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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

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

A health care worker oversees cars as people arrive to get tested for coronavirus at a testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
4 hours ago - Health

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Hospital staff work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura via Getty

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.