2018 – the year in autonomous driving

As a I did last year I want to recap what happened 2018 in regards to autonomous driving and autonomous cars.

But before starting with the highlights of every month in 2018 I want to highlight two topics.

  1. The german car industry is at the edge of getting irrelevant. They still did‘t realize that the car of the future is electric and some kind of smartphone on wheels. In 2018 two electric cars were released, the Audi e-tron and the Mercedes EQC. Both cars with an electric powertrain but built into a already-existing body based on models with ICE. This shows the fear to re-start everything and to rethink the approach of developing cars.
  2. Elon Musk announced in October 2016 that until the end of 2017 a fully self-driving Tesla will drive from coast to coast in the US. Elon Musk said the following: “Our goal is, and I feel pretty good about this goal, that we’ll be able to do a demonstration drive of full autonomy all the way from LA to New York, from home in LA to let’s say dropping you off in Time Square in New York, and then having the car go park itself, by the end of next year,” he said on a press call today. “Without the need for a single touch, including the charger.”
    Unfortunately nothing happened in 2017 and 2018 – there was no public announcement that a Tesla drove from coast to coast fully autonomously. Maybe they tried – and failed. Or Tesla had to much work and problems to solve to ramp up production for Model 3. Nevertheless expect that Tesla has something to tell you about self-driving cars for 2019.

And now let’s go into detail for our monthly flashback of 2018:


Aurora Innovations, the company which was started by the former Google self-driving car guru Chris Urmson, announced that they will help Volkswagen and Hyundai building fully autonomous cars.

Ford announced it’s new self-driving „platform“ on which partners like Lyft, Domino‘s Pizza, and Postmate should use the self-driving cars fleet of Ford. The system is called „Transportation Mobility Cloud“ und should be the operating system for the future of mobility.

Ford acquires two more companies to expand their mobility focused branch. The two companies are Autonomic and TransLoc.

Voyage, the self-driving car company which was a spun-off of Udacity launches it‘s robotaxi service in a 125k residents village in Florida called „The Villages, Florida“.

Waymo announced that they expand to Atlanta as the next city for public testing of their self-driving car service.

Here, the european Google Maps  alternative announced two new shareholders. Besides the already invested companies like Audi, BMW, Daimler, Intel and Pioneer, Bosch and Continental joined the crowd with 5 percent stake each.


Byton and Aurora are building a a self-driving electric SUV. Each of them is one of the most intriguing, young companies that want to change the world of todays automobile industry.

The EU asked the big car companies and their suppliers to invest in battery manufacturing heavily. Their is a need for a european Gigafactory. But there is still reluctance on the side of the industry. The CEO of Bosch, Volkmar Denner said, you need to invest €20bn until 2030 to get a 20% market share.

Waymo got the green-light to start a complete autonomous robotaxi service in Arizona. This means that Waymo is the first company in the USA to get such a permission.

Waymo and Uber reach a settlement after five days of trial. The conditions are that Uber is not using Waymo IP or technology and are handing over 0.34% in equity.

California gives green lights for testing fully driverless cars on public roads without a safety driver.


Former Faraday Future employees founded a new EV startup called Evelozcity. They plan to bring their first vehicle to market in 2021.

Lyft is partnering with auto supplier Magna to build  a self-driving platform. Both companies are not sharing any details yet besides that it should be „market-ready over the next few years“.

A self-driving Uber car killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. This is the first person that was killed by a self-driving car.

The town of Arlington in Texas plans to replace their local bus service with Via, the on-demand ride-sharing provider. Via plans to deploy a fleet of 10 commuter vans in Arlingtons downtown region.

The city of Beijing gives Baidu green-light to test self-driving cars on public roads. And this just days after an Uber autonomous vehicle killed a pedestrian in the US.


Waymo and Honda are planning to build a self-driving vehicle together. This means that Waymo is changing it‘s strategy from modifying existing models to co-create a vehicle from scratch.

Didi Chuxing kicked off the Beijing auto show by saying it has forged an alliance of 31 auto industry companies to develop cheap, electrified vehicles for new mobility in China.

The goal is to have 1 million electric vehicles in Didi‘s network by 2020.


Elon Musk told investors in Tesla‘s Q1 2018 earnings call that they have the ambitions to launch an autonomous-vehicle ridesharing network. From the technical standpoint, Tesla will be ready by the end of 2019.

After the investigation why the Uber self-driving car killed the pedestrian Uber now thinks they found the answer: the car‘s sensors saw her, but may have flagged the detection as a ‚false positive‘.

Apple‘s self-driving car fleet grows to 55 in California. That means that Apple has the second largest fleet of self-driving cars in California. General Motor‘s Cruise has the most with 104 and on the 3rd place there is Waymo with 51 cars.

