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Why a mechanic left professional racing for a self-driving startup

One of the biggest misconceptions about autonomous vehicles is that the people building them hate driving. But if you want to deploy vehicles for maximum reliability in all conditions, you need people who know how to build and maintain them. No one knows more than the mechanics behind the cars running endurance races like the 24 hours of LeMans, Daytona and the Baja 1000.

In this episode of No Parking, we sit down with Argo AI technician Andre Ramdhanny, a Touring Car veteran who managed a GT racing team across the Carribean, Europe, and the Middle East.

Ramdhanny knows you don’t need to need a PhD to work at a tech company, but you do need to think differently about how vehicles run—or should run, especially in one of America’s hottest urban environments.

Argo test vehicles are “completely different. It’s a totally different animal compared to stock Ford Fusion Hybrids,” he said. From the high-voltage control system to braking, logic, shift controls and suspension—it’s all been customized to meet the needs of autonomous technology.

Keeping cars on the road means increasing how much data is gathered, which improves the rate at which the self-driving system learns and the frequency with which new software can be updated and deployed. It’s an endless cycle of constant improvement.

In many ways, he said, deploying an autonomous test vehicle in a city is similar to sending a car out onto the racetrack, although at drastically slower speeds and without incident. It takes discipline and rigor. It takes guts.

“There’s quite a bit that goes into making that happen, right, that folks may or may not appreciate… but that absolutely applies to how we approach service.”

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