An interview with Mike Potts, Founder and CEO of StreetDrone
Self-driving vehicles should soon be disrupting transport systems across the world, driving down the price of urban taxi journeys, mining and agricultural activity and even plane tickets. But rather than the autonomous cars of the future being owned by the people who travel in them, it is much more likely that we are going to see an explosion in the demand for self-driving fleet vehicles, like Uber’s autonomous fleet in the US. So we asked Mike Potts what StreetDrone’s strategy is for this future market, and what has been happening since the last round of funding in January 2018.
“For the past year we’ve been focused on building a safe technology platform to be able to make any car on the road autonomous, and we’ve implemented this on a Renault Twizy electric car that we call StreetDrone ONE. We’ve now sold this technology to customers around the world and continue to supply the car as an R&D test platform.”
Since launching the StreetDrone ONE development platform at the beginning of 2018, StreetDrone have forged partnerships with the likes of Renault, Millbrook and NVIDIA, and provided the StreetDrone ONE research platform to (amongst others):
– the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC), an organisation responsible for integrating the latest technology into Hong Kong’s industry. StreetDrone will be collaborating with HKPC on development and testing of open source self-driving software in Hong Kong
– Cambridge spin-out tech start-up Wayve, who wanted to test, validate and demonstrate its machine learning approach to self-driving, attempting to reduce reliance on mapping
– Parkopedia – as part of the autonomous valet parking (AVP) Innovate UK project. Their vehicle will be used to map car parks in both the UK and Germany, and test self-driving parking solutions
– German automotive supplier Huber Automotive AG for collaboration on open source self-driving software. Huber is already a large supplier to many of the automotive OEMs, and is diversifying into applications of self-driving alongside its core products in e-drive/hybrid and battery management tech.
“Looking forward we can see that within the next decade fleets are set to take over from private ownership, especially as the cost of a journey in an autonomous, electric taxi could be as low as one tenth of what it is today. So we’re working on further developing our platform so that it can allow manufacturers to enable their vehicles to run in these fleets of the future and supply the huge amount of autonomous-ready vehicles that will be needed.”
According to the ‘Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030’ report from RethinkX, about 95% of all passenger miles will be in fleet-owned, not privately-owned, self-driving vehicles by 2030.
“The self-driving market is turning out to be a lot like the mobile market of the mid-2000’s. What I mean by that is until Android came along the mobile market was unconsolidated and full of phones that weren’t smart because they weren’t running modern day applications. That’s a lot like the autonomous market of today – most vehicles are still unconnected to new mobility applications. Android saved the handset manufacturers by making phones smart. The same thing is needed in the autonomous mobility market – connecting vehicles to new mobility applications that make the vehicles smart, autonomous and networked.
“At the moment vehicle manufacturers face a pretty uncertain future and we can already see a power shift from vehicle manufacturers to the mobility networks of the future, like Lyft and other new taxi companies. And because most vehicles are not connected to these new networks many vehicle manufacturers are already missing out on new demand being generated for autonomous fleets. StreetDrone’s focus and future is in helping connect vehicles into these fleet networks, using our Xenos platform, by providing the means for vehicle manufacturers to make autonomous-ready and connected cars, trucks, buses, tractors or vans.
“That’s why we’re continuing to invest in the Xenos platform. Xenos provides the means to make any vehicle safely ready for autonomous technology and then plug that vehicle into new mobility services and applications.
“We’ve been building and testing the on-vehicle version of Xenos for 18 months, built it into the Renault Twizy (our StreetDrone ONE platform) and connected various self-driving applications to make it safely autonomous-ready. Our self-driving vehicle functional safety system is the world’s only commercially available system of its kind and ensures that the StreetDrone ONE is safe when running as an autonomous car.
“One of the things that we strongly believe is that the autonomous world needs systems like Xenos in order to develop more quickly, and work more efficiently. We’d love to play a big part in bringing autonomy to the world.”
StreetDrone are now beginning a multi-million pound funding drive to accelerate their expansion. The new investment will go straight into further developing the Xenos platform.
Mike commented “The last six months have proven the huge appetite for the StreetDrone offer and we are now raising money to underpin further expansion to fulfil that demand.”
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