The Station - The 2021 predictions issue

TechCrunch Newsletter
TechCrunch logo
The Transportation logo

Saturday, January 02, 2021 By Kirsten Korosec

Hi friends and new readers, welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B.

You might have heard, it’s a New Year. Yup, buh-bye 2020. Since many of you are likely enjoying the final days of a holiday I will keep this newsletter short and sweet. (Well, short for me.)

TechCrunch is cooking up some delectable morsels — in a figurative news-related sense — for this year. Stay tuned, I’ll be sharing more next week. In the meantime, Happy New Year readers. I wish you all good health and happiness in 2021.

Email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

 

My 2021 predictions

I spent the past few weeks thinking about 2020 and the many challenges that the year delivered to the world, and more specifically to the transportation ecosystem of planes and public transit, electric scooters and mopeds, along with traditional personally-owned vehicles and newer mobility realms such as ride-hailing, car-sharing and autonomous vehicles.

Those challenges didn’t disappear with the dawn of a New Year. Nor did the opportunities.

Here’s what I expect, and will be watching for, in 2021. I will dig into AVs and EVs in this issue. Next week, I’ll weigh in on ride-hailing and on-demand delivery (the human operated kind) as well as connected cars and advanced driver assistance systems.

Autonomous vehicles

The wave of consolidation that began in 2020 will continue this year, leaving fewer players that are aiming to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology in three distinct areas: robotaxis, trucking and delivery.

In 2020, Starsky Robotics shut down, Uber sold its self-driving subsidiary to Aurora and autonomous delivery startup Nuro acquired Ike Robotics.

This evolution is not yet complete.

I’ll be paying attention to the activities of all the big AV players including Cruise, Motional, Waymo and Zoox. I’m particularly interested in how Aurora will handle absorbing Uber ATG into its operations. I’m also watching for progress at Argo AI, which has spent the past several months integrating VW’s self-driving subsidiary Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) into its operations.

I expect big moves by the often-overlooked Voyage, including new partnerships and driverless operations.

Autonomous delivery will see the most investment, consolidation and commercialization activity in 2021. This won’t be the year when autonomous delivery becomes ubiquitous. But expect more pilot programs in urban, and even suburban and rural areas as companies try to figure out what environment and form factor — sidewalk bots, purpose-built vehicles that operate on roads or drones — produces the best economics.

New regionally focused entrants will pop up in 2021 and drone delivery companies will expand to larger geofenced areas.

I’m also curious to see what becomes of Postmates’ autonomous robot now that Uber has completed its acquisition of the on-demand delivery company.

Companies pursuing autonomous trucking are going to learn that long-haul logistics are more difficult and expensive than previously thought. While companies will continue to focus on Class 8 trucks that can operate without a human, expect greater activity in the so-called middle-mile logistics market. This is an area that startup Gatik AI has targeted with some successful results.

The middle-mile market, in which autonomous trucks run frequent trips from large distribution centers to local retailers, will become increasingly important as consumers continue to order groceries and other goods online. Amazon, Walmart and Kroger are just a few of the large and deep-pocketed companies keenly interested in finding faster and cheaper ways to move goods. Expect more investments and even acquisitions from big retailers.

Autonomous vehicle regulations in the United States will shift in 2021 due to the new Biden Administration. The changes won’t happen immediately; there will be far more activity in 2022 and beyond. But there will be change nonetheless.

The Trump Administration has taken a light touch to autonomous vehicle development and deployment, choosing to stick with voluntary guidelines instead of creating new mandatory rules. For instance, last month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted a notice that clarified AV policy and seemed to make the path to deployment much easier. (Read the details in my Dec. 21 newsletter)

President-elect Joe Biden nominated former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as the next Secretary of Transportation, a Cabinet position that will have him overseeing the Federal Highway Administration and NHTSA among other roles. The expectation is that Buttigieg will lead the charge (ahem) for electric charging infrastructure. What’s less clear is how he and the Biden Administration will approach automated vehicle technology and the advanced driver assistance systems found in today’s modern vehicles.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the automotive industry group, released its four-year plan last month for how it wants the federal government to act. The group made 14 recommendations that includes reforming regulations to allow for AV deployment at scale. Expect the Alliance for Automotive Innovation to push for a national AV pilot program and a new vehicle class for AVs.

Electric vehicles

A bevy of new electric vehicles from startups and legacy automakers will arrive in 2021. The Lucid Air, Rivian R1T and R1S, Audi Q4 etron and Nissan Ariya will come to market, while production ramps up for the Ford Mustang Mach-E and VW ID.4 .

In the latter half of the year, we should also see a few electric pickups from Lordstown Motors and the first deliveries of the BMW iX and the GMC Hummer EV.  I don’t expect the Tesla Cybertruck to appear until the very end of 2021, if not 2022.

In the U.S., I’ll be watching for policy changes at the federal level that might encourage more consumers to make the switch to electric vehicles. According to Politico, there is $40 billion in unused Energy Department loan authority that was awarded under the 2009 stimulus. These funds could become central piece of the incoming Biden Administration’s climate and infrastructure plan. While those loans will likely go towards energy storage and other infrastructure, it’s worth noting that former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm will be heading up the DOE. Granholm was directly involved in the Obama Administration’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry during the Great Recession.

Electric bikes, mopeds, scooters and even skateboards will continue to grow in 2021 as consumers look for means of getting around town without buying a car or using personal transit.

That doesn’t mean every ebike or scooter company will prosper. Some shared electric scooter companies have struggled in 2020 or shut down altogether. Others are switching to subscription -based models. Expect the tinkering to continue.

Read more stories on TechCrunch.com

Newest Jobs from Crunchboard

See more jobs on CrunchBoard

Post your tech jobs and reach millions of TechCrunch readers for only $200 per month.

Facebook Twitter Youtube Instagram Flipboard

View this email online in your browser

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Unsubscribe

© 2021 Verizon Media. All rights reserved. 110 5th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Commentaires

Articles les plus consultés