How China’s first autonomous driving unicorn Momenta hunts for data

Cao Xudong turned up on the side of the road in jeans and a black T-shirt printed with the word “Momenta,” the name of his startup.

Before founding the company — which last year topped $1 billion in valuation to become China’s first autonomous driving “unicorn” — he’d already led an enviable life, but he was convinced that autonomous driving would be the real big thing.

Cao isn’t just going for the moonshot of fully autonomous vehicles, which he says could be 20 years away. Instead, he’s taking a two-legged approach of selling semi-automated software while investing in research for next-gen self-driving tech.

Cao, pronounced ‘tsao’, was pursuing his Ph.D. in engineering mechanics when an opportunity came up to work at Microsoft’s fundamental research arm in Asia, putatively the “West Point” for China’s first generation of artificial intelligence experts. He held out there for more than four years before quitting to put his hands on something more practical: a startup.

“Academic research for AI was getting quite mature at the time,” said now 33-year-old Cao in an interview with TechCrunch, reflecting on his decision to quit Microsoft. “But the industry that puts AI into application had just begun. I believed the industrial wave would be even more extensive and intense than the academic wave that lasted from 2012 to 2015.”

In 2015, Cao joined SenseTime, now the world’s highest-valued AI startup, thanks in part to the lucrative face-recognition technology it sells to the government. During his 17-month stint, Cao built the company’s research division from zero staff into a 100-people strong team.

Before long, Cao found himself craving for a new adventure again. The founder said he doesn’t care about the result as much as the chance to “do something.” That tendency was already evident during his time at the prestigious Tsinghua University, where he was a member of the outdoors club. He wasn’t particularly drawn to hiking, he said, but the opportunity to embrace challenges and be with similarly resilient, daring people was enticing enough.

And if making driverless vehicles would allow him to leave a mark in the world, he’s all in for that.

Make the computer, not the car

Cao walked me up to a car outfitted with the cameras and radars you might spot on an autonomous vehicle, with unseen computer codes installed in the trunk. We hopped in. Our driver picked a route from the high-definition map that Momenta had built, and as soon as we approached the highway, the autonomous mode switched on by itself. The sensors then started feeding real-time data about the surroundings into the map, with which the computer could make decisions on the road.

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Momenta staff installing sensors to a testing car. / Photo: Momenta

Momenta won’t make cars or hardware, Cao assured. Rather, it gives cars autonomous features by making their brains, or deep-learning capacities. It’s in effect a so-called Tier 2 supplier, akin to Intel’s Mobileye, that sells to Tier 1 suppliers who actually produce the automotive parts. It also sells directly to original equipment manufacturers (OMEs) that design cars, order parts from suppliers and assemble the final product. Under both circumstances, Momenta works with clients to specify the final piece of software.

Momenta believes this asset-light approach would allow it to develop state-of-the-art driving tech. By selling software to car and parts makers, it not only brings in income but also sources mountains of data, including how and when humans intervene, to train its codes at relatively low costs.

The company declined to share who its clients are but said they include top carmakers and Tier 1 suppliers in China and overseas. There won’t be many of them because a “partnership” in the auto sector demands deep, resource-intensive collaboration, so less is believed to be more. What we do know is Momenta counts Daimler AG as a backer. It’s also the first Chinese startup that the Mercedes-Benz parent had ever invested in, though Cao would not disclose whether Daimler is a client.

“Say you operate 10,000 autonomous cars to reap data. That could easily cost you $1 billion a year. 100,000 cars would cost $10 billion, which is a terrifying number for any tech giant,” Cao said. “If you want to acquire seas of data that have a meaningful reach, you have to build a product for the mass market.”

Highway Pilot, the semi-autonomous solution that was controlling our car, is Momenta’s first mass-produced software. More will launch in the coming seasons, including a fully autonomous parking solution and a self-driving robotaxi package for urban use.

