Self-driving cars may not hit the road in earnest for many years - but autonomous boats could be just around the pier. Spurred in part by the car industry's race to build driverless vehicles, marine innovators are building automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the Atlantic and Pacific. The first such autonomous ships could be in operation within three years. One experimental workboat spent this summer dodging tall ships and tankers in Boston Harbor, outfitted with sensors and self-navigating software and emblazoned with the words "UNMANNED VESSEL" across its aluminum hull. "We're in full autonomy now," said Jeff Gawrys, a marine technician for Boston startup Sea Machines Robotics, sitting at the helm as the boat floated through a harbor channel.
Ford said it would invest $4 billion through 2023 in its newly formed autonomous vehicle unit, Ford Autonomous Vehicles, as it looks to produce self-driving cars in the next three years. The No. 2 U.S. automaker said the new unit would include self-driving systems integration, autonomous vehicle research and advanced engineering. It will go up against Google parent Alphabet's Waymo, Uber, Tesla and doxens of other into the lucrative market. Ford recently announced a collaboration with Miami-Dade County in Florida to test its self-driving vehicle business model on the streets of Miami and Miami Beach. The No. 2 U.S. automaker said the new unit would include self-driving systems integration, autonomous vehicle research and advanced engineering.
The prospect of self-driving cars is particularly concerning to people who make their living by driving, whether it's a taxi or working for Uber or Lyft. Companies such as Lyft have made no secret about being interesting in adding autonomous vehicles to their fleets. But where does this leave their human drivers? Lyft's product director Taggart Matthiesen told Recode that while the company is focusing on self-driving tech, they will always employ people as drivers. Matthiesen explains that the company already has an advisory board that is working on how human drivers will fit into a vision of a driverless fleet.
Self-driving cars have been a focus for a variety of tech companies, but they've typically been boutique or high-end models that have had to be produced in limited numbers. However, General Motors has made a major investment in its self-driving offerings that could make them easier to produce down the road. GM announced Tuesday it had completed production on 130 Chevy Bolt EVs equipped with self-driving technology. Notably, this group of Bolt EVs is the first to be produced in a mass-production facility. The fleet was produced at GM's factory in Michigan where production began in January.
Like many self-driving car companies, Waymo has an extensive testing and research presence in Arizona. To help with their testing, Waymo has now joined up with an unlikely partner. Waymo announced Monday car rental company Avis Budget Group would help manage its fleet of self-driving cars in the state, Bloomberg reported. As part of the partnership, Avis facilities in Arizona will provide physical maintenance for Waymo's fleet of cars, including tasks like tire and oil changes, but will not care for self-driving hardware on the car like its Lidar sensors for environmental detection. The stock price for Avis Budget Group, the parent company of companies including Avis and Zipcar, jumped to a high of $29.14 per share on news of the partnership.