Waymo will stop selling its self-driving LiDAR sensors to other companies

Just months after a CEO shakeup, Waymo is officially halting sales of its custom sensors to third parties. The move sees the Alphabet-owned self-driving company unwinding a business operation just two years into its lifespan. Waymo confirmed the decision to Reuters, adding that it’s now focusing on deploying its Waymo Driver tech across its Waymo One ride-hailing and Waymo Via trucking divisions.

The decision comes in the wake of long-term CEO John Krafcik’s departure, who was replaced at the helm by Waymo execs Tekedra Mawakana and Dmitri Dolgov. Some suggested that Krafcik’s deliberate approach was hindering the company’s push toward commercialization. Earlier this month, Waymo hit a milestone of 20 billion miles driven in simulations, with 20 million on public roads. Just days ago, it brought its robotaxis to vetted riders in San Francisco.

Waymo began selling LiDARs — the tech that measures distance with pulses of laser light — to companies barring its autonomous vehicle rivals in 2019. It initially planned to sell its short-range sensor (known as Laser Bear Honeycomb) to businesses in the robotics, security and agricultural technology sectors. A form on its website also lists drones, mapping and entertainment as applicable industries.

Waymo’s fifth-generation Driver technology uses an array of sensors — including radar, lidar, and cameras — to help its cars “see” 360 degrees during the day and night, and even in tough weather conditions such as rain or fog. While its simulated and real world driving tests have helped it to amass a massive dataset that is crunched using machine learning-based software. According to anonymous sources cited by Reuters, Waymo intends to use in-house tech and external suppliers for its next-gen LiDARs.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#autonomous-driving, #autonomous-trucking, #av, #column, #lidar, #tc, #tceng, #waymo

Why regulators love Nuro’s self-driving delivery vehicles

Nuro’s delivery autonomous vehicles (AVs) don’t have a human driver on board. The company’s founders Dave Ferguson (president) and Jiajun Zhu’s (CEO) vision of a driverless delivery vehicle sought to do away with a lot of the stuff that is essential for a normal car to have, like doors and airbags and even a steering wheel. They built an AV that spared no room in the narrow chassis for a driver’s seat, and had no need for an accelerator, windshield or brake pedals.

So when the company petitioned the U.S. government in 2018 for a minor exemption from rules requiring a rearview mirror, backup camera and a windshield, Nuro might have assumed the process wouldn’t be very arduous.

They were wrong.

If Nuro is to become the generation-defining company its founders desire, it will be due as much to innovation in regulation as advances in the technology it develops.

In a 2019 letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) “[wondered] about the description of pedestrian ‘crumple zones,’ and whether this may impact the vehicle’s crash-worthiness in the event of a vehicle-to-vehicle crash. Even in the absence of passengers, AAMVA has concerns about cargo ejection from the vehicle and how Nuro envisions protections from loose loads affecting the driving public.”

The National Society of Professional Engineers similarly complained that Nuro’s request lacked information about the detection of moving objects. “How would the R2X function if a small child darts onto the road from the passenger side of the vehicle as a school bus is approaching from the driver’s side?” it asked. It also recommended the petition be denied until Nuro could provide a more detailed cybersecurity plan against its bots being hacked or hijacked. (R2X is now referred to as R2)

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (now the Alliance Automotive Innovation), which represents most U.S. carmakers, wrote that the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) should not use Nuro’s kind of petition to “introduce new safety requirements for [AVs] that have not gone through the rigorous rule-making process.”

“What you can see is that many comments came from entrenched interests,” said David Estrada, Nuro’s chief legal and policy officer. “And that’s understandable. There are multibillion dollar industries that can be disrupted if autonomous vehicles become successful.”

To be fair, critical comments also came from nonprofit organizations genuinely concerned about unleashing robots on city streets. The Center for Auto Safety, an independent consumer group, thought that Nuro did not provide enough information on its development and testing, nor any meaningful comparison with the safety of similar, human-driven vehicles. “Indeed, the planned reliance on ‘early on-road tests … with human-manned professional safety drivers’ suggests that Nuro has limited confidence in R2X’s safe operation,” it wrote.

Nuro-R2-specs-infographic

Nuro’s R2 delivery autonomous vehicle. Image Credits: Nuro

Despite such concerns, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) granted Nuro the exemptions it sought in February last year. Up to 5,000 R2 vehicles could be produced for a limited period of two years and subject to Nuro reporting any incidents, without a windshield, rearview mirror or backup camera. Although only a small concession, it was the first — and so far, only — time the U.S. government had relaxed vehicle safety requirements for an AV.

Now Estrada and Nuro hope to use that momentum to chip away at a mountain of regulations that never envisaged vehicles controlled by on-board robots or distant humans, extending from the foothills of local and state government to the peaks of federal and international safety rules.

If Nuro is to become the generation-defining company its founders desire, it will be due as much to innovation in regulation as advances in the technology it develops.

Regulate for success

“I don’t think any of the credible, big AV players want this to be a free-for-all,” said Dave Ferguson, Nuro’s co-founder and president. “We need the confidence of a clear regulatory framework to invest the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars necessary to manufacture vehicles at scale. Otherwise, it’s really going to limit our ability to deploy.”

#alliance-of-automobile-manufacturers, #auto-safety, #automation, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #av, #california, #dave-ferguson, #department-of-defense, #ec-1, #extra-crunch, #extra-crunch-ec-1, #google, #government, #lyft, #national-highway-traffic-safety-administration, #national-science-foundation, #nuro, #nuro-ec-1, #robotics, #self-driving-car, #startups, #transport, #transportation, #u-s-department-of-transportation, #united-states

How Nuro became the robotic face of Domino’s

Pandemic pizza was definitely a thing.

U.S. consumers forked out a record-breaking $14 billion to have pizza delivered to their doors in 2020, and nearly half of that total was spent with just one brand: Domino’s.

“Domino’s is the home of pizza delivery,” said Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief innovation officer. “Delivery is at the core of who we are, so it’s very important for us to lead when it comes to the consumer experience of delivery.”

U.S. consumers forked out a record-breaking $14 billion to have pizza delivered to their doors in 2020, and nearly half of that total was spent with just one brand: Domino’s.

In its latest TV ad, an order of Domino’s pizza speeds to its destination inside a Nuro R2X delivery autonomous vehicle (AV). The R2X (now known as R2) deftly avoids potholes, falling trees and traffic jams caused by The Noid — a character created by Domino’s in the 1980s to symbolize the difficulties of delivering a pizza in 30 minutes or less.

The reality is much more sedate. Domino’s currently has just one R2X that operates from a single Domino’s store on the generally calm streets of Woodland Heights in Houston, Texas. And since the AV’s introduction in April, The Noid has yet to put in an appearance.

“The R2X adds a bunch of efficiencies while not taking away from any existing capabilities,” Maloney said. “As we start getting the bot into regular operation, we’ll see if it plays out the way we expect it to. So far, all the indications are good.”

Nuro-Domino

Nuro and Domnio’s launched the autonomous pizza delivery service in Huston in April this year. Image Credits: Nuro

Partnerships are key for Nuro. The company’s business model is to sign contracts with established brands that either have their own branded vehicles or use traditional delivery companies like UPS or the U.S. Postal Service.

Nuro is carrying out trials and pilot deliveries with a number of companies, including fast casual restaurant chain Chipotle, Kroger grocery stores, CVS pharmacies, bricks-and-mortar retail behemoth Walmart, and, most recently, global parcel courier FedEx. While it is a dizzyingly impressive list for a company less than five years old, their interest was driven as much by global trends as by Nuro’s technology, admits Cosimo Leipold, head of partnerships at Nuro.

“Everybody today wants what they want and they want it faster than ever, but frankly they’re not willing to pay for it,” Leipold said. “We’ve reached a point where almost every company is going to have to offer delivery services, and now it’s just the question of how they’ll do it in the best possible way and with the most possible control.”

Nuro’s delivery AVs — aka bots — offer the tantalizing promise of safe, reliable and efficient delivery without sacrificing revenue and customer data to third-party platforms like Grubhub, DoorDash or Instacart. Alongside Nuro’s stated aim of driving the cost of delivery down to zero, it is little surprise that Nuro now finds itself in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose the partners it wants — and the less enviable position of having to choose which partner to prioritize.

Here’s the story of how one of Nuro’s biggest partnerships came to be, and the lessons and companies that will drive its future growth.

Deliveries with extra cheese

Domino’s has a long history of innovating in delivery, usually accompanied by a strong marketing campaign. In the 1980s, the company bought 10 customized Tritan Aerocar 2s, a Jetsons-styled three-wheeler, for use as delivery vehicles. In 2015, the company unveiled the DXP, a Chevrolet Spark modified with a single seat and a built-in warming oven, designed specifically for transporting pizza.

#autonomous-vehicles, #av, #dominos-pizza, #ec-1, #extra-crunch-ec-1, #ford-motors, #greylock-capital, #john-lilly, #kroger, #nuro, #nuro-ec-1, #refraction-ai, #robotics, #self-driving-car, #startups, #transportation, #united-states, #walmart

Here’s what the inevitable friendly neighborhood robot invasion looks like

In early 2021, a Nuro autonomous delivery vehicle pulled to a halt at a four-way stop in its hometown of Mountain View, California to let a user cross. This seemingly humdrum moment quickly looked like a decidedly science fiction storyline — the user was a small sidewalk robot from another startup on its own mission.

“Obviously, we yielded to it, but it was, wow, we have entered a different world,” said Amy Jones Satrom, head of Operations at Nuro.

Mountain View is home to competitor Waymo and other autonomous vehicle testing activity. But for those who want to take part in that science fiction scene, Houston provides the full experience.