In the long run, the startup said it aims to tackle inefficiencies in China’s $44 billion logistics market. People hear about warehousing robots built by Alibaba and JD.com, but overall, China is still on the lower end of logistics efficiency. In 2018, logistics costs accounted for nearly 15 percent of national gross domestic product. In the same year, the World Bank ranked China 26th in its logistics performance index, a global benchmark for efficiency in the industry.

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Cao Xudong, co-founder and CEO of Momenta / Photo: Momenta

Cao, an unassuming CEO, raised his voice as explained the company’s two-legged strategy. The twin approach forms a “closed loop,” a term that Cao repeatedly summoned to talk about the company’s competitive edge. Instead of picking between the presence and future, as Waymo does with Level 4 — a designation given to cars that can operate under basic situations without human intervention — and Tesla with half-autonomous driving, Momenta works on both. It uses revenue-generating businesses like Highway Pilot to fund research in robotaxis, and the sensor data collected from real-life scenarios to feed models in the lab. Results from the lab, in turn, could soup up what gets deployed on public roads.

Human or machine

During the 40-minute ride in midday traffic, our car was able to change lanes, merge into traffic, create distance from reckless drivers by itself except for one brief moment. Toward the end of the trip, our driver decided to grab the wheel for a lane change as we approached a car dangerously parked in the middle of the exit ramp. Momenta names this an “interactive lane change,” which it claims is designed to be part of its automated system and by its strict definition is not a human “intervention”.

“Human-car interaction will continue to dominate for a long time, perhaps for another 20 years,” Cao noted, adding the setup brings safety to the next level because the car knows exactly what the driver is doing through its inner-cabin cameras.

“For example, if the driver is looking down at their cellphone, the [Momenta] system will alert them to pay attention,” he said.

I wasn’t allowed to film during the ride, so here’s some footage from Momenta to give a sneak peek of its highway solution.

Human beings are already further along the autonomous spectrum than many of us think. Cao, like a lot of other AI scientists, believes robots will eventually take over the wheel. Alphabet-owned Waymo has been running robotaxis in Arizona for several months now, and smaller startups like Drive.ai are also offering a similar service in Texas.

Despite all the hype and boom in the industry, there remains thorny questions around passenger safety, regulatory schema and a host of other issues for the fast-moving tech. Uber’s fatal self-driving crash last year delayed the company’s future projects and prompted a public backlash. As a Shanghai-based venture capitalist recently suggested to me: “I don’t think humanity is ready for self-driving.”

The biggest problem of the industry, he argued, is not tech-related but social. “Self-driving poses challenges to society’s legal system, culture, ethics and justice.”

Cao is well aware of the contention. He acknowledged that as a company with the power to steer future cars, Momenta has to “bear a lot of responsibility for safety.” As such, he required all executives in the company to ride a certain number of autonomous miles so if there’s any loophole in the system, the managers will likely stumble across it before the customers do.

“With this policy in place, the management will pay serious attention to system safety,” Cao asserted.

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Momenta’s new headquarters in Suzhou, China / Photo: Momenta

In terms of actually designing the software to be reliable and to trace accountability, Momenta appoints an “architect of system research and development,” who essentially is in charge of analyzing the black box of autonomous driving algorithms. A deep learning model has to be “explainable,” said Cao, which is key to finding out what went wrong: Is it the sensor, the computer, or the navigation app that’s not working?

Going forward, Cao said the company is in no rush to make a profit as it is still spending heavily on R&D, but he assured that margins of the software it sells “are high.” The startup is also blessed with sizable fundings, which Cao’s resume certainly helped attract, and so did his other co-founders Ren Shaoqing and Xia Yan, who were also alumni of Microsoft Research Asia.

As of last October, Momenta had raised at least $200 million from big-name investors including GGV Capital, Sequoia Capital, Hillhouse Capital, Kai-Fu Lee’s Sinovation Ventures, Lei Jun’s Shunwei Capital, electric vehicle maker NIO’s investment arm, WeChat operator Tencent and the government of Suzhou, which will house Momenta’s new 4,000 sq-meter headquarters right next to the city’s high-speed trail station.

