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Otto Co-founder Anthony Levandowski Starts New Self-driving Business

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【Summary】Caught in stealth mode, the company is expected to specialize in self-driving trucks – just like Otto.

Michael Cheng    Jul 14, 2018 12:00 PM PT
Otto Co-founder Anthony Levandowski Starts New Self-driving Business

Anthony Levandowski, Co-founder of Otto and a controversial stand out during the Waymo-Uber court battle, is having an eventful year. After getting fired from Uber (forced exit after invoking the Fifth Amendment during a closed-door hearing to avoid potential criminal charges), the prolific entrepreneur took some time off – away from persistent reporters and the automotive space.

It seems that during this period of reflection, Levandowski was quietly working on a secretive startup, called Kache.ai. Caught in stealth mode, the company is expected to specialize in self-driving trucks – just like Otto. The name of the startup stems from the Chinese word for ‘truck' which highlights the main scope of the business.

Kache.ai

It's important to point out that Levandowski is not officially connected to the startup. However, there is enough documentation to assert his leading role in the company. Kache.ai was incorporated in St. Helena, California – based on the corporation's state filing with the California Secretary of State roughly seven months ago. Interestingly, Levandowski's father and stepmother owns the property the business is using for operations (based on existing property tax and title records recovered by TechCrunch).

Levandowski is widely known in the autonomous driving sector for his ground-breaking contributions. Before starting Otto in 2016, he worked for Google as a principal architect under the Google Street View project. Moreover, Levandowski ran 510 Systems, a business that specialized in automotive sensors, which were sold to Google. The tech giant eventually acquired 510 Systems, as well as Anthony's Robots (another startup launched by Levandowski).

"We did almost all of their [Google] hardware integration. They were just doing software. We'd get the cars and develop the controllers, and they'd take it from there," said Bryon Majusiak, previously Mechanical Engineer at 510 Systems and Senior Mechanical Engineer at Google.

"I absolutely believe 510 could have gone public. It was about a 50-50 split between people who wanted to go forward with that and people who wanted to give the Google buyout a shot."

According to IEEE Spectrum, Google evaded inquiries about Levandowski's and 510 System's contributions to the company's self-driving program. Instead, the tech brand pushed Sebastian Thurn, winner of the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, as the primary pioneer of its autonomous driving project. During the competition, Thurn beat Levandowski's entry, which was the only vehicle with two wheels (called ‘Ghostrider').

New Beginnings

Since Kache.ai was discovered by various media outlets, the startup has taken time to remove critical information about the company on LinkedIn and its official website. Screenshots of the site prior to the changes showed the startup launching a massive hiring campaign. The company is looking to fill the following roles: software engineers, convolutional neural network specialists and mapping experts.

"We're developing the solution for the next level of on-the-road self-driving trucks," said the startup on its official website (before it was updated). "Our development philosophy is based on a fast moving, very aggressive agile team approach and we're seeking both software and hardware engineers that thrive in such an environment."

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