Gatik Autonomous Isuzu Truck - The Road to Autonomy

Gatik Takes The Next Step

May 19, 2024

Koop Insurance - The Road to Autonomy

This Week in The Autonomy Economy is presented by Koop Insurance, a specialist insurance provider focused on robotics and autonomous vehicles.

This Week in The Autonomy Economy, The Road to Autonomy Index returned 1.13%, Gatik announced a production deal with Isuzu that was accompanied with a $30 million dollar equity investment, Waymo got entangled in geopolitics and Cruise began supervised autonomous driving in Phoenix. 

Is there an emerging double standard when it comes to the development and commercialization of autonomous vehicles? We dove into the data and looked at stress levels, average alcohol consumption and came to a startling conclusion. It is going to get more dangerous on the roads as inflation continues to run hot and the economy begins to show signs of strain despite the year-over-year decline in traffic fatalities. 

With the potential for the roadways to get more dangerous, we need to come together as a society and collectively work to usher in the autonomy era. When the autonomy era is ushered in, the autonomy economy will emerge and our roadways will become safer.

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Cruise parent GM and Waymo parent Alphabet are The Road to Autonomy Index component companies

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A weekly newsletter featuring insight and commentary on the autonomy economy™ and how the financial markets are viewing its emergence. 

Autonomy Avenue Whispers

Viva la deal There are whispers abound on Autonomy Avenue that next week’s ACT Expo in Las Vegas could be full of deals. One particular deal has caught our attention. An autonomous driving developer could be looking to add yet another stamp to their passport, as they once again head overseas in search of a deal. 

Eyeing The Lone Star State Is the Energy Capital of the World soon to have a robotaxi deployment to complement Nuro? There are whispers circulating on Autonomy Avenue that something is in the works.

What’s Moving the Markets 

Gatik Takes The Next Step

Gatik Autonomous Isuzu Truck - The Road to Autonomy
Gatik Autonomous Isuzu Truck | Source: Gatik

As Gatik continues to grow, the company is now preparing to take the next step. On May 14th, Gatik announced a partnership with Isuzu along with a $30 million dollar equity investment. 

In 2027, Isuzu will begin production of bespoke next-generation trucks that are fully integrated with Gatik’s autonomous driving technology at a new purpose-built factory. 

The equity investment by Isuzu accompanied by the mass production of Level 4 autonomous trucks signals a new era in autonomy. 

There’s no doubt that the autonomous trucking space is on the cusp of real scale, and Gatik is positioned to lead the industry to the next level and beyond. 

Isuzu’s expanded partnership with Gatik and their investment into our company demonstrates a concrete commitment to the future of autonomous trucking from a major OEM, and together we’re excited to be driving real change for supply chain and logistics in the US and Canada.

– Gautam Narang, Co-Founder and CEO of Gatik

On The Road to Autonomy’s AUTONOMY LEADERBOARD, Gatik is the leader in the autonomous middle-mile category. The deal with Isuzu further solidifies Gatik’s strategically important role in the autonomous trucking ecosystem.

Our take: While Gatik is currently is currently focused on the U.S. and Canadian markets, the partnership with Isuzu could open the Japanese market. A Gatik expansion into Japan would be extremely interesting. 

Waymo Gets in Entangled in Geopolitics

Waymo Zeeker Autonomous Vehicle - The Road to Autonomy
Waymo Zeeker Autonomous Vehicle | Source: Waymo

On May 14th, President Biden announced sweeping tariffs on China. Tariffs on electric vehicles are increasing from 25% to 100% later this year. Making it 75% more expensive for Waymo to purchase bespoke Zeeker robotaxis from Geely. 

We’re not going to let China flood our market, making it impossible for American automakers — automobile — auto manufacturers to compete fairly.

– President Biden, May 14, 2024

Today, an uncertain number of the Waymo Zeeker robotaxis are already in America. This unknown number of robotaxis are not subject to the new increased tariff rate. Waymo confirmed to Automotive News that they are currently testing Waymo Zeeker robotaxis in manual mode in San Francisco. 

With Waymo planning to deploy thousands of the Zeeker manufactured bespoke robotaxis and a potential change in administration on the horizon, Waymo would be wise to explore a full decoupling from China. 

Politics aside, the American public overwhelmingly has an unfavorable view of China. 81% of U.S. adults view China unfavorably, including 43% who hold a very unfavorable opinion according to a recent Pew Research Center report

Pew Research Center China Report - The Road to Autonomy
Pew Research Center May 1, 2024 Research Report

With 81% of U.S. adults having an unfavorable view on China, Waymo’s plans to deploy Chinese-made robotaxis is getting increasingly risky. 4 in 10 Americans (42%) say China is an enemy of the U.S. This should be disconcerting for both Alphabet and Waymo. 

Waymo has a China problem that will only be exacerbated in a second Trump administration. If 81% of U.S. adults have an unfavorable view of China, will they ride in a Chinese made robotaxi? The odds are high that they won’t. 

It’s time for Waymo to explore decoupling from China.