When a bullet train speeds past Suzhou, passengers are able to see from their windows Momenta’s recognizable M-shape building, which, in the years to come, might become a new landmark of the historic city in eastern China.

Hyundai takes minority stake in self-driving car startup Aurora

Hyundai Motor Group has invested in Aurora, the latest sign that the scope of the year-old partnership between the automaker and self-driving car startup has expanded.

Aurora and Hyundai didn’t disclose terms of the investment. However, picking part new details of its Series B funding round and speaking to sources within the industry, Hyundai’s investment is below $30 million.

Aurora announced in February that it had raised more than $530 million in a Series B round that was led by Sequoia Capital and included “significant investment” from Amazon and T. Rowe Price Associates. Since then, that Series B round has expanded to more than $600 million with new investment from Hyundai, Baillie Gifford and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, TechCrunch has learned.

To date, Aurora has raised more than $700 million, a figure that includes its seed round Series A round of $90 million.

Hyundai’s stake in Aurora is an affirmation of the company and their working relationship. But it’s just one measure. What Aurora is actually doing matters as much.

When the partnership was first announced in January 2018, the details of the relationship were scant. New information reveals that Aurora has been working with Hyundai and Kia for the last year to integrate its “Driver” into Hyundai’s flagship fuel cell vehicle NEXO.

Aurora says it will expand research and development of a self-driving platform for a wide range of Hyundai and Kia’s models.

Aurora, which launched in January 2017, works with companies like Hyundai, Byton, and until more recently Volkswagen, to design and develop a package of sensors, software, and data services needed to deploy autonomous vehicles. The company describes this “full stack,” (an industry parlance) the Aurora Driver.

Aurora, like many of its competitors, are focused on Level 4 autonomous systems with an eye toward Level 5. Level 4 is a designation by SAE, the automotive engineering association, for autonomous vehicles that take over all driving in certain conditions. In Level 5 autonomy, the vehicle is self-driving in all situations.

About a year after Aurora’s official launch date, the company announced partnerships with Hyundai and Volkswagen, followed by a Series A funding raise that resulted in two new board members — LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman and Mike Volpi, former chief strategy officer at Cisco and general partner at Index Ventures.

Volkswagen has since ended its partnership with Aurora. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced a collaboration with Aurora to to develop self-driving commercial vehicles. The partnership with FCA will focus on integrating Aurora’s technology into the automaker’s line of Ram Truck commercial vehicles, a portfolio that includes cargo vans and trucks. The deal could extend to FCA’s Fiat Professional brand as well, TechCrunch has learned.

Sense Photonics flashes onto the lidar scene with a new approach and $26M

Lidar is a critical part of many autonomous cars and robotic systems, but the technology is also evolving quickly. A new company called Sense Photonics just emerged from stealth mode today with a $26M A round, touting a whole new approach that allows for an ultra-wide field of view and (literally) flexible installation.

Still in prototype phase but clearly enough to attract eight figures of investment, Sense Photonics’ lidar doesn’t look dramatically different from others at first, but the changes are both under the hood and, in a way, on both sides of it.

Early popular lidar systems like those from Velodyne use a spinning module that emit and detect infrared laser pulses, finding the range of the surroundings by measuring the light’s time of flight. Subsequent ones have replaced the spinning unit with something less mechanical, like a DLP-type mirror or even metamaterials-based beam steering.

All these systems are “scanning” systems in that they sweep a beam, column, or spot of light across the scene in some structured fashion — faster than we can perceive, but still piece by piece. Few companies, however, have managed to implement what’s called “flash” lidar, which illuminates the whole scene with one giant, well, flash.

