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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Global investors are pumping money into autonomous driving-related companies, according to data from CB Insights. In the first three quarters of 2018, they have committed $4.2 billion, compared to $3 billion in 2017 and $167 million in 2014.

The bottom line: The promise of autonomous driving has led investors — and automakers — to open their checkbooks wide to ensure they’re part of the future of transportation.

The big picture: The $4.2 billion figure doesn't include all the funds automakers are investing into developing their own new tech. A Brookings Institution report last year estimated that from August 2014 to June 2017, a total of nearly $80 billion was invested in the area by the auto industry and venture capitalists.

The big funding tends to go to companies building a full caror close to it. Developing a brand new car model usually costs companies at least $1 billion, and up to $6 billion.

  • Zoox: The company, which is building a fully self-driving car from scratch, has raised $790 million in funding to date despite still being in the private testing phase of its development.
  • Cruise: As a startup building an autonomous driving system that could be installed in a car, Cruise raised less than $20 million before General Motors acquired it for nearly $1 billion. Since then, it’s expanded to building cars that are natively built to drive themselves (in partnership with GM), and has attracted a $2.25 billion investment from SoftBank ($900 million upfront), and more recently a $2.75 billion investment from Honda ($750 million upfront).

What's next: "Venture investors have begun to target early-stage startups working on specific AV use cases, such as managing a logistics AV fleet or enabling last-mile deliveries, rather than the technology underpinning autonomous mobility," Synapse Partners founder Evangelos Simoudis writes for Axios Expert Voices. "As large-scale AV fleets are deployed, these early-stage startups will become likely targets of the next acquisition wave."

Go deeper: Q&A with Trucks Venture Capital partner Reilly Brennan about the self-driving startup market

Go deeper

57 mins ago - Health

Vaccine shipment companies targeted by cyberattacks, IBM says

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A global phishing campaign has been trying to gain information from organizations working to ship coronavirus vaccines since September, IBM's cybersecurity arm said on Thursday.

Why it matters: Successfully distributing a COVID vaccine will already be challenging for the U.S. and other wealthy countries, especially to rural areas with less resources — while poorer countries are expected to have delayed access.

Fauci to meet with Biden transition for first time

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The government's top infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci will stay on at the National Institutes of Health and plans to meet virtually with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team for the first time Thursday to discuss the coronavirus response, he told CBS News.

Why it matters: Fauci, widely viewed as one of the country's most trusted voices on the coronavirus, said it will be the first "substantive" conversation between he and Biden's team. He said he has not yet spoken with Biden directly, but has connected several times with incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Updated 4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Our make-believe economy is here to stay

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Federal Reserve and global central banks are remaking the world's economy in an effort to save it, but have created something of a monster.

Why it matters: The Fed-driven economy relies on the creation of trillions of dollars — literally out of thin air — that are used to purchase bonds and push money into a pandemic-ravaged economy that has long been dependent on free cash and is only growing more addicted.