Cambridge

Meet the Cambridge duo behind safe driverless car technology backed by Uber

A Cambridge duo have developed 'safe self-driving' technology that could transform how we travel in the future.

Amar Shah and Alex Kendall met while studying for PhDs at Cambridge University; Amar, machine learning and Alex in computer vision.

Together they have developed software, under the name Wayve, which will be compatible with all sorts of electric cars to make autonomous vehicles a day-to-day reality for everyone.

The technology is already being tested on public roads in the UK and is attracting investment from Uber.

Uber had to halt testing its own in-house self-driving technology when an autonomous car killed an American pedestrian in Arizona in March.

Amar Shah and Alex Kendall met while studying for PhDs at Cambridge University

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was crossing the road with her bike when it failed to stop automatically. It was the first time a pedestrian has been killed by a self-driving car.

Prof. Zoubin Ghahramani, chief scientist of Uber and an investor in Wayve, said: “The talented team at Wayve is pushing the forefront of machine learning technology into the world of self-driving. State-of-the-art machine learning is essential for successful self-driving."

Wayve's technology is being developed with safety in mind.

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Co-founder Alex told Cambridgeshire Live: "In the future we imagine a world where mass transit systems move people and goods around – trains, buses, aircraft or hyperloops – between major hubs.

"We are targeting the last mile transportation, to get from that hub to the final destination through safe and intelligent autonomy."

Wayve's system focuses on artificial intelligence rather than pre-programmed mapping systems. The company believes the industry has been doing too much hand-engineering and too little machine learning.

Drone footage of a test run

"The missing piece of the self-driving puzzle is intelligent algorithms, not more sensors, rules and maps,” says Wayve co-founder and CEO, Amar Shah.

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“Humans have a fascinating ability to perform complex tasks in the real world, because our brains allow us to learn quickly and transfer knowledge across our many experiences. We want to give our vehicles better brains, not more hardware.”

Alex added: "Technology today relies on lots of data, 3D maps and rules to drive.

"This requires a lot of data and resources and does not scale. We are building an artificial driving intelligence system which can drive using just what it sees, like you and me.

Wayve prototype vehicles

"We are a software company building the brain that will have artificial driving intelligence. We don't build the cars. Our software is hardware agnostic and will be capable of working on most cars.“

Key among the considerations behind the technology is the importance of reducing car's carbon footprint.

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"This is very important to us," said Alex.

"We hope the efficiency gains from autonomous transport will vastly improve the sustainability of urban transport. We are focusing our development on electric vehicle platforms."

Wayves team also includes leading experts in robotics, computer vision and artificial intelligence from both Cambridge and Oxford universities with experience from the worlds best technology innovators including NASA, Google, Facebook, Skydio and Microsoft.

The company is being supported in its endeavours by insurance company Admiral, by providing fully comprehensive insurance cover on the test-vehicle.

Cambridge test run

Head of automotive partnerships at Admiral, Gareth Rees, said: “Admiral is delighted to be supporting this trial.

"We are excited by the vision presented by Wayve and their focus for on-road testing is seen as crucial in understanding the risks and impact of autonomous systems being brought to our roads."

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