Nuro’s operations team has to delicately balance speed, safety, convenience and congestion, even as the company embarks on a growth spurt that will see robots spreading to other cities, states and partners in the months ahead.

Waymo is testing self-driving trucks in Houston, and a fully driverless shuttle service is due to start public service there early next year. Nuro’s Texas effort started in April, when an R2 robot began its commercial pizza delivery service in partnership with Domino’s. Some customers ordering pizzas from the Domino’s Woodland Heights store will see the option to have their pies delivered by robot.

Customers can trace the progress of the self-driving vehicle on the Domino’s app and, when it pulls up outside their home, tap in a unique PIN on its touchscreen to access their order. Nuro is also operating in Houston with Kroger supermarkets and FedEx.

Nuro-validation test

Nuro team on test track during early validation in AZ, before first ever public road deployment in Arizona. Image credit: Nuro

“One of the things we laugh about is how customers constantly talk to the bot,” Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief innovation pfficer said. “It’s almost like they think it’s ‘Knight Rider.’ It’s very common for customers to thank it or say goodbye, which is great because that indicates we’re creating an engaging experience that they’re not frustrated by.”

Creating an experience, where people want to chat with their new robot neighbors instead of chasing them down the street with pitchforks, falls to Jones Satrom’s operations team. It has to delicately balance speed, safety, convenience and congestion, even as Nuro embarks on a growth spurt that will see robots spreading to other cities, states and partners in the months ahead.

Here’s how it manages that, and what the future holds for Nuro’s ever-so-gentle robot invasion.

Mapping the territory

Few people are as well suited to overseeing Nuro’s high-stakes robot rollout as Jones Satrom, who started her career as a nuclear engineer on an aircraft carrier and previously managed the integration of Kiva Systems’ robots into Amazon’s warehouses.

#artificial-intelligence, #autonomous-vehicles, #av, #dave-ferguson, #dominos-pizza, #ec-1, #extra-crunch-ec-1, #greylock-capital, #houston, #john-lilly, #nuro, #nuro-ec-1, #refraction-ai, #robotics, #self-driving-cars, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #walmart, #waymo

Kodiak Robotics’ founder says tight focus on autonomous trucks is working

Kodiak Robotics is one of the last private autonomous vehicles companies focused on trucking that is still standing. Nearly all the rest have been wooed by the public marketplace and the capital it can provide. But co-founder and CEO Don Burnette says the three-year-old company’s strategy of staying focused and small(er) is paying off.

It will be able to deploy a commercial-scale operation for about $500 million in funding, he says in the interview below. To put those go-to-market costs in perspective, that’s 10% of what Waymo has raised in external fundraising and less than 25% of newly publicly traded company TuSimple’s total fundraise.

Kodiak’s strategy is to take a specialized, hyperfocused approach to autonomous trucking that outsources a lot of tech, like data labeling, lidar, radar and mapping, to existing companies. Burnette, who was one of four founders of the self-driving truck startup Otto that Uber acquired, thinks this is a faster, cheaper and more efficient path to commercialization versus building out your own systems and teams.

The company is moving freight for commercial customers, dipping its toes in the market by working with technology partners within the existing ecosystem. Burnette says Kodiak’s Driver technology has achieved a level of maturity where it can handle anything the highway throws at it. In December, the startup achieved “disengagement-free deliveries” between Dallas and Houston, meaning the autonomous system didn’t have to be switched off for safety reasons.

The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders who are building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity. 

You previously told me that Kodiak would need about $500 million in total funding to get to commercial driverless. You also said you’ve had some undisclosed funding rounds, but publicly, you’ve only raised $40 million. Can you still execute on your vision this far off?

Absolutely. We are always, as startups are, in fundraising mode. We’re always talking to investors. And there’s a lot of great things happening behind the scenes currently that we haven’t yet announced. We are growing, we’re hiring, if you can look to that as an indicator of the health of a company.

Our tech and our plan is really sound, and we are building up our commercialization efforts in a way that I think is going to be very exciting to the overall industry and to the market. We will need to raise more money, as you pointed out, that’s certainly no secret, but I think that we have multiple options to do that.

“Kodiak is one of the only remaining serious AV trucking companies still in the private sector, and so I think that gives us some advantages in a lot of ways.”

How do you intend to close that gap? Are you looking at venture capital, or maybe going for an IPO or SPAC?

We’re considering all of the above. It’s a constant conversation internally on what is the best path for Kodiak, what is the appetite of the various forms of investors and strategic relationships. Nothing is excluded.

The stock market is obviously very attractive and exciting. I think TuSimple has demonstrated that an IPO with the right set of metrics and the right set of momentum and partners is possible and can be successful. I think there’s also lots of opportunity within the VCs and the private markets. Kodiak is one of the only remaining serious AV trucking companies still in the private sector, and so I think that gives us some advantages in a lot of ways.

What’s your sense of the venture funding environment right now in autonomous? Is it harder now than it was, say, four years ago?

The appetite has changed. In particular, investors are more skeptical of timelines and promises. There is not this sense of Wild West excitement like there was four or five years ago, and that was the Golden Age of raising capital, certainly for earlier stage companies.

Kodiak was at the tail end of that age, and now the goalposts have changed, and the target investors have changed. It’s no longer the early-stage VCs that companies like Kodiak and others are talking to. It’s more of the growth-stage funds, and growth-stage funds look for different types of metrics. They look for commercial traction, product-market fit, users, efficiencies, etc.

#adas, #artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #av, #don-burnette, #electric-vehicles, #kodiak-robotics, #logistics, #self-driving-cars, #self-driving-truck, #tc, #transportation, #uber, #waymo

Widespread AV adoption starts with driver assistance systems consumers can trust

In the past year, many of the conversations around autonomous vehicles (AVs) have been dominated by the same question: When will self-driving cars be the norm on public roads?

While industry leaders talked a big game on AVs monopolizing our roads back in 2016, today some experts have put widespread Level 4 adoption over a decade away. However, even that timeline only works if automakers overcome significant barriers — both technical and behavioral. The challenge of bringing AVs to consumers will be tougher than anticipated, with a central part of the effort being focused on earning the public’s trust.

Consumer confidence and mass adoption of AVs go hand in hand. To meet the projected timelines and start building this critical trust today, automakers should accelerate the adoption of autonomous capabilities into advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

The challenges facing current ADAS technologies

The truth is that consumers do not yet trust the ADAS capabilities in their vehicles. A 2021 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey found that 80% of drivers wanted current vehicle safety systems, like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance, to work better, noting the lack of confidence consumers feel around current offerings.

While consumers seem to be aware that AV technologies are advancing quickly, this lack of trust from users will be a major barrier to full adoption and can pose a threat to the industry — no matter how far along the technology develops.

Despite significant recent advancements in the industry, including announcements from Cruise gaining permission to give rides in driverless test vehicles to passengers in California, AAA studies indicate that still only one in 10 drivers would be comfortable riding in a self-driving car. While consumers seem to be aware that AV technologies are advancing quickly, this lack of trust from users will be a major barrier to full adoption and can pose a threat to the industry — no matter how far along the technology develops.

To aid in building the public’s confidence, the industry must focus today on more advanced and reliable ADAS to meet consumer demands. However, current offerings face major challenges that must be resolved before the majority of consumers will get on board:

  1. Lack of reliability in common adverse conditions: Technologies including lidar and camera are limited to what they can “see” around them. These systems can be easily obstructed by snow, dirt and debris covering the vehicle’s sensors. Additionally, without clear, crisp lane markings — in the event of snow, heavy rainfall or off-road conditions — or strong GPS signals, the typical sensors tracking vehicle location will not function properly.
  2. Poor detection: There have been several cases where ADAS technologies have been unable to detect degraded lane markings, pedestrians, other vehicles or common on-road objects, resulting in injury and even death for drivers and pedestrians.
  3. Low understanding by the general public: While some ADAS features are designed to operate independently, there is still a consistent lack of public knowledge when it comes to understanding how to best utilize the systems’ abilities to maximize safety. This lack of awareness poses an unnecessary threat to drivers who inadvertently misuse the technology as well as to those with whom they share the roads.

Addressing these challenges and creating better automated driving experiences for consumers is a critical step to mass adoption of future AV technology. The most immediate opportunity to move the needle with consumer acceptance in this area is to target improving reliability and user experience — especially with dynamic vehicle safety systems. To do so, automated and autonomous vehicles need improved sensors and software that enhance today’s systems and, as a result, boost consumer confidence in the safety of automated capabilities.

A fresh perspective on vehicle positioning

In the last decade, the industry has made various advancements in positioning systems, which locate a vehicle to the centimeter on roadways and are critical additions to traditional hardware stacks. As a result, experts have been placing bets on technologies such as ground-penetrating radar and novel mapping techniques as the final missing piece to robust vehicle positioning due to their ability to operate in adverse driving conditions and navigate highly dynamic environments.

While it is clear there are different avenues AVs can take to increase their reliability on the road, automakers are still trying to determine which approach can unlock the change in performance required for broad adoption.

When taking a closer look at the differentiators that make these technologies stand out, a common thread is how they address three critical issues: the absence of roadside features such as on open highways, within parking lots or when a car is boxed in by trucks and vision is limited; the reliance of camera-based systems on clear, consistent lane markings; and quickly changing environments in which the scene on the surface looks different from one moment to the next and HD maps quickly become unusable. These common challenges have left consumers frustrated with inconsistent and unreliable ADAS features.

