Under the Spotlight:

Ben Peters

From fatherhood to honey-badgers and all that's in-between, FiveAI's VP Product & Marketing Ben Peters bares his soul in this latest Under The Spotlight.

Where did the name FiveAI come from?

We went through a whole bunch of different names! One of the common challenges in the company is agreeing on stuff; we're all quite strong-minded. We'd tried about a hundred different names, but couldn't agree on any of them so our PR agency said "we can either do a full branding exercise for around fifteen grand, or we could run a workshop for much less". So we had the workshop, which lasted half a day and didn't cost anything! After going back to basics and describing autonomous vehicle software, they said "Isn't that already happening, aren't Tesla doing that sort of stuff?" so we had to explain that Tesla were using level 2 autonomy, and what we're doing is level 5 autonomy. Therefore, they suggested we call ourselves Level5, which we weren't sure about, but just Five...? That works! Hence FiveAI - thats how it came about!

So there's a clear difference in these levels of autonomy, can you go into a bit more depth?

Most companies are working on tech that requires human supervision - technology that makes the job of a driver easier but doesn't remove the driver. If you want to sell more cars, you don't replace the driver; you enhance the driving experience and make it more enjoyable. Thats what levels 1, 2 and 3 autonomy does. Levels 4 and 5 is about essentially replacing the driver; the software has to be able to deal with every potential situation you'd come across; that's what we're targeting. If you imagine a system you'd developed where a human provides supervision and something occurs that the software doesn't know how to deal with, you can rely on the human taking control. Level 5 has to see everything and deal with anything; from standard traffic lights to "theres a woman in a wheelchair chasing ducks across the road" (which one of Google's cars saw) - how the hell do you characterise that?! It makes things much more complex.

So in what situation would a completely autonomous vehicle be beneficial?

Well there's lots of people that drive for a living, but thats not the market we're going after; we're not trying to replace lorry drivers or anything like that. We think the interesting segment that we're targeting is those who commute to work. There's a lot of people that still commute to work in a car, who live in a two car household who don't have good public transportation options to get in to work. They might be able to get the bus, but it would take them three times longer so they revert to driving. Which of course is bad for everyone, those stuck in traffic, the environment, the driver themselves. That's what we want to replace: the commuter car. We're looking to do commuter routes (crowd-source routes where 500 commuters say "we need to travel between point A to point B" approximately) and run the routes in a small vehicle that would be shared between 3-4 people, delivered at the same price as a bus-ride. It's better for the environment and cheaper and more convenient for for the commuter. It also frees up time where you'd normally be stuck in traffic watching the lights - now you can catch up on emails or read a book! But it has to be electric - if we want to make something thats going to change transportation services, we have to incorporate technology that is better for the world.

What do you enjoy most about working at the Eagle Labs?

Apart from the great team?! It's an excellent facility; we've got everything we need, theres plenty of space, you can book a meeting room when needed, the coffees good... and theres a beer fridge! When you work in a small company, it's easy to get cabin fever. Here it's nice to work with other companies that have their own stresses and strains who aren't living and dying by our mission. When we're having a bad day, others might not be and you can bounce of that energy and get a lift in your spirit. It's really nice to work with other people who are coping with their own challenges and celebrating their successes.

You have an eight-month old daughter, what is the hardest thing about fatherhood (so far)?

Fitting everything in. You've got to balance work and wanting to see and spend time with your children. She tends to sleep for about 12 hours a day, so to see her when she's not asleep I get up early, give her her morning bottle half an hour, forty minutes playing with her before leaving for work. But the downside of that is I tend to miss her in the evening, but then make up for it at weekends. That's the hardest thing: getting the work/life balance down!

If they were to remake Knight Rider (again), who should be the voice of KITT and why?

Thats a very personal question for FiveAI - we thought about calling our first car KITT! I'd say for the voice; Randall.


Have you ever seen the honey-badger video on youtube?

No, why?

Search for it... that guy would do a great job!

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