Ford Motor Company’s Autonomic subsidiary has teamed up with San Francisco startup RideOS to help craft software to handle navigation and dispatch for fleets of autonomous cars, Automotive News reports. The partnership was confirmed by the tech startup last week, when it divulged that it had raised $9 million in an investment round led by Sequoia Capital.
RideOS was formed by two former employees of Uber Technologies Inc., with the goal of creating navigation software for AVs that’s similar in function to the popular Waze app – one where vehicles on the network can warn other vehicles about obstacles and slowdowns. The software also has the goal of being able to handle dispatch instructions, arranging for customer pickups and drop-offs, and selecting the appropriate size and type of vehicle based on a rider’s requirements.
“It’s kind of like an air traffic control center for all of these different vehicles,” says RideOS co-founder Justin Ho, who worked for Uber’s mapping and autonomous driving division for three years. “That entire [operating system] hasn’t been built. It’s just green field.”
Instead, the AV sector is largely dominated by companies that provide high-definition 3D road-mapping of the sort that helps AVs to “see” the road – something that RideOS doesn’t plan to get involved with, although the startup plans to work with such mapping providers.
But there’s some question as to how much of a market might exist for companies such as RideOS, Automotive News suggests; self-driving companies, and ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, seem likely to provide their own navigation and dispatch software. Still, many traditional automakers like Ford and General Motors might make good customers for the company, as Uber and Lyft don’t seem especially likely to sell their software solutions, and there are a lot of advantages to embracing a large, shared network.