Bill Gates Backs Self-Driving Company Glydways

Gates was one of several investors of the $56 million funding round

Graham Hope

October 17, 2023

3 Min Read

Autonomous transport company Glydways has confirmed a series B funding round of $56 million – with one particularly high-profile investor on board.

Among those providing capital for the San Francisco start-up is Bill Gates’ venture investment fund Gates Frontier, which was listed among other investors including New Science Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Spanish construction company ACS Group.

The latest funding brought the money raised by Glydways to more than $70 million since it was founded in 2016.

Glydways is focused on developing its Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system, which comprises “on-demand, personal, autonomous, battery-operated electric vehicles traveling on small, dedicated rights of way.”

These can be built at grade, elevated or tunneled and integrate with existing public transit options. According to Glydways, this approach provides a much more affordable solution to urban mass transit for most cities than alternative options.

Only Glydways’ vehicles, called Glydcars, use the lanes, which means they can travel without interruptions or delays. And the company says that up to 10,000 people per hour can be transported per lane or direction, demonstrating the efficiency of the tech.

Because the Glydcars operate in a “closed” environment – the purpose-built, fenced-off lane created exclusively for them – they are cheaper to produce, because they don’t require the same level of sensors required by AVs that operate on open roads. 

Related:Self-Driving Pods to Shuttle Airport Passengers in San Jose

The pods can carry four passengers and their luggage, and they operate continuously, communicating with other Glydcars to avoid congestion, allowing a constant flow of traffic. They are also accessible to disabled people.

Additionally, Glydways claims that the cost of creating the system is significantly less than building new rail links or bus lanes and operating costs are smaller because the Glydcars work via an on-demand basis.

Confirmation of the funding was accompanied by an announcement that Glydways has been selected by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority and Tri Delta Transit (Authorities) for their new “Dynamic Personal Micro Transit” project to increase public transit accessibility in the communities of Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood in California. 

This constitutes a second major win for the company in the state this year, following news in May that PRT was the recommended solution for a transit system to ferry people between San Jose Mineta International Airport and the city’s Diridon Station.

The involvement of Gates Frontier in the funding round is perhaps no surprise, as Bill Gates has been very public in terms of his advocacy for autonomous transport.

Earlier this year, he wrote on his blog: “I’m excited for the day I get to hand over control of my car to a machine. That day is coming sooner rather than later. 

“We’ve made tremendous progress on autonomous vehicles, or AVs, in recent years, and I believe we’ll reach a tipping point within the next decade. When it happens, AVs will change transportation as dramatically as the PC changed office work.” 

And the billionaire has even demonstrated his desire to sample the tech, with a video on YouTube showing him experiencing a self-driving vehicle featuring tech from U.K. firm Wayve on the streets of London.

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About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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