We’d all be whizzing round in robotaxis by now if Elon Musk had been right.
Instead, fully self-driving cars are struggling to get away from the starting grid and some investors are betting that driverless trucks will reach the chequered flag first.
Only a year ago, startups developing robotaxis were pulling in eight times more funding than firms working on autonomous trucks, buses and logistics vehicles, but the gap has narrowed dramatically in 2021.
With fewer regulatory and technological hurdles, trucks operating on major highways, fixed delivery routes or in environments far from cyclists and pedestrians such as mines and ports are now being seen as a faster way to generate returns.
In the year through Dec. 6, total investment activity for self-driving logistics vehicles leapt fivefold to $6.5 billion from $1.3 billion in the same period in 2020, according to startup data platform PitchBook.