| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Aug 30 Silicon Valley
self-driving startup Drive.ai has named to its board a former
Wall Street investment banker and General Motors Co
executive as investor interest in autonomous vehicles
Steve Girsky, a former GM vice chairman and Morgan Stanley
alum, was named a Drive.ai director on Tuesday. The appointment
comes roughly five months after GM bought Cruise Automation, a
one-time rival of Drive.ai, for $1 billion. Just earlier this
month, Uber acquired another one-time rival, Otto, for an
undisclosed sum estimated at close to $700 million.
Drive.ai is one of a handful of startups building fully
autonomous systems for cars, a sector that has drawn more
attention since the Cruise and Otto deals.
Drive.ai plans to distinguish itself through the team's
expertise in robotics and "deep learning," Carol Reiley, the
company's president and co-founder, said in an interview.
Girsky, who left GM's board after seven years in April, was
instrumental in reviving the Detroit automaker following its
2009 bankruptcy and brings "deep expertise within corporate
management and the automotive industry" to Drive.ai, the company
The addition of Girsky is a high-profile get for Drive.ai,
which was launched last year with an engineering team from
Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence lab and has until
now stayed under the radar.
Drive.ai wants to build a hardware and software kit powered
by artificial intelligence for carmakers. It is already working
with unnamed vehicle manufacturers, but has not disclosed a
Drive.ai said its first market foray will focus on vehicle
fleets on consistent routes, whether for delivering packages,
ride-sharing or public/private transit.
Drive.ai believes self-driving is best achieved through deep
learning, a complex subset of artificial intelligence in which
systems are trained by running massive amounts of data through
them until they are able to "think" for themselves.
Reiley, a roboticist, told Reuters that deep learning best
resembles how humans think. It is more dynamic than strict
machine learning - in which a car drives according to rules
programmed through algorithms - and better for interpreting
"edge cases," unforeseen events that an algorithm cannot solve.
"I view a self-driving car as a robot," Reiley said. "This
will be the first social robot that goes into the world."
She also believes Drive.ai's technology can replicate
"emotional intelligence," the part of the brain that deals with
social behavior and non-verbal communication - the kind of
awareness that drivers rely on at a four-way stop.
"It needs to be baked in," said Reiley, who said cars also
need a hardware revamp, with targeted lights and sounds to
better communicate with other cars and pedestrians.
Drive.ai, she said, envisions a new vehicle language,
"enabling them to show intent and interact in complex ways with
humans inside and outside the car."
That could mean, for example, a roof-mounted exterior
communication system that signals to pedestrians "safe to
Drive.ai closed a $12 million funding round earlier this
year with strategic and other partners, including Oriza Ventures
and China-based Northern Light Venture Capital.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Leslie Adler)