embotech’s Autonomous Driving Tech Takes Startup Victory at Mobility.Pioneers

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Richard Asher Writer at Pioneers.io

After an event in which autonomous and shared driving emerged as perhaps the most dominant talking points, it’s perhaps no surprise that the overall winner was the finalist that emerged from the Autonomous Pitching Track Powered by Magna. embotech was joined on the final pitching stage by Electrification winner ChargeX, Connectivity winner High Mobility and Shared Use finalist Getaway.

Whilst the ideas of all four finalists evidently got the audience and judges thinking, it was the pitch from embotech CTO Alexander Domahidi that suggested the most convincing long-term business potential. embotech provides motion planning software that kicks in at the post-sensing phase, controlling a self-driving car’s steering, braking, acceleration and parking in real time via calculations performed 50 times per second.

Based primarily in physical models, embotech’s system can be applied to any vehicle once the car’s unique specifications are input. The company is already working with automotive giants Renault and Volvo, and even boasts a project with the European Space Agency concerning rocket landings.

As always with the winning startup at one of our industry-focused events, embotech’s prize included being fast-tracked into the Pioneers Challenge Top 50 at Pioneers’18, which means an automatic pitching slot at our flagship event in Vienna on May 24th-25th.

embotech also earned themselves an invitation to travel to Brussels and meet with European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, who leads the EU’s ‘Energy Union’ and opened Mobility.Pioneers with a video address.

“Thanks to your ideas, today’s kids might never have to to learn to drive,” he told the audience in the Muffatwerk. “The concept of car accidents might be something they learn about in their history books. Air pollution could sound like a medieval epidemic to them.

“There are still many challenges to overcome, however, and these require a joint and holistic approach between various industries, between private and public sectors and between various European countries.

“Let us all change gears, and let 2018 be the year we accelerate towards clean, connected and automated mobility.”

While 20 selected startups pitched all day on the Grand Prix stage, the Mobility.Pioneers Arena Stage schedule tackled broad topics that are key to driving the industry forward. These are automation, connectivity, shared use, electrification and the changing landscape around regulation and business models, with key issues Blockchain and related technologies as well as Cyber Security coming into sharp focus.

In a session that really got the audience talking, IOTA Chairman Dominik Schiener covered just how distributed ledgers can enable a truly shared economy from a mobility perspective.

As well as inevitably being asked for his thoughts on cryptocurrencies, Schiener explained how IOTA technology’s mobility use cases include cost-free micropayments that make a range of machine-to-machine payments possible, data security and ensuring secure over-the-air vehicle updates.

Electric supercar innovator Mate Rimac, whose company Rimac Automobili developed the Rimac Concept_One, made two appearances on stage, first participating in the afternoon panel discussion on electrification alongside Kreisel CEO Walter Kreisel, and then rounding out the day’s talks with a popular keynote that not only got the attendees excited about next month’s unveiling of the Concept Two in Geneva, but the autonomous, electrified mobility future in general.

“Autonomous driving and new mobility will be the enabler for widespread electric vehicles. In a few decades it should be illegal for a person to drive a car. In an automated environment, a human driver would be the weak link in the chain.”

Facebook’s Christoph Stadeler delivered a keynote around the contribution the social media giant can make to the mobility sector as a partner to startups.

“We are not going to build cars or systems to operate self-driving cars, we’re clear on that,” he said. “But mobile is at the forefront of the changes in the car industry, and we have a little bit of experience in this area! We’re also working on the same tech as companies in that industry, such as Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. We can bring scale, innovation and partnering.”

Meanwhile Assaf Harel’s talked about Karamba Security’s technology on stage, touching on important Cyber Security points that will be of increasing concern to the industry.

“We’re entering an era of autonomous vehicles that are being controlled from afar,” said the CTO of the Israeli startup, which seals software according to factory settings. “There are already attacks today and OEM’s are worried. Why should they get all the bad publicity when their cars get hacked via an insurance company’s dongle?”

In the panel discussion Autonomous Driving: A Deep Dive into Real Time Mapping and Sensors four participants delved into one aspect of an issue that would ultimately win the day.

“Sensors can see everything around them,” pointed out TomTom’s Head of Product Marketing Andy Marchant. “But they cannot see what’s over the horizon or around the corner. So we need a map, for localization and to give context to the sensors.”

In the afternoon, another panel looked into potential future business models for major OEM’s, most of whom had representatives at Mobility.Pioneers.

“If I make money then Lars makes money, and if I make money Marcus makes money,” said David Uze, CEO of Cyber Security startup Trillium, as he underlined the importance of cooperation to his corporate co-panelists, Lars Klawitter of Jaguar Land Rover and Marcus Spickermann of Volvo Cars Mobility. “It’s a wild west time in mobility right now and you’d have to be a fool to not make money, but if you try to do it alone someone is going to come after you profit - probably your customers. So collaboration is everything.”

Then on the regulation front, former UK government new mobility services regulator and Director of Public Policy at FiveAI Lucy Yu and flying car entrepreneur Juraj Vaculik, founder of AeroMobil, took part in a panel discussion around developing new regulatory frameworks.

“Keeping up with technology is always a challenge for regulation,” said Lucy. “Policymakers will always be quite guarded. When ‘horseless carriages’ first arrived the regulators required them to be accompanied by red flags or lanterns, and the speed limit was four miles per hour!

“Automation is another example of a challenge, but we have to remember that rapid changes in technology and more complexity doesn’t necessarily equate to less safety. My vehicle at home has far more tech under the hood than it did 50 years ago, but it’s much safer.”

The last panel of the day, before the four finalist startups took to the Arena Stage for the final pitching, saw lively debate around the subject of models for startup-corporate collaboration, featuring among others Wunder founder Gunnar Froh, who turned down a major offer from Volkswagen to remain independent, and Dr Tom Kirschbaum of urban mobility startup door2door.

“If a corporate asks you for exclusivity, make sure you ask for exclusivity in return,” commented Kirschbaum, who believes in fair collaboration. “It’s a litmus test of whether they take you seriously. You have to go in on the same level.”

A total of 100+ hand-selected startups attended Mobility.Pioneers. As part of the expansion of the event in its second year, the day also featured an invite-only side event and workshop dedicated to Series A startups. The latter included a focus on raising Series B funding and mutually beneficial collaboration models.

Along with the startups, numerous specialist investors and dozens of corporate executives packed the venue and took part in 350 one-to-one meetings enabled by our Match & Meet networking service.

Another opportunity for the innovators was the Mobility Hackathon, which ran in parallel with Mobility.Pioneers and was organized by our consultancy arm Pioneers Discover in partnership with the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB).

Slovakian developer group FinID were named the Mobility Hackathon winners after three days of exploring the use of Blockchain technology to enable transport to be more intelligent, sustainable and cost-effective. The trio from Bratislava developed a prototype answering an ÖBB mobility use case for a frictionless travel experience using mobile and decentralised technologies.

Our events focus at Pioneers now shifts to May, which features both Pioneers’18 on May 24th-25th and the inaugural GovTech.Pioneers, which takes place in Vienna on May 23rd.

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