Uber-backed delivery robots to deploy Israeli startup’s remote human operator tech

Ottopia’s teleoperation software platform allows a human operator to communicate with autonomous vehicles to address unpredictable or unsafe road situations

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Israeli startup's remote teleoperation software to be be deployed by Serve Robotics, a maker of sidewalk delivery robots. (Serve Robotics)
Israeli startup's remote teleoperation software to be be deployed by Serve Robotics, a maker of sidewalk delivery robots. (Serve Robotics)

Ottopia, an Israeli maker of remote assistive tech for autonomous, driverless vehicles, has landed a commercial agreement to help Uber-backed Serve Robotics with the deployment of its sidewalk delivery robots.

Founded in 2018 by CEO Amit Rosenzweig, Ottopia has developed a remote assistance platform that uses teleoperation software for human operators to monitor fleets of autonomous vehicles and provide guidance when they run into complex and unpredictable safety situations, including road construction or obstacles on the road.

The deployment of human operators can solve any challenge, including safety and cybersecurity, by responding to questions from the car’s brain, according to the startup. Safety and other challenges are some of the issues that have held up the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles.

Teleoperation is the technology behind operating an autonomous machine or robot from a distance via a wireless connection. The software can be installed on robotaxis, roboshuttles, autonomous trucks and machines, and last-mile delivery robots.

As part of the commercial agreement, Serve will be paying Ottopia an undisclosed sum for using its “teleoperation software which enables them to remotely assist and control their robot fleet from multiple control centers around the world,” Rosenzweig told The Times of Israel in emailed comments.

Serve was founded in 2017 as the robotics unit of Postmates, which the US ride-hailing firm Uber snapped up in 2020 before it was spun out as an independent company in February 2021. The deal with Ottopia comes as the San Francisco-headquartered maker of autonomous sidewalk delivery robots has an agreement to deploy up to 2,000 of the little AI-powered bots via the Uber Eats platform for food delivery across the US. For now, the Nvidia-backed startup has a fleet of about 100 delivery robots operating in Los Angeles.

Serve Robotics command center for the deployment of autonomous sidewalk delivery robots. (Serve Robotics)

Rosenzweig added that Ottopia was chosen after extensive evaluation of multiple teleoperation platform assessing various parameters, including latency, bandwidth, and video quality during a pilot.

“Our collaboration will help fuel Serve’s growth and advance their track record of efficiency and safety,” said Rosenzweig, who was previously head of product for Microsoft’s cybersecurity offering.

Ottopia’s remote vehicle operator, or teleoperator, is run by a human being that sits in front of video screens to monitor and communicate with a driverless vehicle from afar via cameras and sensors that are placed in the vehicle. The cameras and sensors transfer data to the computer stack which assesses what is happening inside and outside the vehicle.

The platform provides teleassistance and indirect control to robotaxis and roboshuttles that drive on public roads as well as vehicles being driven in airports, mines, and agricultural areas. Assistance includes commands such as path choice, or drawing a new path for the vehicle to take. The Tel Aviv-based startup’s software is currently installed in autonomous cars, buses, yard and long-haul trucks, construction machines, and delivery vehicles.

Among Ottopia’s customers are Motional, a self-driving car joint venture between South Korea’s Hyundai Motor and car tech firm Aptov, which uses the startup’s platform for its robotaxi fleets; and Germany’s BMW Group. The startup has also forged partnerships with Deutsche Telekom and chipmaker Nvidia Corp.

Earlier this year, Ottopia raised $14.5 million from a Series A funding round participated by ComfortDelGro, one of the world’s largest public transportation companies, and AI Alliance Fund. Existing investors, including MizMaa Ventures, IN Venture and Next Gear Ventures, also joined the financing round.

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