Optimus Ride

Optimus Ride is an MIT spinoff company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts that develops self‑driving technologies to enable safe, sustainable, and equitable mobility solutions. Optimus is designing a fully autonomous (level 4) system for electric vehicle fleets. Optimus combines over 30 years of interdisciplinary university research in self‑driving technologies (DARPA Urban Challenge), electric vehicles (CityCar), and Mobility-on-Demand Systems. The company has a decade of industrial and entrepreneurial experience that combines manufacturing robots, urban design, and shared vehicle fleet management.



about the company

Founders

Jenny Larios Berlin is a veteran of car sharing technology and operations, having worked previously for the disruptive Zipcar. As a General Manager, Jenny introduced Zipcar operations into several university campuses nationwide. She created the strategic vision and managed the sales, marketing, and operations teams to deliver groundbreaking mobility solutions. Jenny was also the National Members Services Manager for Zipcar and was responsible for their service operations in all of their cities. In 2015, Jenny earned her Master’s in City Planning and MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While at MIT, Jenny worked in the Transportation Lab investigating mobility and urban transportation systems in low- income communities. She was also the recipient of the Public Service Center Fellowship to produce a participatory filmmaking project with an affordable housing community in the heart of Boston, MA. Ms. Larios Berlin collaborated with MIT Prof. Donald Sull on innovative frameworks for strategy development and implementation, which culminated in the publication of the book Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World (2015).

Dr. Sertac Karaman is an Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, and he is the director of the Foundations of Autonomous Systems Technology Group at MIT. He has obtained an S.M. degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2009 and a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 2012, both from MIT. His research interests lie in the broad area of embedded systems and mobile robotics. His recent research has focused on developing planning and control algorithms for self‑driving vehicles and autonomy-enabled transportation systems. More broadly, he has worked on driverless cars, unmanned aerial vehicles, distributed aerial surveillance systems, air traffic control algorithms, certification and verification of control systems software, and many others. In particular, he was on MIT’s team that built a self‑driving car and competed in the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007. His experience with robotic platforms also includes developing an autonomous forklift, working with Willow Garage’s personal robot PR2, and developing fully autonomous agile drones. Dr. Karaman has published more than seventy technical articles. He is the recipient of an Army Research Office Young Investigator Award in 2015, National Science Foundation Faculty Career Development Award in 2014, American Association of Aeronautics and Astronautics Wright Brothers Graduate Award in 2012, and an Nvidia Graduate Fellowship in 2011.

Ramiro Almeida has been appointed Professor and Director of The Innovation Lab at MDC. He recently spent three years conducting research at the intersection of innovation, social transformation, technology and entrepreneurship at the MIT Media Lab. Prior to his appointment at MIT, he was a Fellow at Harvard University. He was awarded the prestigious Loeb Fellowship at the Graduate School of Design. During his tenure he published the book A Line in The Andes, as part of a research studio that aimed at detailing the potential for urban design solutions required to meet the transportation challenges in developing a city’s first subway line. As an entrepreneur, he invested in early stage startups including the publication of the first Spanish version of Wired magazine in 1999, where he was first exposed to disruptive technologies. He later invested in Libri Mundi in 2006, the most prestigious bookstore and publishing company in Ecuador, which was acquired by La Favorita, the largest retail corporation in the country. As part of an alternative creative process, he explores publishing and film production. During his residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab in 2013, Mr. Almeida started the project to produce a feature animation film about technology, life and evolution. With MIT colleagues, he is working on designing self‑driving vehicle systems.

Dr. Ryan C.C. Chin is the CEO and Co-founder of Optimus Ride Inc – an MIT spinoff company based in Cambridge, MA that develops self-driving technologies that enable safe, sustainable, and equitable mobility access. Dr. Chin was the Managing Director of the City Science Initiative at the MIT Media Lab (2012-2015). He conducted Smart Cities research in the areas of urban mobility, housing, energy, and big data analytics. He researched Autonomous Mobility-on-Demand (MoD) Systems – a network of self-driving, shared-use, electric vehicles (EVs). He developed EVs including the GreenWheel, RoboScooter, Persuasive Electric Vehicle, and the CityCar – a foldable, electric, two-person vehicle. Time Magazine named the CityCar the “Automotive Invention of the Year” in 2007. His research led to the MIT Press publication of Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century by Mitchell, Borroni-Bird, and Burns in 2010. Dr. Chin advises industry and government agencies on Smart Cities innovations. He is a member of PCAST’s (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) working group on “Technology and the Future of Cities.” His MIT Professional Education course “Beyond Smart Cities” attracts global participants from corporate, public, and educational sectors. He frequently travels as a speaker at conferences like TEDx, MIT EmTech, and Smart City Expo. His op-ed articles have been featured in publications like the Guardian and BBC. His work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt, Venice Biennale, and London Science Museum. Dr. Chin has won awards for his research including the Katerva Award (2014) and the 100K Buckminster Fuller Challenge (2009). Esquire Magazine named him as one of the “Best and Brightest Innovators” under the age of 35 (2006). He received at MIT his PhD (2012) and MS (2004) in Media Arts and Sciences and a MArch (2000) in Architecture. He earned both his BCE and BSArch from the Catholic University of America (1997).

Dr. Albert Huang received his Sc.B. in Computer Science and Philosophy from Brown University in 2003 and his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 2010. He was a technical lead on MIT’s self‑driving car entry to the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007, and his research has focused on perception and autonomy for robots. In addition to self‑driving cars, his extensive robotics experience includes developing autonomous aerial vehicles, underwater vehicles, robotic forklifts, assistive wheelchairs, and humanoid robots. Dr. Huang was previously the software architect at Rethink Robotics, which defined a new category of collaborative manufacturing robots, and also the lead navigation and perception engineer on Project Wing, the drone delivery program operated by Google[x]. He has published dozens of technical articles, written a book on Bluetooth technology, and holds a patent on the training and operations of industrial robots.

Optimus Ride in the press

Jan. 11, 2017

Taking Corporate VC: When It Makes Sense

In recent years we’ve seen more and more corporations become more active or establish strategic VC arms. These corporate VC activities go hand in hand with other strategies of large companies including internal R&D, IP licensing, M&A, etc. Here are the things a startup should ask when contemplating strategic investment from a corporation:1) Does this corporate VC bring unique strategic benefit to my startup? Probably the most common critique of corporate VC programs is that comparatively few endure across decades. While a solid majority have never received investment from corporate VCs, about 15% have at some point in their lifecycle.