DeepMap Deep Dive: A Conversation with Ed Niedermeyer

By | April 29, 2021

Question: What do these topics have in common?

  • Lyft’s Level 5 and Toyota’s Woven Planet…
  • John Krafcik leaving Waymo…
  • Amazon acquisition of Zoox…
  • Autonowashing…

Answer: All of these subjects were covered in a wide-ranging conversion between DeepMappers and Ed Niedermeyer (@Tweetermeyer) this week. Ed is the author of Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors. He has a prolific track record in writing about and commenting on the automotive industry and currently serves as the head of comms at PAVE.

Ed started the discussion with an overview of PAVE, a coalition dedicated to educating the public about automated vehicles (AVs) and the increased safety, mobility, and sustainability benefits they can provide.

Ed Niedermeyer presenting to DeepMap employees on April 27, 2021

Ed said that AV education is important because it empowers broad, fact-based conversations about how society should maximize the benefits of this transformative technology. In the short term, education is also the key to ensuring the safe use of new technologies by consumers and a strong factual grounding for policymakers.

Ed is also a host of The Autonocast, a weekly show discussing the latest in transportation technology. He hosts this with Kirsten Korosec and Alex Roy. (Listen to the Autonocast interview with DeepMap’s Mark Wheeler here.) Over the past five years, The Autonocast has provided the opportunity to speak with leaders across the automated driving and mobility technology sectors.

Regarding his role as an author, Ed explained that he took on the ambitious undertaking of writing about Tesla, starting in 2015, because a huge amount of commentary about the company was playing out on social media, but not being documented in a single record.

Whether positive or negative, it was all ephemeral. Ed felt it was a story that needed to be told in a way that surfaced important lessons about the strengths and weaknesses of both high-tech and manufacturing cultures, and showed the importance of collaboration between both.

Some key points from our conversation:

  • OEM partnerships have become one of the focal points for competition in this space, and that’s a good thing. Silicon Valley culture and the traditional auto industry culture are very different, but they’re also really complementary.
  • It’s not going to be about Silicon Valley beating Detroit, or Detroit beating Silicon Valley. It’s really going to be about making these cultures work together, so you can bring the best of both together, whether it’s through partnerships, joint ventures, or whatever.
  • One of the most promising AV applications in the shorter term is middle mile trucking. This is partly because there’s no customer service problem. It’s just a drive from one warehouse to another warehouse. This reflects an increasing awareness of the challenges related to providing a great automated customer service experience in the robotaxi application space.
  • The term “autonowashing” was coined by Liza Dixon (follow here) to describe the gap between how driving automation is discussed versus the actual capabilities of a system. Like the greenwashing of the sustainability movement, the capabilities of driver assistance systems are commonly inflated in ways that can actually harm real-world safety by leading to overtrust and misuse.
  • Education about AV technology can have real-world implications for safety, public acceptance, and policy. The challenge is not just overcoming ignorance, but fighting misinformation as well.

Ed, thank you for a fascinating discussion!

* * *

About DeepMap: DeepMap is accelerating safe autonomy by providing the world’s best autonomous mapping and localization solutions. DeepMap delivers the technology necessary for self-driving vehicles to navigate in a complex and unpredictable environment. The company addresses three important elements: precise high-definition (HD) mapping, ultra-accurate real-time localization, and the server-side infrastructure to support massive global scaling. DeepMap was founded in 2016 and is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., with offices in Beijing and Guangzhou, China. Investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, GSR Ventures, Generation, Goldman Sachs, NVIDIA, and Robert Bosch Venture Capital. For more information, see www.deepmap.ai.


DeepMap Deep Dive: A Conversation with Ed Niedermeyer was originally published in DeepMap Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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