Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo and Uber engineer-turned-industry pariah, has taken his newest company, Pronto.AI, out of stealth mode with a product aimed at the commercial trucking industry.
The announcement came on the same day Pronto released a cross-country demonstration of the company’s bread and butter: An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) called ‘Copilot.’
The 3,099-mile journey started in San Francisco and finished nearly 4 days later in Manhattan. The car, a modified Toyota Prius, used only video cameras, computers, and basic digital maps to make the trip.
Levandowski was in the driver’s seat the entire time and claimed to have touched the steering wheel only for bathroom breaks and sleepy time. If true, this would mark the longest recorded journey of a fully “hands-free” autonomous vehicle.
Pronto plans to announce its first partners (and deliver an aftermarket prototype of Copilot for new trucks) sometime in the first half of 2019.
That seems pretty ambitious, considering…
Levandowski’s latest trip was his 3rd attempt, after “disengagements” (engineer speak for mistakes) gave the first 2 treks failing grades.
Also, we’re no general manager at Pep Boys here, but last we checked, a Prius was a bit different than a class 8 big rig. Before Pronto starts selling prototypes, it still has to figure out how to transfer the ADAS to trucks.
Are we there yet?
Levandowski’s reputation continues to precede him, and many experts feel he could be up to his same ol’ tricks.
According to Missy Cummings, director of the Autonomy Laboratory at Duke, “Anthony’s job is to make claims that may be at the edge of what his technology is capable of.”
In other words, some folks aren’t convinced that Levandowski’s disengagement-free innovation vacation is enough to prove Pronto’s technology — prototype or not — has reached its final destination.