In the movie I, Robot, a sci-fi spiritual adaption of Isaac Asimov’s short stories involving robots, the general functioning of a city is run by an Artificial Intelligence. The electricity, the sewer, and the traffic is all kept in check and balance by this A.I. The way that the A.I. controls the traffic? Self-driving, autonomous cars.
The idea of a central A.I. being the “driver” of self-driving cars is slowly becoming a reality and not a sci-fi fantasy. Currently, Google is the biggest name in the game of self-driving cars, with their research starting around 2009, and a main A.I controlling the cars is exactly how their system works.
Every car would be connected to the same A.I. brain and would learn from not just one car’s experiences, but every car’s. Thousands of hours of driving experience would be achieved in one day. Google’s A.I. driver has clocked over a million hours according to their website and counting, learning as it goes.
According to Dezeen.com, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now “classifies Google’s artificial intelligence system as the driver of its cars.” Rather than any passenger or the car itself, the central system is considered the driver.
With the technology Google has now, and other car company’s willingness to work with them — such as Tesla motors and Ford — the problem isn’t how to make self-driving cars, it’s convincing the world that it is safe.
As of June 2015 there has been 12 collision of self-driving cars and human drivers, but almost all have been the human drivers faults. Running a stop sign, not stopping at a red light, etc.
Google and other researchers and car dealers got some point across though because on January 13, 2016, according to NBCNews, The White house announced a $4 billion dollar plan to help research in self driving cars. The money would be given out over 10 years to “pilot programs”.
The cars work from numerous sensors on board the car that read the environment and make a digital version that allows the on-board software to drive safely. Using a top mounted laser, the car creates a 3-D map of its environment to be aware of its constantly changing surroundings and also uses radar cameras on its two bumpers to be aware of fast moving traffic and “see” farther forward and backward than the laser.
Currently self-driving cars are legal on public roads in Florida, Nevada, California and Michigan, with 19 more states considering the legislature. With numerous companies such as Tesla and Google saying fully-functioning self-driving cars are only a couple years away from being all over the roads, the next question to answer is where human transportation industry jobs will go, and how the job market will handle it.