Bill Gates has always been a “car guy”. The tech billionaire and co-founder of Microsoft is also someone with a clear vision for the future. And according to him, the future of driving is autonomous vehicles (AV). In his last blog, Bill Gates said that “the day will come sooner rather than later” when we will hand over control of our vehicles to machines. Given this view, the American business tycoon was more than happy to sit down for a ride through the streets of London in a self-driving car.
The result? “One of the toughest driving environments imaginable,” Gates said in a blog post titled Don’t touch the wheel: the rules of the road are about to change, Wednesday. Despite the presence of a security driver who intervened on several occasions, Mr Gates deemed the ride in the car developed by British tech start-up Wayve ‘memorable’ and was impressed with the car’s ability to navigate in traffic.
On his self-driving car ride in London, Gates was accompanied by Wayve CEO and founder Alex Kendall. Wayve is a tech start-up currently working on a new approach to autonomous driving. Speaking about the vehicle on his blog, Gates said: “While many AV vehicles can only navigate streets that have been loaded into their system, the Wayve vehicle operates more like a person. He can drive anywhere a human can drive.
You can watch the video of Bill Gates in the car here:
When we drive a car, we rely on our accumulated knowledge from all our past driving experiences to make decisions. That’s why we instinctively know what to do at a stop sign, even though we’ve never encountered that particular sign on that specific road before. Wayve, Gates explained, uses deep learning techniques to achieve the same result. The algorithm learns through examples, using the knowledge acquired through numerous simulations and real driving to analyze its environment and react in real time.
“The result was a memorable race. The car took us through central London, which is one of the toughest driving environments imaginable, and it was a bit surreal to be in the car as it dodged all the traffic. (Since the car is still in development, we had a safety driver in the car just in case, and she took control several times),” Gates wrote, describing his journey in the AV through downtown London in pursuit of fish and chips.
Speaking about the potential transition to AVs, Gates said several automakers, including GM, Honda and Tesla, are already developing vehicles with self-driving features that resemble traditional cars. What remains to be seen, according to the tech giant, is what the transition to AVs will actually look like. There’s a lot of ground to cover, Gates said, explaining that factors such as the extent of auto insurance coverage and the current state of vehicle laws as well as road networks may need to be recalibrated to include VAs.
“This kind of change is probably decades away, if it happens at all. Even once the technology is perfected, people might not feel comfortable in a car without a steering wheel at first. But I think the benefits will convince them,” Gates added, arguing for AVs.
“Humanity has already adapted to new modes of transport. I believe we will do it again. For most of our existence, we have relied on natural means of getting around: we have walked, ridden horses, or traveled in a wind-driven boat. Then, in the 1700s, we entered the age of locomotion where mobility was powered by steam and internal combustion engines. Now we find ourselves in the early days of the autonomous era. It’s an exciting time and I can’t wait to see what new possibilities it opens up,” he wrote.