Apex AI - The Road to Autonomy

DARPA Urban Challenge to Commercialization

Jan Becker, CEO & Co-Founder, Apex AI joined Grayson Brulte on The Road to Autonomy podcast to discuss how the autonomous vehicle industry has evolved from the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge to the dawn of the era of commercialization in 2023. 

The conversation begins with Jan discussing the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge and his role on Stanford’s team.

People called it the Woodstock of Robotics. 

– Jan Becker

The DARPA Challenges showed the world that it was possible to make a car drive itself. It was these challenges sponsored by the U.S. Goverment and led to the founding of the autonomous vehicle industry.

One of the outcomes of the DARPA Urban Challenge was that Google started and funded Waymo and Waymo then really showed in my opinion the automotive companies that autonomous driving can be done as a product. 

– Jan Becker

It has been 15 years since the DARPA Urban Challenge and the world of autonomy has changed drastically. Autonomy is now maturing, scaling and commercializing. The hype cycle of 2000’s has faded along with the timeline as autonomous vehicles are now becoming a commercial business. 

One of the trends that is beginning to emerge is the personally owned autonomous vehicle. While this trend is still in it’s early days, it its a trend that will have a significant impact on the future autonomy as consumers will come to expect this feature. 

Then there are autonomous trucks which will initially roll out as a hub-to-hub model where the trucks will operate fully autonomously on the highway. When they arrive at the hub (depot), the freight will be switched to smaller vehicles some of which will be autonomous. 

The low hanging fruit in my opinion is really to automate the hub-to-hub transportation. 

– Jan Becker

With the industry maturing, Apex AI is developing safety-certified, developer-friendly and scalable software that allows developers to build safe reliable software for mobility platforms. By building on Apex AI, developers can do what they do best – build applications. 

What we provide are the libraries, the functionality to enable our customers, the developers, the car companies to build software that scales.

– Jan Becker

Wrapping up the conversation, Jan shares his thoughts on the universal driver and how he sees autonomous vehicles scaling. 

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Recorded on Tuesday, February 28, 2023