Driverless car and trucking companies have promised to bring us into the future, but so far, all that many of them have managed to do is crash.
Major businesses in the self-driving vehicle and tech space, including Aurora, TuSimple, and Embark Technology, lost a combined $40 billion in value between going public and October 2022. The sector’s bad fortunes have only continued this year.
Autonomous trucking startups have faced shutdowns, layoffs, and plunging shares. Driverless car companies have come under intense scrutiny over safety issues. General Motors’ autonomous vehicle arm, Cruise, was forced to shut down operations altogether, and Tesla launched a massive recall of 2 million vehicles due to problems with its automated driving system.
Quartz compiled a timeline of the failures in the self-driving vehicle world in 2023:
❄️ January 2023
Aurora Innovation, a driverless truck company, starts the year at $1.27 per share, down 87% from its IPO stock price. Waymo, a robotaxi business and rival to Cruise, announces layoffs and pushes back the rollout of its autonomous trucking project.
California labor unions hold a rally in Sacramento protesting the potential reversal of a ban on driverless trucks on public roads.
Self-driving truck business Embark Technology is acquired by Applied Intuition for $71 million after laying off 70% of its staff earlier in the year. The company was initially valued at $5 billion in 2021.
Cruise recalls 80 vehicles after a crash in San Francisco injures two people.
The California Public Utilities Commission gives approval for Cruise and Waymo to operate around the clock across San Francisco. Cruise vehicles cause traffic jams the next day. Just one week later, Cruise is forced to cut its operations in the city in half, after one of its driverless taxis runs into a firetruck.
Twenty Cruise cars cause a major traffic jam in Austin, Texas.
A Cruise robotaxi hits a pedestrian in San Francisco and drags her 20 feet. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles bans the company from operating in the city. Meanwhile, Austin, Texas’s transportation department reports it has received 40 complaints from residents and first responders about Cruise vehicles, with pedestrians worried the cars will hit them. The company suspends its US fleets in Austin and Houston, Texas, as well as Phoenix, Arizona, just as US regulators launch an investigation into its operations.
A Washington Post analysis finds that at least 40 fatal Tesla crashes since 2016 involved its driver assistance software. Tesla recalls nearly all of its cars in the US over problems with its Autopilot feature. California regulators accuse Cruise of covering up the seriousness of its October crash in San Francisco. The company dismisses nine executives and lays off 24% of its workers.