What would you do with a degree in self-driving cars?

8 Mar 2018

Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

TechWatch editor Emily McDaid sat down with Arity’s Eilish Bouse to discuss autonomous vehicles, smart cities and the future of commuting.

Eilish Bouse is a data scientist at Arity. Clearly a lifelong learner, she’s currently studying for two qualifications simultaneously: one a nanodegree in autonomous vehicles (AV) and one to complete her actuarial studies, to add to her applied maths and physics degrees.

As you do.

Future Human

Let’s begin by explaining Arity.

Arity is a mobility insights and solutions company with 400 global employees focused on making transportation smarter, safer and more useful for everyone. Set up by Allstate, the company has generated more than 30bn miles of historical driving data, through which it combines the power of telematics with big-data analytics, to improve mobility for the entire transportation ecosystem – both consumers and companies.

What does your nanodegree in AV cover?

The current module was all about machine learning – how self-driving cars can see lanes and other vehicles on the road. The subsequent module is about localisation – how the AV knows where it is in geographical landscape.

The degrees teach us Python and C++ and the idea is that we can write code for AVs at the end.

Do you have customers in this space?

We have several car-share, P2P and ride-sharing companies in the midst of onboarding to our platform. We will have announcements around these deployments soon. Customers in ride-sharing can benefit from the vast amount of data we have accrued on car journeys.

It’s important to remember that the concept of shared mobility and smart cities are intrinsically linked. We also have done work with apps that mine data with how people move about in a city. In that respect, all the data collected is anonymised and aggregated. If you think about it, one person’s data doesn’t tell us too much about movement in a city like Belfast. We are interested in the big picture – where people are going en masse  and using it to identify where the problem areas are.

Do you have any projects close to home?

We’re in talks with Belfast City Council in terms of making Belfast a smart city. Belfast is the most congested city in the UK, so we’re looking at an application solution to improve our knowledge of where people are going. We can determine optimal routes or more efficient routes to improve the traffic situation.

Does that entail collecting data through dashboard cameras?

No, it’s a smartphone app that would be working in the background and would pick up that you’re in a mode of transport, automatically.

How big of a sample size do you need?

Pilot sizes would be maybe about 100 but we’re not that far in terms of that discussion yet.

Are there any other data science projects currently?

I’m also working on the concept of a mobility app designed for Chicago to determine where people are going, how they’re getting there – that’s where Arity’s home office is.


Eilish Bouse, data scientist, Arity. Image: TechWatch

What degree would someone need to work at Arity?

There’s a great mix of people – those with degrees in maths, computer science, physics, economics. We have some data scientists in a behavioural-science kind of capacity. There are UX designers and product managers – most would have studied the STEM subjects.

How will the emergence of self-driving cars change the concept of insurance?

There will be a lot of movement in that space. It’s understanding how AVs work so we can use that to our advantage.

Are all the big insurance companies looking at this?

For sure. I was at the Motor Show in Frankfurt last September. Up ’til then, people were saying AV was hype and it was some way off. But the car manufacturers are all competing to be at the forefront of this technology. When you see the amount of money being invested, it means it’s far more imminent than people realise. There are a lot of questions in terms of how insurance will change. There will always be things to insure; it’s just that if people don’t own cars, it’s trying to determine where that business lies.

It seems like AVs have come in much faster than other technologies like tablet computing, touchscreens or smartphones – do you agree?

Getting to the fully autonomous vehicle is going to be that final furlong. If you think about it, cars already have some elements of AV, like cruise control.

What would a day in your working life look like?

One of my various key challenges is to get data, whether that’s internal or external data, or speaking to people about sharing data.

We spend quite a bit of time visualising data to see insights. One of my focus areas at the moment is looking at where employees live and where they’re going to work; what’s the best way to visualise that or look at it.

Between talking to people and doing that sort of analysis, that’s where my day goes.

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

TechWatch by Catalyst covered tech developments in Northern Ireland