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First Rivian Adventure Vehicles Will Be Self-Driving

Rivian Automotive
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe (left) and battery engineer Charles Chang at the company's facility in Irvine, CA.

The first two vehicles being introduced by Rivian Automotive this year will be autonomous, or self-driving, and designed for adventure.

During an interview for GLT's Sound Ideas, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said the "electric adventure vehicles" will have steering wheels, but drivers won't have to necessarily use them. 

"Think of spending a day at the lake or the beach with the family. You hop back in the car. You want to talk to your family or check your phone. The ability to take your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, is an important brand-defining experience. And over time, those self-driving capabilities will expand and grow," said Scaringe.

Scaringe said at first the vehicle won't be 100 percent autonomous, but once it's able to operate without anyone in the vehicle, how people view or "consume" the vehicle will shift. The vehicle maybe something people subscribe to, fractionally own, or something used as a service.

"Think of it as your adventure for the weekend and we come pick you up," said Scaringe.

And most likely, it's a pickup that will pick you up. The electric auto manufacturer plans to introduce a 5 passenger pickup and a 7-passenger SUV before the end of the year. Both vehicles have been named, but the names have not been released. And both will be assembled at the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal.

Credit Staff / WGLT
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe in the GLT Studios.

He calls the pickup segment of the market a "very ripe space." 

"So as a brand, with this first product (the pickup), we see an opportunity to really rethink and reimagine a space. There are features and characteristics on that launch vehicle which really help connect us with exploring, and going places, and adventure," said Scaringe. "That brand promise has to transcend all the changes we're going to see in the next 20, 30, 40 years: the shift away from steering wheels, the shift away from traditional ownership. That first product is really our handshake with the world to say, 'We're a brand to help you engage with life's adventures.'"

Encountering technical difficulties in the middle of nowhere on an adventure could spoil the trip or make a buyer think twice about purchasing an electric adventure vehicle. Rivian has anticipated this issue.

"Embedded in them (the vehicles) is a deep digital architecture that connects with the cloud. The way we developed the vehicle is that we really started with the cloud first and we created a mirrored data layer where everything that's happening on the vehicle is also mirrored in the cloud," said Scaringe. "It allows us to provide a, think of it as a safety net, so as the vehicles are out, if they have any issues, we can provide support."

Scaringe indicated he's confident the company will meet its benchmarks next year for continued local and state tax breaks. By the end of 2018, the company will need to document a $10 million investment into the production facility in Normal. The company will also have to employ 35 people. Scaringe said they just recently hired their 40th employee to work at the former Mitsubishi plant. 

People should be able to buy Rivian vehicles online or at company-owned retail outlets in 2021. The autos with the largest battery packs will have a 400-mile range, or as Scaringe puts it "get you to your adventure and back on a single charge."

You can also listen to GLT's full interview:

GLT's full interview with Scaringe.

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