That’s what Sense has created, and it claims to have avoided the usual shortcomings of such systems — namely limited resolution and range. Not only that, but by separating the laser emitting part and the sensor that measures the pulses, Sense’s lidar could be simpler to install without redesigning the whole car around it.

I talked with CEO and co-founder Scott Burroughs, a veteran engineer of laser systems, about what makes Sense’s lidar a different animal from the competition.

“It starts with the laser emitter,” he said. “We have some secret sauce that lets us build a massive array of lasers — literally thousands and thousands, spread apart for better thermal performance and eye safety.”

These tiny laser elements are stuck on a flexible backing, meaning the array can be curved — providing a vastly improved field of view. Lidar units (except for the 360-degree ones) tend to be around 120 degrees horizontally, since that’s what you can reliably get from a sensor and emitter on a flat plane, and perhaps 50 or 60 degrees vertically.

“We can go as high as 90 degrees for vert which i think is unprecedented, and as high as 180 degrees for horizontal,” said Burroughs proudly. “And that’s something auto makers we’ve talked to have been very excited about.”

Here it is worth mentioning that lidar systems have also begun to bifurcate into long-range, forward-facing lidar (like those from Luminar and Lumotive) for detecting things like obstacles or people 200 meters down the road, and more short-range, wider-field lidar for more immediate situational awareness — a dog behind the vehicle as it backs up, or a car pulling out of a parking spot just a few meters away. Sense’s devices are very much geared toward the second use case.

These are just prototype units, but they work and you can see they’re more than just renders.

Particularly because of the second interesting innovation they’ve included: the sensor, normally part and parcel with the lidar unit, can exist totally separately from the emitter, and is little more than a specialized camera. That means that while the emitter can be integrated into a curved surface like the headlight assembly, while the tiny detectors can be stuck in places where there are already traditional cameras: side mirrors, bumpers, and so on.

The camera-like architecture is more than convenient for placement; it also fundamentally affects the way the system reconstructs the image of its surroundings. Because the sensor they use is so close to an ordinary RGB camera’s, images from the former can be matched to the latter very easily.

The depth data and traditional camera image correspond pixel-to-pixel right out of the system.

Most lidars output a 3D point cloud, the result of the beam finding millions of points with different ranges. This is a very different form of “image” than a traditional camera, and it can take some work to convert or compare the depths and shapes of a point cloud to a 2D RGB image. Sense’s unit not only outputs a 2D depth map natively, but that data can be synced with a twin camera so the visible light image matches pixel for pixel to the depth map. It saves on computing time and therefore on delay — always a good thing for autonomous platforms.

Sense Photonics’ unit also can output a point cloud, as you see here.

The benefits of Sense’s system are manifest, but of course right now the company is still working on getting the first units to production. To that end it has of course raised the $26 million A round, “co-led by Acadia Woods and Congruent Ventures, with participation from a number of other investors, including Prelude Ventures, Samsung Ventures and Shell Ventures,” as the press release puts it.

Cash on hand is always good. But it has also partnered with Infineon and others, including an unnamed tier-1 automotive company, which is no doubt helping shape the first commercial Sense Photonics product. The details will have to wait until later this year when that offering solidifies, and production should start a few months after that — no hard timeline yet, but expect this all before the end of the year.

“We are very appreciative of this strong vote of investor confidence in our team and our technology,” Burroughs said in the press release. “The demand we’ve encountered – even while operating in stealth mode – has been extraordinary.”

Zoox co-founder Jesse Levinson is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility

Autonomous vehicle startup Zoox has a history of keeping its progressive and plans to itself. But that’s starting to change.

The venture-backed company that is creating ground-up fully autonomous electric vehicles is ready to share a bit more about its tech, strategy and plans. And who better to talk to than co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson, the person who oversees the company’s software, artificial intelligence, computing and sensing platforms.

We’re excited to announce that Levinson will join us onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility on July 10 in San Jose. TechCrunch will discuss with Levinson the tech that is driving the company’s autonomous vehicles, recent changes at Zoox, including its new CEO Aicha Evans, challenges facing the company and its deployment plans.

