Autonomous vehicles have yet to become mainstream, but companies like Lyft, Cruise, Nuro and Aurora are still fighting the good fight. The AV space has always faced its share of regulatory and development hurdles, but this year brought a new set of hurdles with the COVID-19 pandemic.
At TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility, we’ll hear from Cruise, Lyft, Nuro and Aurora about where they are in their respective journeys to public deployment and how they’ve navigated the year.
Cruise Director of Government Affairs Prashanthi Raman
Earlier this year, before the world blew up, Cruise received a permit in California to begin transporting passengers. Cruise also began focusing more on hardware earlier this year. That all came after Cruise had already scrapped its plans to launch a robotaxi service in 2019. In the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cruise laid off 8% of its workforce in May in an attempt to cut costs. As part of the restructuring, Cruise said it would double down on its engineering efforts.
Meanwhile, Cruise still has its eyes set on public deployment, which is where the expertise of Raman comes in. It’s her job to help Cruise navigate the murky regulatory waters of autonomous vehicles.
Nuro Chief Legal & Policy Officer David Estrada
Nuro, an autonomous delivery startup, takes a slightly different approach to autonomous vehicles. Instead of transporting people, Nuro transports goods. In April, Nuro received a permit to begin driverless testing in California. The startup, which raised $940 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund last year, aims to deliver groceries and other goods to customers at scale.
Estrada, who previously led legal and policy operations at Bird and government relations at Lyft, is no stranger to playing ball with regulatory agencies. It’s up to him to ensure Nuro gains the trust of the public by proving the company’s commitment to safety and the law.
Lyft Self-Driving Platform Director Jody Kelman
Lyft first began testing its autonomous vehicles in California in late 2018. The company had to pause those operations earlier this year as a result of the pandemic, but resumed testing in late June.
That same month, Lyft began using data from its ride-hailing app to build 3D maps, better understand human driving patterns and improve simulation tests for the company’s autonomous vehicle program.
As part of Lyft’s go-to-market strategy, it has partnered with a number of companies. A key partner for Lyft has been Aptiv, which as of February, provided 100,000 paid rides on the Lyft app.
“We’ve got something here,” Kelman said at the time to TechCrunch’s Kirsten Korosec. “This is really a blueprint for what future mobility partnerships can look like.”
Aurora Senior Manager of Government Relations Melissa Froelich
Aurora, which launched back in 2017, had been developing a full-stack solution for self-driving vehicles that prioritized robotaxis. That changed in October 2019, when Aurora began focusing more on trucks and logistics and declared trucks would be the company’s first commercial product.
Trucking comes with its own bag of worms, but folks seem to believe that AV trucking has a clearer path to profitability. In July, Aurora expanded into Texas to test commercial routes. At TC Sessions: Mobility, Froelich will discuss how Aurora is navigating the autonomous trucking space and the challenges it faces.
Get your tickets for TC Sessions: Mobility to hear from these thought-leaders from Nuro, Lyft, Cruise and Lyft, along with several other fantastic speakers from Porsche, Waymo, Lyft and more. Tickets are just $145 for a limited time, with discounts for groups, students and exhibiting startups. We hope to see you there!