Last week, Lyft sold its self-driving car division to a subsidiary of Toyota for $550 million. Cruise bought Voyage. Aurora merged with Uber’s autonomous vehicle unit. Delivery robot startup Nuro acquired self-driving truck outfit Ike. There have been so many mergers, joint ventures, and various tie-ups lately it can be difficult to keep them all straight.
Where that leaves things is a little unclear. There is still money flowing to these companies, and nearly all of the executives, engineers, and software developers working on the technology remain bullish about the future. But there is a growing sense among experts and investors that the heady days when anyone with a couple of test vehicles, some LIDAR, and a vision for the future could launch a startup are at an end. And there will definitely be more shrinkage to come.
“The consolidation is long overdue,” said Raj Rajkumar, robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “The AV industry has promised too much for too long, and has delivered too little.”