Levinson is among a group of insiders who participated in early government-backed competitions aimed at pushing the development of autonomous vehicles. While completing a computer science Ph.D. and postdoc under Sebastian Thrun at Stanford University, Levinson developed algorithms for the school’s winning entry in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. He went on to lead the self-driving car team’s research efforts before joining Zoox.

Levinson also co-created a popular mobile photography app, Pro HDR, that has been purchased by more than a million people.

Levinson is just one of the many leaders in autonomous vehicles, scooters and electric mobility who will participate in TC Sessions: Mobility.

The agenda is packed with some of the biggest names and most exciting startups in the transportation industry, including Mobileye co-founder and CEO Amnon Shashua, Alisyn Malek with May Mobility, Dmitri Dolgov at Waymo, Karl Iagnemma of Aptiv, Seleta Reynolds of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and Ford Motor CTO Ken Washington. With early-bird ticket sales ending soon, you’ll want to be sure to grab your tickets. Others include Katie DeWitt of Scoot, Argo AI’s chief safety officer Summer Fowler, Uber’s engineering director for Elevate Mark Moore and Stonly Baptiste, co-founder of early-stage venture capital fund Urban Us.

We have a few surprises too, including demos showcasing some cool tech and startups coming out of stealth.

The event will feature startup founders and industry experts and partake in discussions about the future of transportation, the promise and problems of autonomous vehicles, the potential for bikes and scooters, investing in early-stage startups and more.

Early-bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up after June 14.

Students, you can grab your tickets for just $45.

Apple reportedly exploring acqui-hire of self-driving startup Drive.ai

Apple is potentially seeking to acquire Silicon Valley autonomous driving startup Drive.ai, according to a new report from The Information. The report describes the acquisition as in process, and says it will be an ‘acqui-hire,’ which means it’s primary goal is to bring in the talent of Drive.ai – with presumably special focus on the engineering talent of the self-driving tech company.

Drive.ai got its start in 2016, founded by a crack team of graduates from Stanford’s AI lab. It focused originally on building out not only the functional autonomy of driving systems, but also intelligent communications systems that would help self-driving vehicles better integrate with existing human drivers and pedestrians.

The company later raised more money with a business model shift focused on retrofitting existing fleets of commercial vehicles, and last year began testing its own self-driving pick-up and drop-off service in Frisco, Texas.

The Information reported earlier this year that Drive.ai started seeking potential buyers for the company after finding fewer options in terms of continued funding and independent operation. Apple, for its part, has had a spotty history with its own efforts around autonomous driving, with some high-profile leadership shifts on its so-called ‘Titan’ car project. It’s still actively testing vehicles on roads, but the scope and shape of its approach aren’t entirely clear.

We’ve reached out to both Apple and Drive.ai, who declined to comment to The Information regarding the original report, and will update if we hear back.

Aurora’s head of product is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility

Self-driving car startup Aurora might be as buzzy as they come. The company raised more than $530 million just a few months ago in a round led by Sequoia Capital and with “significant investment” from Amazon and T. Rowe Price Associates. We’ve learned Aurora isn’t shy about using that capital with two acquisitions in the books.

But how, when and where will Aurora’s autonomous vehicle technology end up? Lia Theodosiou-Pisanelli, who leads product development and program management for all of Aurora’s partnerships, will join us on stage at TC Sessions: Mobility to give us the scoop.

Theodosiou-Pisanelli has had an up close view of the autonomous vehicle industry. Prior to joining Aurora this spring, she was director of business development for Lyft’s self-driving technology business Level 5.

Her background in global government relations at Square as well as a U.S. Trade Representative at the White House, gives Theodosiou-Pisanelli’s insight into how policy and regulations are shaped and might eventually affect the autonomous vehicle industry.

