When electric cars take over…
Day 2 was again extremely fascinating! We got our “oh, we’re screwed” moment and got a great insight into the current state of affairs with regards to autonomous cars.
At Diatom we got a great talk on what charging fleets of autonomous cars may look like in the future. Challenges are that DC charging points are very expensive, they can only be placed where the grid supports it. It’s a next year’s problem as these fleets aren’t there yet. But they need to start on the work now because it’s also very important to have these installed at prime locations within the cities. It was interesting to see the discussion on who they thought their customers would be, who would own the fleets ? Would it be the OEM’s, the amazons ?
At Yamaha Motor Ventures we got a great insight into who’s who in the automotive venture and what’s buzzing around. Great to see that the big OEM’s are really active and investing in many different start-up’s. What remains challenging is in what way these OEM’s are able to leverage these investments in their global markets. And there’s opportunity everywhere, even having i.e. tires-at-a-service. But the main message was, you can think and discuss a lot on future things as long as you start doing stuff next Monday and get going!
At ChargePoint we saw an incredibly fast growing company that provides both the hard- and software to businesses so their employees and/or customers have the availability to charge their electrical on their premises. Chargepoint was founded in 2007, 400+ employees, 45.000+ charging spots (500+ DC), 300,000 drivers and 70+% market share. It’s a B2B2C business. ChargePoint’s customers are the businesses where the infrastructure is installed, for which they pay a yearly fee. A recurring theme by the way in several visits is that wireless charging isn’t really a solution, way too much loss of energy in the transfer of energy and loads of hardware that is required. Perhaps possible in a residential environment, but certainly not in fleet environments. Investors are among others BMW, Daimler and Siemens, so that is also saying something. We also got our “we’re screwed” moment when the CEO described in detail the demise of combustion engines, car dealerships and brands as a whole. It’s starting even as we speak, buying a non-electrical car in Silicon Valley is really frowned upon!
The final visit of the day was at Drive.ai where we got to see up close how they’re making the software behind the autonomous vehicles. The challenges remain huge! One is the “unprotected left turn”. Another approach is to reduce complexity by geographically limiting where autonomous vehicles can operate and start gradually building up coverage throughout the world and opening up areas. Comparable to the initial cellular networks that only had spotty coverage in the beginning. There’s about 20 startups in this space and Waymo certainly has a huge amount of experience. But when Waymo started, machine learning and AI were nowhere near where they are now, so that’s the great opportunity for Drive.ai. They’re “gen 2”. And in typical Silicon Valley style we got again the statement “we hope to be successful, and if we fail, it was a worthwhile purpose”. Investors in Drive.ai are ao, nvidia, Lyft and Grab.