a16z Podcast: Capitalizing on an Autonomous Vehicle Future

When people talk about autonomous vehicles, we hear everything from “we’re much closer than you think” to “we’re much further than you think”. So where are we, really, in the widespread reality of autonomous vehicles today? It depends, of course, on how you define autonomy — which is where a handy recap and update of the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) levels of autonomy comes in. But still, given everything out there from self-driving shuttles to Teslas, it’s really hard to tell just where we are and where the nuances of, say, Level 2-plus vs. Level 3 might come in.

This episode of the a16z Podcast takes a quick pulse on where we are in the state of autonomy in 2019 when it comes to autonomous cars, shuttles, robots — basically any “autonomous” and/or “self-driving” vehicle out there — as well as the analogy of mobile for understanding the space: where it works, where it breaks down. But did even the mobile industry itself really have a clear iPhone “moment”? When did mobile devices that seemed so limited — or seemed like just “toys” — suddenly (or not so suddenly) go to an apps layer that we use every single day? How do we build “the rails” and “the trains” at the same time in this case?

And perhaps most importantly, where will the spoils of this new wave of innovation go — to Silicon Valley or Detroit? Or outside the U.S.? Who are the players? How do regulatory — and quite frankly, nationalistic — concerns come into play here? And finally, how does one balance the desire to embrace innovation in an open and fast, yet still very thoughtful and safe way? The answers, according to Applied Intuition co-founder and CEO Qasar Younis and CTO Peter Ludwig (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi), have to do with commodities and capitalism, with science and science fiction, with simulation and software as infrastructure, and more… And really, how we define autonomy now, and in the future.

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