One way to overcome these critical gaps is to explore other avenues for reliable vehicle positioning such as ground-penetrating radar — which allows vehicles to determine their precise location in adverse weather or in rough terrain, amid poor GPS availability and other common barriers faced by automated systems today — to show improved autonomy is possible. By adding these novel approaches into vehicles, automakers can create more reliable and accurate ADAS features — safeguarding the automated driving experience.

Leaning on ADAS as a vehicle for consumer confidence and mass AV adoption

A recent study from Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) found that consumers familiar with ADAS technology were more likely to feel positive about autonomous cars and that 75% who currently own a vehicle with ADAS features say they are excited about future safety technology. This shows consumer engagement in today’s ADAS features can lead to more positive attitudes on tomorrow’s AV adoption.

As an industry, where do we go from here? Many are finding that there is a unique opportunity to resolve the future issues of autonomous vehicle operations by attacking them head-on in present-day ADAS systems — where they will otherwise be a future problem that will block mass adoption.

We need to address these critical issues with ADAS technologies and create better driving experiences to earn the public’s trust. By using higher-performing ADAS as a pathway to mass AV adoption, we can arrive at the destination safely.

The industry, along with consumers, can build a safe autonomous future.

#adas, #automation, #automotive, #av, #column, #opinion, #self-driving-car, #tc, #transport, #transportation

Ghost raises $100M Series D for autonomous driving and crash prevention tech

Autonomous driving system developer Ghost Locomotion has raised a $100 million Series D funding round, led by Sutter Hill Ventures. Returning investor Founders Fund also participated in the round, along with Coatue. The money will be used toward R&D as the company continues to develop its highway self-driving and crash prevention technology.

Ghost has been working on a universal collision avoidance technology. The system is premised on the idea that an autonomous driving system doesn’t need to recognize and categorize objects prior to avoiding them – a major paradigm shift. Most systems begin by identifying an object and then use image localization to determine its size, distance and other relevant features.

“We skip that step,” Ghost CEO John Hayes told TechCrunch. “We’re going to recognize anything, any mass that appears in the scene, and then we can get a distance and relative velocity to that. We can start making decisions directly off that data before we’ve classified anything.”

Ghost instead tracks the movement of clusters of pixels in a scene. Hayes pointed to instances where an object is misclassified, or objects that the system hasn’t trained on, as possible failure modes and a reason why classification does not need to be a prerequisite for collision avoidance. Much of this comes down to the certainty of the system’s decisions. According to Ghost, an autonomous system that starts from image recognition is one loaded with lots of opportunity for uncertainty – and it argues, less safe actions on the road.

One obvious counter-argument is that objects should be classified because they behave differently – a vehicle acts differently than a pedestrian, so classification is what allows a system to predict their behavior. But Hayes said that one shouldn’t start with classification, but collision avoidance. “And then if you want to make predictions, you can still do classification,” he said.

One benefit of its system, according to Ghost, is that it requires less computational power – an important consideration for vehicle owners, as higher processing demands can translate into less fuel efficiency. It’s also important for battery electric vehicles that have autonomous driving systems, as each watt of computer power demanded by the AV system can cause a reduction in driving range. Tesla, for example, revealed in 2019 that driving range could be reduced by up to 25% when the driver-assist system was enabled.

Ghost has performed most if its tests off-road, by setting up physical obstacles or by using augmented reality up against a real vehicle. It has not yet started testing its collision avoidance system in an urban environment, where decision complexity skyrockets considerably. Nor has it started testing on public highways – that will begin this year, and scale up next year, with a human safety driver behind the wheel, Hayes said.

The company seems to have slightly altered its market roadmap since it last talked to TechCrunch in 2019. Then, Ghost was developing a consumer kit that would give privately owned passenger vehicles autonomous driving capability on highways. It had estimated that it would debut the kit in 2020, for less than Tesla’s Autopilot package (which went for around $7,000 at the time).

The company hasn’t completely closed the door on this model – Hayes said that “we want to get this in front of customers” – but now it’s also talking about working with automakers directly to get its technology stack into vehicles before they’re even sold.

“We’ll find any path to market we can take,” he added. Under the straight-to-consumer model, the company is starting with a limited number of compatible models, and the cars must be relatively new due to the minimum technological requirements of the system.

Along with the funding news, Ghost also said it had brought on Jacqueline Glassman, former Chief Counsel and Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as General Counsel. She joined the company in April and will likely play a key role as Ghost joins other autonomous driving technology developers in the path to commercialization.

#automation, #automotive, #autonomous-driving, #autonomous-vehicles, #av, #ghost-locomotion, #tc, #transportation

Scale AI CEO Alex Wang weighs in on software bugs and what will make AV tech good enough

Scale co-founder and CEO Alex Wang joined us at TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility 2021 this week to discuss his company’s role in the autonomous driving industry and how it’s changed in the five years since its founding. Scale helps large and small AV players establish reliable “ground truth” through data annotation and management, and along the way, the standards for what that means have shifted as the industry matures.

Good data is the “good bones” of autonomous driving systems

Even if two algorithms in autonomous driving might be created more or less equal, their real-world performance could vary dramatically based on what they’re consuming in terms of input data. That’s where Scale’s value prop to the industry starts, and Wang explains why:

If you think about a traditional software system, the thing that will separate a good software system from a bad software system is the code, the quality of the code. For an AI system, which all of these self-driving vehicles or autonomous vehicles are, it’s the data that really separates an amazing algorithm from a bad algorithm. And so one thing we saw was that being one of the stewards and shepherds of high-quality data was going to be incredibly important for the industry, and that’s what’s played out. We work with many of the great companies in the space, from Aurora to Nuro to Toyota to General Motors, and our work with all of them is ensuring that they have really a solid data foundation, so they can build the rest of their stacks on top of it. (Time stamp: 06:24)

#adas, #alex-wang, #alexandr-wang, #artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #av, #cybernetics, #ec-techcrunch-tc-mobility, #electric-vehicles, #mobility-2021, #nuro, #robotics, #scale-ai, #self-driving-car, #tc, #transportation

Extra Crunch roundup: TC Mobility recaps, Nubank EC-1, farewell to browser cookies

What, exactly, are investors looking for?

Early-stage founders, usually first-timers, often tie themselves in knots as they try to project the qualities they hope investors are seeking. In reality, few entrepreneurs have the acting skills required to convince someone that they’re patient, dedicated or hard-working.

Johan Brenner, general partner at Creandum, was an early backer of Klarna, Spotify and several other European startups. Over the last two decades, he’s identified five key traits shared by people who create billion-dollar companies.


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“A true unicorn founder doesn’t need to have all of those capabilities on Day One,” says Brenner, “but they should already be thinking big while executing small and demonstrating that they understand how to scale a company.”

Drawing from observations gleaned from working with founders like Spotify’s Daniel Ek, Sebastian Siemiatkowski from Klarna, and iZettle’s Jacob de Geer and Magnus Nilsson, Brenner explains where “VC FOMO” comes from and how it drives dealmaking.

We’re running a series of posts that recap conversations from last week’s virtual TC Mobility conference, including an interview with Refraction AI’s Matthew Johnson, a look at how autonomous delivery startups are navigating the regulatory and competitive landscape, and much more. There are many more recaps to come; click here to find them all.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

How contrarian hires and a pitch deck started Nubank’s $30 billion fintech empire

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

Founded in 2013 and based in São Paulo, Brazil, Nubank serves more than 34 million customers, making it Latin America’s largest neobank.

Reporter Marcella McCarthy spoke to CEO David Velez to learn about his efforts to connect with consumers and overcome entrenched opposition from established players who were friendly with regulators.

In the first of a series of stories for Nubank’s EC-1, she interviewed Velez about his early fundraising efforts. For a balanced perspective, she also spoke to early Nubank investors at Sequoia and Kaszek Ventures, Latin America’s largest venture fund, to find out why they funded the startup while it was still pre-product.

“There are people you come across in life that within the first hour of meeting with them, you know you want to work with them,” said Doug Leone, a global managing partner at Sequoia who’d recruited Velez after he graduated from grad school at Stanford.

Marcella also interviewed members of Nubank’s founding team to better understand why they decided to take a chance on a startup that faced such long odds of success.

“I left banking to make a fifth of my salary, and back then, about $5,000 in equity,” said Vitor Olivier, Nubank’s VP of operations and platforms.

“Financially, it didn’t really make sense, so I really had to believe that it was really going to work, and that it would be big.”

Despite flat growth, ride-hailing colossus Didi’s US IPO could reach $70B

Image Credits: Didi

In his last dispatch before a week’s vacation, Alex Wilhelm waded through the numbers in Didi’s SEC filing. The big takeaways?

“While Didi managed an impressive GTV recovery in China, its aggregate numbers are flatter, and recent quarterly trends are not incredibly attractive,” he writes.

However, “Didi is not as unprofitable as we might have anticipated. That’s a nice surprise. But the company’s regular business has never made money, and it’s losing more lately than historically, which is also pretty rough.”

What’s driving the rise of robotaxis in China with AutoX, Momenta and WeRide

AutoX, Momenta and WeRide took the stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to discuss the state of robotaxi startups in China and their relationships with local governments in the country.

They also talked about overseas expansion — a common trajectory for China’s top autonomous vehicle startups — and shed light on the challenges and opportunities for foreign AV companies eyeing the massive Chinese market.

The air taxi market prepares to take flight

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

“As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors,” Aria Alamalhodaei writes. “A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead.”

But while some electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) companies have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — valuations are skyrocketing.

“Electric air mobility is gaining elevation,” she writes. “But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead.”

The demise of browser cookies could create a Golden Age of digital marketing

Though some may say the doomsday clock is ticking toward catastrophe for digital marketing, Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, which does away with automatic opt-ins for data collection, and Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies do not signal a death knell for digital advertisers.

