Stories by Joann Muller

Playing God (virtually) with self-driving vehicles

Illustration of a car half in the real world and half in the virtual one
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Self-driving test vehicles can’t possibly log enough real-world miles to ensure they are safe under every circumstance, but new tools allow manufacturers to test more of the rare but still possible scenarios they might encounter.

Why it matters: Extensive simulation is critical if autonomous vehicles are to be ready any time soon. Real-world testing on public roads is slow and limited — AVs could drive around for decades waiting for challenging conditions or interesting anomalies that would help train them to handle those so-called edge cases.

How to fix that shared car smell

The front and back wheels of a blue car are frowning emoji faces in this illustration.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nobody wants to ride in a dirty, smelly car — especially a shared robotaxi where there is no human driver to clean it up. Luckily, autonomous vehicles might be outfitted with olfaction sensors to help sniff out problems quickly.

What's happening: Denso, one of the world's largest auto suppliers, is teaming up with France's Aryballe Technologies, which develops bio-inspired "digital nose" sensors for multiple industries, as founding members of a new Digital Olfaction Automotive Consortium.

Behind the scenes: Trump unsettles the auto sector

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Since taking office and replacing his Rolls-Royce with an armored Cadillac called "the Beast," Trump seems to have spent more time thinking about cars than any other industrial sector, per aides past and present. He's also bred uncertainty, including over whether he’ll slap tariffs on imported cars.

Why it matters: Trump wants to restore American auto manufacturing to what he considers its mid-20th-century greatness, according to aides. But his ideas for saving the industry are creating angst for its top execs.

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