The robotaxi game is getting spicier

Waymo’s in front, but Amazon, Tesla, and Rimac could be on its heels.

Like it or not — and this video shows there’s a lot of “not” out there — the robotaxi revolution isn’t going away.

A collage of three vehicles.

For all of the setbacks, including running into telephone poles and getting lit aflame by an angry mob in the video above, robotaxi companies are undeterred.

(Well, except for Apple, which squashed its secretive self-driving car project earlier this year.)

Where things stand

It’s been a busy 2024 for the key players, a year in which “the whole industry is on thin ice”:

  • Waymo
    • Right now: When it comes to actual cars on actual roads with actual paying customers inside of them, the Alphabet-owned company wins. It has already eclipsed 2m paid riders.
    • What’s next: This week, it went fully operational in San Francisco. Can its pricing and scale compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft? That’s the crucial industry question, and one Waymo is best set up to answer.
  • Cruise
    • Now: GM’s AV division has been off the road entirely after its license was suspended last fall.
    • Next: GM isn’t giving up, restarting test-driving and rebuilding Cruise’s executive team this month. Our suggested first move? Extending an olive branch to pissed off firefighters.
  • Amazon
    • Now: It acquired Zoox four years ago and has patiently been building a fleet of ride-hailing AVs ever since.
    • Next: One of the industry’s biggest wild cards, Zoox is readying to show its hand — its funky-looking vehicles should soon start service in Las Vegas.
  • Tesla
    • Now: CEO Elon Musk, who’s long teased a robotaxi, said he’ll unveil one on Aug. 8 — though he never said which year.
    • Next: It’s hard to imagine a quick, easy rollout for a new Tesla product. Its last launch, Cybertruck, has seen four recalls over its seven-month existence.

The addition to watch

Keep an eye on Verne, the robotaxi announced this week by Croatian automaker Rimac (which also owns Bugatti).

The two-seat vehicle is a futurist’s dream — it’s fully autonomous, having no steering wheel, pedals, or mirrors — and is reportedly on track for a 2026 launch in Zagreb.

Rimac would advance the custom riding experience, allowing customers to set temperature and lighting via app before their hailed vehicle arrives, play their own music and movies, and even pipe in a mango scent.

Will Verne be safe, practical, or economical, though? No idea. Waymo shouldn’t be sweating too hard — yet.

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