A former engineer at Waymo recently drove a self-driving car across the country, claiming he did so without touching the steering wheel once. The trip was 3,009 miles long from San Francisco to New York City and was a promotion for Anthony Levandowski’s Pronto.AI autonomous vehicle technology, which he started after leaving Waymo.
Levandowski’s past is littered with controversy as he was accused by Waymo of stealing trade secrets when he left to start his own company Otto, a self-driving trucking company that was soon bought by Uber.
Since the lawsuit, Levandowski has focused on his new company, Pronto.AI, demonstrating the efficacy of his technology on his cross-country trip. Levandowski says that the car drove itself the entirety of the trip and he only took control when stopping for fuel.
What sets Pronto.AI’s technology apart is that they only use six cameras to read information from the road and it does not use lidar, the foundation for most other self-driving car designers. The cars have a computer in the car that process two neural networks. One recognizes obstacles such as lane markings and signs, while the other processes these in order to control the cars’ throttle, breaks, and steering. Nonetheless, the system works only on freeways and cannot travel on city streets, qualifying it as level 2 self-driving technology.
However, Pronto.AI does not want to start testing their cars on the road. Instead, Levandowski says they want to form the basis for new advanced safety systems. They plan on marketing their system to truckers, offering it for $5,000 starting next year to make trucking trips easier for drivers.