With all the hype surrounding Telsa, Cadillac and Uber‘s autonomous driving technology you can be forgiven for thinking that the auto industry is developing dozens of unconnected standards. In fact most of the major players are not only sharing patents, they are actively partnering with each other.
The cost to develop self driving technologies would make in-house development consume a prohibitively long time in the globally competitive world of transportation.
Below is a list and description of some of the most notable autonomous partnerships in chronological order:
GM bought autonomous tech startup “Cruise” in March of 2016 and has maintained it as a separate entity. Cruise had raised about $20 million in seed funding prior to the GM acquisition in which they paid near $750 million in cash and stock.
GM has repeatedly stated that they will have a fleet of near fully autonomous cars, built on the all electric Chevy Bolt, on the road at the end of 2019.
Initially Fiat Chrysler teamed up with what was then called Google’s ‘Self Driving Car Project’ (that later became a full division named Waymo), to produce 100 self driving Pacifica minivans in May of 2016. April 2017 saw Waymo partner with Fiat Chrysler to build an additional 500 autonomous Pacifica minivans.
Apparently the testing has gone well because in May of 2018 the partnership made a massive expansion. Chrysler will now build 62,000 Pacifica Hybrid minivans integrated with Waymo’s autonomous tech.
May 2016 say more than rumors of a Ford Uber partnership in autonomous cars. As you can see on the right a Ford Fusion is kitted out with antonymous gear from Uber’s Advanced Transportation Group (see text on the side of the car). However, a formal announcements of such a deal is hard to find.
At the time Ford was likely working with Argo AI (which the put $1B into the next year), because Fords self driving test fleet was also based in Pittsburgh.
A quiet Pittsburgh based startup from named Argo AI received nearly $600 million from it’s only customer, Ford, in February of 2017. The agreement has Argo producing the technology to make Ford vehicles fully level 4 autonomous (still has a steering wheel and brake peddle, but ‘drivers’ are not expected to use them) within just 4 years.
In November of 2017 Volvo and Uber partnered with Uber providing the self driving tech for 24,000 Volvo SUV’s to be used by Uber.
The agreement is non-binding but thought to be in best interest of both companies so it is very likely to be honoured.
Ford & Uber & Lyft
Ford, Uber and Lyft agreed to share their road data in September 2018. The idea is to analyze traffic patterns and study ways to decongest roads.
In October 2018 it was announced that Honda had entered a very long term partnership with GM Cruise to the tune of $2 Billion over the next 12 years. Prior to this announcement Honda had put very little into autonomy and this is there way to catch up.
Amazon invested a substantial (but unspecified) portion of a $530 million funding or Aurara Innovation Inc. in February 2019. This investment values the company at about $2.5 billion. You probably have not hear of Aurora but it is a power house of leadership. Aurora’s Chief Technology Officer, Brian Bagnell, is a founding member of Uber’s Advanced Technologies group. Their CEO, Chris Urmson, was a senior personality at what became Google Waymo. The Chief Product Officer, Sterling Ansderson, was the leader of the Autopilot program at Tesla.
Previously Amazon had placed very small bets in autonomy with Toyota and others but was being left being in the race of the tech behemoths to grab a their slice of the autonomous future.
After receiving half a billion dollars of investment from Amazon and Sequoia Capital, Aurora Innovation Inc announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler (FCA) in June 2019. They already had smaller arrangements with VW, China’s Byton and Hyundia/Kia.
The agreement has Chrysler and Fiat will provide commercial vehicles (taxis and delivery vans) fitted with Aurora’s self driving kit. Importantly this deal does not affect Chryler Fiat’s continuously expanding relationship with Google Waymo.
Waymo partnered with the Nissan Renault Alliance in June of 2019 to setup facilities in the US, Japan and France to figure out how to best use autonomy.
There are few details but this deal is expected to pave the way for Waymo to have access to potentially millions of real life production vehicles in the coming years. These Waymo partnerships have made the company worth an estimated $175 Billion dollars. Not bad for a company almost no-one outside of tech and automobiles has even heard of.
Back when Apple was trying to design a full electric car to reinvent the space, much in the same way the Tesla has already done, they bought a number of small tech companies to make that happen. While the project was never formally announced it is clear that Apple gave up on the concept of manufacturing car in 2017, but their ambitions did not die. They simply scaled back and started focusing on just the software and interfaces, much like Google’s Waymo.
At the end of June 2019 Apple bought Drive AI just days before it was to go bankrupt. It is not clear if Drive AI will be maintained as a separate company or if Apple will ingest it.
July 2019 saw VW partner in Ford’s autonomous vehicle systems company “Argo AI”. Ford has $600 Million invested in Argo already and will expand that investment to $1B this year. VW will invest $2.6B in the next couple of years. This partnership will also also give Ford access to VW’s “Matrix Electric Drive” system.
Ford and VW will both use the same Argo technology in unrelated (and as yet unnamed) electric autonomous vehicles in 2023.