Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Robotics, AI and automation are the future of business. This much seemingly everyone can agree on. Finding the resources to implement these technologies, on the other hand, is a different question entirely. Resource strapped startups and even established companies with sufficient know-how may find it difficult to adapt to changing technologies.

NVIDIA’s VP of Engineering Claire Delaunay will be returning to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI at U.C. Berkeley on March 3 to discuss the component giant’s work in AI and robotics. After showing of NVIDIA’s Isaac platform at last year’s event, the former Google robotics lead will discuss how the company is working to create a platform to help accelerate robotics development.

Delaunay will be joined by Scott Phoenix, the cofounder and CEO of Vicarious, which works to develop AI and general intelligence for robotics and Joshua Wilson, cofounder and CEO of Freedom Robotics, which works to help companies launch and scale robotics systems.

Tickets are on sale now for $ 345 and you’ll save $ 50 when you book now as prices go up at the door.

We have two Startup Demo Packages left for $ 2200. Each package comes with a demo space and 4 tickets to the show. Grab yours here.

Student tickets, are still available at the super discounted $ 50 rate when you book here.


TechCrunch

The road to “solving” self-driving cars is riddled with challenges, from perception and decision making to figuring out the interaction between humans and robots.

Today we’re announcing that joining us at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI on March 3 at UC Berkeley are two experts who play important roles in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technology: Anca Dragan and Jur van den Berg.

Dragan is an assistant professor in UC Berkeley’s electrical engineering and computer sciences department, as well as a senior research scientist and consultant for Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that is now a business under Alphabet. She runs the InterACT Lab at UC Berkeley, which focuses on algorithms for human-robot interaction. Dragan also helped found, and serves on, the steering committee for the Berkeley AI Research Lab, and is co-PI of the Center for Human-Compatible AI.

Last year, Dragan was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Van den Berg is the co-founder and CTO of Ike Robotics, a self-driving truck startup that last year raised $ 52 million in a Series A funding round led by Bain Capital  Ventures. Van den Berg has been part of the most important, secretive and even controversial companies in the autonomous vehicle technology industry. He was a senior researcher and developer in Apple’s special projects group, before jumping to self-driving trucks startup Otto. He became a senior autonomy engineer at Uber after the ride-hailing company acquired Otto .

All of this led to Ike, which was founded in 2018 with Nancy Sun and Alden Woodrow, who were also veterans of Apple, Google and Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s self-driving truck program.

TC Sessions: Robotics+AI returns to Berkeley on March 3. Make sure to grab your early-bird tickets today for $ 275 before prices go up by $ 100. Students, grab your tickets for just $ 50 here.

Startups, book a demo table right here and get in front of 1,000+ of Robotics/AI’s best and brightest — each table comes with four attendee tickets.


TechCrunch

Nearly a year after China stopped accepting the world’s garbage, cities around the globe are wrestling with what to do with all of their waste. 

China’s new policy, which once accepted 70% of municipal solid waste generated around the world, means that cities like New York, London, and Paris need to find a new way to deal with their dumps. In Toronto, the municipal government is targeting a 70 percent reduction in the amount of recyclables and organics that are going into landfills or waste disposal by 2026.

The goal is made more difficult by one problem that cities have in common — multi-tenant residences (like apartments, condos, and coops) have a hard time organizing waste for recycling and landfills.

That’s why Sidewalk Labs and its portfolio company AMP Robotics are working on a pilot program that would provide residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits.

“Multi-family buildings are notoriously hard for sorting. Single family has 60 to 70 percent diversion rates,” says Emily Kildow, Associate Director of Sustainability at Sidewalk Labs.

Working with the building and a waste hauler, Sidewalk Labs would transport the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash will be sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics. Once the waste is categorized, sorted, and recorded Sidewalk will communicate with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.

Sidewalk says that the tips will be communicated through email, an online portal, and signage throughout the building every two weeks over a three-month period.

For residents, it’s an opportunity to have a better handle on what they can and can’t recycle and Sidewalk Labs is betting that the information will help residents improve their habits. And for folks who don’t want their trash to be monitored and sorted, they can opt out of the program.

If that hypothesis is correct, it’s a technology that could potentially help other cities facing similar predicaments.

Sidewalk is also aware of the privacy concerns that could arise from having the trash monitored by its portfolio company, so in concert with the city, the company created a Responsible Data Use Assessment process and is assuring residents that any data collected will be de-identified and aggregated and only focus on the types of waste that’s being thrown out.

“The non-personal, aggregate data about the waste recorded by the materials recovery facility and AMP will be shared with Sidewalk Labs, residents in the buildings, and building owners,” the company said. “Once the pilot is complete, Sidewalk Labs will share a report to the public using the same aggregate and non-identifying data.”


