Insider Transportation: Why Aurora wants Uber’s self-driving team, the return of sail power, the next Jeff Bezos, and more

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After years of struggles, Uber is selling its self-driving arm to Aurora. Uber

From its creation in 2015, Uber’s self-driving program has suffered from — and created — a series of problems. In its early days, it struggled to meet then-CEO Travis Kalanick’s demands and catch up to Google’s self-driving team (now known as Waymo). Then it landed at the centre of a massive lawsuit in which Waymo accused Uber of stealing trade secrets. Weeks after the companies settled the case, a self-driving Uber struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona while she was crossing the street. Subsequent investigations revealed the program’s shoddy safety culture, infighting problems, and a general failure to make much progress toward liberating humanity from the driver’s seat.

No surprise, then, that in economically dire times, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wanted to offload the expensive program. What is odd is that Aurora, the self-driving outfit helmed by former Google lead Chris Urmson — a famously careful and methodical engineer — became the buyer. We got him on the phone to explain what he sees in the team Uber no longer wanted.

Read our interview with Urmson right here, get more of the week’s transportation news below, and if you haven’t yet, sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox every week.

The 37-year-old billionaire who could be the next Jeff Bezos

RJ Scaringe founded Rivian in 2009 when he was 26. More than a decade on, his electric-vehicle startup is in a primo spot: It’s getting ready to deliver its first two vehicles in 2021, it’s building a fleet of 100,000 delivery vans for Amazon, and Scaringe is a billionaire who’s been compared to Jeff Bezos and legendary auto exec Alfred Sloan. Here’s what you should know about the man racing to remake the auto industry.

Shippers reconsider wind power

Come 2022, ships with 150-foot sails could become a common sight in New York Harbour, and they won’t have anything to do with historical reenactments. Like everyone moving goods by sea, commodities giant Cargill is hoping to reduce costs, especially given new environmental regulations that are phasing out the use of very cheap but very dirty bunker fuel. So Cargill is trying a new spin on an old tech: high-tech sails, developed by a team with experience in Formula One and America’s Cup yacht racing, that promise to cut its fuel use by 30%.

Dry ice is so hot right now

The race to deliver billions of COVID-19 vaccines all over the world is officially on, and some US-based airlines have a distinct advantage. The frozen form of carbon dioxide is crucial for keeping those vaccines at super low temperatures during transit, but flying with too much of the stuff has long been considered a safety risk to pilots and passengers. Here are five airlines and logistics players who’ve secured the right to carry unprecedented amounts of dry ice — a potentially key advantage when it comes to capitalising on the airlift of a lifetime.

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