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Robotaxis are Taking Off – Here are the Companies Leading the Movement – ReadWrite

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Shannon Flynn


Autonomous cars have been something of a theory for several years. Movies portray them as futuristic inventions that seem intangible and far away. However, you might not have to wait so long to experience a self-driving car. Robotaxis are here and ready to change the game in big ways. Here is everything you need to know about robotaxis — and the companies leading the movement.

Though the rollout of these driverless vehicles has been rocky and faced several setbacks on the way, newer startups and companies are making vast strides. Some have even moved on to late-stage testing without a human safety driver in the car.

With the widespread potential for transporting people and cargo, companies across the world are racing to perfect the autonomous car.

The Rise of Driverless Cars

A few decades ago, the idea of a car without a driver was not something that seemed plausible. Movies and TV series painted the future with high-end technology that was only something the future could concoct. Now, through countless trials and errors, the future is here and ready to bring innovation.

Driverless cars haven’t suddenly appeared — they’ve been in the works for quite some time. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms are what have ultimately propelled things like robotaxis into the realm of possibility. With these tools, vehicles can detect which lane to stay in, navigate around accidents and get to a destination safely, all without a driver.

These feats are present at reduced levels currently. Tesla, for instance, allows a driver to enable autopilot mode where the car automatically drives for them. Of course, the driver must still be in the car for that setting to function, but it shows the direction that these vehicles are working towards.

Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, has been floating the idea of fully autonomous vehicles recently. Originally, Musk stated that the world would see driverless Tesla vehicles by the end of 2020. However, with the pandemic and related production and technological setbacks, Musk is now stating 2021 is more realistic. Regardless of the year, Musk’s message stands — driverless vehicles are closer than ever.

While Tesla is making strides, other companies are also competing for a breakthrough. AI has been the key to all progress thus far and will only improve from here. Companies like Waymo and AutoX are using machine learning to keep the innovation going.

While 2020 didn’t see widespread adoption of autonomous cars, it did see ones that made it to critical stages of testing.

Where Progress is Happening

Around the world, countries are seeing various developments in autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, the United States and China are working on late-stage testing that shows promising signs. Several companies, including Waymo, AutoX, Zoox, Nuro and Cruise, have moved past the human driving stage into fully autonomous testing. Waymo and AutoX currently stand out.

Waymo

The biggest news from 2020 for self-driving cars is from Waymo. Alphabet, the conglomerate parent company that brings you Google, is perfecting its venture into autonomous vehicles. As of October 2020, Waymo has fully operational vehicles driving through the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona (blogdotwaymodotcom).

Moreover, these vehicles have the capacity to transport individuals. Though the operation is still on a smaller scale, this move from Waymo is big. Passengers must sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) before getting inside but can sit back and enjoy the ride as the car takes them to their destinations.

Navigating through traffic, around accidents and around turns in the suburbs, Waymo expects the self-driving robotaxis to only gain popularity from here. Expanding beyond, urban areas and longer distances will be a new focus that could take this company to the next level.

For now, customers can climb aboard and experience one of the first public adoptions of a fully autonomous vehicle.

AutoX

On the other side of the world, China is making similar strides. With support from the online marketplace, Alibaba, AutoX is a newer startup that’s progressed through testing stages efficiently. On the streets of Shenzhen in China, residents can see brand-new autonomous cars driving around with ease.

Though not fully available to the public yet, the company is working on one of the last stages of testing. So far, the driverless vehicles have been operating smoothly without a backup human safety driver in the car. This step is a good sign of progress and eventually implementation in China and elsewhere.

Like all autonomous vehicles, AutoX’s cars use AI to get around. They have an innovative XCU control unit which the company states has powerful computing and sensing capabilities. These features help the cars react faster, brake quickly, and switch lanes and navigate through traffic when they need to.

How Autonomous Vehicles Can Change Things

Waymo and AutoX show just how fast autonomous vehicles can progress. With the right technology and testing, these vehicles are unstoppable, and the industry is already moving quickly. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, delivery services have taken off like never before since people are staying home more often than not.

People across the world are also trying to avoid spreading the virus and coming in contact with others. With driverless vehicles, both ridesharing and delivery sectors could change for the better. More businesses could start to integrate driverless vehicles for delivery and taxiing individuals around cities and rural areas.

Since companies like Uber and Lyft are already massive, adding self-driving cars to the mix would only bring these industries to a more innovative level. Moreover, with companies like Amazon implementing drones and fast-delivery services, other companies will need ways to compete in the commerce world.

Technology is what will ultimately change the game and make autonomous vehicles more common. Without that tech, these cars would be unable to drive by themselves. With fine-tuning and collaboration, though, an autonomous car can automatically park, avoid collisions and reduce traffic by taking optimal routes and eliminating human error altogether.

On their current trajectory, autonomous vehicles are set to become the next big thing in the automotive industry. At its core, AI is what will revolutionize vehicles for the better. Yet, these kinds of cars are only just starting out — manufacturers still have a few obstacles ahead of them.

What Comes Next

A few questions and concerns remain. Primarily, the public will no doubt want to ensure that these cars are safe and secure. Not having a driver in the car and solely relying on a vehicle to do all the work will surely be a reason to be wary for some.

However, it’s critical to note that a study reported that 94% of the accidents it focused on were the product of human error. Moreover, distracted driving accidents make up 25% of all car accidents in general. With statistics like these showing the true dangers of human driving, autonomous vehicles could end up preventing accidents and keeping more people safe.

Nailing down safety features and protocols in these vehicles will be the next major step. Though some, like Waymo, have already rolled out self-driving cars to passengers, it will always be critical to monitor and adjust safety throughout the months and years ahead — just as companies do for regular cars.

Alongside safety, companies need to ensure these vehicles are accessible. With various designs and interiors, wheelchair accessibility will be key to focus on. Since autonomy is a big, progressive step for vehicles, manufacturers should make sure this step includes everyone.

Finally, focusing on sustainability will also be critical. With some companies testing driverless cars in places like California, the conversation opens up around electric vehicles and ones that run on gas. California, for instance, has enacted a plan to phase out fossil-fuel-based cars by 2035. With other states likely to follow suit, autonomous vehicle manufacturers should focus on the future of sustainable cars instead of the past.

The Road Ahead

With the progress of companies like AutoX and Waymo, the future is clear. Autonomous cars are set to become the norm. Exactly when is the only unclear part. The pandemic has changed the trajectory of many industries, but it seems these vehicles are holding strong.

Still, the pandemic influences how people interact with the world around them. Focusing on contactless rides and deliveries alongside safety, accessibility and sustainability are what will ultimately catapult self-driving cars into the spotlight. The work of automotive startups and corporations is evident in the present. The road ahead holds many more surprises.

Image Credit: andrew ruiz; unsplash

Politics

Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending

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Google eyed for $2 billion Anthropic deal after major Amazon play


London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.

According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.

The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:

“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”

The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:

“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”

The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.

The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.

Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.

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Politics

Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs

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Deanna Ritchie


As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.

Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI

In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.

According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.

One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.

To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.

Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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Politics

UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations

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Deanna Ritchie


As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.

Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation

To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.

The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.

Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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