- 11th September, 2018
Driverless Cars: AI’s Poster Child
By Hudson Taylor Lekunze
Last September, Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook, said jokingly at an Automakers Conference in Frankfurt that Facebook was the only company in Silicon Valley that wasn’t building a driverless car. It looks like everyone is in the race to develop a fully-functional autonomous vehicle.
Autonomous vehicles can be regarded as the poster child of Artificial Intelligence. Amidst all the clamour around its potential, AI’s true utility appears to rest on the feasibility of the self-driving car and its successful integration into society. This technology sits arguably at the nexus of the current technological evolution and has attracted major industry players, including Apple.
Last weekend, it was released that one of Apple’s autonomous Lexus SUVs was involved in a crash whilst merging onto a highway around Sunnyvale, California. It is the first known crash involving an Apple autonomous car and brought Apple’s autonomous vehicle project into the spotlight.
Set up in 2014, Apples Project Titan sought to build complete Apple Cars incorporating both hardware and software. Project Titan was subsequently abandoned and led Apple to partner with Lexus whereby Apple’s software would be responsible for perception, planning and control of the vehicle. Many observers expect the user interface to be exceptional and are preparing for a disruption to this nascent industry, no matter how late to the party Apple is.
AI has been touted the as newest tech revolution. We have seen glimpses of it in Google’s AlphaGO, voice assistants like Siri and Alexa and Pandora’s music recommendation system, Sophia, to name a few. However we still await the wide scale adoption of Artificial Intelligence and self-driving cars as the centrepiece of this revolution – just as the personal computer was at the heart of the digital transformation. That technology served us well and has stayed.
Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) are the closest complete embodiment of AI with vision, sensing, and autonomous decision making (i.e. planning and control). Success in their development will lay important groundwork for many future AI projects. However, there are numerous technology and regulatory hurdles to scale before driverless cars can be integrated fully into society. We are still a few years away from seeing a city where AVs are as ubiquitous as busses are today.
Autonomous vehicles are undoubtedly game changers. They will disrupt mobility and human interaction with machines in profound ways. There will be the same amusement and bewilderment that heralded the introduction of PCs and also much skepticism. Several major technology players including Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, NVIDIA and IBM are invested heavily in this race and are striking interesting partnerships with automakers. The question is, which of them will lead us into the future?
For more reading on how autonomous cars work, check out the link below.