“With a few changes to short-term strategy — and a longer-term plan that takes into account the fact that people are awakening to the value of their online data — advertisers can form a new type of relationship with consumers,” Permission.io CTO Hunter Jensen writes in a guest column. “It can be built upon trust and open exchange of value.”

If offered the right incentives, Jensen predicts, “consumers will happily consent to data collection because advertisers will be offering them something they value in return.”

How autonomous delivery startups are navigating policy, partnerships and post-pandemic operations

Nuro second gen R2 delivery vehicle

Image Credits: Nuro

We kicked off this year’s TC Sessions: Mobility with a talk featuring three leading players in the field of autonomous delivery. Gatik co-founder and chief engineer Apeksha Kumavat, Nuro head of operations Amy Jones Satrom, and Starship Technologies co-founder and CTO Ahti Heinla joined us to discuss their companies’ unique approaches to the category.

The trio discussed government regulation on autonomous driving, partnerships with big corporations like Walmart and Domino’s, and the ongoing impact the pandemic has had on interest in the space.

Waabi’s Raquel Urtasun explains why it was the right time to launch an AV technology startup

Image Credits: Waabi via Natalia Dola

Raquel Urtasun, the former chief scientist at Uber ATG, is the founder and CEO of Waabi, an autonomous vehicle startup that came out of stealth mode last week. The Toronto-based company, which will focus on trucking, raised an impressive $83.5 million in a Series A round led by Khosla Ventures.

Urtasun joined Mobility 2021 to talk about her new venture, the challenges facing the self-driving vehicle industry and how her approach to AI can be used to advance the commercialization of AVs.

#artificial-intelligence, #av, #didi, #ec-techcrunch-tc-mobility, #entrepreneurship, #extra-crunch-roundup, #finance, #fintech, #klarna, #nubank, #robotaxi, #spotify, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #venture-capital

The rise of robotaxis in China

AutoX, Momenta and WeRide took the stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to discuss the state of robotaxi startups in China and their relationships with local governments in the country.

They also talked about overseas expansion — a common trajectory for China’s top autonomous vehicle startups — and shed light on the challenges and opportunities for foreign AV companies eyeing the massive Chinese market.


Enterprising governments

Worldwide, regulations play a great role in the development of autonomous vehicles. In China, policymaking for autonomous driving is driven from the bottom up rather than a top-down effort by the central government, observed executives from the three Chinese robotaxi startups.

Huan Sun, Europe general manager at Momenta, which is backed by the government of Suzhou, a city near Shanghai, said her company had a “very good experience” working with the municipal governments across multiple cities.

In China, each local government is incentivized to really act like entrepreneurs like us. They are very progressive in developing the local economy… What we feel is that autonomous driving technology can greatly improve and upgrade the [local governments’] economic structure. (Time stamp: 02:56)

Shenzhen, a special economic zone with considerable lawmaking autonomy, is just as progressive in propelling autonomous driving forward, said Jewel Li, chief operation officer at AutoX, which is based in the southern city.

#adas, #aptiv, #artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #av, #china, #early-stage-2021, #ec-mobility-hardware, #ec-techcrunch-mobility, #ev, #robotaxi, #saic, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #techcrunch-mobility-event-2021, #transportation, #waymo

Tezlab CEO Ben Schippers to discuss the Tesla effect and the next wave of EV startups at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

As Tesla sales have risen, interest in the company has exploded, prompting investment and interest in the automotive industry, as well as the startup world.

Tezlab, a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle, is just one example of the numerous startups that have sprung up in the past few years as electric vehicles have started to make the tiniest of dents in global sales. Now, as Ford, GM, Volvo, Hyundai along with newcomers Rivian, Fisker and others launch electric vehicles into the marketplace, more startups are sure to follow.

Ben Schippers, the co-founder and CEO of Tezlab, is one of two early-stage founders who will join us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to talk about their startups and the opportunities cropping up in this emerging age of EVs. The six-person team behind TezLab was born out of HappyFunCorp, a software engineering shop that builds apps for mobile, web, wearables and Internet of Things devices for clients that include Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, as well as an array of startups.

HFC’s engineers, including Schippers, who also co-founded HFC, were attracted to Tesla  because of its techcentric approach and one important detail: the Tesla API endpoints are accessible to outsiders. The Tesla API is technically private. But it exists allowing the Tesla’s app to communicate with the cars to do things like read battery charge status and lock doors. When reverse-engineered, it’s possible for a third-party app to communicate directly with the API.

Schippers’ experience extends beyond scaling up Tezlab. Schippers consults and works with companies focused on technology and human interaction, with a sub-focus in EV.

The list of speakers at our 2021 event is growing by the day and includes Motional’s president and CEO Karl Iagnemma and Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, who will discuss the past, present and future of AVs. On the electric front is Mate Rimac, the founder of Rimac Automobili, who will talk about scaling his startup from a one-man enterprise in a garage to more than 1,000 people and contracts with major automakers.

We also recently announced a panel dedicated to China’s robotaxi industry, featuring three female leaders from Chinese AV startups: AutoX’s COO Jewel Li, Huan Sun, general manager of Momenta Europe with Momenta, and WeRide’s VP of Finance Jennifer Li.

Other guests include, GM’s VP of Global Innovation Pam Fletcher, Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital, and Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson.

And we may even have one more surprise — a classic TechCrunch stealth company reveal to close the show.

Don’t wait to book your tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility as prices go up at our virtual door.

#alexandr-wang, #amazon, #api, #articles, #aurora, #automation, #autotech-ventures, #autox, #av, #ben-schippers, #ceo, #china, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #coo, #facebook, #fitbit, #founder, #happyfuncorp, #hyundai, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joby, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #linkedin, #major, #mate-rimac, #momenta, #motional, #pam-fletcher, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #rimac-automobili, #rivian, #robotaxi, #robotics, #scale-ai, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #startup-company, #tc, #technology, #tesla, #tezlab, #urban-innovation-fund, #volvo, #weride, #zoox

Just one more week to go until TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Seven days, 168 hours or 10,080 minutes — no matter how you count it, there’s just one week left until the global mobility tech community gathers on June 9 for TC Sessions: Mobility 2021. If you’re one of the brilliant minds focused on changing the future of transportation, grab your pass and join your tribe of revolutionaries.

Whether you’re into AI, AVs, EVs, robotics (not everything’s an acronym around here) or hunting potential unicorns, you’ll gain insight from the leading voices in mobility. We packed the event agenda with an exciting variety of interactive presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions. Bring your questions and join the conversation.

Here’s a peek at just some of the topics and people you can enjoy.

Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision: Few startups were as prescient as Scale AI when it came to anticipating the need for massive sets of tagged data for use in AI. Co-founder and CEO Alex Wang also made a great bet on addressing the needs of lidar-sensing companies early on, which has made the company instrumental in deploying AV networks. We’ll hear about what it takes to make sense of sensor data in driverless cars and look at where the industry is headed.

Innovating Future Mobility for Global Scale: Learn how the California Mobility Center’s (CMC) model of bringing its clients’ new technologies to market is new and innovative, going beyond a typical demonstration or pilot program, to the point of product launch and sustaining market viability. Hear from an expert panel about how the CMC’s programming is unique, innovative, and game-changing.

Building an Electric Powerhouse: Rimac Automobili, today known for its electric hypercars and battery and powertrain development, began like so many storied startups do — in a garage. Mate Rimac has taken his company from tiny upstart to a 1,000-person company that has attracted Porsche as an investor and customer. And more is coming. We’ll talk to Mate about building a startup, his views on the EVs, and what is next for the company.

Don’t stress out about missing out — this is a no FOMO situation. Your pass includes live streaming and VOD access. That kind of flexibility lets you attend live and still get some work done at your desk. VOD lets you tap into any of the sessions you miss.

But don’t miss out on the 30 game-changing mobility startups showcasing their tech and talent in the expo area. Visit their virtual booths, ask for a demo, or strike up a collaboration. You’ll also get a chance to see them pitch during the Startup Pitch Feedback Session (listed in the agenda). Those feedback sessions can help you hone your own pitch, so check it out and take notes.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place in just one week. Buy your pass today and keep the revolution rolling.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#alex-wang, #artificial-intelligence, #av, #california, #mate-rimac, #porsche, #rimac-automobili, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021

ChargerHelp co-founder, CEO Kameale C. Terry is heading to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Thousands of electric vehicle charging stations will be built around the country over the next decade. ChargerHelp!, founded in January 2020 by Kameale C. Terry and Evette Ellis, wants to make sure they stay up and running.

The idea for the on-demand repair app for EV charging stations came to Terry when she was working at EV Connect, where she held a number of roles including director of programs and head of customer experience. She noticed long wait times to fix non-electrical issues at charging stations due to the industry practice to use electrical contractors.

“When the stations went down we really couldn’t get anyone on site because most of the issues were communication issues, vandalism, firmware updates or swapping out a part — all things that were not electrical,” Terry said in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year.

After Terry quit her job to start ChargerHelp!, she joined the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, where she developed a first-of-its-kind EV Network Technician Training Curriculum. Shortly after, Terry and Ellis were accepted into Elemental Excelerator’s startup incubator and have landed contracts with major EV charging network providers like EV Connect and SparkCharge.

The company uses a workforce-development approach to hiring, meaning that they only hire in cohorts. Workers receive full training, earn two safety licenses, are guaranteed a wage of $30 an hour and receive shares in the startup, Terry said.

