Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Autonomous trucking is a hot commodity as investors once dazzled by self-driving cars are now pouring truckloads of money into automated logistics.

The big picture: It's still not clear when robotaxis might be ready for large-scale deployment. Meanwhile, the explosion of e-commerce since the pandemic has created an increased demand for shipping.

By the numbers: In the first half of 2021, investors pumped a record $5.6 billion into autonomous trucking companies such as TuSimple, Plus and Embark.

  • Valuations for the top four companies in the truck sector soared 544% from Q2 2020 to Q2 2021, compared to only a 12% rise for the four largest robotaxi companies, according to PitchBook research.
  • "There’s no question that investors are realizing the broader and potentially near-term opportunity with automated logistics," Asad Hussain, PitchBook mobility analyst, tells Axios.

Driving the news: Aurora Innovation is the latest self-driving tech company to go public, announcing plans Thursday to merge with a special purpose acquisition company, Reinvent Technology Partners Y.

  • Aurora will net about $2 billion from the deal and boost its valuation to an estimated $11 billion, more than any other publicly traded AV company.
  • The company, which turned its focus from robotaxis to trucks about a year ago, has partnerships with leading truck manufacturers Volvo Group and PACCAR, parent of Peterbilt and Kenworth. Together, they represent approximately 50% of the nation's Class 8 truck market — the largest 18-wheelers.
  • The "Aurora driver" will launch on the first of these companies' trucks in 2023, likely in Texas, where testing is underway.

Flashback: Back in 2018, Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson told Axios he didn't believe that long-haul trucking was a safe or smart way to start applying AV technology.

  • "Early on, there’s a massive benefit to driving in urban environments because you learn more quickly," he said Thursday, explaining his thinking back then. At lower speeds, he said, there's "less kinetic energy" if something goes wrong.
  • "And we didn't think you could see far enough to solve the truck problem," he added.

Fast forward: Since then, Aurora has solved its perception problem by acquiring two lidar companies and built its core driving skills so that its Aurora Driver is almost ready.

What Urmson is saying now: The business argument for trucking is stronger than the case for robotaxis.

  • "It comes down to there’s a massive shortage of 60,000 drivers. By the end of the decade, that shortage will be 160,000 drivers."

That seems to be the broad view of investors. "With robotaxis, you have to create the demand. But with the trucks, the demand is there. The labor thing is so crucial," says PitchBook's Hussain.

  • "And it's not just that there’s a shortage of workers. The shortage is concentrated in long trips, and those are the easiest to automate."

What's next: Aurora still plans to target businesses outside of trucking, including last-mile delivery and ride-hailing, through its partnerships with Toyota and Uber.

  • Automated runs between airports and hotels or convention centers are a good place to start, Urmson said — but not until after Aurora's autonomous trucks are rolling.

Go deeper: Startups and VCs refocus autonomous vehicle efforts

Go deeper

Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Congress not ready to regulate autonomous vehicles

Congress "missed an opportunity" to include autonomous vehicle (AV) regulations in the infrastructure bill, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the top Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, said at an Axios event Wednesday.

Why it matters: Though widespread adoption of AV technology is still years away, members of Congress have made long-shot efforts to get ahead of self-driving vehicles and regulate them for cybersecurity, safety and other standards, but no strict federal standards have been put in place.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
55 mins ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views on their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of cancelled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.