SVIEF 2017 Exclusive: Drive.ai Co-Founder Tao Wang Talks to Futurecar

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【Summary】Futurecar reporters attended the 7th Silicon Valley Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum where we met with Drive.ai co-founder Tao Wang to discuss some of the company’s plans and technology.

Original   Eric Walz  ·  Sep 29, 2017 6:52 PM PT
author: Eric Walz   

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Futurecar attended the Global Next Car Summit as part of the 7th Silicon Valley Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum (SVIEF) held this week in Silicon Valley.

The event brought together innovative start-ups, industry leaders and venture capitalists looking for expand business relationships between the U.S. and China. Among the notable companies in attendance was Drive.ai.

Drive.ai is a Silicon Valley autonomous driving startup founded by former lab mates working out of Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Lab. The company is not building cars, instead, Drive.ai is creating AI software for autonomous vehicles using deep learning, which they believe will be the key to the future of transportation.

Futurecar spoke with co-founder Tao Wang about some of the company's plans and technology. One major component of Drive.ai's technology is in the field of deep learning.

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"One the technical side, our approach is unique in the sense of the self-driving field, as we use a deep learning first approach. Deep learning is a special type of learning that is highly scalable with large amounts of data." He added, "Deep learning scales very well with large amounts of data, and these systems can get better over time.

"This is especially important for self-driving cars", he added. "if you drive on the road everyday, you encounter new situations everyday."

The data that is collected from these encounters can be used to train a deep learning model, so the system improves each time it encounters a new situation. Which makes sense in a self-driving car, as hard coding an autonomous car for every unseen scenario it may encounter on the road is unpractical with a traditional software approach.

Drive-ai also plans to offer a kit to business fleets. "We don't want to be a small piece of a consumer car, so we make self-driving kits for an existing car." this means that a business can use its existing fleet with Drive.ai's platform.

Wang also added that Drive.ai has driven tens of thousands of miles to collect data in the San Francisco Bay Area. For comparison, companies such as Waymo operates a self-driving fleet that collected millions of miles. However, having less miles under its belt is not a bad thing for Drive.ai. Scenarios that a self-driving car will encounter on the road can be tested in simulation. Wang added that his company is also collecting data this way to improve its self-driving capabilities.

Drive.ai Testing its Technology in Singapore

Drive.ai announced a partnership yesterday with ride hailing company Grab in Singapore. Futurecar asked Wang if he thinks that strict regulations, especially those in the United States, will hamper the development and rollout of self-driving cars, and why the company chose Singapore.

"I think Singapore presents a unique opportunity for self-driving cars, as the country is a small city state, with a very dense population, and has a very visionary and actionable government. "They are literally running out of land." The small geographical size and high population density makes Singapore an ideal place to test autonomous vehicles.

He added that the government is trying to limit cars on the roads in Singapore due to traffic congestion, making self-driving cars are a viable option to reduce traffic, while making getting around the city easier for everyone.

Along with the partnership with Grab, Drive.ai remains focused in California.Three weeks ago, the company announced that it will be piloting with U.S. based ride hailing company Lyft, starting in the Bay Area. This collaboration combines Drive.ai's deep learning-based self-driving solution with Lyft's extensive ridesharing network, furthering both companies' commitment to the development of safe, intelligent autonomous vehicles.

This pilot, which will deploy in the Bay Area soon, will provide valuable insight on how self-driving vehicles can be used effectively, and will help Lyft optimize the passenger experience. Drive.ai will use this pilot to expand thier technical capabilities and develop a roadmap for broader commercialization.


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