What if we were to tell you that your car is a better driver than you? What would you say? How would you feel?
You would probably have a good laugh over it and say that I was joking. That it was a preposterous thought. Not only because you believe that you’re an excellent driver, and present before me your evidence of an accident-free driving life of the past 20 years; but also because, somehow, the thought of a car being a driver in its own right, and an excellent one at that, goes against the grain of what you have grown up knowing and believing.
And yet, today, news reports are filled with announcements of car manufacturers such as Audi, Volvo, Toyota, to name only a few, not to mention newcomers like Tesla, working on technologies to put commercially-licensed driverless or self-driving or autonomous cars on the road in the next 5 years. Even non-auto companies like Google, NVIDIA and Uber are in the fray, with Google being the first to ‘experimentally launch’ its short-range self-driving car prototype in 2015.
A quick visit to Google’s website on self-driving cars is a journey worth taking:
“What if it could be easier and safer for everyone to get around?
To start, we’re building prototype vehicles that are designed to take you where you want to go at the push of a button—no driving required. Imagine if everyone could get around easily and safely, regardless of their ability to drive.
Aging or visually impaired loved ones wouldn’t have to give up their independence. Time spent commuting could be time spent doing what you want to do. Deaths from traffic accidents—over 1.2 million worldwide every year—could be reduced dramatically, especially since 94% of accidents in the U.S. involve human error. ”
To this end, an article published in Fortune Magazine on 5th October 2016, titled Google’s Self-Driving Cars Have More Driving Experience Than Any Human, attempts to reinforce our confidence leading to accepting and using Google’s self-driving cars in the near future from the ‘years of driving experience’ point of view which we normally consider as proof of good driving:
“Google self-driving cars have logged 2 million fully-autonomous miles on public roads, 90% of which were on city streets, the company announced Wednesday. Considering the hours spent on the road, Google’s cars now have the equivalent of 300 years of human driving experience.
And that’s not counting the more than 3 million miles that self-driving car software “drives” every day in Google’s advanced simulator.”
All this is possible due to advanced use of AI or artificial intelligence technology – the ‘brains’ behind Google’s own and all self-driving or autonomous cars to hit the roads. This AI technology empowers the car to make far superior decisions in judgement and skill than what a human being like you and I would make while driving the car. Although the AI technology is complex, it collects and computes massive amounts of data, and interprets and processes it through ‘deep learning’ in a way similar to the human brain works, before taking action.
In doing so, self-driving or autonomous cars are able to move and manoeuvre, respond to obstacles and other vehicles on the roads, react to traffic flows and signals, and remove human error entirely from the decision-making while navigating the roads to provide a safe and superior journey to its passengers.
The technology is yet to be perfected in order to receive government approval, but AI-powered self-driving or autonomous cars will soon be an important part of our lives.