Digital Innovators: Q&A with FiveAI co-founder Stan Boland

Stan Boland
FiveAI will enable safe, cost-effective urban mobility for all. (Source: Laura Lewis)

FiveAI is building an autonomous vehicle platform to deliver a solution that’s safe in complex urban environments.

Last year FiveAI was identified as one of 50 of the freshest and most inspiring digital companies using technology and innovation to shake up their sectors in our Digital Innovators Power List. Following a public vote and after careful consideration by supporting partners and judges, it was named as one of the top 10 Digital Innovators. Later this year two of these companies will be identified as a "life changer" or a "market transformer".

Co-founder and CEO Stan Boland tells us his long-term vision for the company and gives us insight into why it's one of the UK's leading digital innovators.

Talk me through the business. What sparked the idea? How do you compete with other players/what sets you apart?

At FiveAI we are developing an autonomous solution to urban transport. As an ambitious British start-up, we are looking to create a service that will revolutionise the way people travel in busy congested European cities.

The UK is the world’s 10th most congested country. UK commuters spend on average 260 hours travelling every year and drivers wasted an average of 31 hours stuck in rush hour traffic last year. Transport systems are overstretched and cities are polluted. We are taking cutting-edge technology to the market in a convenient, affordable and sustainable shared transport service which will begin trials in London in 2019.

How has your company grown in the past few years? What are the most crucial things you have done to grow it?

In 2017 we raised $30m of funding towards our mission. Part of that funding came through a government grant for a major London project called Streetwise, an ambitious project collaborating with McLaren Technologies, TRL, Direct Line Group and Transport for London to start trials of autonomous vehicles on London’s roads in 2019.

To do this we have brought together a team of research scientists and experienced engineers, who are developing a solution to one of the biggest challenges of our generation.

Where do you hope to be in a year/ two years? What is your long-term vision for the business?

We’ll begin trialling our vehicles on London’s roads in 2019 as the leader in a major London project called StreetWise. This is the first step in our vision for improving access to shared transport services for London’s commuters.

By 2021, our vision is to serve millions of city-dwellers with a fast, convenient on-demand service that is so attractive that no-one feels the need to own a car.

How do you see the state of the market in which your business operates? What are the biggest challenges you will face in the coming years and how do you hope to overcome them?

The race to own autonomous driving in urban environments is on, and the competition includes the world’s biggest technology companies.

We are creating a solution that is specifically designed to tackle the problem of urban driving in Europe’s medieval streets, starting in London; it’s extremely challenging but the reward for society is huge.

To tackle this problem, we have brought together an exceptional team, from a diverse range of backgrounds and skills ranging from robotics, machine learning, control and computer vision. Working together, they are able to develop a solution that is robust enough to safely deliver passengers to their destination in a journey involving cyclists, pedestrians, taxis and inevitable roadworks (and the unexpected ones).

How important is innovation to your business? How do you engender a culture of forward thinking and creativity with your staff?

Innovation is at the very heart of everything we do. Curiosity is inherent to our team, we design, build, simulate, validate and verify our technology, developing new solutions to new problems.

Success has come from assembling a team of the brightest minds from all over Europe. We provide an environment in which they can innovate and work together to solve one of the biggest challenges of our time.

What is it about your company that makes it one of the UK’s leading digital innovators?

Innovation is vital to our work. Developing a solution that will launch in one of the world’s busiest cities requires us to take a completely new approach to everything that we do.

We are creating a team from a diverse range of backgrounds, from gaming and robotics to machine learning, computer vision and control systems. This enables us to build, from the ground up, a team who can solve one of the biggest challenges of our generation: developing a solution that will fundamentally change the way that we travel around our cities.

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