For Driverless Cars, Is the Way to Our Hearts Through Our Stomachs?
Slice of MIT
What’s the best way to introduce driverless cars into everyday life? Just add food, says Jianxiong Xiao PhD ’13, CEO of AutoX, a company developing a lower-cost self-driving technology and exploring new business models to spread its use. To pilot the technology, AutoX has teamed up with GrubMarket to deploy a fleet of cars in San Jose, California, to provide grocery and restaurant food delivery—one of the markets in which Xiao says autonomous vehicles could have an immediate and substantial impact.
“The food delivery market in the US is about $30 billion. If we can bring down the delivery cost [with driverless cars], then the size of the food delivery market in the US could go to about $220 billion,” explains Xiao.
To spread the use of autonomous vehicles, AutoX aims to optimize both safety and cost. “Our technology fuses cameras, lidar, and radar. We’re particularly focused on using the camera, which provides very high-resolution sensing capability beyond what lidar technology can provide,” says Xiao—referring to the laser-based sensors that are usually the most expensive component in driverless car systems.
AutoX’s unique blend of technology, says Xiao, can be added to most modern cars to create an autonomous vehicle.
Moving beyond the food business, in June, AutoX became the second company in the world to be permitted to operate a robotaxi (driverless taxi) pilot and the first in California. In July, it also announced a partnership with NEVS, a Swedish electric vehicle company, to launch Europe’s first large-scale robotaxi pilot in 2020.