Veteran German auto boss joins board of U.S. self-driving software startup

May 23, 2019

By Tina Bellon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A company working to make open-source self-driving software reliable enough to be used in commercially available vehicles said it had hired a former German car boss as it seeks to expand its reach.

Palo Alto, California-based Apex.AI has added Karl-Thomas Neumann, an industry veteran who in the past served as the chief executive of Continental AG and led Volkswagen AG’s China business, to its board.

“Karl-Thomas is a great fit for us as we’re trying to learn off what worked in the past and reach out to more industry players,” Apex.AI co-founder Jan Becker told Reuters in an interview this week.

The U.S. firm is expanding to Europe, opening an office in Munich, Germany in July.

Founded by Becker and Dejan Pangercic, two longtime self-driving car engineers formerly at automotive technology supplier Bosch Corp, Apex.AI plans to make a safer and more reliable version of the so-called Robot Operating System, or ROS.

That software is used by scores of labs and companies in their self-driving car and robotics efforts, including Intel Corp, Microsoft Corp and Inc.

The software is open source, meaning that anyone can adopt it and use it free of charge, but it has so far mainly been deployed in research settings.

Apex.AI aims to create a robust, failproof version of the software that can be deployed by carmakers in later stage commercial applications to guarantee safety-critical driving functions.

It hopes to finish the software by the end of the year and submit it to German inspection firm TÜV for approval in early 2020. Once certified, the software could then be deployed by carmakers worldwide, Becker said.

The company wants to license the software and charge for support services, with the exact pricing model currently under discussion, Neumann said.

Apex.AI to date has raised $15.5 million in venture capital funding, including from the venture arms of Airbus SA and Toyota Motor Corp. Becker said the company was well-funded into 2020.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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