‘Car Guy’ Bill Gates just drives across London in an autonomous vehicle and says the sector is reaching a ‘tipping point’ over the next decade
Bill Gates is a self-described “car guy,” but he says he’s ready to hand over control to the machines — and predicts that day is “coming soon.” The Microsoft billionaire took a test ride in AV to show off the new technology, and said we’re about half way to realizing a future with fully autonomous vehicles in all conditions.
“The car took us around the City of London, which is one of the most challenging driving environments out there, and being in the car was a bit surreal,” Gates wrote in an accompanying blog post this week. Video, sounding optimistic about the future of AV.
The car he was riding in was built by Wayway, a British startup that works with Microsoft on its AV capabilities. For his “test ride”, Gates was accompanied by a safety driver, Wayway CEO and co-founder, Alex Kendall.
Several auto companies have been working to develop self-driving cars in recent years, including General Motors and Google-parent Alphabet. GM’s Cruise is also operating its own autonomous cab-hailing service in San Francisco, and recently asked California’s government for permission to test its AV across the state. Tesla’s cars have long given drivers the option of using its “Autopilot” feature, which assists with steering or braking, although it doesn’t yet support fully autonomous driving.
“We’ve made tremendous progress in autonomous vehicles, or AVs, in recent years, and I believe we will reach a tipping point within the next decade,” Gates wrote. “And if you travel by car like me, just think about how much time you waste driving. You could instead be catching up on email, or reading a good book, or watching new episodes of your favorite show.” can see – possible in fully autonomous vehicles.
The billionaire is also very hopeful about what AV could mean in terms of reducing social inequalities in the future if the technology takes off successfully. Gates thinks AVs will become cheaper over time and improve transportation access for the elderly and people with disabilities. And since most AVs being developed are also electric, he says AVs could also help fight the climate crisis.
But Gates acknowledged that AV has a long way to go — perhaps decades — before it becomes mainstream. But he believes that even after they do, passenger cars will be the last category to go the AV route (trucks will be the first, Gates predicted).
A future filled with self-driving cars means all the infrastructure supporting them will no longer be needed, but Gates said it will be “likely decades” before such a change occurs.
Other concerns regarding AVs have emerged in recent years as more such cars are deployed on the roads. Earlier this year, Tesla vehicles with experimental “fully self-driving” software were recalled because of a tendency to crash. Tesla’s Autopilot and “fully self-driving” are being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for car accidents in the past. And there have also been concerns that AV companies no longer require safety drivers to help guide cars through tricky situations on the roads, leading to chaos in some cases.
“Even once the technology is perfected, people may not at first feel comfortable riding in a car without a steering wheel. But I am confident the benefits will convince them,” Gates wrote on his blog. Wrote in
Gates is a big believer in artificial intelligence and future technologies related to it, and recently declared that “the era of AI has arrived.” He said he thought OpenAI’s chatbot tool ChatGPT, which was released last year to much fanfare, was revolutionary and had the potential to effect far-reaching change in health and education.
“Entire industries will re-orient around it. “Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it,” Gates wrote about AI in a blog post earlier this month.
This story originally appeared on Fortune.com
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