Oct 27, 2018

Billions of dollars pour into autonomous vehicle technology

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

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 1,407,123— Total deaths: 80,759 — Total recoveries: 297,934Map.
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  3. Trump admin latest: Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill.
  4. Federal government latest: Senate looks to increase coronavirus relief for small businesses this week — Testing capacity is still lagging far behind demand.
  5. World update: China reopens Wuhan after 10-week coronavirus lockdown.
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Pelosi calls for removal of acting Navy secretary

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called for the firing or resignation of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, following his decision to relieve Capt. Brett Crozier from his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt last week.

Why it matters: Pelosi said Modly "showed a serious lack of the sound judgment and strong leadership" in firing Crozier, who wrote a letter pleading for help in battling a coronavirus outbreak onboard the ship. The letter was leaked to the press, leading to Crozier's ouster.

Schiff demands that Grenell explain Trump's purge of inspectors general

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to the acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell on Tuesday demanding he turn over documents explaining his management of the intelligence community amid concerns of the politicization of the agency.

Why it matters: The letter, which calls for a response by April 16, comes as President Trump continues his purge of inspectors general across the federal government that he deems disloyal to his administration.