We’re excited to announce that Kameale Terry will be joining us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event that is scheduled June 9. We’ll be covering a lot of ground with Terry, from how she developed her EV repair curriculum to what she sees in the company’s future.

Each year TechCrunch brings together founders, investors, CEOs and engineers who are working on all things transportation and mobility. If it moves people and packages from Point A to Point B, we cover it. This year’s agenda is filled with leaders in the mobility space who are shaping the future of transportation, from EV charging to autonomous vehicles to urban air taxis.

Among the growing list of speakers are Rimac Automobili founder Mate RimacRevel Transit CEO Frank Reig, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler and Remix/Via co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu, who will come together to discuss how (and if) urban mobility can increase equity while still remaining a viable business.

Other guests include Motional’s President and CEO Karl Iagnemma, Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, GM‘s VP of Global Innovation Pam FletcherScale AI CEO Alexandr WangJoby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation FundQuin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct CapitalZoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson.

We also recently announced a panel dedicated to China’s robotaxi industry, featuring three female leaders from Chinese AV startups: AutoX’s COO Jewel LiHuan Sun, general manager of Momenta Europe with Momenta, and WeRide’s VP of Finance Jennifer Li.

Don’t wait to book your tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility as prices go up at the door. Grab your passes right now and hear from today’s biggest mobility leaders.

#alexandr-wang, #aurora, #automation, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #autox, #av, #ceo, #chargerhelp, #charging-station, #china, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #coo, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicle-charging-station, #electric-vehicles, #ev-connect, #events, #frank-reig, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joby, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #linkedin, #mate-rimac, #momenta, #motional, #pam-fletcher, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #revel-transit, #rimac-automobili, #robotaxi, #robotics, #scale-ai, #science-and-technology, #sparkcharge, #startups, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tiffany-chu, #transport, #transportation, #urban-innovation-fund, #weride, #zoox

Light is the key to long-range, fully autonomous EVs

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) hold immense promise. At times, the headlines about the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry seem ominous, with a focus on accidents, regulation or company valuations that some find undeserving. None of this is unreasonable, but it makes the amazing possibilities of a world of AVs seem opaque.

One of the universally accepted upsides of AVs is the potential positive impact on the environment, as most AVs will also be electric vehicles (EVs).

Industry analyst reports project that by 2023, 7.3 million vehicles (7% of the total market) will have autonomous driving capabilities requiring $1.5 billion of autonomous-driving-dedicated processors. This is expected to grow to $14 billion in 2030, when upward of 50% of all vehicles sold will be classified as SAE Level 3 or higher, as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Fundamental innovation in computing and battery technology may be required to fully deliver on the promise of AEVs with the range, safety and performance demanded by consumers.

While photonic chips are faster and more energy efficient, fewer chips will be needed to reach SAE Level 3; however, we can expect this increased compute performance to accelerate the development and availability of fully SAE Level 5 autonomous vehicles. In that case, the market for autonomous driving photonic processors will likely far surpass the projection of $14 billion by 2030.

When you consider all of the broad-based potential uses of autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) — including taxis and service vehicles in major cities, or the clean transport of goods on our highways — we begin to see how this technology can rapidly begin to significantly impact our environment: by helping to bring clean air to some of the most populated and polluted cities.

The problem is that AEVs currently have a sustainability problem.

To operate efficiently and safely, AEVs must leverage a dizzying array of sensors: cameras, lidar, radar and ultrasonic sensors, to name just a few. These work together, gathering data to detect, react and predict in real time, essentially becoming the “eyes” for the vehicle.

While there’s some debate surrounding the specific numbers of sensors required to ensure effective and safe AV, one thing is unanimously agreed upon: These cars will create massive amounts of data.

Reacting to the data generated by these sensors, even in a simplistic way, requires tremendous computational power — not to mention the battery power required to operate the sensors themselves. Processing and analyzing the data involves deep learning algorithms, a branch of AI notorious for its outsized carbon footprint.

To be a viable alternative, both in energy efficiency and economics, AEVs need to get close to matching gas-powered vehicles in range. However, the more sensors and algorithms an AEV has running over the course of a journey, the lower the battery range — and the driving range — of the vehicle.

Today, EVs are barely capable of reaching 300 miles before they need to be recharged, while a traditional combustion engine averages 412 miles on a single tank of gas, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Adding autonomous driving into the mix widens this gap even further and potentially accelerates battery degradation.

Recent work published in the journal Nature Energy claims that the range of an automated electric vehicle is reduced by 10%-15% during city driving.

At the 2019 Tesla Autonomy Day event, it was revealed that driving range could be reduced by up to 25% when Tesla’s driver-assist system is enabled during city driving. This reduces the typical range for EVs from 300 miles to 225 — crossing a perceived threshold of attractiveness for consumers.

A first-principle analysis takes this a step further. NVIDIA’s AI compute solution for robotaxis, DRIVE, has a power consumption of 800 watts, while a Tesla Model 3 has an energy consumption rate of about 11.9 kWh/100 km. At the typical city speed limit of 50 km/hour (about 30 mph), the Model 3 is consuming approximately 6 kW — meaning power solely dedicated to AI compute is consuming approximately 13% of total battery power intended for driving.

This illustrates how the power-hungry compute engines used for automated EVs pose a significant problem for battery life, vehicle range and consumer adoption.

This problem is further compounded by the power overhead associated with cooling the current generation of the power-hungry computer chips that are currently used for advanced AI algorithms. When processing heavy AI workloads, these semiconductor chip architectures generate massive amounts of heat.

As these chips process AI workloads, they generate heat, which increases their temperature and, as a consequence, performance declines. More effort is then needed and energy wasted on heat sinks, fans and other cooling methods to dissipate this heat, further reducing battery power and ultimately EV range. As the AV industry continues to evolve, new solutions to eliminate this AI compute chip heat problem are urgently needed.

The chip architecture problem

For decades, we have relied on Moore’s law, and its lesser-known cousin Dennard scaling, to deliver more compute power per footprint repeatedly year after year. Today, it’s well known that electronic computers are no longer significantly improving in performance per watt, resulting in overheating data centers all over the world.

The largest gains to be had in computing are at the chip architecture level, specifically in custom chips, each for specific applications. However, architectural breakthroughs are a one-off trick — they can only be made at singular points in time in computing history.

Currently, the compute power required to train artificial intelligence algorithms and perform inference with the resulting models is growing exponentially — five times faster than the rate of progress under Moore’s law. One consequence of that is a huge gap between the amount of computing needed to deliver on the massive economic promise of autonomous vehicles and the current state of computing.

Autonomous EVs find themselves in a tug of war between maintaining battery range and the real-time compute power required to deliver autonomy.

Photonic computers give AEVs a more sustainable future

Fundamental innovation in computing and battery technology may be required to fully deliver on the promise of AEVs with the range, safety and performance demanded by consumers. While quantum computers are an unlikely short- or even medium-term solution to this AEV conundrum, there’s another, more available solution making a breakthrough right now: photonic computing.

Photonic computers use laser light, instead of electrical signals, to compute and transport data. This results in a dramatic reduction in power consumption and an improvement in critical, performance-related processor parameters, including clock speed and latency.

Photonic computers also enable inputs from a multitude of sensors to run inference tasks concurrently on a single processor core (each input encoded in a unique color), while a traditional processor can only accommodate one job at a time.

The advantage that hybrid photonic semiconductors have over conventional architectures lies within the special properties of light itself. Each data input is encoded in a different wavelength, i.e., color, while each runs on the same neural network model. This means that photonic processors not only produce more throughput compared to their electronic counterparts, but are significantly more energy efficient.

Photonic computers excel in applications that require extreme throughput with low latency and relatively low power consumption — applications like cloud computing and, potentially, autonomous driving, where the real-time processing of vast amounts of data is required.

Photonic computing technology is on the brink of becoming commercially available and has the potential to supercharge the current roadmap of autonomous driving while also reducing its carbon footprint. It’s clear that interest in the benefits of self-driving vehicles is increasing and consumer demand is imminent.

So it is crucial for us to not only consider the industries it will transform and the safety it can bring to our roads, but also ensure the sustainability of its impact on our planet. In other words, it’s time to shine a little light on autonomous EVs.

#adas, #artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #av, #battery-technology, #column, #electric-vehicle, #energy, #energy-efficiency, #opinion, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

Only 3 startup demo booths left at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Listen up mobility mavericks. TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 is right around the corner of your calendar (June 9). If you want to place your ground-breaking, edge-cutting, envelope-pushing (no extra charge for clichés) early-stage startup in front of the world’s leading mobility movers, shakers and makers you gotta hustle. You have just one week left to buy one of our remaining three Startup Exhibitor Packages.

Here’s what the $380 package includes, plus a few suggestions on ways to take full advantage of the virtual platform’s capabilities and boost the opportunity factor. Note: Exhibitors must be pre-Series A, early-stage startups in the mobility field.

  • Virtual booth space
  • Lead generation
  • 4 conference passes
  • Full event access
  • Videos on-demand
  • Breakout sessions
  • Networking with CrunchMatch

Hopin, our virtual platform, lets you tap into your creativity. Include a product walk-through video — complete with links to your website and social media accounts — at your virtual booth. But get this. Your booth also includes live stream capability. Make the most of that opportunity. Share your screen, host a live demo or a product tutorial and moderate the chat area.

Maybe you’d like to host and live stream your own Q&A session. Go for it. Or why not establish yourself as a subject matter expert? Choose your topic and combine your virtual booth and CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, to send invitations to the people you want to impress and get the conversation started. And of course, you can always schedule 1:1 video calls.

Since you’ll have four event passes, you and your team can tend to booth business and take in a range of presentations. Here are just two examples of what’s in store. Check out the event agenda and plan your schedule now.

Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision: Few startups were as prescient as Scale AI when it came to anticipating the need for massive sets of tagged data for use in AI. Co-founder and CEO Alex Wang also made a great bet on addressing the needs of lidar sensing companies early on, which has made the company instrumental in deploying AV networks. We’ll hear about what it takes to make sense of sensor data in driverless cars and look at where the industry is headed.

AVs: Past, Present and Future: TechCrunch Mobility will talk to two pioneers, and competitors, who are leading the charge to commercialize autonomous vehicles. Karl Iagnemma, president of the $4 billion Hyundai-Aptiv joint venture known as Motional, and Chris Urmson, the co-founder and CEO of Aurora, will discuss — and maybe even debate — the best approach to AV development and deployment, swap stories of the earliest days of the industry and provide a few forecasts of what’s to come.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9, but you have just one week left to reserve your virtual demo booth. Grab this opportunity and get your startup in front of the industry’s top movers and makers.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#alex-wang, #aptiv, #artificial-intelligence, #aurora, #automation, #av, #chris-urmson, #consumer-electronics-show, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #hyundai, #karl-iagnemma, #president, #private-equity, #robotics, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-car, #startup-company, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #techcrunch, #technology

Just 72 hours left to save $100 on passes to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

So much can happen in 72 hours, and it’s easy to get distracted — especially when you’re building a startup in the fast lane that is mobility tech. But listen up: you have just 72 hours left to save $100 on your pass to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 on June 9.

Don’t let “busy” distract you. Buy your pass to Mobility 2021 before the price increase goes into effect on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Why should you attend TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? It’s where you can tap into the latest trends, regulatory concerns, technical and ethical challenges surrounding the technologies that will forever change how we move people and material goods across towns, cities, states, countries — and space.

Or, as Jens Lehmann, technical lead and product manager at SAP, told us:

“TC Sessions Mobility is definitely worth your time, especially if you’re an early-stage founder. You get to connect to people in your field and learn from founders who are literally a year into your same journey. Plus, you can meet and talk to the movers and shakers — the people who are making it happen.”

Take a gander at just some of the fascinating people and topics waiting for you and see the event agenda here.

  • Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision: Few startups were as prescient as Scale AI when it came to anticipating the need for massive sets of tagged data for use in AI. Co-founder and CEO Alex Wang also made a great bet on addressing the needs of lidar sensing companies early on, which has made the company instrumental in deploying AV networks. We’ll hear about what it takes to make sense of sensor data in driverless cars and look at where the industry is headed.
  • EV Founders in Focus: We sit down with the founders poised to take advantage of the rise in electric vehicle sales. We’ll chat with Ben Schippers, co-founder and CEO of TezLab, an app that operates like a Fitbit for Tesla vehicles (and soon other EVs) and allows drivers to go deep into their driving data. The app also breaks down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy coming from charging locations.
  • The Future of Flight: Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt spent more than a decade quietly developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft. Now he is preparing for a new phase of growth as Joby Aviation merges with the special purpose acquisition company formed by famed investor and Linked co-founder Reid Hoffman. Bevirt and Hoffman will come to our virtual stage to talk about how to build a startup (and keep it secret while raising funds), the future of flight and, of course, SPACs.

Pro tip: Between the live stream and video on demand, you can keep your work schedule on track without missing out.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9, but you have only 72 short hours left to save $100 on all the info and opportunity that TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 offers. Kick distractions to the curb. Buy your pass before the early bird price disappears on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#alex-wang, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #automation, #automotive, #av, #ben-schippers, #co-founder, #electric-aircraft, #emerging-technologies, #fitbit, #joby-aviation, #reid-hoffman, #renewable-energy, #robotics, #sap, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-car, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tezlab, #video-on-demand

Announcing the Agenda for TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

TC Sessions: Mobility is back and we’re excited to give you the first look at who is coming to the main stage and what we plan to talk about. The event will be virtual, but never fear, we will bring you the same informative panels and provocative one-on-one interviews and networking you’re used to.

The new format has provided one massive benefit: democratizing access. If you’re a startup or investor, you can listen in, network and connect with other participants here in Silicon Valley. Plus, you’ll be able to meet all of the attendees through our matchmaking platform, CrunchMatch.

You’ll need to make sure you have your ticket to join us at the event online. Our Early Bird savings end in just a couple of days, so make sure to book your $95 pass now, and save $100 before prices go up.

TechCrunch reporters and editors will interview some of the top leaders in transportation to tackle topics such as scaling up an electric vehicle company, the future of automated vehicle technology, building an AV startup and investing in the industry. Our guests include Scale AI founder Alexandr Wang, Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson, Amy Jones Satrom of Nuro, famed investor Reid Hoffman, Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt, GM’s vice president of innovation Pamela Fletcher, Karl Iagnemma of Motional and Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, to name a few.

Don’t forget, Early Bird Passes (including $100 savings) are currently available for a limited time; grab your tickets here before prices increase.

AGENDA

Self-Driving Deliveries with Ahti Heinla (Starship), Amy Jones Satrom (Nuro) and Apeksha Kumavat (Gatik)

Autonomous vehicles and robotics were well on their way transforming deliveries before the pandemic struck. In the past year, these technologies have moved from novel applications to essential innovations. We’re joined by a trio of companies — each with individual approaches that span the critical middle and last mile of delivery.

Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision with Alexandr Wang (Scale AI)

Few startups were as prescient as Scale AI when it came to anticipating the need for massive sets of tagged data for use in AI. Co-founder and CEO Alex Wang also made a great bet on addressing the needs of lidar sensing companies early on, which has made the company instrumental in deploying AV networks. We’ll hear about what it takes to make sense of sensor data in driverless cars and look at where the industry is headed.

Will Venture Capital Drive the Future of Mobility? with Clara Brenner (Urban Innovation Fund), Quin Garcia (Autotech Ventures) and Rachel Holt (Construct Capital)

Clara Brenner, Quin Garcia and Rachel Holt will discuss how the pandemic changed their investment strategies, the hottest sectors within the mobility industry, the rise of SPACs as a financial instrument and where they plan to put their capital in 2021 and beyond.

From Concept to Commuter Car — and Beyond with Jesse Levinson (Zoox)

Zoox unveiled the design of its fit-for-purpose autonomous vehicle for the first time, after years of development and much anticipation. Meanwhile, the company was also acquired by Amazon in a high-profile deal that looks to give the company ample runway, while keeping its operations independent. We’ll hear from co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson about what it’s like building an autonomous car company in the shadows of a commerce giant.

EV Founders in Focus with Ben Schippers (TezLab)

We sit down with the founders poised to take advantage of the rise in electric vehicle sales. We’ll chat with Ben Schippers, co-founder and CEO of TezLab, an app that operates like a Fitbit for Tesla vehicles (and soon other EVs) and allows drivers to go deep into their driving data. The app also breaks down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy coming from charging locations.

The Future of Flight with JoeBen Bevirt (Joby Aviation) and Reid Hoffman (Reinvent Technology Partners)

Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt spent more than a decade quietly developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft. Now he is preparing for a new phase of growth as Joby Aviation merges with the special purpose acquisition company formed by famed investor and Linked co-founder Reid Hoffman. Bevirt and Hoffman will come to our virtual stage to talk about the how build a startup (and keep it secret while raising funds), the future of flight and, of course, SPACs.

Equity, Accessibility and Cities with Tamika L. Butler (Tamika L. Butler Consulting), Tiffany Chu (Remix) and Frank Reig (Revel)

Can mobility be accessible, equitable and remain profitable? We have brought together community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler; Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig to discuss how (and if) shared mobility can provide equity in cities, while still remaining a viable and even profitable business. The trio will also dig into the challenges facing cities and how policy may affect startups.

The Rise of Robotaxis in China with Tony Han (WeRide), Jewel Li (AutoX) and Huan Sun (Momenta Europe)

Silicon Valley has long been viewed as a hub for autonomous vehicle development. But another country is also leading the charge. Executives from three leading Chinese robotaxi companies (that also have operations in Europe or the U.S.) will join us to provide insight into the unique challenges of developing and deploying the technology in China and how it compares to other countries.

Sponsored by Plus: Delivering Supervised Autonomous Trucks Globally with Shawn Kerrigan (Plus)

Plus is applying autonomous driving technology to launch supervised autonomous trucks today in order to dramatically improve safety, efficiency and driver comfort, while addressing critical challenges in long-haul trucking — driver shortage and high turnover, rising fuel costs, and reaching sustainability goals. Mass production of our supervised autonomous driving solution, PlusDrive, starts this summer. In the next few years, tens of thousands of heavy trucks powered by PlusDrive will be on the road. Plus’s COO and Co-Founder Shawn Kerrigan will introduce PlusDrive and our progress of deploying this driver-in solution globally. He will also share our learnings from working together with world-leading OEMs and fleet partners to develop and deploy autonomous trucks at scale.

Driving Innovation at General Motors with Pam Fletcher (GM)

GM is in the midst of sweeping changes that will eventually turn it into an EV-only producer of cars, trucks and SUVs. But the auto giant’s push to electrify passenger vehicles is just one of many efforts to be a leader in innovation and the future of transportation. We’ll talk with Pam Fletcher, vice president of innovation at GM, one of the key people behind the 113-year-old automaker’s push to become a nimble, tech-centric company.

AVs: Past, Present and Future with Karl Iagnemma (Motional) and Chris Urmson (Aurora)

TechCrunch Mobility will talk to two pioneers, and competitors, who are leading the charge to commercialize autonomous vehicles. Karl Iagnemma, president of the $4 billion Hyundai-Aptiv joint venture known as Motional, and Chris Urmson, the co-founder and CEO of Aurora, will discuss — and maybe even debate — the best approach to AV development and deployment, swap stories of the earliest days of the industry and provide a few forecasts of what’s to come.

