Anthony Levandowski is best known as the engineer who sparked a lengthy legal battle between Uber and Waymo, but he’s back in the news as he’s claiming to have driven coast-to-coast in an autonomous Toyota Prius.
In a somewhat rambling Medium post – where he claims to have been “painted into a villainous caricature” and labeled as “reckless” over his bluntness – Levandowski says his new company completed the “technical milestone” in October. The video also claims the car traveled 3,099 miles (4,987 km) from San Francisco to New York City with zero disengagements on the trip.
While it would be natural to assume the Prius was equipped with a Level 4 autonomous driving system, Levandowski says the car only used a “highly-capable Level 2 system and not more.” The Medium post doesn’t go into a lot of specifics, but The Guardian says the car only used “video cameras, computers and basic digital maps to make the cross-country trip.”
Levandowski also attacked the current approach to autonomous driving technology as he believes most companies are trying to jump directly to Level 4. His new company, Pronto AI, is doing something different as they’re “building neural networks from the ground up that combine experience-based AI, end-to-end deep learning, and crowdsourced data with advanced computer vision to deliver a highly scalable and flexible driving stack.” That’s a lot of techno babble, but he summaries it by saying “Our team of engineers is building tech that can learn how to drive the way people do.”
Besides releasing a time lapse video of the drive, Levandowski announced his company’s first product will be called Copilot and it’s an advanced driver assistance system designed for Class 8 vehicles such as semis. Little is known about it at this point, but the system is slated to roll out early next year.