Transformative. Disruptive. Revolutionary. These are words we hear to describe gadgets, but what about cars? Yes. Autonomous or automated vehicles are the future, and the future is now. Just ask the guy behind a cutting-edge software platform that builds autonomous cars, from the (digital) ground up.
Josh Hartung is the CEO of PolySync, an automotive tech company based in Portland, OR, and is downright giddy about the all the new technology entering the automotive field.
“It’s very exciting,” he says, “because for the first time in a hundred years we’re seeing technology that’s coming into cars that actually transforms what they are and how they are used.”
Why is that so cool? Because today, Hartung explains, largely everything going on with cars is either refinement from the original horse-less carriage from a hundred years ago — vehicles all have four wheels, a steering wheel and a motor, and you get in them and go places — now, they go a little faster and we are more comfortable, but that’s all been incremental change.
Autonomous vehicles take driving to a whole new level. It changes our relationship with transportation, he says, and it will affect everything from how we build our towns to how we think of safety and how we think of mobility throughout our lifetime.
Think of it like this: Autonomous vehicles make driving more enjoyable because it’s about making cars safer and more convenient.
If You Build It, Cars Will Come
But before these futuristic cars can zoom around in all their brilliance, they need to be built. And this is where PolySync’s software platform comes in. It solves scores of issues for carmakers.
“Automotive companies want to build everything in house,” Hartung explains. “And what we saw was that in their focus on building everything in house, they ended up diluting their time, and ended up focusing less of their time on the really hard problems in autonomy which are still unsolved.”
Those problems? Namely, AI, or Artificial Intelligence.
“It’s a bit like if you wanted to cook your Thanksgiving dinner, you’d have to go design and build an oven first.”
Hartung says he took inspiration from the way smartphones and desktops are constructed. “We could provide this operating system for autonomous driving — really let companies focus on building an advanced AI algorithm and a control and safety algorithm that they needed to solve autonomous driving.
The benefit? Carmakers could speed up the deployment of these life-saving technologies, giving consumers more piece-of-mind behind the wheel.
Solving Problems, Saving Lives
It’s tough to compete with the Googles and upstarts of the world. And more and more companies are jumping on the autonomous cars bandwagon. PolySync’s new approach to software helps OEMs and automakers compete in ways they may not have been able to in the past. That equates to vehicles that aren’t just futuristic and high-tech, but safer, too.
“Our intent is to spread the development of that and the cost of that across the entire industry, to kind of bring everybody up together because the important problems to solve are not the problems that we solve. The important problems to solve are the ones that save peoples lives.”
“Imagine,” he says, “algorithms that stop the car from hitting a kid or running into another vehicle. That’s where the magic happens.”
And when it comes to thinking about the cars of the future, who doesn’t want magic?
Editor’s Note: Since this is new technology, some terms are new or being newly applied. To make some minor semantic differences clearer to the average consumer, we’ve created a separate article that points out the differences and similarities in words like “Self-driving” and “Autonomous.” For consistency, we have also updated the text in this article.