Amazon Wednesday made perhaps its most significant move yet into the self-driving car space, announcing an investment in autonomous tech developer Aurora. For a company with one of the largest logistics operations on the planet, it’s about time.
“Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it’s in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we’re excited about the possibilities,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. Amazon and Aurora declined to disclose the terms of the investment.
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Amazon has previously dabbled in this space. It was a partner on Toyota’s e-Palette concept project. It pitches its Amazon Web Services unit as a tool for autonomous vehicle developers and hosts an autonomous racing league for 1/18th-scale race cars. In 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported the company had formed a small team focused on driverless tech, and CNBC reported last month that it’s working with robo-trucking startup Embark to move some goods on the I-10 freeway. Amazon is developing robots to schlep groceries and food deliveries.
Link to the rest at Wired
PG hasn’t seen a lot of detailed analysis in the business press about the potential for liability coming back to bite the investors in self-driving cars.
In March of last year, an Uber self-driving car was involved in a fatal vehicular accident. The auto hit and killed a woman who was walking with her bicycle and it appeared that the Uber vehicle’s self-driving systems did not respond in any way calculated to avoid hitting the woman.
The Department of Motor Vehicles in California has issued regulations governing self-driving cars in that state and has some sort of process for issuing permits to operate those vehicles on public roadways.
While contemplating this matter, it occurred to PG that a vehicular murder caused by subtle adjustments to a self-driving car’s software/firmware to cause the vehicle to home in on a particular cell phone signal could make a nice book.