Every month, we choose our Startbase Startup of the Month and now meet our Startup of the Month in June: Motor Ai. Because traffic, especially in urban environments is complex, self-driving cars need help handling the complexity. Motor Ai’s AI system provides solutions to edge cases. To learn more about this fascinating startup, we asked them 12 questions and they replied:
1. Why did you found your startup, which problem do you address and how do you solve it?
We founded Motor Ai to bring self-driving cars from simple highway environments to complex urban environments, which is where the real value to society lies. For a self-driving car to operate in a complex environment, however, it must be very safe and have the public’s trust. Therefore we developed a decision-making system that is deductive and certifiable, because the decisions are transparently made. Most current approaches use black boxes that produce unexplainable decisions, which are illegal in the EU.
2. What gave you the idea to found Motor Ai?
We saw that the existing AI approaches were leading to a stalling in the progress of self-driving cars (the date people expect fully self-driving cars to exist keeps getting pushed further and further into the future), and asked: What are the problems with existing technology and how can we fix them?
3. What is special about your business-model, what are you doing differently?
We’ve always been focused on two topics: technological scaleability and safety in the EU context. This combination makes us unique in the space. Our focus on safety and certification means we are on the road to being the only certified autonomous driving company in Europe. We aim to be the European Waymo.
4. Which were the biggest challenges you needed to overcome in the beginning?
Technical thinking around AI can be very rigid and set-in-its-ways, so breaking that mould and building our own innovative technological system from scratch was initially challenging.
5. What was the most valuable advice somebody gave to you during your foundation phase?
The most valuable piece of advice we received was to start thinking about how to make the system certifiable and safe. Had we not received this advice, we may have built a solution, that ultimately cannot be allowed on EU roads.
6. What was your greatest success so far?
To become suppliers to a major European OEM, which gives us a partner with tremendous knowledge and insight into technical and business aspects.
7. What is your biggest need or your next challenge?
In the next year we need to ramp up the development and certification processes, to continue building on the momentum of this year.
8. Why are you on Starbase/VZ?
Our goal is to become the European Waymo. We have started certification processes and need investors and talent to help us maintain and accelerate our growth.
9. What would you recommend other founders?
To study underlying problems and dare to try and solve them, even though common wisdom says they’re unavoidable/unsolvable.
10. Where did you meet?
We met through a former business partner of ours, who we both respected, which really provided good social proof. By bouncing ideas off each other, we realized we had a similar perspective to seeing and trying to solve problems.
11. What went really wrong since you founded?
In the very early days we talked with a lot of advisors who either advised to think really small or really big in terms of business models, which made our positioning in the market difficult. When we relearned to focus more on what the automotive industry, basically our customers, itself had to say, we discovered the key issues (certification) and the rest fell into place.
12. Let´s say, you are the Governing Mayor of Berlin, the city where you have your headquarter for one day, what would you change?
Besides offering a digital platform to book appointments at the Berlin Bürgeramt, a risk-on innovation fund that is willing to take a chance on the great tech talent in Berlin, would be very beneficial to the ecosystem.
Check the company’s Startbase profile here.
Photo credits: Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash
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