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Photo: Cruise

Cruise this week touted its first fully driverless vehicle tests in San Francisco, two days after Uber sold its autonomous vehicle unit to a rival.

Why it matters: Neither development was quite what it seemed, however, reminding us that self-driving cars are still a long way from commercialization.

Driving the news: Cruise, the self-driving tech firm backed by General Motors and Honda, shared video of its first tests with no one behind the wheel.

  • "What we’re witnessing here is the move of real self-driving out of the R&D lab and on to the path to being a commercial product that everyone can use," Cruise CEO Dan Ammann told reporters.

Reality check: The featured test occurred at night, in a quiet residential neighborhood, with no other cars on the road except those parked along the side of the street.

  • An operator in the passenger seat held a "kill switch" but had no access to the traditional driver controls, a Cruise spokesperson tells Axios.
  • Ammann said the driverless testing would start small, and expand to more cars, in more neighborhoods, in 2021.

Earlier in the week, Uber said it was handing its self-driving project to Aurora and would invest $400 million in the Silicon Valley startup.

  • After sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into the AV unit — which had been plagued with safety and legal problems from the start — Uber is essentially paying Aurora to take over the project, the New York Times observed.
  • By partnering with Aurora, and taking a stake in the company, Uber is keeping some chips on the table for a future robotaxi service, however.
  • Aurora's current focus is on self-driving trucks, but it likely sees potential business with Toyota, which had backed Uber's AV project.

What to watch: Two other AV companies, Zoox and Canoo, are going to reveal new self-driving vehicles next week.

Go deeper

Ex-Uber autonomous driving exec gets pardon from Trump

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In the last hours of his presidency, President Trump granted a full pardon to Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of a 2017 lawsuit between Google's self-driving car unit and Uber over alleged theft of trade secrets.

Why it matters: The case made headlines as a bitter legal battle between two of Silicon Valley's best-known companies in the race to build self-driving cars.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.