Pronto.ai, a new company co-founded by the creator of Otto, plans to make its “Copilot” Level 2 automated software and driver monitoring system available to fleets later this year.
Pronto first burst on the scene in December after Anthony Levandowski posted a video of an autonomous, cross-country trip he took in a Toyota Prius. After two failed attempts, he traveled from San Francisco to New York, taking control only to refuel or stop the car.
Levandowski is a veteran of the autonomous vehicle space, having first gained notoriety for building a driverless motorcycle. He worked on Google’s self-driving car project, known as Waymo, and then founded Otto, the company acquired by Uber famous for its autonomous beer delivery in Colorado.
However, Levandowski was later fired after begin accused in a lawsuit of stealing Waymo’s self-driving secrets.
Ognen Stojanovski, co-founder and CEO of Pronto, confirmed to Fleet Owner the company's software can be pre-ordered for $4,999. The Level 2 system can control acceleration, braking, and steering. Stojanovski also suggested the company is discussing partnerships with original equipment manufacturers.
Pronto’s system relies on a 360-degree video coverage of the outside of the vehicle, and has another camera focused on the driver. Stojanovski emphasized the software is also an in-cab monitoring system, ensuring the driver does not misuse the system and remains aware of his or her surroundings, even when the system is engaged.
In a recent blog post, Levandowski said the self-driving industry has “been focused on achieving the dream of fully-autonomous driving straight from manual vehicle operation, and it has chased this false dream with crutch technologies,” such as Lidar and high-definition maps.
He said Pronto’s software is a step toward “real autonomous vehicles solving real problems for real people, while actually improving safety on real roads.”
Current available software is not good enough to predict the future, he said, and is “nowhere close to matching the instincts of human drivers, which is the single most important factor in road safety,” he added.
During a 2016 panel discussion shortly before Otto's autonomous beer delivery, Levandowski shared a vision of a future truck with no cab, and discussed just how much money could be saved by eliminating drivers.
Stojanovski said the Pronto’s vision is different than what Levandowski presented with Otto, but is still extremely “ambitious.” The image of a truck without a driver or cab was meant to be provocative, and sparked a “serious conversation” that is resulting in Pronto being able to offer “something of commercial value this year.”
He also believes it will be a product that fleets and drivers are ready to accept - and that regulators better understand - than just a few years ago.