The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Continental Cost-Cutting Drive Delays AV Investment; Volvo Teams With Luminar To Speed AV Driving; And More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | May 08, 2020

Continental Delays AV Investments In Drive To Cut Costs

Facing a fall in first-quarter operating profits of 47 percent as the automotive production falls 25 percent worldwide, German parts supplier Continental announced that it was postponing investments in new IT projects and production capacity expansion, as well as putting on hold some investment into its self-driving technology. “If you delay autonomous investments for level 4 and level 5 capability by six months, you have not lost the market, since this market will only emerge in 10 years,” Chief Financial Officer Wolfgang Schaefer told Reuters.

The decision to delay AV investments is being seen across the industry, as companies look for ways to save money in the short-term to see them through the pandemic. However, the path to the widespread deployment of self-driving cars is a long one, and a sharp drop in the short term may not necessarily derail investment in the longer term. “You’ve got to think two to three years out, and most people think COVID isn’t going to be a long-term thing, it’s going to be a short-term disruption,” Howard Abbey of SBD Automotive told Automotive News.

Volvo Teams Up With Luminar To Speed Autonomous Driving

Volvo announced this week that it is integrating Luminar’s Lidar sensors into its next-generation SPA2 platform, as it seeks to offer autonomous highway driving by 2022. Volvo bought a stake in Luminar in 2018 and has been working with the company to offer autonomous driving and its plans to offer a highway pilot feature. “We have reached the point where we feel that this technology is so interesting and adds so much to the functionality we want to build that we now enter a project phase for taking this into production on our next platform,” Volvo CTO Henrik Green told Reuters.

Argo AI Profile Details Company’s Work On Safe Self-Driving

An in-depth profile of Argo AI, the self-driving startup into which Ford is investing $1 billion, chronicles the career of company CEO Bryan Salesky through his early years in autonomy at Carnegie Mellon and Google before starting Argo AI. The article also details how Ford came to be involved, as the company sought a partner to fast-track its AV ambitions—even as it was a rare automaker that took part in the early DARPA AV challenges—and describes Argo AI’s differing approach to the development and use of autonomous driving tech.

Separately, Ford has also released a comprehensive self-driving dataset to academics and researchers, with the company noting in a Medium post that “there’s no better way of promoting research and development than ensuring the academic community has the data it needs to create effective self-driving vehicle algorithms.” Even as other companies like Waymo have released datasets, the breadth and depth of Ford’s release has been described as “unusual.” It was collected over an entire year, it includes a variety of weather conditions, including rain, sun, clouds and snow.