EV Founders in Focus

We sit down with the founders poised to take advantage of the rise in electric vehicle sales. This time, we will chat with Kameale Terry, co-founder and CEO of ChargerHelp! a startup that enables on-demand repair of electric vehicle charging stations.

Sponsored by: Wejo: Making Mobility Data Accessible to Governmental Agencies to Meet New Transportation Demands with Bret Scott (Wejo)

Wejo provides accurate and unbiased unique journey data, curated from millions of connected cars, to help local, state, province and federal government agencies visualize traffic and congestion conditions. Unlock a deeper understanding of mobility trends, to make better decisions, support policy development and solve problems more effectively for your towns and cities.

Mobility’s Robotic Future with James Kuffner (Toyota Research Institute)

More than ever, automotive manufacturers are looking to robotics as the future of mobility, from manufacturing to autonomy and beyond. We’ll be speaking to the head of robotics initiatives at one of the world’s largest automakers  to find out how the technology is set to transform the industry.

TICKETS

As a special “Easter egg” thank you for making it to the end of the article, you can save an additional 15% on tickets with promo code “agenda2021“. Put it in the ticket widget below, and save! Early Bird pricing ends in a couple of days so be sure to book your passes today for maximum savings.

 

#africa, #alex-wang, #alexandr-wang, #amazon, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #australia, #automotive, #autonomous-car, #autotech-ventures, #av, #ben-schippers, #ceo, #chargerhelp, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #crunchmatch, #driver, #europe, #frank-reig, #gm, #james-kuffner, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #motional, #nuro, #plus, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #reinvent-technology-partners, #robot, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #self-driving-truck, #south-america, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tesla, #tezlab, #tiffany-chu, #toyota-research-institute, #united-states, #urban-innovation-fund, #zoox

Hear about building AVs under Amazon from Zoox CTO Jessie Levinson at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Last year, autonomous driving startup Zoox was acquired by Amazon in a deal worth $1.3 billion. Since then, Zoox has continued to pursue its existing strategy of developing and deploying autonomous passenger vehicles, revealing the design of its long-anticipated robotaxi late in December. From concept to reveal, Zoox spent six years developing its built-for-purpose passenger AV, and the plan is to launch them initially with commercial deployments in Las Vegas and San Francisco following testing. At TC Sessions: Mobility this year on June 9, we’ll have the chance to speak to Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson about the company’s progress towards those goals, and what it’s like for Zoox nearly a year on as an Amazon company.

[Did you know? Early Bird Ticket Sales End Next Week! Save $100 before prices go up]

In an interview with TechCrunch from last year, Levinson told us that life under Amazon at the AV company has been essentially business as usual since the acquisition — with greatly expanded access to resources, of course, and potentially with even more autonomy than before, he said, since they’re not beholden to a host of outside investors as they pursue their goals.

Of course, the natural assumption when considering Amazon and its interest in autonomous vehicles is package delivery — which is why it’s so interesting that Zoox is, and has always, prioritized movement of people, not parcels, in its AV development roadmap. Zoox’s debut vehicle has been designed entirely with passenger transportation in mind, though the company’s CEO Aicha Evans has acknowledged in the past that it could definitely work on package delivery in partnership with its new corporate owner in the future.

We’ll hear from Levinson if there are any updates to Zoox’s plan or focus, and what Amazon’s ambitions are for autonomous vehicles in the long term. We’ll also talk about the AV industry overall, and the major shifts its undergone in the years that Zoox has been operating, and what that means for growing and attracting talent. Levinson knows the industry and the state of the art in AV technology better than most, so be sure to grab tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 ASAP and check out our chat on June 9.

Book your early-bird pass today and save $100 before prices increase next week and join today’s leading mobility-startup event.

#aicha-evans, #amazon, #automation, #av, #ceo, #jesse-levinson, #las-vegas, #robotaxi, #robotics, #san-francisco, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #zoox

Approaching commercialization for its autonomous radar nav system, Lunewave raises $7 million

Lunewave, the Arizona-based startup developing a novel technology for radars for autonomous vehicles, has raised $7 million in financing as it gets ready for the commercial rollout of its systems.

The company’s latest financing came from Proeza entures, Blue 9 Capital, Tsingyuan Ventures and Intact Ventures, the company said.

With the latest funding Lunewave will continue to work with Tier 1 suppliers to establish strategic partnerships and jointly manufacture the company’s radar sensor, according to chief executive and co-founder John Xin.

The 3D printed Luneburg lens pitches features like broad bandwidth, high gain, and a capacity for forming multiple high-quality beams in all directions. The company said two of its sensors could replace 20 radar sensros used today.

The Lunewave radar has already gone through several pre-development projects with original equipment manufacturers and with ride hailing companies. “We’re very close to establishing a formal contractual partnership to commercialize our product,” said Xin. “By the end of the first quarter we will be able to announce a strategic partnership with a global tier 1 supplier.”

For Xin, the big pillars within sensors are cameras, lidar and radar, and he says that radar is the only one that works well in inclement weather conditions. “In the industry these days it’s becoming a philosophical discussion,” said Xin. “But we believe in sensor fusion. The more safety the better. Our job is to be the vendor choice for radar solutions.”

Xin said the new financing would go to staff up the company’s product development and sales teams as it looks to continue to refine its technology. The company’s product development currently operates on two tracks. One is a pure “a-dash” system and the other is geared toward level three, four, and five autonomy in vehicles.

The company is also hoping to continue its penetration of the industrial vehicle market — another area where Xin says the Lunewave is beginning to see real traction.

“We believe that ADAS and AV systems will continue to make their way into vehicles, leading to a strong growth in radars as they are a core component of both systems,” said Rodolfo Elias Dieck, managing director, Proeza Ventures. 

The company boasts that its technology offers 180-degree field of view in the horizontal plane and can detect objects surrounding a car with 6 times the resolution available today — even at long range and in poor weather.

As part of the funding, former BMW director Peter Schwarzenbacher and former Delphi executive James Zizelman will be taking seats on the company’s board of directors. Zizelman, who currently serves as the president of Stoneridge Contro Devices, was previous the vice president of engineering for Aptiv and an exec at Delphi Automotive.

“The technology that Lunewave is bringing to market provides the ultimate in value proposition,” said Zizelman. “Not only does this innovation bring truly superior technical capability in field of view, resolution, and other attributes, it also offers the opportunity to replace multiple radar units with a single Lunewave device—better and more cost effective.”

 

#air-traffic-control, #aptiv, #arizona, #av, #delphi, #director, #executive, #president, #proeza-ventures, #radar, #self-driving-car, #targeting, #tc, #technology, #wireless

Josh.ai launches a ‘nearly invisible’ Amazon Echo competitor that’s the size of a coin

In the past several weeks we’ve seen refreshes and product expansions from about every facet of the smart home virtual assistant world. Apple launched the HomePod Mini, Google offered a long-overdue refresh of the Google Home, and Amazon found even more speaker shapes to shove Alexa into.

Today, we’re getting an addition from a startup competitor. Josh.ai has aimed to build out a niche in the space by building a smart assistant product that’s designed to be professionally installed alongside other smart home wares and they announced a new product this afternoon.

The device, Josh Nano, fully buys into a more luxury home-focused niche with a low-profile device that appears to be a little bit bigger than a half-dollar, though the bulk of the device is embedded into the wall itself and wired back to a central unit via power-over-ethernet. The device bundles a set of four microphones eschewing any onboard speaker, instead opting to integrate directly with a user’s at-home sound system. Josh boasts compatibility with most major AV receiver manufacturers in addition to partnerships with companies like Sonos . There isn’t much else to the device, a light for visual feedback, a multi-purpose touch sensor, and a physical switch to cut power to the onboard microphones in case users want extra peace of mind.

Image via Josh.ai

The aim of the new hardware is to hide the smart features of a home and move away from industry standard touch screen hubs with dated interfaces. By stripping down a smart home product to its essential feature, Josh.ai hopes it can push more users to buy in more fully with confidence that subsequent hardware releases won’t render their devices outdated and ugly. The startup is taking pre-orders for the device (available in black and white color options) now and hopes to start shipping early next year.

Powering these devices is a product the company calls Josh Core, a small server which basically acts as a hub for everything Josh talks to in a user’s home, ensuring that interactions between smart home devices can occur locally, minimizing external requests. The startup will also continue selling its previously released Josh Micro which integrates a dedicated speaker into the wall-mounted hardware.

Though Josh.ai partners directly with professional installers on the hardware, the startup has been scaling as a software business, offering consumers a license to their technology on an annual, 5-year or lifetime basis. The price of that license also differs depending on what size home they are working with, with “small” rollouts being classified as homes with fewer than 15 rooms. In terms of hardware costs, Josh.ai says that pricing varies but for most jobs, the average cost for users works out to be something like $500 per room.

Massive tech companies naturally design their products for massive audiences. For startups like Josh.ai this fact provides an in-road to design products that aren’t built for the common needs of a billion users. In fact, the selling point for plenty of their customers comes largely from the fact that they aren’t buying devices from Google, Amazon or Apple and hard-wiring microphones that feed back to them inside their home.

Though 95% of the startup’s business today focuses on residential, going forward, the company is also interested in scaling how their tech can be used in commercial scenarios like conference rooms or even elevators, the startup tells me.

