During his university days, Tiancheng Lou was considered the top student programmer in China, especially amongst the CEOI and ACM crowd. After finishing his undergrad degree, he joined the Institute for Theoretical Computer Science at Tsinghua University, headed by Turing Award Winner Professor Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, as a Ph.D. candidate in 2008. Having earned his Ph.D. in 2012, his professional career started with Google, then joining Google’s autonomous vehicle team in 2015. In 2016, he left Google for a short time for Quora, before eventually being recruited into Baidu by Andrew Ng as a member of Baidu’s autonomous driving team.
At the end of 2016, Tiancheng left Baidu, along with James Peng - Baidu’s former Chief Architect for Autonomous Driving - and co-founded the autonomous driving startup Pony.ai. So far, they have recruited more than 100 engineers. But unlike other companies in this field, Pony.ai began right with its eyes set on Level 4 autonomous driving.
Pony.ai’s product wasn’t a packaged solution for a car manufacturer, instead choosing to be involved in the designing phase of the car. They believe that autonomous driving solutions are deeply customized solutions, and cannot be sold like a standardized parts. Also, autonomous driving systems will require time before they can reach acceptable levels of performance, and are ongoing, iterative, and data-driven technologies.
Autonomous driving, Tiancheng believes, will not only completely change the way we travel, but also provide a new terminal that will change people's lives. “Autonomous driving requires many technologies. At this stage, technology is the critical path, and this is where we excel," he concludes.