, founded by ex-Uber and Tesla engineers, has $7.5 million in seed funding from Toyota AI Ventures to work on last-mile autonomous delivery technology. Gatik, a two-year-old startup, collected $4.5 million in seed funding and a partnership with Walmart. The firm reached level four on the SAE scale for its autonomous vans and trucks that can fulfill on-demand and scheduled deliveries.
For more P&C Insurance Monitor research, see the following articles: Americans Are Growing More Afraid to Drive in an Autonomous Car, AIR 2019 National Conference: “20 Trends” Takeaways.