Car shows can be quite the spectacle. Pre-pandemic, you could find thousands of people inside a giant convention hall pouring over the latest models from every major car manufacturer. Some exhibits might try to grab consumers’ attention with a flashy presentation. Others would cater toward kids with free Hot Wheels made to resemble the company’s flagship vehicle. Certain companies might even allow folks to take their speediest cars out for a controlled test drive around the block. Regardless, competitors were in a race for the consumer’s attention and, eventually, their next purchase.
The automobile industry, however, is changing. With more and more shoppers turning to the internet during the car-buying experience and the expanded awareness of the environmental impact of our daily commutes, consumers and car companies alike are shifting their priorities and habits.
This shift was on display at the IAA Mobility car show in Munich last week. As the first significant auto industry event in Europe since the pandemic, many organizers arrived ready to debut their latest advancements and achievements. However, in contrast to past car shows, presenters at IAA focused on “mobility” as a whole and changing trends in the automotive space. Instead of celebrities and flashy presentations, the show featured in-depth discussions about the future of the industry.
At the show, Mobileye, an Intel-backed autonomous technology company, and SIXT, a car rental chain, announced their intention to launch a robotaxi service in Munich. Starting in 2022, the companies will take advantage of Germany’s new autonomous vehicle law to begin testing.
Additionally, Volkswagen hosted a conversation on autonomous driving with Bryan Salesky, CEO of Argo AI. Argo is an autonomous driving company from Pittsburgh that Ford and Volkswagen heavily back. Volkswagen and Argo made news at the IAA show by announcing their partnership on the Volkswagen ID Buzz AD. The Buzz will be an electric van from Volkswagen that will eventually feature autonomous driving from Argo. Argo plans to start testing soon in Germany with some commercial deployments in 2025.
This announcement follows a string of recent developments from Argo. In July, Argo, Ford, and Lyft announced a partnership focused on rolling out autonomous vehicles on the Lyft platform in Miami and Austin with the hopes of expanding to a fleet of 1,000 vehicles in multiple markets in the next five years. This month, Ford and Argo announced a new partnership with Walmart. Walmart will use Ford vehicles equipped with Argo self-driving technology for last-mile delivery. Tom Ford, Walmart US senior vice president of last-mile delivery, said, “We’re excited to expand our autonomous delivery efforts in three new markets alongside Argo and Ford. This collaboration will further our mission to get products to the homes of our customers with unparalleled speed and ease, and in turn, will continue to pave the way for autonomous delivery.”
This announcement is particularly interesting considering Walmart’s recent launch of its GoLocal platform. Walmart GoLocal is a delivery company that promises to utilize emerging technology and Walmart’s expertise to deliver local goods to consumers. Perhaps their partnership with Ford and Argo will serve as an educational opportunity for further autonomous integration through Walmart GoLocal.
These announcements continue to demonstrate the increasing acceptance and deployment of autonomous vehicles and autonomous technology. New partnerships and collaboration will refine autonomous technology and bring it even closer to the public marketplace. Honda, for instance, recently announced that it would collaborate with Cruise, the GM-backed autonomous vehicle company, to bring AVs to Japan. Eventually, Honda hopes to operate an autonomous service in Japan using the Cruise Origin, Cruise’s post-car vehicle explicitly built for autonomous fleet service.
Back in Cruise’s home state of California, the California Public Utilities Commission is moving toward standardizing its exemption process between testing and deployment permits. After granting their first driverless permit to Cruise earlier this year, this move could signal that the CPUC is preparing for more autonomous vehicles companies to begin applying for deployment permits.
The automotive industry is changing, and autonomous vehicles promise to revolutionize transportation. Instead of disruption, however, insight and planning from the mobility space indicate that autonomous technology will be utilized and integrated in a way that enhances and streamlines our global transportation system. Autonomous vehicles continue to make their debut across the globe and remind us that our autonomous future isn’t decades away but right around the corner.