#alexa, #amazon, #amazon-echo, #apple, #apple-inc, #assistant, #av, #companies, #computing, #ethernet, #google, #google-nest, #home-automation, #homekit, #homepod, #homepod-mini, #micro, #nano, #smart-devices, #smart-home-devices, #smart-speakers, #software, #sonos, #speaker, #tc

Review: Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is ahead of its time

Arriving seven years after the Xbox One first launched, the new Microsoft Xbox Series X console lands in a different world and a very different Xbox ecosystem. Microsoft is embracing subscription bundling with its Game Pass service and cloud-streaming with xCloud, nevertheless they are still committed to building huge metal boxes with tremendous power designed to carry new boundary-pushing gaming titles into consumers’ homes.

Right off the bat, I will say that the $499 Series X and $299 Series S were tough systems to review. Launch lineups for brand spanking new consoles always leave a little to be desired, but this generation has been particularly prone to launch title delays and a handful of the launch day Series X titles weren’t even available to reviewers ahead of launch. The former can be pinned on COVID-19 related delays impacting already aggressive timelines, but the latter seemed to be a bit of an unnecessary limit placed on reviewers.

Nevertheless, I’ll look to update this review next week when some more of these titles are able to be played.


This thing has a lot of specs behind it. It’s got lots of cores and lots of teraflops. There aren’t any futuristic/gimmicky features that Microsoft is pushing, there’s no bundled Kinect, there’s no VR headset. The Series X is just a giant black box that plays games better than any Xbox before it.

Quickly, here are the high level differences between the Series X and Series S, I’ll say that this review mostly focuses on the Series X.

Series X
Plays titles in 4K at up to 120fps, with eventual 8K support at up to 60fps* 
1TB storage
4K UHD Blu-ray drive
Very big

*developers decide how hard you can push their titles

Series S
Plays titles at up to 1440p at up to 120fps
512GB storage
No optical drive
Not nearly as big

This previous generation of hardware really shook up the idea of what a console generation actually was. In the past, mid-generation updates to hardware were largely cosmetic — slimmed down packages with the same power — but with the Xbox One S and One X, Xbox delivered mid-generation console upgrades that improved performance, breaking the rules in an aim to steal users away from PlayStation with the promise that they could make the most of their brand new 4K televisions.

A result of that is that this doesn’t immediately feel like a mind-bending upgrade over Microsoft’s previous release, the One X, it’s twice as fast teraflops-wise, but there isn’t a title that really showcases those internals. It feels ahead of its time, and I think consumers that buy the device on day one will have to wait quite a while before they can harness its full capabilities.

While I’m not convinced that users are going to be staring mouth agape at a launch title that blows their mind graphics-wise, I think that all of this power will eventually go a long way to eliminating some huge annoyances that have been accepted as commonplace in the world of console gaming.

The load-time reductions that are largely thanks to the new SSD storage are very substantial and are probably the biggest thing you’ll notice off the bat. Another advantage of barely meeting its potential out-of-the-box is that I barely heard a peep from the Series X when I got into the thick of a game, the console’s fans were whisper quiet. Another big quality-of-life improvement is Quick Resume, which allows users to quickly hop back into a game they were playing a while ago without reloading the entire game and wandering through start menus. This feature is killer, and is one that PlayStation 5 users are missing an equivalent for, at least for the time being.

With all of this in mind, I’d say that the reality is — and this is on paper — there also isn’t a ton separating the Series X and Sony’s PS5 consoles in terms of playability. Both are getting much better internals, SSDs that will drastically reduce loading times, better UIs and newer controllers.

They definitely look different. The Series X itself is quite large (though not quite as hulking as the PS5) and will require plenty of prospective owners to bust out the measuring tape and check if it can even fit horizontally in their media cabinet. It feels more like a well-designed gaming PC than a console. The chassis is very solid and dense, it’s one of the least fragile designs I’ve seen on a console. On the note of hardware, I will also say that while the Series X/S controllers are very similar to the previous-generation, I think that the subtle improvements, especially in regards to the feel and texturing of it, are going to be popular with users.

Most of the people reading this, I’m sure, already have a pretty solid idea whether or not they’re going to buy the Series X and many of those people will buy it simply because it is new and they know that regardless of whether they currently need the power or are able to harness it with their other gear, they are getting access to new titles and future-proofing themselves. That’s certainly not a bad reason.

Others might be on the fence about getting a Series X/S or a PlayStation 5. Much like American politics, I’m not so convinced there are quite as many undecideds here as is believed. People have a good idea of what franchises are PlayStation exclusives and what titles are only going to ship on Xbox. There have been decades to drill down the flavors that both Sony and Microsoft are pushing though Microsoft has been getting more aggressive about studio acquisitions over the past couple years so that list of exclusives is likely going to start getting longer more quickly as they seek to build up a huge library of titles for their Game Pass subscription service.

But, yeah, most of the people on the fence end up going for the system that is going to have the games on it that they really, really want to play. But it’s a little harder to tell that right now because chances are there isn’t a launch title for the PS5 or Series X that you’re dying to play, or at least one that couldn’t also be played on a previous-gen console, albeit in less optimized fashion. The promised Series X holiday showstopper Halo Infinite was delayed until 2021, and the reality is a game that really shows off this hardware probably won’t be coming around until late next year.

Really most people won’t be able to take full advantage of the Series X until next year anyway. There’s an overwhelming chance that your TV or AV receiver are not positioned to maximize what the Series X can offer, namely 8K gaming or high frame rate (120fps) 4K gaming. Hitting the high end requires a technology called HDMI 2.1 which only a select few newer TVs have adopted. It’s likely to be more standard across the board come next year, but for the time being there aren’t many of these TVs or AV receivers that are actually in people’s homes. With HDMI 2.0, which your 4K TV does support, you can play Series X titles at 4K resolution at up to 60fps, closer to what the previous-generation Xbox One X was capable of.

Being super early to a technology as a consumer often leads to tradeoffs, and that’s definitely the case with the Series X/S. While operating at the cutting edge of video standards will benefit the console’s longevity, it does mean that consumers might be in a less optimal spot for a bit if they don’t have the latest AV hardware. What will be more frustrating to day-one buyers is the generally light library of new content. There are some multi-platform hits that will be landing, but it doesn’t seem like there will be a must-play title that makes the most of its power. For consumers that are buying a system so focused on performance, that’s disappointing, but over time, I have few doubts that the Series X/S library will grow robust, the questions for consumers is whether all of the quality-of-life improvements are enough for them to take the plunge in 2020.

#av, #game, #hdmi, #kinect, #microsoft, #playstation, #playstation-5, #ps5, #sony, #tc, #xbox, #xbox-360, #xbox-one, #xbox-series-x

Waymo’s Boris Sofman and TuSimple’s Xiaodi Hou to join us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

One of the areas of autonomous driving technology with the most potential to have a near-term and dramatic impact remains trucking: There’s a growing lack of drivers for long-haul routes, and highway trucking remains a relatively uncomplicated (though still very challenging) type of driving for AV systems to tackle.

Many companies are pursuing the challenge of autonomous trucking, but TuSimple and Waymo are leading the pack. TuSimple CTO Dr. Xiaodi You, who co-founded the company in 2015, and Waymo’s Boris Sofman, who leads the company’s autonomous trucking engineering efforts, will both join us at TC Sessions: Mobility on our virtual stage. The event takes place October 6-7, and we’re excited to hear from these two technology leaders working at the forefront of the industry.

TuSimple has accomplished a lot since its debut five years ago, including recently laying the groundwork for a U.S.-wide network of shipping routes in partnership with UPS, Xpress, food service supply company McLane and Penske Truck Leasing. The company is also seeking a sizable new funding round to help it scale, while actively testing with regular routes between Arizona and Texas.

Waymo, which originated at Google as that company’s self-driving car project before spinning out under parent entity Alphabet, adding self-driving trucks to the list of technologies it’s developing in 2017. Sofman joined in 2019, when Waymo hired on much of the engineering talent from his prior company, smart toy robotics maker Anki. Sofman’s resume also includes developing off-road autonomous vehicles, which likely comes in handy as Waymo seeks to roll out testing of its autonomous long-haul trucks across Texas and New Mexico.

In case you’re wondering, this won’t just be one long webinar. We have some technical tricks up our sleeves that will bring all of what you’d expect from our in-person events, from the informative panels and provocative one-on-one interviews to the networking and even a pitch-off session. While virtual isn’t the same as our events in the past, it has provided one massive benefit: democratizing access.

If you’re a startup or investor based in Europe, Africa, Australia, South America or another region in the U.S., you can listen in, network and connect with other participants here in Silicon Valley.

Get your tickets for TC Sessions: Mobility to hear from Bryan Salesky, along with several other fantastic speakers from Porsche, Waymo, Lyft and more. Tickets are just $145 for a limited time, with discounts for groups, students and exhibiting startups. We hope to see you there!

#africa, #alphabet, #anki, #arizona, #articles, #australia, #automation, #av, #boris-sofman, #cto, #emerging-technologies, #europe, #google, #lyft, #new-mexico, #porsche, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #self-driving-truck, #south-america, #tc, #technology, #texas, #transportation, #united-states, #ups, #waymo, #x, #xpress

Autonomous vehicle reporting data is driving AV innovation right off the road

At the end of every calendar year, the complaints from autonomous vehicle companies start piling up. This annual tradition is the result of a requirement by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that AV companies deliver “disengagement reports” by January 1 of each year showing the number of times an AV operator had to disengage the vehicle’s autonomous driving function while testing the vehicle.

However, all disengagement reports have one thing in common: their usefulness is ubiquitously criticized by those who have to submit them. The CEO and founder of a San Francisco-based self-driving car company publicly stated that disen