Our take: Waymo should explore a pivot to a non-Chinese EV robotaxi platform. If we were advising Mr. Adrian Mardell or Mr. Carlos Tavares, we would pull out the old Rahm Emanuel playbook and never let a serious crisis to go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.

Waymo parent Alphabet is a The Road to Autonomy Index component company

An Emerging Double Standard?

Could a double standard be emerging when it comes to human drivers versus autonomous vehicles? 

In 2023, 40,990 individuals died in traffic crashes in the United States. In 2022, there were 42,514 traffic fatalities in the United States according to NHTSA. An estimated 13,524 individuals (32%) were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. 

According to a Gallup survey, 62% of Americans drink. 55% of individuals who drink, drink between 1 and 7 drinks a week. 

Alcohol and Drinking Gallup Survey - The Road to Autonomy
Alcohol and Drinking Gallup Survey | Source: Gallup

The majority of Americans consume alcohol. During the 2008 Great Financial Crisis, overall alcohol consumption declined because of discretionary income. During this same period, frequent bing drinking increased from 4.8% in 2006-2007 to 5.1% 2008. 

During times of high-stress such as economic down-turns and recessions, human judgment and decision-making deteriorates. Our brains are wired to be more reactionary under stress which can lead to bad decisions such as drinking and driving. 

We depend primarily on two hardwired processes for decision making. Our brains assess what’s going on using pattern recognition, and we react to that information—or ignore it—because of emotional tags that are stored in our memories. Both of these processes are normally reliable; they are part of our evolutionary advantage. But in certain circumstances, both can let us down.

– Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead, and Sydney Finkelstein | Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions, Harvard Business Review (February 2009) 

If Chair Powell and The Federal Reserve cannot orchestrate a soft-landing and the economy enters into a recession, stress levels are only going to increase. Today 49% of Americans report frequently experiencing stress, up 16% over the past two decades. 

Almost half of all Americans are stressed out. The impact stress can have on driving is impactful. Driving stressed out leads to increased aggression and a decline in the physical and mental abilities needed to drive a vehicle safely. 

Autonomous vehicles do not drink alcohol, autonomous vehicles do not get stressed out, autonomous vehicles do not drive aggressively. Yet there are calls from officials to hold autonomous vehicles to a higher standard than human drivers. 

There’s a real Paradox here which is it seems like the public would be more accepting of more deaths and injuries caused by people than caused so to speak by machines, but I also think we have an opportunity and a responsibility to say about these new technologies, the standard should be don’t just be as good as a human driver be much much better because they can. 

– Secretary Pete Buttigieg during a CNBC interview on May 16, 2024

Why set this public standard today? What if we set a similar standard in the early 1900s when society switched from the carriage era to the automobile era? Would we even have had the automobile era? New technologies inherently come with risk, but also with great promise. 

Instead of focusing on holding autonomous vehicles to a higher standard, we should focus on enabling the development and adoption of autonomous vehicles. As stress levels trend upwards, driving and riding on the roads will only get more dangerous without autonomous vehicles. 

Our take: The future is bright. The future is autonomous. 

A Work In Progress: Baidu’s Robotaxi

In a May 16th feature on CNBC, Eunice Yoon shared her experience from riding in a Baidu robotaxi in Wuhan, China. The experience was clumsy, confusing and inconsistent. 

What we learned is that real experiment, because from the time that we first called for an unmanned cab, it took us four hours before we actually got the cab. But once we were in it, it actually works. 

– Eunice Yoon, CNBC

Ultimately it took Ms. Yoon four hours to reach her destination in a fully autonomous Baidu robotaxi. Today, the company operates a mixed fleet of 500 vehicles with plans to increase the fleet size to 1,000 by the end of the year. But how many of these vehicles will be fully autonomous?

Baidu’s fleet today consists of both robotaxis with human safety drivers and fully autonomous robotaxis. The exact numbers of the fleet mix are unclear, but one thing is for certain, Baidu still has a long way to go. 

Our take: We continue to take a wait and see approach to the Chinese autonomous vehicle market.

Social Buzz

Supervised Autonomous Driving in The Valley of the Sun

Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years LL Cool J once rapped. Cruise has been here for years and they are now back on the road. Pundits tried to knock them out, special interests said we are going to knock you out. Collectively they thought Cruise had a glass jaw and would fold like a cheap suit, they were sadly mistaken. 

They stepped into the ring with Rocky Marciano. Mr. Marciano, one of the greatest fighters in history had incredible strength and stamina. He would wear down opponents and finish them off with a powerful right hook. 

Cruise has shown incredible strength and stamina in the face of uncertainty. A lot of credit goes to GM leadership, Ms. Mary Barra, Mr. Mark Reuss and Mr. Paul Jacobson. They could have simply shutdown Cruise and written-down their investment, instead they doubled down

In the spirt of Mr. Marciano they showed grit. As Cruise revamps and prepares to once again reintroduce a robotaxi service, the company has taken the first step by introducing supervised autonomous driving in Phoenix.

