Mar 1, 2019

More auto companies team up on automated driving

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Rivals BMW and Daimler are the latest automakers to start pooling resources in order to stay competitive while they push toward full autonomy.

The big picture: Once there was a race among auto and tech companies to develop self-driving cars, but now there's a shared belief that it's frustratingly hard and incredibly expensive to do so at scale.

  • For some, partnering on a step-by-step progression through the various levels of autonomy seems the most expedient way to try to bring the technology to market.

What's happening: BMW and Daimler, Mercedes Benz' parent, are teaming up on automated driving, joining a growing list of AV research couples: Toyota and Uber, GM and Honda, and Ford and Volkswagen.

  • BMW and Daimler will focus on next-generation technologies for driver-assistance systems, highly automated highway driving and self-parking features — which are all considered Level 3 or 4 autonomy.
  • They aim to make those technologies available in the mid-2020s for global markets while separate research continues on longer-term projects.
  • For example, Mercedes and Bosch will start testing Level 4 and 5 robotaxis in San Jose, California, this summer.

BMW and Mercedes are usually bitter rivals, but the shifting transportation landscapehas a way of turning enemies into friends.

  • The German luxury carmakers are also pooling their resources on mobility services, investing $1 billion in a joint venture that spans ride-hailing, multi-modal transportation and related services.

What we're hearing: Industry experts predict even more collaboration on automated driving technology in the near future.

  • The likelihood of a recession or cyclical downturn means big R&D expenditures are riskier, says Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Navigant Research.
  • AV development becomes more complex as the level of autonomy increases, Michael Hafner, head of driving technologies and automated driving at Mercedes-Benz Cars, explains in a blog post.
  • Shouldering the technological and financial burdens together makes sense, even though BMW and Mercedes will always be competitors, Hafner writes.

What's next: AVs aren't here yet, but already they're becoming a commodity. What will differentiate auto companies in the future won't be whose AV technology is safer — airlines don't compete on safety, after all — but which one delivers a better customer experience.

"Once they’re driving the speed limit in the middle of the lane and keeping you from dying, that’s not a differentiated experience."
— Mike Ramsey, research director, Gartner

Go deeper: Amazon's autonomous vehicles bet could make deliveries even cheaper

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 1,202,827 — Total deaths: 64,771 — Total recoveries: 246,886Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 312,076 — Total deaths: 8,496 — Total recoveries: 14,997Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. The virus is hitting poor, minority communities harder and upending childbirth.
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. "We're having the convention at the end of August."
  5. Business updates: Restaurants step up for health care workers. Employees are pressuring companies to provide protections during coronavirus.
  6. Oil latest: Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Education update: Many college-age students won't get coronavirus relief checks.
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World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1.2 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The number of novel coronavirus cases surpassed 1.2 million worldwide Saturday night, as Spain overtook Italy as the country with the most infections outside the U.S. The global death toll has surpassed 64,700, per Johns Hopkins data.

The latest: The United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II will speak in a televised address on the coronavirus Sunday of the "disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all," per the BBC. The U.K. death toll rose 708 to 4,313 on Saturday — the fourth highest in the world.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll surpasses 8,400

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the coronavirus surpassed 8,400 in the U.S. on Saturday, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day for the past four days, since April 1.

The big picture: President Trump said Saturday America's is facing its "toughest week, between this week and next week." Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the U.S. should expect to see deaths continue to rise in this period.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health