New CEO in Driver’s Seat as Autonomic Scales Up Mobility Cloud

Autonomic, the Silicon Valley startup acquired in February by Ford Smart Mobility, announced growth plans for its Web-based transportation app development platform today, and a reshuffling of its leadership team.

The new CEO is Gavin Sherry, who will steer an expansion of the Ford subsidiary’s Transportation Mobility Cloud, a software development hub that will be open to all mobility companies, including giant carmakers that compete with Ford.

Sherry was part of the team of former Pivotal staffers who founded Autonomic in 2016 to catalyze the development of apps and services within the mobility industry. Co-founder Sunny Madra, who was Autonomic’s first CEO, is now vice president of Ford Smart Mobility’s tech business incubator Ford X, and will serve as a board member and advisor at Palo Alto, CA-based Autonomic.

San Francisco-based cloud infrastructure and software development platform Pivotal, which received a $182 million investment from Ford in 2016, also collaborated with the Dearborn, MI-based carmaker as it explored technology innovation over the past few years as a new route toward growth and profits, while tech companies such as Uber and Tesla were redefining the business of transportation. Pivotal (NYSE: PVTL) raised $555 million in its IPO in April.

Ford Motor Co. executive chairman Bill Ford, Jr. confirmed the carmaker’s shift toward technology-based business lines Wednesday in an interview with Reuters. The car manufacturer is discontinuing some North American car models, cutting costs, and investing some of the savings in electric vehicles, automated driving systems, and technology businesses, including the Transportation Mobility Cloud now being scaled up at Autonomic.

Autonomic plans to enlarge its Silicon Valley team, and also create a team in Detroit, to tackle vehicle connectivity and mobility projects. The Ford unit is also seeking new partnerships among carmakers and automotive suppliers, and inviting software developers to explore possibilities for new mobility-related apps that could be created on the Transportation Mobility Cloud. Google and Amazon are among the big tech companies also building Web-based platforms to serve connected vehicles.

In an interview, Sherry told Xconomy that mobility startups, such as autonomous vehicle inventors, can use the Transportation Mobility Cloud (TMC), to develop their own ride-hailing apps, turn-by-turn car routing command systems, and connectivity channels to the cloud, where other mobility businesses operate. Autonomic does a substantial amount of the back-end software development for such applications, and makes those available as APIs (application programming interfaces) on the Transportation Mobility Cloud, he says. Its customers, such as autonomous vehicle fleet operators, can then quickly tweak the software further to cover the “last mile” toward the product they want to create, Sherry says.

One of the functions Autonomic wants to provide is vehicle routing specialized for autonomous vehicles, whose trips must be confined to municipal jurisdictions where they’re allowed, and to regions free of constructions zones or conditions such as sun flares that could confuse their navigation systems.

Rather than building all the mobility-related apps that Autonomic’s leaders can imagine as promising businesses, the company wants to operate something like Apple, which “pointed to” possible apps that could be created within its iOS operating system, and invited multiple developers to build them out in their own ways, Sherry says.

“We’ll be the beneficiary,” Sherry says. Customers who use the Transportation Mobility Cloud pay for subscriptions to the software, and may also pay fees related to the number of interactions with vehicles or with applications, he says. “TMC will help raise all boats collectively.”

Photo Credit: Vicente Barcelo Varona, Depositphotos

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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