Rivian Grows Up | Summary and Q&A

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October 19, 2022
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Rivian Grows Up

TL;DR

Rivian's CEO, R.J. Scaringe, discusses the company's future products, including smaller vehicles and updated technology, as well as their focus on improving the technology stack. He also addresses the large number of employees focused on future product development and the possibility of expanding into the e-bike market. Scaringe talks about Rivian's commercial relationship with Amazon and their plans for multimodal commercial transportation. He also shares his insights on autonomous vehicle technology and the challenges associated with it.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What are Rivian's priorities for their pipeline of future products?

Rivian's CEO, R.J. Scaringe, reveals that their priorities include developing smaller vehicles, different form factors, and continuously improving the technology stack of their vehicles, such as updated drive units and electronics.

Q: How many employees at Rivian are focused on future product development?

Scaringe mentions that around half of the company's employees, approximately 6,000 to 7,000 people, are dedicated to future product development, including updated computing, drive units, and battery packs.

Q: Is Rivian planning to introduce a larger battery pack for their vehicles?

Scaringe confirms that Rivian is looking to introduce a bigger battery pack for their vehicles, aiming to provide more range for both their trucks and SUVs.

Q: Is Rivian considering entering the e-bike market?

Scaringe explains that Rivian sees an increasing need for multimodal transportation solutions, including e-bikes. While he acknowledges their excitement about the e-bike space, he mentions that Rivian has yet to make any official announcements or statements regarding their involvement.

Q: How does Rivian fit into the commercial side of things, particularly with Amazon's sustainability goals and their e-bike delivery plans?

Scaringe reveals that Rivian has a range of commercial vehicles, including large vans, and they are involved in discussions about using e-bikes for last-mile deliveries. While he does not explicitly state that Rivian will be the supplier for Amazon's e-bikes, he emphasizes that Rivian is considering smaller form factors for urban deliveries in their product portfolio.

Q: What are Rivian's thoughts on scooter sharing services?

Scaringe acknowledges that scooter sharing services are heavily used but highlights the challenges concerning safety and security. He mentions that regulatory frameworks will need to catch up with emerging modalities like e-bikes and expects changes to be made to accommodate new types of mobility.

Q: How has Rivian handled a recent recall and what was the customer response?

Scaringe discusses a recall issue they experienced and explains that they identified the problem quickly and addressed it promptly. He notes that having a direct-to-consumer model allowed them to mobilize their service network efficiently and respond to the recall, resulting in positive customer feedback.

Q: How does Rivian view the progress of autonomous vehicle technology, and do they plan to implement it in their vehicles?

Scaringe distinguishes between hardware-heavy systems and hardware-constrained systems in achieving self-driving capabilities. He mentions that Rivian's current vehicles fall within the hardware-constrained category, capable of level two or three autonomy. He believes that as they add new sensing modalities and improve their computing levels, level four autonomy becomes a possibility.

Summary

In this video, R.J. Scaringe, the founder and CEO of Rivian, discusses the company's future plans, including new vehicle models and technology updates. He also talks about the focus on product development within the organization and the potential for expanding into the e-bike market. Scaringe also addresses Rivian's role in the commercial side of things, such as providing vehicles for delivery services. He touches on the topic of autonomous vehicle technology and the challenges that come with it. Scaringe shares his thoughts on burnout and work-life balance as a CEO and reflects on the unexpected challenges the company has faced, including supply chain constraints. He also discusses the importance of building a domestic battery and chip production supply chain in the United States to support the rapidly growing electric vehicle industry.

Questions & Answers

Q: What can we expect from Rivian in terms of future vehicles and technology updates?

Rivian has a second platform, the R-2, in development, which will include smaller vehicles and different form factors. The company is continuously improving its technology stack, including updated drive units, electronics, and features.

Q: How many people at Rivian are focused on future product development?

Approximately half of the company's employees, around 6,000 to 7,000 people, are involved in some sort of product development. These resources are primarily focused on what's next for Rivian, such as updated compute platforms, drive units, and battery packs.

Q: Is Rivian planning to introduce a larger battery pack with more range?

Yes, Rivian is looking into developing a larger battery pack to increase the range for its vehicles, including the truck and SUV models.

Q: Has Rivian filed a trademark for an e-bike? Is it part of the company's plan?

Rivian has indeed filed a trademark for an e-bike, as part of its focus on increasing multimodal transportation options. While they haven't made any official announcements or statements regarding e-bikes, Rivian sees it as an important part of the future of transportation.

Q: How does Rivian fit into the commercial side of things, such as delivery services?

Rivian has a range of commercial vans in its product portfolio, including large vans, smaller vans, and vans developed in partnership with Mercedes for the European market. The company recognizes the growing demand for urban deliveries and sees potential in expanding to smaller form factors like bikes.

Q: What is Rivian's stance on the scooter movement?

Rivian acknowledges the popularity of scooters but highlights the challenges related to safety and platform security. The company believes that there will be significant changes in how policies incorporate these new mobility solutions and that the regulatory framework will need to catch up.

