Silicon Valley Robotics Influencer Salon: Are we ready for Autonomous Driving?

Panel Speakers: Saurabh Palan, Aaron Nathan, Dan Reuter, Shahin Farshchi, and Wendy Ju

On December 13, 2016, our very own CEO, Dan Reuter, was a panelist at Silicon Valley Robotics Influencer Salon “Self Driving Technology: Are we there yet?.”

Speakers included:

Wendy Ju, Center for Automotive Research Stanford
Aaron Nathan, Point One Navigation
Shahin Farshchi, Lux Capital
Dan Reuter, Electric Movement
Saurabh Palan, Toyota Research Institute, moderator

These experts discussed the technical and business challenges that are holding back commercialized level five autonomy vehicles.

Dan Reuter’s take on what is keeping the industry from full commercialization of self drive technology:

“It’s not a technical problem but a business problem,” Dan says. “Google worked on their autonomous vehicle for eight years without a clear business plan, go to market strategy, or product definition. It’s all just been prototypes. You have to have a specific goal in mind. You can’t just say, ‘We’re going to make autonomous driving a reality.’ You need to say, ‘We’re going to build a car. Or, we’re going to work with OEMs to provide the technology.’ You need a clear and specific goal if you’re going to have hundreds of people work on this, and you have to give them a direction on where to go so everything aligns or there won’t be any progress.”

Aaron Nathan brought up an interesting pragmatic perspective on the subject: companies need to focus on a niche, or subset, of autonomy instead of focusing on full level five autonomy. There’s no software and hardware platform for all conditions and locations, so we need to focus on what can be accomplished right now. With incremental autonomy, companies are able to ship their products to the public faster.

Shahin Farshchi, coming from an investment perspective, added that whoever ships is going to win. You can’t ship if you only research and test your product. Zoox’s, an autonomous startup that is backed by Lux Capital, was used as an example of a company that is attempting to ship first.

Wendy Ju, an Executive Director for Interaction Design Research at Stanford, found that UX research isn’t getting the attention that it should. For example, she doesn’t believe that Google had tested all the permutations in their autonomous vehicle before making the decision that level five autonomy was the only solution for their business. If she had been brought in to do a comprehensive study, she would have figured out a configuration to make incremental side assistant driving work.

Special thanks to Andra Keay of Silicon Valley Robotics for organizing the event and to Tempo Automation for hosting.