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Voyage's self-driving technology on the road. Photo: Voyage.

Scoop: Voyage, the autonomous vehicles startup, is bringing on Drew Gray — an industry vet who was a senior self-driving engineer at Tesla, Uber and elsewhere — as chief technology officer.

Why it matters: The company is focusing on providing taxi and fleet services by grafting its self-driving technologies onto existing vehicles. Voyage's system equips Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids, which drive on electric power for about 30 miles, to be autonomous, and later it plans to move into pure electrics, Oliver Cameron, Voyage's CEO, tells Axios.

The context: Cameron says he first collaborated with Gray at Udacity, the online learning provider — Cameron was head of the self-driving program there, and Gray agreed to teach a course.

"Looking back at some of our earliest emails in 2016, it’s easy to see why we wanted to work with Drew at Voyage. He embodies the mentality of a teacher, something so crucial as a CTO. Not only did Drew lead by example while moving so fast, but he made sure everyone learned something along the way," Cameron says.

Driving the news: The rise of driverless cars and ride-sharing are important drivers of vehicle electrification, as most car companies currently plan to merge the technologies in their new vehicles.

  • In a report earlier this year, the energy giant BP forecast that EVs will be 15% of the worldwide fleet in 2040, but account for 30% of passenger car miles traveled. That would be thanks largely to a huge expansion in use of autonomous and shared vehicles.

On the record:

"The autonomous vehicle industry is so nascent that it’s an incredibly rare opportunity to work side-by-side with someone who has held senior leadership positions at many of the key companies in this field. Drew has done just that, at places like Tesla, Cruise, Otto, and Uber ATG," Cameron said.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

The danger of a fourth wave

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.

Sidewalk robots get legal rights as "pedestrians"

"We’ve got about 1,000 of them running around out there," Ryan Tuohy of Starship tells Axios. Photo courtesy of Starship Technologies.

As small robots proliferate on sidewalks and city streets, so does legislation that grants them generous access rights and even classifies them, in the case of Pennsylvania, as "pedestrians."

Why it matters: Fears of a dystopian urban world where people dodge heavy, fast-moving droids are colliding with the aims of robot developers large and small — including Amazon and FedEx — to deploy delivery fleets.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The biggest obstacle to a wealth tax

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Taxing the rich is an idea that's back. An "ultra-millionaire tax" introduced by Elizabeth Warren and other left-wing Democrats this week would raise more than $3 trillion over 10 years, they say, while making the tax system as a whole more fair.

Why it matters: New taxes would be a necessary part of any Democratic plan to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality. But President Biden has more urgent priorities — and Warren's wealth tax in particular faces constitutional obstacles that make it a hard sell.