Using public roads as a laboratory presents practical complications for enhancing Ike's system, says Alden Woodrow, co-founder of the year-old trucking startup. And whether for Ike's technology or competitors' systems, public-road testing brings inherent risks that he'd prefer to minimize, he says.
"We're hoping to create a more open conversation in the hope everyone can be more committed to really safe choices," Woodrow told Automotive News.
Ike detailed its approach to testing and development in a 90-page safety report filed last week with NHTSA. The voluntary safety self-assessment describes a process that relies heavily on simulation and private-track testing. The report is the 16th the federal agency has received from industry players but perhaps the first from a company that has yet to test its technology on public roads.
Other companies have pushed back against the notion that hundreds of test cars must drive millions of miles on public roadways to vet the competence of self-driving systems. Notably, Aurora Innovation has kept its test fleet to a dozen or so cars. In July, a Volvo Cars executive called the idea of measuring progress by miles "a myth."
Ike has Class 8 trucks on the roads in California and Arizona, but they're manually driven. The plan is to gather data on scenarios encountered on highways and feed it into simulation, where the company's testing takes place in earnest.
"We run thousands of tests every night on our software to measure its performance, and what we'd like to do is scale that dataset up in substantial ways and move the performance in the right direction as opposed to fixing anecdotal things," Woodrow said. "That's the trap you fall into with public testing: A merge doesn't go well, and you make a fix for that particular situation."
While the company says it will eventually test its technology on public roads, it intends to minimize those efforts.
Its name is a nod to former President Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower, who championed the idea of the interstate highway system. Ike Robotics has raised $52 million in funding, according to Crunchbase.