TechCrunch

Satellite industry giant Maxar is selling MDA, its subsidiary focused on space robotics, for $ 1 billion CAD (around $ 765.23 million USD), Reuter reports. The purchasing entity is a consortium of companies led by private investment firm Northern Private Capital, which will acquire the entirety of MDA’s Canadian operations, which is responsible for the development of the Canadarm and Canadarm2 robotic manipulators used on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station respectively.

Maxar’s goal in selling the business is to help alleviate some of its considerable debt, which stood at $ 3.1 billion as of this past September. The company was already known to be seeking potential buyers for MDA, so it’s not much of a surprise. MDA will continue to operate as its own company under the terms of the new ownership, which should mean that its current plans and contracts will continue.

MDA is working on a number of projects for various clients, including developing wildfire monitoring satellites, navigation antennas for use on other company’s satellites and to develop Canadarm3, the next version of its robotic appendage, for use on the NASA Lunar Gateway that will be a research and staging station orbiting the Moon as part of the U.S. space agency’s Artemis mission series.


TechCrunch

Toggle, a Brooklyn-based robotics startup, announced today that it scored $ 3 million in seed funding. The early-stage round was led by Point72 Ventures’ AI Group, with participation from Mark Cuban and VC Twenty Seven Ventures. The series follows a 2018 pre-seed round of $ 570,000 from its Urban-X accelerator, Urban Us, Accelerate NY / Empire State Development and Perl Street Capital.

The 15-person startup creates robotics that fabricate and assemble rebar. It’s designed to work in tandem with existing robotics and steel fabrication technologies, while speeding up the process up to 15 times, by the company’s count.

Toggle has already begun a soft launch “for a wide range of projects in New York City and the surrounding area,” according to the company. It expects to ramp up toward commercial production over the course of the next year and a half. CEO Daniel Blank tells TechCrunch that the seed round will be used toward R&D and growing the Toggle team.

“This funding will be used to further develop our technology — both the hardware and software — around assembly and fabrication automation, as well as grow the engineering team that supports this development,” Blank tells TechCrunch. “The funding also provides us with a strong foundation for our manufacturing operation which is already supplying services and materials to customers in New York City and the surrounding region.”


TechCrunch

More than three years ago, self-driving trucks startup Starsky Robotics was founded to solve a fundamental issue with freight — a solution that CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher believes hinges on getting the human driver out from behind the wheel.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Starsky Robotics started a regular ol’ trucking company. Now, nearly half of the employees at this self-driving truck startup help run a business that uses the traditional model of employing human drivers to haul loads for customers, TechCrunch has learned.

Starsky’s trucking business, which has been operating in secret for nearly two years alongside the company’s more public pursuit of developing autonomous vehicle technology, has hauled 2,200 loads for customers. The company has 36 regular trucks that only use human drivers to haul freight. It has three autonomous trucks that are driven and supported by a handful of test drivers. Starsky also employs a number of office people who, as Seltz-Axmacher notes, “know how to run trucks.”

The CEO and co-founder contends that without the human-driven trucking piece, Starsky won’t ever have an operational, or profitable, self-driving truck business. The trucking business has generated revenue, led to key partnerships such as Schneider Logistics, Penske and Transport Enterprise Leasing, and importantly, helped build a company that works in the real world. It has also been a critical tool for recruiting and vetting safety drivers and teleoperators (or remote drivers), according to Seltz-Axmacher.

“The decision to have a trucking business interact with the real trucking world in parallel with developing the robotics piece is a necessary part of building a longstanding business in the space,” said Reilly Brennan, general partner at Trucks VC and the first institutional investor in Starsky.

Starksy, which was co-founded by Seltz-Axmacher and Kartik Tiwari, has raised $ 21.7 million in equity from investors including Shasta Ventures and Trucks VC.

The evolution over at Starsky illustrates the challenge that awaits the autonomous vehicle industry and the giant companies and startups operating within it. Even after engineers solve the complexity of building an AI-powered driver that’s better than a human, these companies must figure out the equally intricate task of operations. Robotaxis, autonomous delivery robots and self-driving trucks won’t matter if humans don’t use, like or trust the tech.

Figuring out the basics of operations — including the rather pedestrian and obvious ones — will mean the difference between making or losing money. Or, having a business at all.

And the stakes are high. Trucks are the backbone of the U.S. economy and moved more than 70% of all U.S. freight and generated more than $ 700 billion in 2017, according to the most up-to-date statistics available from the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Companies pursuing robotaxis and other autonomous vehicle programs are going to eventually wake up — if they haven’t already — to the same realities that Starsky has accepted, Brennan contends.

