New Pronto CEO: advanced safety tech still on target

user-gravatar
Updated Sep 19, 2019
Ognen Stojanovski (left) is chief operating officer of Pronto and co-founded the company with Anthony Levandowski (middle). Robbie Miller (right) recently took over for Levandowski as CEO.Ognen Stojanovski (left) is chief operating officer of Pronto and co-founded the company with Anthony Levandowski (middle). Robbie Miller (right) recently took over for Levandowski as CEO.

Following the recent legal entanglements of autonomous truck pioneer Anthony Levandowski, the company he co-founded and was serving as its CEO, Pronto, has appointed a new CEO, Robbie Miller.

During an interview with CCJ on Aug. 29, Miller said the upstart company remains committed to hitting its delivery targets for Copilot, a Level II self-driving system for Class 8 tractors. Pronto is currently focused on delivering the first version to a select group of customers as the trucking industry’s early adopters.

“We are still developing the technology and making it as robust as possible,” he said. “We are moving forward quickly.”

Miller said he will continue to serve as Pronto’s chief safety officer while he takes over the reigns as CEO to keep the company “focused on delivering a product that is making the roads safer and to make sure we execute.”

The Copilot system features adaptive cruise, collision avoidance and lane centering capabilities that rival the suite of autonomous features available today in luxury passenger vehicles.

“We’ve got aggressive deadlines and we’ve got amazing technology. We are just really focused on making sure we are meeting deadlines and delivering the technology we have, and allowing drivers to do their job,” he continued.

Miller declined to comment on whether or not Levandowski will return to Pronto at a future date.

“Right now we are not sharing investor information, just like any startup,” he said. “Anthony [Levandowski] is a friend. I care about him a lot. Right now, his priorities are somewhere else. We need to give him as much time and space as he needs.”

Levandowski, a former Google executive, led that company’s autonomous vehicle efforts. He left in 2016 to found autonomous truck company Otto, which was later acquired by Uber. He recently was indicted on 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets related exclusively to the use of LiDAR, a technology that was used during his time at Google.

Pronto Copilot uses one forward-looking camera but can be fitted with three cameras to collect additional data for future developments.Pronto Copilot uses one forward-looking camera but can be fitted with three cameras to collect additional data for future developments.

Otto also used LiDAR truck technology and its acquisition by Uber set off a multimillion-dollar intellectual property lawsuit by Google. The case settled a few days into trial in early 2018.

Pronto has not deployed LiDAR technology. Instead, the company developed a proprietary camera vision system that for redundancy can be supplemented with data from third-party radar safety systems on a vehicle.

With Copilot, Pronto has a technology foundation to build on in “lots of ways,” Miller explained. “We are listening to customers,” he said, “and will go where they want us to go.”

“We want to make a vehicle safer, where even if a driver has a serious lapse of judgement it is not going to result in a crash or incident,” said Ognen Stojanovski, chief operating officer of Pronto, who joined Miller on the call with CCJ.

In addition to keeping a vehicle centered in the lane, and protecting drivers from road or lane departures and preventing front-end collisions,  Stojanovski foresees possible use cases for anonymous data that the system collects, such as to identify road maintenance needs for state transportation departments. The data could identify stretches of road that have bad lane markings and road surfaces, he said.

Pronto is not developing fleet management capabilities for Copilot, such as capturing telematics and video event records or scoring driver risk.

“We are focused more on actively insuring that a driver is alert and attentive, and to let the system provide the safest driving experience possible,” Miller said. “With that said, we would encourage our customers to use those [fleet management] systems in conjunction with ours.”