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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The field is wide open for autonomous vehicle developers, making it hard to predict winners and losers. But look closely: the ones inching toward commercialization are quietly putting important building blocks in place.

Why it matters: There are many brilliant teams working on driverless car technology. But enabling a robot vehicle to drive from Point A to Point B is just the start—commercializing AVs will take a lot more work. To scale up, companies need the right leaders and experienced partners.

What's happening: Smart players are forging new relationships with companies that can help them progress toward commercialization.

  • Waymo this week tapped Magna, a big Canadian auto supplier, to integrate its self-driving system into thousands of Chrysler and Jaguar vehicles at a planned factory in Michigan.
  • Velodyne, a leader in lidar sensors, just licensed its technology to Veoneer, another experienced auto supplier, to deliver a new automotive grade lidar system for an unnamed carmaker.

Be smart: These partnerships are the real deal, proof that they are getting closer to bringing automated vehicles to market. And while a lot of aspiring tech companies announce impressive partnerships, most are just deals to test their wares in the field. Let's see if they can turn a handful of development units into large-scale production contracts.

The lab is different from the road, and there is real work involved to make sure new technologies are "automotive grade."

  • Fragile sensors can work great in the lab. But like every component in a car, they need to be rigorously tested for durability, safety and quality under a variety of conditions, including extreme vibration, temperature and humidity levels.
  • They also need to be carefully integrated into the vehicle to ensure safety and security, so expertise is important.

Some AV companies are also hiring new leaders with operational experience to take their business to the next level.

The bottom line: As hard as it is to design the perfect self-driving car, it's clear that other factors will determine which companies ultimately succeed in bringing them to market.

Go deeper

CDC director maintains Pfizer booster recommendation for high-risk workers

Rochelle Walensky listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C. on July 20. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday reiterated her decision to go against a recommendation by a CDC advisory panel that refused to endorse booster shots for workers whose jobs put them at high risk for contracting COVID-19.

Driving the news: "Our healthcare systems are once again at maximum capacity in parts of the country, our teachers are facing uncertainty as they walk into the classroom," Walensky said at a Friday briefing. "I must do what I can to preserve the health across our nation."

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats release full text of Biden's $3.5T reconciliation package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday unveiled the full text of President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending package.

Why it matters: Democrats are racing to finish negotiations and get the bill on the floor as soon as possible so Pelosi can fulfill her promises to both House centrists and progressives about the timing and sequencing of passing the party's dual infrastructure packages.

Biden pushes massive economic plan despite "stalemate"

President Biden speaking from the White House on Sept. 24. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday urged congressional Democrats to overcome differences surrounding his multi-trillion-dollar economic proposal but said he's still confident it will pass.

Why it matters: It's currently unclear how the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package will move forward with moderate and progressive Democrats in disagreement over critical portions of the legislation.