The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Waymo Announces Ohio Test Site; AutoX Announces Driverless Testing In China; And More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | December 03, 2020

Waymo Announces New Ohio Test Site
Waymo announced that it will be opening a new test facility outside Columbus, Ohio in 2021. To be built at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, the new facility will focus on driving in dense, urban areas as well as heavy-duty truck testing and motion control testing. After taking its AVs to Michigan in the winter of 2017 to drive on snow and ice, It is also likely that Waymo will be using its Ohio base for more testing in wintry conditions.

While the company has tested its AVs in a variety of locations, this will be Waymo’s first permanent location at a third-party testing facility. In addition, Waymo also announced it will be opening a new reasearch and development facility in Menlo Park, California, close to parent company Alphabet’s headquarters. The location will focus on Class 8 trucks, and will also be ready next year.

AutoX Announces Driverless Testing In China
Chinese autonomous vehicle startup AutoX, backed by Alibaba Group, said on Thursday it has started fully driverless vehicle testing in China. Using a fleet of Chrysler Pacificas, the company will have a fleet of 25 driverless vehicles in Shenzhen and five in other cities to test the technology. AutoX, which is also backed by Chinese automakers Dongfeng and SAIC, was the second company after Waymo to test a passenger vehicle in the United States without a backup driver present, but is the first to do so in China.

In addition, the company has also decided to forego using remote drivers if the vehicles encounter issues while on the road, saying its proprietary XCU vehicle control unit “provides multiple layers of redundancy to handle this kind of situation.” AutoX chief executive Xiao Jianxiong also told the media that “with current communications infrastructure, remote control brings safety issues as 5G signals are not stable yet and hackers might attack the vehicles.”

Luminar Goes Public With SPAC Merger
Lidar manufacturer Luminar started trading as a public company on Thursday under the ticker symbol LAZR, after going through a merger with Gores Metropoulos Inc., a special-purpose acqusition company (SPAC). The deal is expected to make Luminar CEO Austin Russell, who founded the company as a 17-year-old, a billionaire at the age of 25. “We set up the company to be a long-term sustainable business and power the future of autonomy for all of these automakers. We are in it for the long-term,” he told CNBC.

Luminar is one of three lidar makers to choose the SPAC route to public markets. Velodyne Lidar Inc. became public in September after such a merger, and Aeva Inc. said last month it plans to become public via a merger with InterPrivate Acquisition Corp. All three companies are vying for leadership in the lidar market, and Luminar has a deal with Geely-owned Volvo as well as partnerships with Mobileye and Daimler.