Q: With Amazon's stake in Rivian and their focus on sustainability, how does Rivian fit into the multimodal commercial side of things?

Rivian offers a range of commercial vans, including large and smaller ones, that can be utilized for various delivery purposes. While Rivian cannot directly disclose whether they will be the supplier for Amazon's e-bike delivery plans, the company has considered the need for smaller vehicles like bikes for urban deliveries.

Q: What are the challenges involved in implementing autonomy in vehicles, and how does Rivian see its role in autonomous vehicle technology?

R.J. Scaringe explains that there are two main approaches to achieving self-driving capabilities: hardware-heavy systems and hardware-constrained systems. Rivian's vehicles fall into the latter category, providing features that allow for Level 2 or Level 3 autonomy (the ability to take hands off the wheel and eyes off the road in certain circumstances). While Rivian's current hardware may limit them to Level 3 autonomy, the company's continuous development of new sensing modalities and improved compute levels positions them to expand to Level 4 autonomy in the future.

Q: Can automakers deliver on their goals of selling personal autonomous vehicles in the near future?

R.J. Scaringe believes that while limited Level 4 autonomy might be possible by the middle of the decade, broad Level 4 or Level 5 autonomy (where the driver can completely disengage from driving) is still a longer-term goal. However, he is confident that it will happen eventually, and the role of AI and L2/L3 systems in Rivian's vehicles is driving towards that goal.

Q: Does Rivian plan to incorporate Level 3 autonomous driving technology in its vehicles?

Rivian is determined to include Level 3 autonomous technology in its vehicles because it creates immediate value for consumers in terms of time saved during driving. While there are challenges in the handoff between vehicle and driver, Rivian's hardware and software capabilities are moving towards achieving that goal. Scaringe also mentions that Rivian offers an insurance product that rewards customers for using their level two features (Driver Plus), which perform better than the best human drivers.

Q: How does R.J. Scaringe maintain work-life balance and avoid burnout as the CEO of Rivian?

Scaringe emphasizes that being passionate and excited about what they are doing helps him avoid burnout. He finds inspiration and motivation in customer experiences and feedback, such as a customer's 2-year-old daughter giving their Rivian vehicle a hug daily. Sharing the excitement of Rivian's future products and pipeline with the audience also helps maintain balance.

Q: What unexpected challenges has Rivian faced, and how have they dealt with them?

Scaringe mentions the supply chain challenges that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in relation to equipment for their production plant. The company had to adapt to manufacturing, hiring, and training under the constraints of the pandemic. Additionally, supply chain constraints, especially in semiconductors, have posed unexpected challenges. Despite these difficulties, Rivian has worked through them and improved its ability to respond to such issues effectively.

Q: Will bringing battery and chip production to the United States be enough to solve supply chain problems?

Scaringe believes that it's crucial to build a domestic battery and chip production supply chain in the United States, particularly for lithium-ion batteries. The current supply chain, which primarily serves consumer electronics, needs to grow approximately 20 times in the next ten to fifteen years to meet the demand for electric vehicles. The investment needed is significant, and a shift to domestic production reduces risk concentration in the supply chain and supports the industry's expansion.

Q: Can the automotive industry achieve its goal of transitioning to all-electric vehicles by the end of the decade?

While it is fantastic to see the industry's shift towards electrification, R.J. Scaringe points out the supply problem faced by the industry. The demand for electric vehicles is increasing, but the supply of lithium-ion battery cells is likely to be a constraint. Meeting the goals of transitioning from a few million electric vehicles to several million per year may be limited by the supply of batteries.

Takeaways

Rivian's future plans include the introduction of smaller vehicles and continuous improvement of technology across its product line. The company is focused on product development, with a significant portion of its workforce dedicated to future projects. Rivian is considering an entry into the e-bike market and sees multimodal transportation, including bikes, as an important part of the future. The company aims to provide commercial vehicles for various purposes, including urban deliveries. While Rivian believes in the potential of autonomy, there are hardware and regulatory challenges to overcome. The company recognizes the importance of achieving higher levels of autonomy but believes that the initial focus should be on Level 2 and Level 3 features that add immediate value for consumers. Rivian has faced unexpected challenges, such as supply chain constraints, and is working towards building a domestic battery and chip production supply chain in the United States. The company acknowledges the supply problem in the automotive industry and believes that meeting the goals of transitioning to all-electric vehicles will require addressing this constraint.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Rivian CEO, R.J. Scaringe, discusses the company's plans for future products, including smaller vehicles and updated technology, while maintaining a focus on improving the technology stack.

  • He highlights the significant number of employees dedicated to future product development and updates in computing, driving units, and battery packs.

  • Scaringe mentions the possibility of entering the e-bike market as part of Rivian's strategy to provide a range of mobility solutions.

  • He talks about Rivian's commercial relationship with Amazon and their plans for commercial vehicles, including larger vans for urban deliveries.

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