News & insights

Scaling Self-driving Technology on the Path to Ubiquity


Gavin Jackson, CEO at Oxa

  • Oxa's CEO, Gavin Jackson, has worked in executive roles at global technology companies including Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, EMC, VMware, and UiPath. He graduated from Cranfield Business School, IMD School of Management, and Harvard Business School’s executive leadership program.
  • In this article, Gavin assesses how commercial autonomous vehicle (AV) deployments can reach massive scale, and the challenging questions all AV innovators must answer to ensure safe deployment of vehicles across all sectors and markets.

Many of our technical experts have worked with autonomous vehicles (AVs) for more than 25 years. Our people have deployed vehicles above and below ground, and water, in the High Arctic, country lanes and cities across Europe and the US, a shipping port in Australia, a Canadian mine, even a desert in Northern Chile where scenes from the Bond film Quantum of Solace were filmed. All of this rich experience is part of Oxa’s and the AV industry’s development fabric.

In 2024, we’re facing off to a new deployment challenge; arguably the most difficult terrain any autonomous vehicle has ever encountered. The industry is entering the commercial world, where all AV companies are trying to prove their technology is robust from an engineering and a financial perspective.

Oxa became the UK’s first exporter of commercial self-driving software when shuttles running Oxa Driver launched in Jacksonville, Florida in February 2024

Oxa is off to a strong start as we became the UK’s first exporter of commercial self-driving software when shuttles running Oxa Driver launched in Jacksonville, Florida in February 2024. We’re now accelerating, and by the end of this year our self-driving technology will be in use in multiple passenger shuttles, an energy farm, global hub airport, and a retail environment. We’ll have deployed Oxa Driver software in more than a dozen vehicle types: shuttles, transit vans, 4x4 pick-ups, small industrial trucks and more. And we'll have seen Oxa powered vehicles having run in over 10 cities, across two continents; all on the same foundational software.

It's breathless stuff but no company can be complacent! Building commercially viable AVs remains a work in progress for all. There’s disagreement over the sectors to focus on first, and no international consensus yet on what constitutes a safe autonomous vehicle system. Momentum however is picking up. The UK is about to deliver a new Autonomated Vehicles Act that will lead to regulations overseeing the in-use safety of vehicle fleets, and a host of other things. Also, the most urgent needs for autonomy are becoming clear - notably in shared passenger transportation, industrial logistics and asset monitoring. All these applications are viable because autonomy will solve immediate issues; helping businesses deliver vital operational gains, mitigate driver shortages, steal a march on competitors and reduce climate impacts.

Timing is Everything

However, while the pace of AV rollout is accelerating, all autonomy companies tend to have their own approach to scaling driven by a combination of technology and business philosophies. The differences can be subtle or stark and many question who’s right? Oxa’s approach, I believe, is unique. Our vision is to bring about Universal AutonomyTM with a horizontal business model making our technology widely-available. Allied to Universal Autonomy, we also consider how our products must be configurable - allowing easy adaptation for any viable use. Finally, similar to other AV companies, we focus on decision-making explainability. Explainability is even more important as we bring the most advanced AI techniques into our system.

These broad technology principles ground us as we think longterm about the firmest foundation for our Oxa Driver software platform. Beyond theory and testing, we also know how important it is to learn from real customers; there’s no compression algorithm for experience!

In 2024, we began accelerating our commercial learning by partnering with customers in the US and UK. Deployments will build rapidly over this year and next, including new services that have just started running at Lake Nona in Florida.

Deploying commercially, while also accelerating our technology capability, helps us to hone our business and technology strategy; a fly-wheel of learning enabling us to add increasing amounts of value. One thing stands out already. Developing autonomous vehicle technology relies on a symphony of technologies and techniques calling on the right notes for the right purpose at the right time. An extract from an article by Pennsylvia’s Wharton School (alumni includes Sundar Pichai, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett) sums up the time/value challenge nicely:

“... during the early state of a technology, the users who are going after it are not the ones who really care about the total value — they just like the new technology. That’s a very small part of the market. The mainstream users are looking to see, what’s the main value proposition? Not just technology being new.”

As the extract notes: having a well-defined value proposition for any commercial product is often more important than when you launch it. For example, iPhones were launched after Blackberries but Apple’s value proposition quickly won the market. It’s why I don’t rule Oxa out from any autonomy application - including robotaxis or private cars. The trick is matching price/performance with the relevant customer audience, and need, at the right time. For that reason, Oxa Driver is architected to generate value today but with a path to cover any viable application over time - Universal Autonomy.

Similar logic applies up and down the supply chain and in industrial logistics in particular. By applying autonomous vehicle technology to areas of urgent need you are also likely to align with the necessary price/performance ratios.

A new thought leadership series is coming

From Here to AV Eternity
Authors and articles that will ask and address the most challenging AV questions

I’ve posed a few questions around the AV evolution and we will attempt to answer them in a series of articles we’ll be posting under the banner “From Here to AV Eternity”. We’ll alert you to each new article via our LinkedIn channel.

You can sample a taste from Oxa Chief Commercial Officer, Richard Jinks here. Richard discusses how autonomous vehicles can move from R&D trials into profitable deployments at scale. Amidst the excitement of technological advancements, it’s easy to overlook the necessity for autonomy to become a viable business opportunity. Part of the argument centres around the order in which deployments happen. You can look at my prediction below.

Oxa's view of how autonomous vehicle deployments will scale commercially
Oxa's view of how autonomous vehicle deployments will scale commercially

Gavin Jackson
CEO, Oxa

Oxa thought leadership series

Download 1st Article