TC Sessions: Mobility will be held July 10 in San Jose. The agenda is packed with some of the biggest names and most exciting startups in the transportation industry, including Mobilieye co-founder and CEO Amnon Shashua, Alisyn Malek with May Mobility, Dmitri Dolgov at Waymo, Karl Iagnemma of Aptiv, Seleta Reynolds of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and Ford Motor CTO Ken Washington. With Early-Bird ticket sales ending soon, you’ll want to be sure to grab your tickets.

Throughout the day, you can expect to hear from and partake in discussions about the future of transportation, the promise and problems of autonomous vehicles, the potential for bikes and scooters, investing in early-stage startups and more.

Early-Bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up after June 14.

Students, you can grab your tickets for just $45.

Automakers have a choice: Become data companies or become irrelevant

While Bezos amassed billions, Apple took over our culture, Google became ubiquitous and software ate the world, the automotive industry needed a bailout. Since then, they have more or less recovered, but they are no longer the undisputed titans of American industry. That title now belongs to companies that traffic in data, and the FAANGs of the world have their digital fingers on the pulse of what moves us.

However, not all hope is lost for the old auto titans. Cars are here to stay, whether they have drivers or not. Automakers can ensure their seat at the table by implementing strategies better suited for the digital age and making data a core part of their future business.

Massive opportunity

“Big data” is a tired phrase, but the data boom is in full swing. New mobility giants like Lyft and Uber are built on data. Existing data and technology-focused companies, like Samsung (acquiring Harman), Intel (acquiring Mobileye), Google (with Maps and Waymo) and Apple (with Maps and Titan), are building mobility products. This makes perfect sense given the scale of the transportation and mobility sector.

There are 1.2 billion vehicles in operation globally, and people travel more than 23 trillion (that is with a T) miles every year. By 2020, each person on Earth will create an estimated 1.7 MB of data per second. A 2016 report from AAA showed that Americans spend an average of 17,600 minutes driving every year. By those estimates, Americans will be generating 1.8 TB of data every year in their vehicles. Add additional sensors to a vehicle like cameras, radar and lidar, connect these vehicles to the cloud, and suddenly Intel’s claims that autonomous vehicles will produce 4 TB of data in one and a half hours of driving doesn’t look too crazy. McKinsey believes there could be as much as $750 billion of value in vehicle data by 2030. Both numbers are hand-wavy, but the message is clear: there exists a massive opportunity.

Who wants the data?

Not all data is created equal and different data customers are seeking different data points to augment and expand their existing services. Automakers themselves and dealerships want to track vehicles post-production to better understand how customers are using their products. They can use this data to improve their product, push customers to dealerships for maintenance and repair and ultimately retain customers to enhance lifetime value.

Telecommunication companies are seeking to provide in-vehicle Wi-Fi and data services and ultimately scaling 5G networks to connect vehicles to the internet. Repair shops want to have remote access to sensors and systems on the vehicle to diagnose and even predict maintenance and repair events. Urban planners, advertisers and hedge funds want to access location-based analytics to understand how and why we are moving to provide a complete picture of individual preferences.

Insurance companies want access to speed, acceleration and navigation data to provide more accurate premium estimates for individual users and usage-based insurance. Developers want access to vehicle data to build new products and services that we have yet to conceive. The list goes on and on.

Data customers have a more advanced vehicle data strategy than the automakers themselves, and they have partnered with many startups that are trying to collect and aggregate vehicle data. For example, many startups provide a piece of hardware that plugs into the onboard diagnostic (OBD) port of a vehicle in partnership with insurance companies or repair shops. However, the OBD provides only a small subset of the total vehicle data.

Who has it?

Despite these “hacks,” the richest data set for vehicle-specific data is recorded on the CANBUS, and the automakers have the easiest access that data. This puts automakers in the best position to decide who can utilize the data and how.

