The Google X founder on hover taxis, the healthcare uses for AI and why we havent seen the last of Google Glass

Sebastian Thrun isn’t your ordinary Silicon Valley computer geek -cum -Stanford prof. The 51 -year-old artificial knowledge and robotics scientist is incumbent upon co-developing Google Street View , pioneering self-driving cars, founding Google X the internet giant’s secretive research lab- and revolutioni sing education by kickstarting massive open online trends ( M oocs ). His most recent project is developing flying cars. You propelled your running car corporation, Kitty Hawk , in 2015 backed by Google co-founder Larry Page and you have two projects in development- a personal aircraft announced Flyer and an autonomous air taxi called Cora . Why do the work requires flying automobiles?
The ground is getting more and more congested- we are all stuck in traffic all the time. Bringing transportation into the air will form things faster, safer and more economically and environmentally friendly. Just imagine proceed at 80 miles an hour in a straight line at any time of day without ever having to stop. If you’re in Jersey City in the morning and wish to go to Times Square, Manhattan, that is likely to take you more than an hour in traffic. With an electric flying vehicle you have been able do it in less than two minutes on perhaps 10 pennies of energy costs. It would be transformational to almost every person I know.

So these new technologies is there?
I believe so. Cora and Flyer are both examples that have shown that it is possible to take beings in the air for about 20 minutes at a time with the straddle of perhap 50 or so miles[ Cora is being tested on New Zealand’s South Island ]. That is sufficient in my opinion for most of our daily excursions to and from work, academy, the supermarket and so on. It’s a matter now of finishing up and creating them to market. I think in the next three to five years we’ll view a lot of change.

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Kitty Hawk’s Cora aircraft in flight.
What about refuge. Would you put one of your family members in one of these flight cars ?
I’ve wing it, the two partners has flown it and my son who is 10 has not yet flown it but he wants to. Obviously safety is our No 1 concern and we’ve been working closely with regulators. At this extent, Flyer is only controlled 10 ft above a irrigate surface to make sure that, in the absolute worst case, a person can take a water landing. But as information and communication technologies matures, it ought to be safer than even existing small-scale aircraft. That’s because the propulsion plan uses many different independent machines and propellers: if you lose one it’s not a big deal.

Sky jammed with personal aircraft will probably irk a lot of parties. And isn’t it a recipe for chaos?
I would concur that societal following is perhaps the biggest unknown for us. We are very sensitive to factors such as noise. People worry about air congestion, and so do I, but in the air, unlike on the floor, vehicles can fly at different altitudes. You can always fly a bit higher or a bit lower to avoid congestion. Nonetheless, there is an important challenge to build an air management system that can accommodate maybe tens of thousands of vehicles at a time.

Won’t these things simply end up being simply for the rich?
Part of our dream at Kitty Hawk is to build a taxi system which could democratise this technology from day one so everybody gets to use it. We believe that the costs of the air taxi system would be even less than the cost of an Uber or a
Lyft.

You won a 2005 grandiose challenge from the Pentagon’s investigate busines, Darpa , to create a driverless vehicle. That produced “youve got to” felt Google’s self-driving car team , now a company called Waymo . What’s your assessment of how the field is progressing?
I am an impatient party by nature. I would enjoy self-driving cars to take over the world right now. If you take a ride specifically in a Waymo car today, the technology is basically ready. The regulators have been amazingly cooperative in espouse this new vision. The real challenge ought to have customers adopt it. We are in the very early phase with that.

In March this year the status of women pushing a bicycle across the road was affect and killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Phoenix, Arizona , generating Uber to suspend testing in the city. How much of a setback has the demise been for autonomous vehicles, generally? Is it inescapable that beings will die as this new technology grown-ups?
The Waymo team has now successfully driven over 5m miles. In all those miles, a software hitch stimulated exactly one minor collision. Almost all traffic accidents are the result of lack of attention and distraction. The Waymo car never texts, it never sleeps, it is never drunk, it never fails to pay attention and it even seems in all directions all the time. As a ensue, it ought to be that we can eventually cut the number of traffic fatalities by a factor of 10 or more, and even possibly down to zero.

You’re a lament cyclist. How obsessed are you about the implications of autonomous vehicles on cycling? Are the systems sophisticated enough to monitor and respond to erratic action?
When I loped the Google crew we very actively worked on predicting the behaviour of and interacting with bicyclists, small children, deer and other seemingly unpredictable elements of real commerce. A self-driving car has gigantic accuracy. It pictures even the smallest amount of flow. As a cyclist who has been exposed to danger many times by trucks guiding at less than an inch clearance, I can’t wait for cycling among self-driving cars because it will be safer than it has ever been.