Apple has decided to partner with Volkswagen for self-driving employees shuttles. The plan is to turn some of Volkswagen‘s T6 Transporter vans into autonomous shuttles for employees.


General Motor‘s subsidiary Cruise received a $2.25bn investment from SoftBank‘s Vision Fund. Together with another $1.1bn from GM itself Cruise should be enabled to commercially deploy self-driving Robotaxis in 2019.

NuTonomy got the permission from Boston to test autonomous vehicles city-wide. Until now nuTonomy was allowed to test in specific regions of Boston.

Didi Chuxing and SoftBank are investing $2bn in ride-hailing company Grab. This means that the valuation is nearing $6bn.

The governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts hosted a ceremonial bill signing event which paves the way for the use of autonomous vehicles in Nebraska. With this it is possible to test autonomous vehicles on public roads.


Anthony Levandowski is back with a new self-driving startup, called Kache.ai. Due to the companies website it seam that the new company is focused on self-driving trucks, just as Otto did, the company that Uber bought and how Levandowski came to Uber.

A former Apple employee charged with stealing trade secrets from Apple‘s self-driving car project. With this the employee was allegedly trying to get a job at Alibaba-backed Xiaopeng Motors.

Waymo‘s autonomous vehicles are driving 25,000 miles every day. Uptil now they drove 8 million miles on public roads. At that point of time Waymo had a fleet of 600 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on the road in 25 cities. And more interesting is that Waymo has driven more than 5 billion miles in it simulators.

Ford plans to spend $4bn on developing self-driving cars by 2023. That includes a $1bn investment in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company which is developing self-driving cars.


Apple had the first accident within it‘s self-driving vehicle program. It occurred on August 24th when the test car was attempting to merge onto an expressway near it‘s headquarters and traveling about 1 mile per hour when it was read-ended by a Nissan Leaf. Not injuries were reported.

Toyota invests $500mn in Uber and expands it‘s partnership to jointly develop self-driving cars. With this deal Uber values at around $72bn.

The Russian technology giant Yandex has begun to test self-driving taxis in Innopolis, a small town build a few years ago to foster education in technology and entrepreneurship. Yandax describes the tests as the first autonomous ride-hailing service in Europe.


Apple‘s fleet of autonomous vehicles boosts its ranks by 27 percent since may. That means that the company now has 70 autonomous vehicles permitted to test on public roads.In 18 months Apple increased from 3 to 70.

Waymo announced that they started the commercialisation of their robotic taxi service: „We do now have people paying for rides“, the CFO of Alphabet Ruth Porat explained.

GM and Honda are teaming up to build autonomous vehicles. For this Honda invests $2.8bn over the next 12 years with paying $750mn immediately to get a 5.7% stake in Cruise Holdings.

Toyota and SoftBank are teaming up to form a new autonomous car project called „Monet“. This is short for „mobility network“ which will combine Toyota‘s Mobility Services Platform and information infrastructure for connected vehicles with SoftBank‘s Internet of Things platform.

The State of Illinois started to create a Public-Private Partnership to Advance Autonomous Vehicle Testing & Development. This is called „Autonomous Illinois“ and wants to position Illinois into the New State of Mobility.


Days after General Motors CEO Mary Barra unveiled major restructuring the auto giant said President Dan Ammann will be the new head of Cruise, GMs self-driving car company. The previous CEO and cofounder of Cruise, Kyle Vogt, is going to shift his position to president and chief technology officer.

China requires electric car manufacturers to track real-time driving data from their customers fleet and then share it with the government. This raises big concerns of what the chinese government is doing with this vast amount of data. It could be seen as ubiquitous surveillance.

Amazon released a self-driving toy car which can be used for coders to leverage Amazon‘s machine learning suite. AWS is even creating a sports league and championship cup, AWS DeepRacer.

Uber joins the Ranks of GM and Waymo in publishing it‘s AV Safety Report publicly. This could be seen as a move to bring in transparency in Uber‘s self-driving car efforts after the accident back in April where a pedestrian was killed.


Volkswagen started to promote their biggest new development and new hope for the future: the Volkswagen ID. For that they invited the press to South Africa to test drive the prototype of the car that is going to be available for customers in 2020. This move came days after Tesla‘s announcement to make the Model 3 available for customers in Europe starting in February 2019.

Pronto.ai, the new self-driving car startup of Anthony Levandowski already drove 3099 miles cross country with it‘s self-driving Prius prototype autonomously. Only for refuelling and breaks were made with the help of the driver. The self-driving prodigy himself told this the Guardian.

Zoox is the first company to gain California‘s approval for operating a self-driving taxi service for public passengers. „This is a really, really significant milestone as we head towards commercial launch, which we have stated is towards the end of 2020“, said Bert Kaufman, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Zoox.

 That‘s the recap for 2018 – let’s see what‘s coming in 2019.