Our takeOne small step in a greater journey. The autonomous vehicle industry is still in its infancy and Cruise will once again play a significant role. Just don’t call it a comeback. 

Cruise parent GM is a The Road to Autonomy Index component company

Envisioning Tokyo in 2050

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is hosting SusHi Tech Tokyo 2024 (May 17 – 21, 2024) with a focus on showcasing what Tokyo could look like in 2050. Japanese autonomous driving start-up TIER IV will be showcasing their autonomous taxis and their autonomous buses. 

We commend the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for hosting the event and showcasing the future of autonomy. Japan will become one of the most important countries for the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles and autonomous trucks. 

With an aging population and an acute driver shortage, Japan could become one of the first countries to usher in the autonomy economy. While Japan develops autonomous driving technology natively, we have our eyes on May Mobility and Gatik. Both companies have deep ties to Japan through their investors and partners. 

Could May Mobility and Gatik expand to Japan in the near future? We would say that anything is possible. 

Our takeWe remain bullish on Japan. After the United States and China, Japan is the most important market for autonomy. 

May Mobility investor Toyota is a The Road to Autonomy Index component company 

Mapping in The City of Magnificent Distances

Waymo has begun testing and collecting data in Washington, D.C. These plans were first announced on March 18th. Could The District be Waymo’s next expansion city after Austin? Then perhaps Miami? 

If Waymo does indeed expand to Washington, would the service be shut down during the inclement weather months? Or is Waymo gearing up to operate in light snow and freezing rain?

Our take: Waymo’s eastward autonomous drive continues. As Waymo autonomously drives eastward, our eyes remain focused on the South East.

Waymo parent Alphabet is a The Road to Autonomy Index component company

The Road to Autonomy Index® / Weekly Performance 

The Road to Autonomy Index® is a high-definition lens into the emerging world of autonomous vehicles. It is the world’s first and only pure-play index designed to measure the performance of the autonomous vehicle/truck market.

For the week of May 13th, The Road to Autonomy Index returned 1.13%, the S&P 500 returned 1.54% and the NASDAQ 100 returned 2.12%. The Road to Autonomy Index underperformed the S&P 500 by 0.41% and underperformed the NASDAQ 100 by 0.99%. 

The Road to Autonomy Index Performance – Week of May 13, 2024 

Year to Date (YTD), The Road to Autonomy Index has returned 11.46% 

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The Road to Autonomy & Autonomy Economy Podcasts 

The Road to Autonomy podcast features unconventional conversations about the future of mobility and the `Autonomy Economy features an insider’s perspective on the economics of autonomy. New episodes weekly.

Tesla’s Robotaxi Gamble: License FSD to Automakers or Go At It Alone

Tesla Model Y - The Road to Autonomy
Tesla Model Y | Source: Tesla

Pete Bigelow, Senior Reporter, Automotive News joined The Autonomy Economy podcast to discuss Tesla’s robotaxi gamble and the prospects for Tesla to license FSD.

Listen on The Road to Autonomy | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | YouTube Music

Watch on X | YouTube

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Increasing Warehouse Efficiency and Solving Labor Shortages with Autonomous Forklifts

Gideon Autonomous Forklift - The Road to Autonomy
Gideon Autonomous Forklift | Source: Gideon

Josip Cesic, CEO & Co-Founder, Gideon joined The Road to Autonomy podcast to discuss the transformation that the warehouse logistics industry is undergoing driven by an urgent need for increased efficiency and automation.

Listen on The Road to Autonomy | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | YouTube Music

Watch on X | YouTube

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Autonomy Insights

Autonomy Insights keeps you ahead of the trends and influences that are shaping the future of the autonomy economy. New episodes every Monday.

Goodbye Car Ownership, Hello Tesla Subscription Service

Tesla Subscription Service - The Road to Autonomy

Tesla is set to unveil its long-awaited CyberCab robotaxi on August 8th, reigniting promises from CEO Elon Musk about an autonomous ride-sharing future. But can Tesla finally deliver on its self-driving ambitions after years of missed targets? 

Pete Bigelow, Senior Reporter, Automotive News joined The Road to Autonomy Founder Grayson Brulte to discuss the pivotal make-or-break moment for Elon’s robotaxi dreams. 

They analyze whether CyberCab will just be another concept or if Tesla will succeed in autonomous driving. If Tesla introduces an all-inclusive subscription service that encompasses the lease payment, FSD subscription, charging and insurance into one monthly payment it would shake up the entire auto industry. 

Watch on The Road to Autonomy | X | YouTube | LinkedIn

Monday, May 13, 2024

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A weekly newsletter featuring insight and commentary on the autonomy economy™ and how the financial markets are viewing its emergence. 

All price references and market forecasts are as of the date that this newsletter has been sent. The Road to Autonomy is not providing any financial, economic, legal, accounting, or tax advice or recommendations in this newsletter. The information contained in this newsletter does not constitute investment advice and should not be relied upon to evaluate any potential transaction. 

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