At most Detroit automotive events the dress is usually strictly business, a sea of navy blue suits with a smattering of khaki pants. A new style with a rainbow of possibilities is entering the automotive industry direct from Silicon Valley, illustrated by Jason Stinson, the co-founder of Renovo – a software company accelerating innovation in Automated Mobility as a Service.
Stinson wears jeans and colourful sneakers. He calls himself “an eclectic dresser with a warped sense of style”. At Renovo, he is “laser focused to create an operating system for autonomous fleets, robotaxis and the future of mobility.” His background includes classic car collecting and Silicon Valley alliances that are propelling a new ecosystem.
Stinson likes being at the forefront of technology. Fresh out of Stanford in 1991, Stinson worked on the original Pentium designs at Intel, moving up to be senior principal engineer of microprocessors and teaching chip design at Stanford University.
Eight years ago, Stinson met Renovo’s co-founder, Chris Heiser through a mutual friend who worked at Tesla. They found that they both had a deep love of cars. Stinson collections of cars includes a first generation Corvette, ‘58 Jeep Mercedes 190 SL and Jaguar XKE. Heiser brought his love of car racing to the partnership when they formed the company committed to transforming the way people and things move.
Heiser and Stinson’s first project together at Renovo was upgrading a Shelby Coupe to all-electric alongside the original designer of the 1960 Shelby, Peter Brock.
The Renovo team built the all-electric Shelby with a mix of Tier-1 and custom components, powered by new optimised software from scratch. They were trying to reach the specs of a Ferrari 458 and came very close. However, one of the problems with electric cars is the battery empties over time and reduces performance. They were able to achieve high performance with top speeds about 209 to 225 kph (130 -140 mph) with a production car with rear wheel drive.
Renovo was invited to Stanford University’s CARS program to provide the platform for MARTY, an autonomous, electric, drifting DeLorean designed to handle extreme conditions.
It became clear in development processes that developers for AI software don’t necessarily want to learn how the car’s systems work, such as braking or steering and how they communicate to each other, says Stinson. Renovo created AWare, an operating system that allows developers to create apps to talk with a common interface, making the job of integration easier for developers.
Stinson told Auto Futures: “Vehicles are becoming less mechanical and more electronic with software. Autonomous fleet mobility companies will have to be able to deal with multiple features not only the driving of the car but the routing of the passengers, payments, what to do if the car is dirty and other tasks that are separate from the vehicle itself”. He adds that Renovo has already signed on many partners including HERE, aiPod, INRIX, Voyage, Civil Maps, CARMERA, Samsung and others.
Working at Renovo is what Stinson, calls “typical Silicon Valley” where developers and engineers get to have “fun.” Employees play Frisbee or tennis at lunch. At the Stanford track, Renovo engineers get to “blow-out“ a set of MARTY’s tyres in ninety seconds.
“We are working on a system that will be changing society on how people move,” says Stinson “It takes a lot of energy and determination.” To envision a new future also takes creativity. Stinson notes that engineers are not only creative in their designs but creativity is baked into everything about them.
“In my whole life I have not necessarily been a great conformist,” says Stinson whose creativity permeates his wardrobe as well as his career.