10th July 2019

Why We Build Autonomy for All Places

By Ben Upcroft

Autonomy in Any Place

The way we move people and goods is changing, with autonomous vehicles central to this change. Autonomy not only affects how you might commute in a city centre but it disrupts how ports, airports, mines, delivery transport, and warehouses operate. For a vehicle to be autonomous in any of these domains, and in fact anywhere on the planet, it needs to know where it is, what’s around it, and what it should do. 

Since our founding, we have been building the software that provides these fundamental competencies  for vehicles to autonomously operate in any place, at any time, and therefore in any domain. This is hard – autonomy in any place requires a vehicle to make intelligent decisions, no matter if it’s in a mine 1km below the surface of the Earth, in a city downtown, or in an enclosed warehouse.  

Autonomy in All Places

We don’t make any assumptions about the environments we operate in. For example, the diversity of all possible places means that we cannot rely on any external infrastructure – no GPS and no additional engineered beacons or landmarks. Therefore, sensing the environment must be agnostic to the environment itself. 

We use a complementary set of sensors to enable a vehicle to understand where it is in the world and to deal with all the conditions that might arise – cameras for the rich visual information that we as humans take for granted, lidar for geometric understanding, and radar for extreme conditions such as dust, fog, snow, and heavy rain. We can use any one of these sensing capabilities or any combination of them to maintain centimetre accuracy, no matter the place. 

This is powerful – without changing a line of code, our vehicles can understand where they are in all places, whatever the environmental conditions. 

All Places = Any Industry

For us, it has always been about solving the fundamental autonomy problem and providing the software that enables others to benefit from the technology. Autonomous operation in any one industry requires a common technology to provide the information of where the vehicle is, what’s around it, and what it should do. Oxbotica’s ability to do this in all places enables any industry to massively benefit from autonomy. 

The benefits come in different shapes and sizes. Some industries will see these benefits through massive efficiency gains, ultimately driving increases in productivity. Some will see the improvement in safety as the key motivation. While for others, new benefits will be created – ones that we may not yet have imagined. The way we move people and goods in any of these industries is changing and our software provides the flexibility and diversity to energise these industries so that they all gain.  

Over the lifetime of Oxbotica, we have deployed and operated our autonomy across multiple types of vehicles, across four continents, over five types of industries from underground mining, to city commuting, to warehouses – all with the same code. Our technology is continuously learning in each of these domains and sharing those learnings across the domains. Ever increasing our robustness and reliability.  

We are enabling vehicles in all industries to do more, in more places. This is Universal Autonomy and it’s happening now.