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  • Writer's pictureJesus Grana

Robotaxi Rising: Dawn of the Autonomous Age

Updated: 2 days ago



CX Insights - Trend Watch - Automotive Industry (ICYMI April 2024)


ICYMI - After April showers comes May flowers – or so the saying goes. While April 2024 brought us the usual articles about EV sales trends aimed at reigniting hybrid interests, I was pleasantly surprised to read how autonomous driving and robotaxis seemed to regain center stage in the press this past month. May flowers indeed!


| ROBOTAXI RISING

One of the first articles about this topic that caught my attention was Hyundai’s real-life use-case capture in this article and YouTube video. The Ioniq 5 robotaxi successfully completed a mock U.S. driver’s license test, but the footage is here for you to view and see if it passes your eye test. It passes mine for sure!


This news comes at a time when cities are eyeing and testing robotaxis as a replacement for conventional public transport. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, May Mobility has partnered with Toyota to provide autonomous Sienna model minivans with safety drivers on board to answer on-call demand for autonomous transport. This model is also currently being tested in Arlington, Texas; Grand Rapids, Minnesota; and Sun City, Arizona – all cities where the population density isn’t enough for fixed bus routes or Uber/Lyft to offer their services.


We also got positive news regarding GM Cruise: After its pause in October 2023, Cruise is coming back! The company has been in talks with numerous metropolitan areas in order to resume robotaxi testing and refinement. Phoenix, Arizona, is earmarked as the first city to restart … and what better way to resume than in a place named after the mythical bird that rises renewed and improved from the ashes?


Speaking of Phoenix: Waymo has expanded its driverless rides from the streets of San Francisco to the freeways of Phoenix. These test runs are open to Waymo employees only to work out potential kinks in the system, but already companies like Aurora, an auto-tech firm focused on trucking, aim to implement Waymo technology in their fleets later this year.


We also received news of additional OEMs improving their driver-assistance technology – changes that are becoming commercially viable. Mercedes-Benz now sells cars that mostly drive themselves and don’t require the driver to see the road. While these cars are only in California and Nevada – and even then only usable under specific conditions – this makes Mercedes-Benz the first OEM to achieve Level 3 autonomous driving technology in America and the only one with full government confidence to sell these vehicles publicly. This technology is called Drive Pilot, which is downloadable for $2,500 annually. After watching how it’s used in California and Nevada, a nationwide rollout may soon follow.


But we can’t have this conversation without mentioning Tesla, and they’re not letting other OEMs steal the headlines for long. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) that Tesla’s own robotaxi model will be revealed publicly on August 8. This reveal will fulfill a promise made in an investors’ pitch back in 2019, where automated vehicles helped entice funding and kept Tesla in the automated car conversation. This news follows a rollout of Tesla’s latest driver-assistance software, dubbed Full Self-Driving (FSD) to consumers.


Regardless of how fast or wide robotaxis develop, we can’t wait to be part of the customer experience and service ecosystem that will develop around this life-changing technology.


| E-FUEL ON ICE

As a continuation of last month’s trending topic: Synthetic fuels (or e-fuels) continue to grab headlines. Based on content, I expect Porsche and Stellantis to continue pursuing the viability of these sustainable energy sources to continue “fueling” the continuity of ICE automobiles.



For example, Porsche is putting its money where its mouth is by pledging all of its GT3 production stock cars competing in the 2024 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup series will run on e-fuels produced by its plant in southern Chile. This is a big deal, because this series’ parent is the annual Formula One World Championship, so all motorsports fans’ eyes will be watching to see how Porsche performs in its own events. The first race will take place over two days (May 17-19) in Imola, Italy, and last until September 1.


Driving the intellectual debate for synthetic fuels is Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares, who believes fossil fuels will go the way of … well, fossils. His comments come during a time when more automakers are speaking out against a complete EV rollout in the European Union, instead strongly advising a multi-pronged approach to reduce emissions in existing ICE vehicles while keeping next-generation vehicles at a reasonable price point. His solution and full backing are in alternate fuels, e-fuels and more. This notion has been acknowledged by current EU leadership and will be in further consideration 11 years in advance of the current 2035 ban on ICEs.


| TO INFINITIUM AND BEYOND

To close this month’s ICYMI, I’ve got some really interesting news to share regarding alternative energy sources. It’s not based off rare earth metals or electricity – rather, one of the most abundant industrial by-products of all time.


Infinitium, a startup headquartered in Sacramento, California, just opened their manufacturing facility in Corpus Christi, Texas. This facility is built in close proximity to major oil and gas fields but instead refines carbon dioxide and water to create a new fuel source. While the technology is still being scaled in a way that makes the most fiscal sense, it promises to decarbonize some of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the transportation sector, like trucking and aviation.


For further information on how we got to where we are, I encourage you to check out our previous ICYMI blog posts throughout 2023 and 2024.

 

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