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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As leading autonomous vehicle companies seek to bring “robotaxis” to market, their competition could extend from AI-powered software into a new arena: real estate.

The big picture: Today's ride-hailing companies are software-only platforms. But as AV technology goes commercial, companies that plan to own and operate fleets of robotaxis — including Waymo and GM Cruise — will need considerable real estate footprints to store, clean, refuel and repair thousands of vehicles.

Where it stands: AV companies are focusing their robotaxi commercialization efforts on cities, which offer the densest population centers and largest markets. Some have already started to snatch up choice real estate: GM Cruise in San Francisco, Waymo in Phoenix, Ford in Miami and nuTonomy/Aptiv in Las Vegas.

Details: Within each launch city, robotaxi operators will need to find real estate parcels that satisfy a particular set of requirements to support their go-to-market efforts:

  • Large enough to park hundreds or thousands of vehicles at a time
  • Strategically located in or near neighborhoods with a high density of ride-hailing demand
  • Equipped to provide a massive daily power draw from the city’s electric grid, potentially requiring proximity to an electric substation (for EV fleets)

The catch: The U.S. has a finite number of large and attractive launch cities, particularly after factoring in regulatory and climate considerations. And in any given city, there are limited real estate parcels that will check all of these boxes.

  • To minimize the costs of trips that don't generate revenue, companies will want to locate these operations facilities near cities' commercial centers, where passenger demand is concentrated.
  • But they'll have to balance that consideration against the real estate prices that can be staggeringly high in downtown areas.

The bottom line: As more companies get serious about bringing robotaxi services to market, real estate strategy could become an increasingly important part of the AV competition. Expect plenty of land grabs.

Rob Toews works on strategy at Zoox and is the co-founder of SHFFT.

Go deeper

New York AG alleges "significant evidence" of Trump Organization fraud

Combination images of former President Trump and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Scott Heins/Getty Images

New York's attorney general filed a motion Tuesday seeking to compel former President Trump and two of his children, Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump, to appear for sworn testimony in her office's civil investigation into the Trump Organization's financial dealings.

Why it matters: Attorney General Letitia James revealed new details in the court filing and a statement on her office's investigation into the Trump Organization's business practices, including a preliminary finding alleging the company used "fraudulent and misleading asset valuations to obtain economic benefits."

2 hours ago - Technology

Ex-N.Y. Post digital chief files lawsuit alleging sexual harassment

Richard B. Levine) (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Former New York Post editor Michelle Gotthelf is suing her former employer, its parent company News Corp. and two editors, alleging she was reprimanded after complaining to senior executives that she was sexually harassed by retired N.Y. Post editor-in-chief Col Allan. The N.Y. Post issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: "I felt that I owed it to myself and I owed it to the news organization and the people who answered to me," Gotthelf, who was a long time editor at the N.Y. Post, told Axios in an interview.

Updated 3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Airlines warn of flight cancellations amid 5G rollout concerns

Emirates SkyCargo airline Boeing 777F aircraft. Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Emirates and Delta airlines announced Tuesday that the planned rollout of 5G services at certain American airports could affect flights.

Driving the news: AT&T and Verizon announced earlier Tuesday that they would delay this week's scheduled rollout of 5G signals near a limited number of airports due to continued concerns from the aviation industry.