Sebastian Thrun: Flying Cars, Autonomous Vehicles, and Education

Sebastian Thrun is one of the greatest roboticists, computer scientists, and educators of our time. He led development of the autonomous vehicles at Stanford that won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and placed second in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. He then led the Google self-driving car program which launched the self-driving revolution. He taught the popular Stanford course on Artificial Intelligence in 2011 which was one of the first MOOCs. That experience led him to co-found Udacity, an online education platform. He is also the CEO of Kitty Hawk, a company working on building flying cars or more technically eVTOLS which stands for electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

This conversation is part of the Artificial Intelligence podcast. If you would like to get more information about this podcast go to or connect with @lexfridman on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium, or YouTube where you can watch the video versions of these conversations. If you enjoy the podcast, please rate it 5 stars on Apple Podcasts or support it on Patreon.

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Here’s the outline of the episode. On some podcast players you should be able to click the timestamp to jump to that time.

00:00 – Introduction
03:24 – The Matrix
04:39 – Predicting the future 30+ years ago
06:14 – Machine learning and expert systems
09:18 – How to pick what ideas to work on
11:27 – DARPA Grand Challenges
17:33 – What does it take to be a good leader?
23:44 – Autonomous vehicles
38:42 – Waymo and Tesla Autopilot
42:11 – Self-Driving Car Nanodegree
47:29 – Machine learning
51:10 – AI in medical applications
54:06 – AI-related job loss and education
57:51 – Teaching soft skills
1:00:13 – Kitty Hawk and flying cars
1:08:22 – Love and AI
1:13:12 – Life