Rivian’s S-1 document, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on October 1, 2021, discloses some pretty interesting business details about Rivian’s financial status (such as a net loss of $994,000,000 in the first half of 2021 alone), as well as the state of preorders for itsmR1T truck and R1S SUV (48,390). You can read the whole IPO (initial public offering) filing if you’re into hundreds of pages of headache-inducing business documents. Or, skip the dreary fine print, and let’s talk about something interesting we learned: Rivian’s plan to charge for Level 3 driver assist technology. (Or, if you’re more into adventure, go straight to our wild Rivian road trip).
The Rivian Forums discussion thread—which also has a link to the whole document—points out that Rivian expects the lifetime revenue (LTR) opportunity from software-enabled services to be $15,500 (pages 110-111). Rivian defines LTR potential as the revenue it can generate from its Rivian vehicles throughout its lifetime (considered to be 10 years), if the owner, in this case, subscribes to everything possible. Level 3 driving capabilities account for $10,000, and a monthly subscription plan for infotainment, connectivity, diagnostics, and other services (maybe something like this membership) accounts for the other $5,500. Basically, Level 3 driving capabilities won’t be free; they’ll be behind a paywall. Rivian anticipates getting some sort of revenue at some point for the feature.
This implies Level 3 driving capabilities are or will be possible, but will need to be enabled; the wording indicates that the hardware is there but the software will need unlocking. Sound familiar? We don’t know all the details (flat fee, flat subscription, tiered subscription, on-demand, etc. ), but Rivian seems to be following in the footsteps of Tesla. Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Capability option also costs $10,000, or $99-199 per month as a subscription.
When we’re talking about Rivian’s Level 3 driver assist setup, we’re not talking Rivian’s Driver +, the “free” version, which is standard on every Rivian vehicle. Driver+ is hands-free, but it still requires the driver to be prepared to take over control of the wheel at a moment’s notice. It supports but does not replace attention, judgment, and driver control. It’s a collection of Level 2 active safety features that control motor, braking, and steering systems, assisting drivers when certain criteria are met.
Driver+ uses the vehicle’s adaptive cruise control and lane centering systems, and is further supported by the truck’s or SUV’s automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, forward collision warning, dynamic brake support, lane keep assist, highway assist, and park assist. Lane change assist and trailer assist could join in as over-the-air software updates. Driver+ utilizes 11 cameras (one that watches to make sure the driver is engaged), 12 ultrasonic sensors, five radars, and a high-precision GPS antenna to monitor the environment.
So no, the Rivian Driver+ is not a Level 3 driving system. But here’s the connection: “We expect our platform’s architecture will enable us to evolve and expand our Driver+ offerings to support SAE Level 3 autonomy” (page 116).
In a nutshell, Level 3 ain’t gonna come free. Or, to quote one of the discussion thread comments: “$10,000 buys a whole lot of Lyft rides—that’s as hands-off as it gets.”
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