The Future of Autonomous Vehicles — Highlights

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From left to right: Chris Heiser (Renovo) & Raj Kapoor (Lyft)

As part of our CMU TEBA Speaker Series, we have invited fellow Carnegie Mellon alumni Raj and Chris, to share with us their insights on what the future of autonomous vehicles holds:

  • Raj Kapoor, Chief Strategy Officer at Lyft
    Raj Kapoor is the Chief Strategy Officer at Lyft, and the Head of Business for its self-driving division. He also serves as a board adviser at ClassPass, and venture advisor at Mayfield Fund. Prior to Lyft, he was the co-founder and CEO of both Snapfish, acquired by HP in 2005, and Fitmob, by ClassPass in 2015. He was also the managing director at Mayfield. Raj graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Robotics, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
  • Christopher Heiser, Co-founder & CEO at Renovo
    Christopher Heiser, is the co-founder and CEO of Renovo, a Silicon Valley automotive software company focuses on building products that enable global commercialization of level 4 autonomous vehicles. He has built his career around taking disruptive technologies to market. His previous roles include pioneering camera phone for LightSurf, creating groundbreaking consumer products for IDEO and building massively scalable software systems for VeriSign. Chris received his degree in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon where he designed and built autonomous vehicles and exoplanet rovers.

Here are some highlights from each of their talks:

Raj Kapoor: The Future of Transportation

Raj’s Talk: The Future of Transportation

Raj started off by stating how economic, health, and congestion problems are stemmed from having too many cars, and how they have transformed car ownership into transportation as a service. He emphasized that TaaS is a much more efficient use of resources, as well as the only way to accommodate population growth in the future. TaaS is a multimodal solution combining bikes, scooters, public transit, rideshare drivers and rideshare AVs.

Through the combination of a connected platform, self-driving electric fleets and on-demand services, Raj argued that more than 80% of miles can be served by AV rideshare. He went on to elaborate how a hybrid of human driving and driverless driving is essential in the development of AV rideshare. Lyft has bought Blue Vision Labs in London where they capture scenarios drivers encounter when they are driving in real life. It is then turned into analytics that help furnish a safe autonomous environment. Partnering with BMW and Waymo, Lyft has run its pilot program in Las Vegas and learnt the importance of giving consumers the situational awareness in driverless cars.

In Raj’s point of view, AV is far from maturity. Businesses are still experimenting whether vertical integration or taking the time to build is more cost effective, however, complexity of all possible scenarios such as extreme weather may drag out timelines. Raj predicted that it will take at least another 5+ years for the technology to emerge. Aside from technological maturity, safety is another controversy. While regulatory bodies should allineate industry standards on new grounds, businesses need to demonstrate satisfactory safety advantages of self-driving over human driving in the meantime. Safety and privacy is what governments and businesses need to set boundaries on to increase customer acceptance in the market.

AV can open a world of new possibilities for transportation such as mobile offices, abolishing the concept of having a stationary location in life. The second order effects of AV are tremendous. It will disrupt the housing market, parking systems, transit and taxation on transportation. Not to mention the plunge in sales in insurance premiums, auto loans and retail as the demand for car ownership drops. The changes it will bring can reshape infrastructure. Cities have an opportunity to redesign themselves around people as they were previously designed around cars in the first part of the century.

While Raj introduced the transformation Autonomous Vehicles could bring to infrastructure in transportation, Chris followed up on what the cloud platforms behind Autonomous Vehicles could offer us.

Chris Heiser: The Next Big Platform

Chris’s Talk: The Next Big Platform

Chris made an analogy between smartphones and AVs to explain how all the value creations lie in information and the ability to share instead of the hardware and imaging. Twitter, Facebook and Google have a market value over $22 billion, generating money more than ever, while smartphone is a zero-margin business. The same does apply to AVs. AVs are the iPhones on wheels.

The disruption is beyond self-driving, Chris added; it is the next mobile computing and data platform that will make the most data-hungry IoT the world ever seen. Having kilowatts of processing power, with thousands of dollars of sensors and high precision cameras as well as microphones pointed in all directions, AVs are capable of commoditize your whereabouts, tracking your time and preferences that businesses can leverage to step up their advertising game and generate demand. Businesses will start to subsidize your trip, which is less than a dollar, to get you to buy their new products.

With object tracking and recognition, AV endows this massive surveillance system. A fleet of just a thousand AVs could cover almost every meter of Manhattan roads more than 50 times a day. There is no amount of Logitech cameras sticking in the windows at storefront could come close to what these systems offer.

Transportation can be the new platform of value creation, but privacy issues and data regulations are just around the corner. It is a much larger dislocation of value that goes beyond first order effects. Yet, with standardization, innovation and demonstration, we could make a huge impact and build some interesting business on top of this next generation mobile computing network.

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Thanks to our community and speakers for coming out for this event. For more information about CMU TEBA, check out our website. If you are interested in collaborating with CMU TEBA, reach out to us at!

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