In this week’s edition, Elon Musk makes some noise, VCs continue to blow FreightTech bubbles, and some evidence emerges that big changes really are in the air. To get future editions of Freight News in Cartoons sent directly to your inbox, subscribe here.
Elon Musk Strikes Again
Elon Musk made some noise at a recent event when he claimed that LIDAR technology isn’t worth pursuing, that Tesla will reach Level 5 autonomy in 2020 and will soon be competing in the on-demand taxi service industry, and that it’s “financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla.” Some suspected that his claims may not hold water.
Still, though Musk’s timelines might be off, a recent McKinsey report predicts that autonomous fleets of electric robo-taxis could be generating $1.5-2 trillion in revenue by 2030. They believe that autonomous, connected, electric and shared technologies will continue to converge and give rise to a shift away from owning cars and toward Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).
Uber’s autonomous technology unit raising $1 billion of additional funding from Softbank, Toyota and Denso, could be a seen as a sign that more and more companies are trying to figure out how to make sure they grab a slice of the MaaS pie.
Show Freight Tech the Money
Meanwhile, venture capitalists continue to put the hammer down when it comes to freight tech. 29 deals worth over $1.6 billion closed in Q1 of 2019 alone, including names like Flexport, NEXT Trucking, Fourkites, Flexe, FreightWaves and Bringg.
KeepTruckin just raised $149 million to reach a $1.4 billion evaluation, and Ford just invested $500 million of equity into Rivian, announcing a plan to develop a new electric vehicle for Ford’s lineup on Rivian’s skateboard platform.
As the lines between OEMs, tech and transportation companies continue to blur, it will be interesting to see when and where early winners and losers begin to emerge. In twenty years, a handful of these deals will look like steals. Most will look foolish. But I guess that’s the game.
I Guess We're In Virginia Now
Though it’s easy to poke fun at outlandish founder claims and frothy VC valuations, there does seem to be something really special happening in the transportation and logistics industry right now.
There are heated debates happening between hydrogen fuel cell proponents and electric battery enthusiasts. Arguments over which zero-emission technology will take the helm from diesel would’ve sounded like science fiction not long ago. Now, Nikola has had to stop taking orders until they’re better able to meet surging demand.
Google drones will soon be delivering burritos and other small packages to people’s backyards and doorsteps in Virginia. UPS is already delivering medical supplies by drone, while JD.com and DHL have been using them to deliver parcels in hard to reach places.
In fact, there’s been so much going on that it took over a year for anyone to notice that Amazon quietly launched their own freight-matching brokerage service.
When you really start to look, signs of transformative change are everywhere. Money is pouring into the industry. Tech and retail giants, new and old OEMs, and startups of every stripe are bringing innovative, creative and hardworking solutions to market.
Times are changing, iterating, evolving. Opportunity is in the air. I suppose only time will tell if fortune really does favour the bold.
Steele Roddick is a Content Specialist at Microdea where he creates content that helps transportation companies drive their business forward. He’s endlessly fascinated by technology trends, chess, and discovering new places to travel with his wife.