3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. Photo: Mike Bradley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The company best known for making Post-It notes and Scotch Tape sees its next big opportunity in driverless cars. 3M CEO Inge Thulin told Axios in a recent interview that "automotive electrification" is a $6 billion market that will be a "big, big deal for us."

Why it matters: The chip and sensor makers that allow driverless cars to "see" often get most of the attention. But 3M is trying to leverage its history of making license plates, pavement marking, and traffic signs to be a major player in the autonomous vehicle market.

The reality is there will not be only cars running around by themselves. There needs to be traffic safety around it, and that's what we've been doing for a long, long, long time.
— 3M CEO Inge Thulin

The components: 3M says its "transportation future" work is in 3 core areas.

  • Electronics — 3M has long made the lesser known electronic components for big automakers. "Car companies now really care about that, whereas 10 years ago they really didn't," 3M vice president Ray Eby said.
  • Materials — For example, Eby said it's been working on:
    • A liquid that conducts heat out of lithium ion batteries to cool them down, which some car companies are beginning to test.
    • Specialized film for sensors that filters out signal interference.
    • Material that deflects snow, rain and mud from street signs so they can remain visible to cars' sensors.
    • Light-managing film for windshield or LCD dashboard displays — which need to be 3 times brighter than flat-screen TVs due to the ambient light but controlled so that they don't reflect off the other glass in the car.
  • Infrastructure — 3M creates pavement markings that are specifically designed to stand out from surrounding areas so sensors can see it in all conditions.
    • It also works closely with transportation systems around the world, so it already has strong relationships with regulators and urban planners that are designing the roads of the future.

Yes, but: 3M has a lot of lines of business, from health care to energy to manufacturing. Transportation is only one market, and not one that the company is particularly well known for. Thulin is also stepping down from the CEO role this summer to become executive chairman of the board, and it's unclear if incoming CEO Michael Roman will keep the same strategic priorities.

Go deeper

Americans reflect on Independence Day amid racism reckoning

A Black Lives Matter banner and a United States flag on the facade of the U.S. embassy building in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

America's leaders are rethinking how they view Independence Day, as the country reckons with the historic, unequal treatment of people of color during a pandemic which has disproportionately affected nonwhite Americans.

Why it matters: The country’s legacy of racism has come into sharp focus in the weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. From Confederate statues to Mount Rushmore, Americans are reexamining the symbols and traditions they elevate and the history behind them.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 11,031,905 — Total deaths: 523,777 — Total recoveries — 5,834,337Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 2,788,395 — Total deaths: 129,306 — Total recoveries: 790,404 — Total tested: 34,213,497Map.
  3. States: ICU beds in Arizona's hot spot reach near capacity.
  4. Public health: The states where face coverings are mandatory Fauci says it has been a "very disturbing week" for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
  5. Economy: The economy may recover just quickly enough to kill political interest in more stimulus.
8 hours ago - Sports

Washington Redskins to review team name amid public pressure

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins have announced they will be conducting a review of the team's name after mounting pressure from the public and corporate sponsors.

Why it matters: This review is the first formal step the Redskins are taking since the debate surrounding the name first began. It comes after weeks of discussions between the team and the NFL, the team said.