You’ve worked on applying AI to healthcare. What will it do for us?
We found that a well-trained neural network combined with a smartphone is as accurate as very best human experts at spotting surface cancer. That makes it possible to take their knowledge and skills of the best doctors and placed it into the sides of everybody. It’s still early. But I have this dream that if we just rethought diagnostics as something that happens every day for every person at home we might be able to diagnose all sorts of maladies that are life-threatening before it is too late.

In 2011, you co-founded the online technology education house, Udacity , to offer M oocs after the success of a Stanford AI course you flowed online. Later you left Google to focus on it. Initially there was exuberance with M oocs then disillusionment, with the New York Times declaring in 2013 that Udacity was a flop. Where do things stand today?
I don’t think Udacity has been a flop at all. It is just that it takes probably a decade or more to get to the point where we can really move the needle on educating a large number of people. Since 2011, we have really learned how to stir the medium successful. We have known that students love parish and one-on-one mentorship. Back in the working day, our finishing charges were typically 3-5 %. Today, our finishing rates have been as high-pitched as 60 -7 0% in some of our nanodegree curricula[ which accusation participates a cost of generally about $1,000 ]. Globally around 10 million people have registered and in any thrown month “weve had” approximately 50,000 students signed off for a nanodegree. We would be profitable but we reinvest our costs back into innovation. And people are being hired out of these courses. We are the biggest supplier of talent in hot topics like self-driving cars and deep teach. We teach more students self-driving car engineering than all the universities in the world combined.

Is there a sci-fi book or movie you’ve raided for projects?
To get plans I simply look at what bothers me. Why am I stuck in traffic every day? Why did my sister die of breast cancer if it can easily be diagnosed? All these problems have solutions. There’s a lot of opportunity for innovation in so many aspects of everyday life.

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Sebastian Thrun wearing Google Glass at the TechCrunch conference in San Francisco, 2013. Photograph: David Paul Morris/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

You are one of the experts interviewed in the documentary Do You Trust This Computer ? which has just been released in the US and cautions about the potential dangers of neural networks. What scares you?
My biggest fright is that people rush to premature opinion. New technologies have always been scary. A hundred years ago beings dreaded high-voltage electricity in their homes. Today we have become dependent on it. What we need is an open and broad-spectrum conference on how to best leverage this new technology. I believe this is taking place today.

When it is important to forming the nations of the world a better place, is Silicon Valley delivering?
Yes. Not everything is perfect, but consider the value added to society through the onset of smartphones, social networks, and free online education through Udacity. Udacity educates numerous hundreds of thousands of students in the world. It manufactures high-quality education accessible everywhere. And self-driving cars might at some detail save more than a million lives every year. These are large-scale things.

From patrolling to access to finance, AI is being increasingly used to make decisions that can change people’s lives. Radicals like the American Civil Autonomy Union say there is a danger that the gender issues and ethnic biases we have already will get knitted in. How do we do better?
We should pay attention to this and understand whether the machines we learn are inappropriately biased or lead to bad decisions. I am a big fan of people and machines working together in decision making, with people having the eventual authority to induce life-changing decisions. I am much less a fan of leaving such decisions to machines , no matter how good AI has become.

Google Glass emerged out of Google X but was then discontinued in 2015. Where did it go wrong? Are you sad that Google’s face computer didn’t get off the floor?
We launched Google Glass too early- before “were having” figured out the exact use case and built a functioning user interface. While I’m sad that Google Glass wasn’t a smashing success in its first statu, I am rosy about what’s happening today. Google Glass is alive again, this time more focused on workplace use. Doctors are using it in patient care and it’s even being used in agriculture. I am confident it will come back.

You were working on a project to revolutionise home cooking. How is that moving?
This was just a hobby and it’s cancelled. We invented a technique in which you could make a freshly cooked perfect dinner in less than three and a half minutes. We filed a few patents, we feed a lot of food. But at the same time, running Udacity and Kitty Hawk was enough of a workload for me. As an entrepreneur you play with a thousand hypothesis, you develop a hundred, you like 10 and then you finally do one.

What’s your holy grail of inventions?
I would love to immediately interface my mentality to all the computers in the world, so I could be truly superhuman. I would know everything- every refer, every telephone number, every information- and I would be born speaking every language and with the full gumption of my parents and forebears.

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