Renovo partners with aiPod to deploy self-driving cars in London and beyond

Renovo is licensing its technology to yet another self-driving startup — this time aiPod — in its bid to sell a platform that will enable companies to deploy commercial fleets of fully automated vehicles.

Fleets of autonomous vehicles that can safely pick up and drop off people and packages will require more than an AI system that can brake, accelerate and steer.

Commercial self-driving fleets will have to complete all sorts of other tasks that human taxi and rideshare drivers handle today, including recognizing when a rider is uncomfortable or notifying passengers when a phone or other items have been left behind. Never mind all the data, cybersecurity, infotainment and other services delivered to passengers that must be managed, as well.

In short: The software stack required for a fully automated driving service is complicated. It’s in that chaotic intersection where software startup Renovo sees opportunity.

Renovo isn’t developing the AI (or brain as some refer to it) that allows the autonomous vehicles to navigate city streets. Instead, Renovo has developed an operating system called AWare OS designed specifically for the commercial deployment of fully automated vehicles.

AWare OS works a lot like how Google’s Android allows app developers to launch services in the smartphone market. It can even be compared, in a way, to Amazon Web Services’ on-demand cloud computing platform. This middleware provides a platform that other companies can use to deploy software. A number of companies, including Inrix, Speak With Me, HD mapping and localization company Civil Maps and simulation startup Metamoto, have already joined Renovo’s ecosystem.

Now Renovo is starting to license its technology to companies that want to deploy autonomous vehicle services.

The latest licensee, aiPod, a rather quiet startup, plans to pilot a self-driving vehicle service in London, beginning in early 2019. Renovo’s AWare OS will be integrated into aiPod’s autonomous vehicles.

Self-driving startup Voyage announced in June that it will use Renovo’s AWare OS across its fleet of automated vehicles that are in existing commercial community deployments in The Villages in central Florida and The Villages in San Jose, Calif.

The message Renovo is trying to deliver: You don’t have to be a vertically integrated company to deploy a self-driving car service.

“Essentially, people who want to deploy fleets of cars on public roads are able to do that now without having to do all of the tech themselves,” Renovo CEO Chris Heiser said in a recent interview. “This isn’t just the domain of Waymo or Cruise.”