TechCrunch Disrupt was exhilarating! The sessions ran the gamut, from brand new startups fresh out of stealth, to mature companies reflecting on their lessons learned. The winner of the Startup Battlefield, Minerva Lithium, inspired hope in us achieving a lithium-powered future. The sessions that stuck out most to me were those by Lyft and Rivian.
Lyft’s Take on Autonomy
Lyft’s approach to autonomous driving and taxis is fascinating. Rather than attempting to build the full stack, they spun out their technology division to Woven Planet (a Toyota subsidiary) and focused on their core competency of connecting riders with vehicles. John Zimmer, Co-Founder and President, described their approach to autonomous driving partners as having to meet a bar of safety and likelihood to overcome technical challenges.
Zimmer gave an interesting analogy for why their approach to autonomous ridesharing is better than the “straight to Level 4” of other robotaxi startups. Autonomous taxis will eventually be able to provide service on most, if not all routes, but at first, they’ll only be able to operate in certain operational design domains (ODDs). Zimmer is proposing that by having a hybrid fleet of human and autonomous drivers, they can service all routes, prioritizing human drivers for routes unsuited for AVs, as the technology evolves.
Rivian’s Targeting Level 3
Also on stage was RJ Caringe, the CEO at Rivian, who talked with Kirsten Korosec about their approach to autonomy. With an R1S on site, they spoke about the upcoming innovation coming with this model and beyond; even hinting at the possibility of a Rivian e-bike.
RJ made a great point that “we’ve confused the world by lumping all types into one category”, going on to distinguish between “hardware heavy” Levels 4 & 5 from “hardware constrained” Levels 1-3. Rivian is focusing on Levels 1-3 since they believe this to have the best cost/benefit ratio at this time. Caringe discussed the value in just getting to 3: “putting in L3 creates immediate value, you get time back”. Not having to actively pay attention to the road allows the driver to use that time more productively.
The Future with V-Markings
Reflecting on these sessions, reinforces my excitement for the future of V-Markings. Lyfts’ decision to choose autonomy vs human drivers based on the route highlights the importance of knowing the current status of these roads and construction zones on them. Lyft can better make these priority decisions today by using Level 1 V-Markings data. Level 4 V-Markings will provide not only the location of these work zones, but the safest route through them, maximizing the number of autonomous rideshares that Lyft can provide