President Dwight Eisenhower was enough of a visionary to advocate for the establishment of the Interstate Highway System. And so, while presidents usually get a luxury car marque named after them, it’s a fair assumption Ike would be pleased to see his name given to a new, startup autonomous truck company.
As reported by Wired magazine, the San Francisco start-up Ike was founded by CEO Alden Woodrow, CTO Jur van den Berg, and Nancy Sun, chief engineer. The top management team have all worked at some of the automotive industry’s major autonomous vehicle developers, including Google, Apple, Otto, and Uber. In fact, all three executives left Uber last summer after the company shut down its autonomous truck development unit.
Today, according to Wired, the three managers say they’re taking a small step back in terms of capability, with a goal of focusing on a more “elemental” self-driving truck. According to Wired, this led to the decision to focus on trucks, instead of cars, since long-haul trucks don’t typically have to deal with pedestrians or cyclists and usually enjoy well-marked lane lines.
“We do not want to do a single right turn off the highway,” van den Berg told Wired, noting that even right turns are technological complications. Instead, he envisions Ike's trucks pulling into roadside transfer hubs, where humans drivers will climb in and pilot the rigs to their final destinations.
To jumpstart the development process, Wired reports, Ike is licensing the autonomous vehicle software from robotics and artificial intelligence developer Nuro, a two-year-old self-driving startup that focuses on delivery robots and launched its first pilot project with Kroger in June.
In return for a stake in Ike, Nuro will give the company access to software that helps autonomous vehicles “see” and “understand” what’s going on around them, Wired reports. Ike developers will have to adapt those systems to work in a self-driving truck.
Ike expects to start testing its autonomous truck technology on California highways in a matter of months.