Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

One of Ford's self-driving test vehicles on the streets of D.C. Photo: Ford

Ford will continue its push toward "mobility" to position itself as a key player in autonomous vehicles, even as the traditional car industry seems headed for a down cycle and the realistic timeframe for AVs is being adjusted to later, several company executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: Though Ford still gets most of its revenue selling personal vehicles, the company sees a world where people rely on a much wider mix of transportation modes. To transform itself for its AV goals, Ford has made a range of acquisitions and has brought more of its technology development in-house.

Driving the news: Ford's actions include buying the private bus startup Chariot and a scooter business called Spin. It's also hiring more engineers to develop more technology in-house, including both self-driving capabilities and the next version of its Sync navigation/entertainment system.

The Spin purchase is a recognition that micro-vehicles of some sort will be an important part of the "first mile" and "last mile" of transit, even if they ultimately take a somewhat different form than today's scooters, EVP Marcy Klevorn tells Axios.

  • Spin was of particular interest to Ford, Klevorn adds, because it was working with cities, not just dumping scooters on sidewalks like some rivals.
  • This relationship approach will be key to self-driving cars as well, she says.

In-house technology will be key to meet competition from tech giants Google and Apple, Ford CTO Ken Washington tells Axios.

  • Ford is doubling down on a bet it can out-innovate the tech giants, which are in the throes of battling for a bigger share of in-car electronics, so it has brought more engineering in-house for its Sync entertainment and navigation system.
  • Systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that work only when a compatible phone is brought in the car and a user chooses such an interface are fine. But the company says it has no interest in giving the companies a larger, more permanent place.
  • "We've been very clear for quite some time we don't want to delegate our future to others," Washington says.

Ford expects the time frame of AV arrivals will be longer than the most optimistic estimates.

  • "Reality is kicking in," Ford VP Sherif Marakby tells Axios. "The promises of launching autonomous vehicles without a driver in 2018 and 2019 are fading fast."
  • Marakby says 2021 is a more realistic time frame for AVs at scale. But, he adds, Ford is convinced it will be one the few companies left standing.
  • "We believe there are probably going to be 2–3 successful operating systems in autonomous vehicles," Marakby says. "We plan to be one of those."

The big picture: Ford's rivals are also making big bets, albeit with different approaches.

  • Toyota is spending billions on homegrown research in areas like AI, autonomy and robotics, and GM has pumped around $2 billion into self-driving startup Cruise Automation.
  • And, like Ford, GM plans to keep spending on the future even as it scales back the present. It said in November "resources allocated to electric and autonomous vehicle programs will double in the next two years" even as it announced 5 factory shutdowns and nearly 15,000 job cuts.

Yes, but: One thing that the company won't be doing, as I scooped yesterday, is moving forward with sponsorship of the Ford GoBike bicycle-sharing service in San Francisco. Ford and Lyft, which now owns the startup that runs the multi-city bike-sharing service, plan to end the deal over the next couple of months.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect more recent estimates of GM's investment in Cruise Automation.

Go deeper

15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

McConnell drops filibuster demand, paving way for power-sharing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a joint session of Congress. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned his demand that Democrats state, in writing, that they would not abandon the legislative filibuster.

Between the lines: McConnell was never going to agree to a 50-50 power sharing deal without putting up a fight over keeping the 60-vote threshold. But the minority leader ultimately caved after it became clear that delaying the organizing resolution was no longer feasible.

Scoop: Google won't donate to members of Congress who voted against election results

Sen. Ted Cruz led the group of Republicans who opposed certifying the results. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Google will not make contributions from its political action committee this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, following the deadly Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Several major businesses paused or pulled political donations following the events of Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters, riled up by former President Trump, stormed the Capitol on the day it was to certify the election results.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Minority Mitch still setting Senate agenda

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer may be majority leader, yet in many ways, Mitch McConnell is still running the Senate show — and his counterpart is about done with it.

Why it matters: McConnell rolled over Democrats unapologetically, and kept tight control over his fellow Republicans, while in the majority. But he's showing equal skill as minority leader, using political jiujitsu to convert a perceived weakness into strength.