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Rivian’s Latest Patent Application Wants to Help Find You in a Crowd

Electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive is looking for ways to make it easier to connect autonomous vehicles with ridesharing passengers.

The automotive company, in a filing earlier this week with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is aiming to build on vehicle autonomy with technology that would use location signals and a wireless network to make it easier for ridesharing vehicles to find their respective passengers.

“Autonomous vehicles are of great interest for transportation applications and can provide benefits to the ride-sharing industry,” Rivian said in its application.

Images matching the passenger or their surroundings would be used by the vehicle with the aim of making it easier to locate riders.

“Conventionally, when an intended passenger makes a request for a ride-sharing vehicle, the intended passenger may have to contact the driver or have human interactions with the driver of the vehicle to identify his/her particular vehicle, especially when in a crowded area such as a city or an airport,” the filing said. “Such interaction, however, may be challenging, if even possible, when the passenger is attempting to locate an autonomous vehicle within a pool of autonomous vehicles or a crowded area with obstructions.”

Rivian did not respond to a request from Sourcing Journal for comment on the filing.

The company’s vehicles tout Driver+ as a standard option. It’s a feature that offers drivers assistance on parking, collision alerts and automatic steering among other things. The feature is considered level 2 autonomy. Level five is considered fully autonomous with no driver necessary.

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Rivian said in its patent filing the location system described could be applied to level four or five autonomous vehicles. The application went on to say the patent could just as well apply to any level of autonomy, from zero to five, or other automation categories.

Rivian currently has its R1T truck and R1S sport utility vehicle on the market for consumers, alongside delivery vans. The company’s made it clear it’s longer-term business strategy will rely on revenue streams from both the consumer and commercial vehicle markets.

Amazon, an early investor in Rivian, was the vehicle maker’s first commercial customer with its order for 100,000 electric delivery vans that would be used in last mile deliveries.

The e-tailer already uses autonomous delivery robots for delivery in some last mile cases with its Scout vehicles, begging the question of whether Rivian’s latest patent could hold implications for its commercial van lineup in the future.

Rivian’s said on calls with investors it’s been working with Amazon on tailoring the vans to its drivers’ delivery needs with founder and CEO RJ Scaringe telling analysts in May there’s been “a heavy amount of iteration and refinement with Amazon in terms of how it fits into their digital ecosystem and getting a tremendous amount of driver feedback through a series of trials and a series of feedback loops with drivers.”

Scaringe went on to say van deliveries are expected to “ramp up, and you’re going to start to see a lot more of them, hopefully, coming into all of our neighborhoods delivering packages.”

The vehicle maker, like other automakers, has been hampered by supply chain constraints brought on by COVID and has a 25,000-vehicle production target for the year. The company’s not disclosing the exact split within that 25,000-vehicle production number between consumer and commercial vehicles, outside of saying vans would account for roughly a third of the total.

Supply chain issues have caused Rivian to lose roughly a quarter of its production time.

Inflation on certain components prompted the company to adjust its consumer vehicle pricing earlier this year with a roughly $12,000 hike on both new and pre-ordered vehicles. The decision to raise prices on pre-orders was met with swift criticism from customers, prompting the company to reverse course and confirm it would honor the original prices on pre-orders.

Rivian went public in November to become one of the largest IPOs in U.S. history, with a market cap that soared to more than $100 billion. That’s since fallen to a recent market capitalization of $23.2 billion.