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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The global pandemic may be reinforcing the logic for self-driving cars, but the economic fallout is likely to accelerate the consolidation trend that was already underway.

What it matters: Self-driving technology is a difficult — and expensive — challenge, and many companies have decided they are better off pooling resources. Only a handful of well-capitalized players will likely make it across the finish line.

What's happening: Aptiv closed its $4 billion joint venture deal with Hyundai on March 26, in the midst of the crisis.

  • The new company, yet to be named, will be based in Boston, and led by Aptiv's Karl Iagnemma.

What's they're saying: "A couple of years ago, people thought this was a software activity," Iagnemma told Axios. "What the industry has come to realize is that having a deep strategic relationship with an automotive (company) is essential."

  • It's capital-intensive, too: $1 billion is the price of entry for credible AV players, says Iagnemma.

Yes, but: Well-funded independent players can succeed without worrying about being dependent on a single automaker's fortunes, says Sterling Anderson, co-founder of Aurora Innovation, whose A-list backers include Sequoia Capital, Amazon and T. Rowe Price.

  • "These are make or break moments," said Anderson, whose company is focused on automation for commercial vehicles.

What's next: Volkswagen and Argo AI are nearing completion of a $2.6 billion investment deal that will make Ford and VW equal minority shareholders in the automated driving tech company.

What to watch: Fiat Chrysler says it is still committed to a planned merger with PSA Groupe, but both sides are scrambling to preserve cash in light of the crisis, and there's talk that the companies could try to renegotiate terms of the deal.

Go deeper: Automakers lay out back-to-work playbook for coronavirus pandemic

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
Jul 28, 2020 - Economy & Business

The back-to-work puzzle

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

With an unending list of factors to consider — including the safety of air-conditioning systems, the risk of using public transportation, schools' reopening schedules and the needs of high-risk employees — the back-to-work puzzle is getting increasingly difficult to solve.

The big picture: At first, companies were pleasantly surprised at how well telecommuting worked, with many firms — including Twitter — saying they might go remote forever. Now, about four months in, remote work doesn't seem so great anymore.

1 hour ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.