We’re hearing a lot about cars that drive themselves. In China, Germany, the U.K., and elsewhere, self-driving automobiles are being tested. This is possible because of artificial intelligence—AI.
In the 1940s, the possibility of AI in the future was looked upon with some fear. One science fiction author proposed that machines should never be allowed to harm humans. He also said that they should not withhold help from humans. It is safe to say that humans did not trust machines.
Flash forward to 2020. Some of that mistrust is still there, but it is fading. In our cars, AI has been making its way in for quite some time. To build trust, AI is showing itself to be a helper. With the beginning of such things as cruise control, it has already begun to help us.
Automakers have added more features in recent years. This builds more trust toward self-driving cars. The addition of other features such as automatic braking when a car is too close in front moves us closer to cars driving themselves.
AI and the 5 Levels of Driving Automation
Autos in total control of themselves is a long way off. Think of the way to cars driving with no human helping as a ladder with 5 steps. What we see most is “Driver Assistance.” Like the cruise control we just mentioned, the car helps but is not in control. The auto has sensors to detect things like other cars crossing in front of it, but the human is the main one noticing what’s going on around him.
The next step in the ladder is “Partial Automation.” The car can drive some on its own, but the driver can help it at any time. The auto does things like steer and accelerate. Think of cars that can park themselves with no help from the driver. The human is still in the driver’s seat and is watching the driving. They can take control at any time.
Then we come to the next step. This is where the AI watches what’s going on around the car. It is in control, but there is still a human that can take over if needed. This is called “Conditional Automation.” The vehicle does most of the work in the driving. It’s also able to pay attention to the world around it, such as other autos, weather, and people who are walking nearby. With its sensors, like radar and LiDAR, and cameras, it can “see” what will affect its drive.
In “High Automation,” the AI is still noticing what’s around it. Everything that is part of driving—acceleration, parking, changing lanes, for example, is done by the auto on its own. This happens as it has already been planned by the car’s AI. But if there’s trouble, there’s still a person ready to take control of the car.
Finally, we have “Full Automation.” The auto does everything, at all times. A human’s attention or action is not needed. This is in testing but on fenced tracks.
Companies Developing AI
Can we put company names on this technology? Who, exactly, is the creative force behind all of this? Just about every major automaker has some sort of AI technology in their processes. Some have assistance only planned at this point. Some makers, like Tesla, have cars that are ready to drive with no human action. They just need a “yes” from the lawmakers.
One of the technology companies is Qualcomm, with the Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platforms. These platforms support operating systems such as Linux, Android, Linux, QNX, and other real-time operating systems either alone or working as a combination. This runs best on the hardware built specifically for it:
- Qualcomm SpectraImage Signal Processor
- Qualcomm Kryo Central Processing Unit
- Qualcomm Hexagon Processor
- Qualcomm Adreno Visual Subsystem
While it supports the computing needs of the newer higher-end vehicles, they want their platforms to be available to autos across all price ranges. It doesn’t matter what the price is, the software is as simple or luxurious as it needs to be depending on the price range.
With their products, among other great features, each driver can have things like their own sound and lighting settings. With their platforms, the car can check your face to see if you’re drowsy. If you are, the car can play the music louder or sound an alarm to wake you up. If your exit comes up on the freeway, the GPS can make sure you’re in the correct lane so you don’t miss your exit. Qualcomm has lots of features possible. These are only a few.
Ignite is a software development company in Ukraine that’s working on some AI projects. In the world of driver aid, they have many things going. To help avoid accidents, one of the things they work on is emergency braking. Add that to blind-spot monitoring and driver-assist steering, and lives will be saved. Many other features were written in, too numerous to mention here.
A car that can drive itself is going to need huge amounts of data to make the calculations it needs to drive. Where does that data come from? To make sure it would be there when it was needed, AI cloud platforms were designed to handle this.
Ignite offers to handle any size project and is an expert in automotive AI. They have 6 research and development labs across Europe.
AI can offer ease of insurance claims. When a crash happens, the car can tell the driver how to get a record of the accident and file a claim. AI in cars can also tell insurance companies how much of a risk the driver is and whether or not the driver is distracted.
Individualized marketing is coming to in-car AI. Perhaps your car is in need of maintenance. Your car can suggest a nearby mechanic who has paid for the privilege of being listed. Or it’s your mother’s birthday. Your calendar on your phone tells your car, which suggests a florist in the area. The possibilities are endless. The point is the marketing can be more personalized to you.
Aptiv is a company partnered with Lyft—a hail-and-ride service (like a taxi) in the U.S. that has cars with conditional automation (cars that drive themselves but have a human that can take control) running in a small section of Las Vegas. Lyft is focused on the future with vehicles that is safer and helps keep the environment cleaner. They are doing this by using a large number of the company’s vehicles. It has the first hail-and-ride services with self-driving cars in Las Vegas. Lyft has completed over 70,000 rides, and their average grade is 4.95 stars out of 5 stars, by customers. That’s a lot of happy customers!
Lyft says it takes a little longer for the car that drives itself to get around because it doesn’t go over the speed limit, run yellow lights, or break any laws. Two Lyft employees ride in the front to make sure things are safe. You can’t bring your luggage—the trunk is full of necessary technical equipment—but 3 people can sit in the back seat and be comfortable. Lyft also has a Trust and Safety team available by phone or email, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Aptiv itself is creating architecture for high-speed networking and sensing systems for their tech, like cameras and sensors. This is how the car “senses” when something is near. Their sensing platform uses Radar, LiDAR (Light beams that are sent out and bounce back. They tell how far away something is.), and cameras. Using the data from all of this information, the AI calculates how close an object is.
AI is here to stay. It will be a while before we are riding around in cars without drivers, but the day is coming. Will we be safe? These companies are doing their best to make it so. One way or another, we will keep driving down the road of progress.
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