By Dipo Olowookere
Silicon Valley-based LiDAR technology company, Velodyne Lidar, has announced the promotion of Mr Rick Tewell to Chief Operating Officer.
Mr Tewell assumes leadership of the company’s vast manufacturing efforts at its Megafactory in San Jose, California.
He joined the company in September 2017 as Senior Vice President of Automated Manufacturing and was promoted to Chief Advanced Manufacturing Officer prior to the promotion to COO.
He brings a wealth of expertise to the day-to-day production of Velodyne’s industry-leading lidar sensor product line.
According to Marta Hall, Velodyne’s President and Chief Business Development Officer, Velodyne “recruited Rick Tewell to manage Robotics and Advanced Technology, and within a year it was clear he could lead Operations as COO.
“Velodyne Lidar is at the extreme edge of high tech, and Rick meets the challenge with da Vinci-like multiple talents. In the last three months Rick upgraded the entire Velodyne Megafactory with robotics and newly designed innovative processes for production. As COO he brings a futuristic vision and fresh energy to the operations of the company.”
“My main responsibility,” said Mr Tewell, “is to take a design that came from the mind of a genius, David Hall [Velodyne’s Founder and CEO], and make it into a product worthy of the Velodyne name. I work with David and Anand [Gopalan, Velodyne’s Chief Technology Officer] to translate these wonderful designs that have the ability to change the world into something that is manufacturable and then ramp production to meet the demand. To take an invention from Dave Hall and turn it into a manufacturable product is a huge responsibility and one that I take very seriously. It’s an incredible opportunity. I get out of bed excited to go to work, and I go to bed thinking about it.”
According to Mr Tewell, the job of Chief Operating Officer at Velodyne is unlike any other. Between designing and manufacturing the highest quality sensors on the market comes the equally challenging task of inventing and building the machines that then build the sensors.
“For our sensors to be able to see so far and produce incredibly accurate data for autonomous vehicles to use, we have to employ incredibly precise processes, which include utilizing robotics and automation. So we need to also invent the machines that will build our sensors.” Given the uniqueness of Velodyne’s products, Mr Tewell pointed out that he must address the complex processes of “taking something that’s never been invented or built before and building tens of thousands — hundreds of thousands — millions of them. It is a whole series of inventions to produce the sensor invention. So, it is not just the genius of the lidar itself; it’s the genius of saying, ‘This is what you are going to need to invent in order to manufacture the sensor.’”
Before coming to Velodyne, Mr Tewell established a successful career in the automotive semiconductor industry, including stops at Fujitsu and NVIDIA.
Rick remembers, “The idea that cars eventually would be robots emerged while Dave Hall was participating in the DARPA Grand Challenge. At NVIDIA we were creating the brains that would be used in self-driving cars.”
Mr Tewell’s interest and experience in developing key technologies for autonomous mobility grew over the years. Finally, Tewell decided to join Velodyne with the clear realization that he would be “aligning with a company that will be one of, if not the, principal company in the self-driving industry.”
Mr Tewell recognizes the essential role Velodyne’s products have in enabling safe mobility at scale. “We are working hard to meet the next wave of demand for sensors to put on autonomous vehicles. Scaling up will drive the cost down to where the price is attractive to all customers. But we will never compromise on quality. It is critical from an operations standpoint that our product will ultimately impact someone’s life. This realization needs to permeate every aspect of what we do. This is not a piece of technology that is going to stay in a box. When you put a sensor on a car the person in that car is trusting that technology to keep them safe.”
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