We’ve already seen that larger automakers like BMW do not want to cede control to large technology companies — so what are the other options? Data management and monetization are not core competencies of the automotive industry. Manufacturers and suppliers currently operate on seven-year product cycles, which give them complete control over a stable value chain at the expense of interaction with end customers and less than state-of-the-art digital capabilities. Privacy and security concerns are looming, particularly for luxury brands with century-long heritages. Key for automakers will be finding a way to gain access to data expertise without giving away their proprietary position in the market.

Smaller automakers may be okay ceding some position to technology companies that could provide ADAS, autonomy and data management solutions (e.g. Aurora, Waymo) as they would likely struggle to build on their own. Ceding this position would relegate those automakers down the automotive hierarchy, but perhaps bring them greater volume in the future. For example, Waymo is developing its technology stack on Chrysler and Jaguar vehicles.

Automakers overwhelmed by this prospect may want to consider an acquisition, as they did for self-driving technology with Argo AI and Cruise. For instance, Ford acquired TransLoc and Autonomic to develop internal capabilities. General Motors took a substantial stake in third-party data platform Wejo. Automakers could also attempt to build these capabilities on their own. Toyota is developing a $1 billion data center.

What’s next?

It is abundantly clear to us at Autotech Ventures that there is a lot of value to be captured from vehicle data. That value will only grow as more and more sensors are added to vehicles. Automakers are in prime position to capture a tremendous share of this value, but will need to move quickly and perhaps reorganize their priorities along the way. We are skeptical that they can do it on their own.

Whether automakers decide to engage tech companies, acquire startups to help them gain expertise or rely on a startup to supply their data management needs, we expect a lot of activity in the space soon.

Reserve your demo table for TC Sessions: Mobility 2019

Early-stage startup ingenuity is one of the driving forces shaping the rapid, radical changes taking place in mobility and transportation. Come July 10, TechCrunch will host more than 1,000 movers, shakers and makers in San Jose for TC Sessions: Mobility 2019 for a day-long exploration of the technologies and challenges upending both industries.

Talk about a targeted audience. It’s the perfect place and opportunity to strut your startup stuff. Simply book a demo table to position your company in front of some of the most influential founders, investors, technologists and media. Networking made simple. You’re welcome.

TC Sessions: Mobility is jam-packed with speakers, workshops and demos that showcase an astounding range of topics, technologies, products and insight. We’ll dig deep into the future of transportation and mobility — including new and once-unimaginable technologies that lie ahead. We’ll cover the promises, the problems and the potential. And don’t worry, we’ll cover early-stage startup investing, too.

This lineup strikes a balance between industry powerhouses and smaller, but no less innovative teams working on the forefront. Here’s just a sample of what you can expect to enjoy:

  • Will Venture Capital Drive the Future of Mobility? Michael Granoff (Maniv Mobility), Ted Serbinski (Techstars) and Sarah Smith (Bain Capital) will debate the uncertain future of mobility tech and whether VC dollars are enough to push the industry forward.
  • Delivering the Future with Dave Ferguson. We’ll talk with Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson to hear all about the strengths and challenges of building a self-driving vehicle with a focus on local deliveries like groceries, food and retail goods.
  • Demo with Jay Giraud. Damon Motorcycles CEO and founder Jay Giraud will bring a motorcycle onstage to demonstrate the company’s rider protection system that combines radar, camera and other sensors to track the speed, direction and velocity of up to 64 objects at a time.

That’s just a taste, but you can see even more at the TC Sessions: Mobility agenda. Keep in mind there are still a few surprise guests to be announced in the next month, so be sure to check back.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2019 takes place July 10 in San Jose, Calif. Don’t miss a prime opportunity to place your early-stage startup in front of influential change agents. Book a demo table today, while you still can. Can’t wait to see what you bring to San Jose!

Looking for sponsorship opportunities? Contact the TechCrunch team to learn about the benefits associated with sponsoring TC Sessions: Mobility 2019.