“The interaction with the market, particularly in logistics, is vital,” Brennan said, adding that companies pursuing robotaxis that haven’t built out and tested a consumer-facing app risk the same problems. “They need to have a business on day one, not on day 720.”

For Starsky, it started with something as basic as having a working vehicle and access to mechanics that could fix it.

Trucks, the hard way

Seltz-Axmacher admits now he underestimated how difficult trucks could be.

“Hey, it’s a truck, how hard can buying one be?,” said Seltz-Axmacher, as he described the company’s first major purchase of a truck for about $ 50,000. “We quickly realized that having a truck and driving a truck are not easy things to do.”

Starsky engineers retrofitted the truck, named Rosebud, with its autonomous driving system and made plans to test it at the Thunderhill Raceway about 150 miles north of San Francisco. It didn’t make it. The truck’s engine was smoking by the time it crossed the Bay Bridge. And then the truck, along with all those engineers, sat for two weeks while Seltz-Axmacher hunted for a diesel mechanic.

Self-driving truck startup Starsky Robotics began with this first, and problematic truck

The truck, pictured above, continued to break down. The company ran into more snafus, including a problem with insurance and the title of the vehicle. Starsky was going to miss a key milestone and Seltz-Axmacher was going to have to tell investors that it wasn’t because of bottlenecks in engineering, but because they didn’t know how to manage the truck part of this self-driving truck company.

The founders learned that even “average” trucks needed to go to the shop every 60 days, which is operationally complex when vehicles are traveling throughout the United States.

Starsky ended up making a key hire, Paul Schlegel, who is a veteran of trucking operations, to organize the enterprise. Schlegel, who has 32 years in the transportation industry with companies such as Schneider National and Stevens Transport, developed the trucking business that enabled autonomous trucks, but still worked in their absence. The trucking operations team is in Dallas. 

The driver pinchpoint

Seltz-Axmacher has said repeatedly that “unless you’re getting the driver out of the truck, you’re not solving anything.”

The problem in trucking is the supply of drivers. The chronic shortage has, in turn, driven up costs. For instance, the median salary for a truckload driver working a national, irregular route was more than $ 53,000 — a $ 7,000 increase from ATA’s last survey, which covered annual pay for 2013, or an increase of 15%. It’s even higher for private fleet drivers, who saw their pay rise to more than $ 86,000 from $ 73,000, or a gain of nearly 18%.

Starksy soon found that finding the right drivers was just as hard as finding the right trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows the company has reported three crashes of its manually driven trucks.

Seltz-Axmacher said they’ve had a driver make a wrong turn and have a low-hanging branch rip a hole in the side of a trailer. The most serious incident involved a new driver who took an offramp in Florida too fast and rolled the truck onto its side. No one was injured and the driver was terminated.

These drivers are critical to the autonomous program and the best of them end up becoming teleop controllers, a job that involves sitting in an office, not logging days and weeks in a truck.

Starsky is taking a dual approach to its autonomous trucks. It outfits regular trucks with a combination of sensors like radar and cameras along with software that allows long-haul trucks to drive autonomously on the highway. When the truck is about to exit, a trained remote operator, who is sitting in an office, takes over and navigates the truck to its final destination.

The promise of being able to be promoted to teleoperator is a big part of how Starsky is able to hire drivers effectively. The company contends it wouldn’t be possible to find 25 highly skilled safety and remote drivers without having a broader fleet of regular truck drivers to choose from.

Robotrucks or bust

The ultimate goal of Starsky Robotics hasn’t changed, Seltz-Axmacher said. To get there, the company recently hired Ain McKendrick as vice president of engineering, and former Tesla executive Keith Flynn to head up its hardware manufacturing to support Starsky’s fleet build. McKendrick, who co-founded Podtek and Lyve, also has experience at autonomous vehicle company Cyngn, Highfive, Netflix and Dell .

By early 2020, the company aims to have 25 autonomous trucks — a goal that is only possible if it has 100 regular trucks, he added.

The only way Starsky can scale its operations on the autonomous side is to continue to scale its regular trucking operations six months in advance. In other words, the regular trucking business is inextricably linked to the success of deploying autonomous trucks.

The company has already found that the 15-plus brokers that are regularly giving it freight to haul are ready for driverless trucks.

“Many times the brokers who have given us loads have been fairly ambivalent to whether or not we’re hauling that freight with a self-driving truck, Seltz-Axmacher said. “A lot of the concern that people might have is that this is a technology-averse industry and might not be willing to accept self-driving trucks has proven not to be true.”


TechCrunch

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