Tech

German mobility start-ups: Motor AI | hot cars

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Bernd Kirchhahn

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Everyone understands something different under an autonomous car. And because that is the case, Europe and the United States have agreed on uniform definitions of different levels of autonomous driving. There are six numbered levels. In "autonomy level 0", the driver takes on all the tasks that are traditionally part of driving a car. Assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control are added in "autonomy level 1".

The industry is currently working on bringing "autonomy level 3" into everyday life. Here, for example, the car can independently set the turn signal and change lanes. The driver is allowed to do other things on the side, but must be able to steer again, given a certain warning time.

"If-Then-Else-Cars" – not certifiable in Europe

Motor AI is working on the supreme discipline. At autonomy levels 4 (= high automation) and 5 (full automation). In both cases, the system takes over the control of the vehicle permanently. The aim of the highest level is that no driver is necessary anymore. A destination is entered, the car drives off.

There is theoretically a lot of competition – Waymo, Momenta, Aurora, Argo … but in practice there is an enormous difference. Their systems are based on teaching the system case by case, driving situation by driving situation. If the car encounters a traffic scenario that is not stored in the database, it will fail. On the one hand.

On the other hand, the behavior of these systems is not understandable. To put it simply, it is based on If-Then-Else programming, the driver's output of which is regulated in an invisible black box. According to Roy Uhlmann, one of the founders of Motor AI, that would not even be certifiable in Europe.

And that's where Motor AI comes in. The company wants its technology to be certified by the TÜV throughout Europe. The basis for this are additional lidar sensors and artificial intelligence. Lidar sensors because cameras alone are too imprecise. And artificial intelligence, because its decisions should be understandable and reproducible. The system is not bluntly told what could happen, rather it can make its own decisions based on the sensors.

Of course, artificial intelligence is not without controversy either. Last but not least, Elon Musk is considered a great opponent. Like Stephen Hawking, he sees AI that is too intelligent as a threat to humanity. His company OpenAI is doing research on precisely these concerns.

But Roy Uhlmann is also involved in this regard. In his capacity as Chairman of the Federation of German Startups, he also advises the Enquete Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

Interview with Roy Uhlmann, co-founder and CEO of Motor Ai

Can you explain your business idea to us in three sentences?
Motor Ai develops the intelligence for level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles, i.e. vehicles that do not require any human intervention or supervision. Motor Ai is the only German startup for autonomous driving and has specialized in compliance with the safety and legal requirements of the European Union, in particular certification according to EU rules. The system, based on cognitive intelligence, is able to make decisions in complex city traffic.

Who are your customers?
Car manufacturers as well as passenger transport, transportation and logistics companies.

Who are your competitors and what are your advantages?
Our biggest competitors are Waymo from the USA and Momenta Ai from China. Most autonomous driving companies relate to a different approach to artificial intelligence (AI) than we do; these are mainly based on machine learning and all of them cannot be certified in Germany and Europe. Because we use cognitive AI, which, unlike our competitors' AI, is visible and understandable, our system adheres to the legal situation of the EU. In addition, our system is far more cost effective as it does not need to be trained on millions of miles and scenarios driven. While foreign companies expect success from changing our European laws, Motor Ai has already started the certification process.