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Trucks Catch Up in Self-Driving Vehicle Race

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Paul Newman, founder of British autonomous vehicle software startup Oxbotica, next to a converted pickup truck that has been used to test self-driving operations with a mining company, in Oxford, U.K.

With fewer regulatory and technological hurdles, trucks operating on major highways, fixed delivery routes, or in environments far from cyclists and pedestrians are being seen as a faster way to generate returns.

Credit: Rick Carey/Reuters

Some investors expect trucks to overtake cars in becoming fully autonomous and profitable, with trucks facing fewer regulatory and technological barriers to deployment.

Startup data platform PitchBook estimated that investment in self-driving logistics vehicles jumped from $1.3 billion to $6.5 billion in the year through Dec. 6, while outlays for robotaxi firms shrank from $10.8 billion to $8.4 billion.

Robotic Research's Alberto Lacaze said his company was deploying autonomous vehicles at scale where the business case works for clients "right now."

Lacaze said, "They don't have to wait until 2025, unlike robotaxis where you need to have the cost of all the sensors come down by an order of magnitude."

Still, realizing a national autonomous truck network will be a long journey, because driverless trucks will slow to respond to unpredictable human drivers.

From Reuters
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