In my podcast, I explore the many different facets of the world of high tech from development to marketing, to sales, to entrepreneurship, all with the goal of collecting key insights on startups for listeners to gain value from this knowledge-sharing. So, what did I discover this week?
The self-driving car industry, though hailed as the new frontier of transportation, has an element to it that makes it a bit like the Wild West. Until now, the industry has had this sort of almost fantastical appearance as we seem to reach an age reminiscent of the futuristic cartoon series, the Jetsons, as opposed to real life. Perhaps as a result of this fantastical hopefulness, or some other industrial considerations, autonomous and semi-autonomous car manufacturers have been enjoying a fairly relaxed policy when it comes to their vehicle safety.
Since oversight has not been as scrupulous as it should be, it is unsurprising then that there have been numerous accounts of self-driving incidents that have gone wrong. Accounts of self-driving Uber cars not stopping for pedestrians or a Tesla hitting an unidentified object that turned out to be a pole make it apparent that what the industry needs is more careful safety regulations. Foretellix, an Israeli-based company, made its way onto the scene with the hopes of setting the industry straight by working on a new global standard for safety in this nascent industry.
The Digital Language for Safety
“The autonomous system needs to replace the human and needs to be able to be aware and decide what to do,” says Gil amid, co-Founder of Foretellix, “but that system is a combination of software and hardware, and with it comes bugs, and it doesn’t always work.” Autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles are incredible advancements but are not immune from imperfection and such is the reality of any technological solution that is also at the forefront of pushing transportation innovation. Gil’s team aims to help the industry evolve into something more mature, however, one that is truly tested as any mature industry would be and has to meet safety standards that prove rigorous safety testing. “So, what we developed is a software system that enables you to test and simulate the autonomous part of the car and exercise it in many variations.”
Foretellix saw the issue in autonomous vehicle safety and met it with what they coined, “a digital language”. In layman’s terms, the software system operates using computer models and simulations that it feeds to the car’s autonomous driving platform. These models imitate real-life, on-the-road scenarios that help test the vehicle’s ability to react and be aware of safety incidents as they occur. The more the car is fed these scenarios and learns to react, the more confidence you can have in its ability to recognize problems as they arise on the streets.
“Before you actually put the vehicle on the road, you can ensure it works, and it is complimenting the traditional approach of putting the autonomous vehicle on the road and using a test driver,” adds Gil. Whether complimenting or not, only time will tell, however, Gil’s approach to the unique problem of driver and pedestrian safety in autonomous driving situations is one that recognizes that current models are not working. At the end of the day, test drivers and the traditional approach only work so far when you introduce new driving technology into a system that flips traditional driving on its head. Nevertheless, over the last few years, Gil’s team has broken into the “traditional industry” and its language is now considered a global standard for autonomous vehicle safety in the world.
Establishing a Global Safety Standard
Of particular interest in the Foretellix story is just how the team came up with this idea and took it to the level at which it sits today. A startup out of Israel, developed by the likes of former Intel employees and other tech experts, considered as having created the "safety language" for the autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle industry is no small feat. Yet, it was not first accepted as such and took time before industry leaders began listening to the team. "You understand that if you want to push your language you have to speak about it," Gil recounts about his time sitting at a major gathering of 150 vehicle manufacturers. As he describes, he had to learn the industry, and understand how to speak their language, so that he could fit his new digital linguistic safety development into their mold.
What is even more impressive is that their main partnerships seem to be with major automotive OEMs. Through incubator introductions and others, they have reached these major players who are thirsty for Foretellix. In many ways, Gil sees them as eager to adopt these new methods especially as self-driving cars grow to be more than just a trend and become a real transportation staple in our world. No doubt these types of collaborations have helped the Foretellix solution to be adopted even on a wider, international scale.
The impact Foretellix could have not just on our transportation future, but the general regulatory system is huge. Their innovative methodology could change how safety testing is conducted in many industries. So, here's to a safer world!