Ford CTO Ken Washington at TC Sessions: Mobility on July 10

A conference dedicated to transportation and mobility wouldn’t be complete without hearing from Ford, the U.S. automaker with a storied 116-year history.

We’re excited to announce that Ford CTO Ken Washington will participate in TechCrunch’s inaugural TC Sessions: Mobility, a one-day event on July 10, 2019 in San Jose, Calif., that’s bringing the best and brightest minds founders, investors and technologists who are determined to invent a future Henry Ford might never have imagined. Or maybe he did.

If there’s a person at Ford who can provide insight into where the company is head, it’s Washington.

As CTO and vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering, Washington leads Ford’s worldwide research organization, oversees the development and implementation of the company’s technology strategy and plans, and plays a key role in its expansion into emerging mobility opportunities.

Prior to joining Ford, he was vice president of the Advanced Technology Center at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, where he led a team of scientists and engineers in performing research and development in space science and related R&D.

TC Sessions: Mobility has a jam-packed agenda, overflowing with some of the biggest names and most exciting startups in the transportation industry. With Early-Bird ticket sales ending soon, you’ll want to be sure to grab your tickets after checking out this agenda.

Throughout the day, you can expect to hear from and partake in discussions about the future of transportation, the promise and problems of autonomous vehicles, the potential for bikes and scooters, investing in early-stage startups and more.

We’ll be joined by some of the most esteemed and prescient people in the space, including Dmitri Dolgov  at Waymo Argo AI Chief Safety Officer Summer Craze Fowler, Nuro co-founder Dave FergusonKarl Iagnemma of Aptiv, Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron and Seleta Reynolds of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

Early-Bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up.

Students, you can grab your tickets for just $45.

Populus AI CEO, co-founder Regina Clewlow at TC Sessions: Mobility on July 10

Behind all those on-demand shuttles, ride-hailing vehicles, dockless scooters, bikes and someday even autonomous cars is data. A lot of data.

Numerous startups have popped up and several large, established companies have rolled out products all aimed at capturing and making sense of that data.

One such company is Populus AI, a startup that has launched a data platform for cities to better understand and manage how people are moving from Point A to Point B. The idea is that real-time data and analytics will help cities become easier to navigate and live in. Populus also offers real-time data from rideshare companies to inform curbside management and pricing. Back in December, Populus partnered with Lime to facilitate data sharing from its car-share service, LimePod.

We’re excited to announce that Populus AI CEO and co-founder Regina Clewlow will join us onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility on July 10 in San Jose.

Before launching Populus, Clewlow was the director of business development and strategy at RideScout, an early mobility-as-a-service aggregator that was acquired by moovel, Daimler and BMW’s mobility services unit.

Clewlow, who has a PhD in transportation and energy systems from MIT, has also served as a research scientist and lecturer at Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

TC Sessions: Mobility is designed to highlight the best and brightest founders, investors and technologists. We introduce our audience to up and coming startups, offer demo space to showcase products and create programming aimed at delivering the most value for every ticket holder. Our events are fun, too.

Clewlow will be able to discuss what Populus has learned from the data it collects. The company works with Washington, D.C. and cities in the SF Bay Area and Los Angeles areas.

Early-stage startup founders, don’t miss your chance to demo your company in front of top influencers at TC Sessions: Mobility 2019. It’s a prime opportunity to showcase your tech startup in front of a very large, very targeted audience — the mobility and transportation industry’s movers and shakers. Book a demo table here.

In case you missed it, some of our recently announced speakers include May Mobility co-founder and COO Alisyn Malek, Waymo CTO Dmitri DolgovNuro co-founder and CEO Dave Ferguson, Scoot SVP of Product Katie DeWitt, co-founder and CEO of Voyage Oliver Cameron and co-founder, president and CEO of Mobileye, Amnon Shashua — who also is a senior vice president at Intel. And there are more.

Early-Bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up.

Students, you can grab your tickets for just $45.