Road safety is still a major issue in the US, as the number of road accidents have barely decreased over the last 12 months. The National Safety Council estimated that 40,100 vehicle fatalities occurred in 2017, which isn’t much of an improvement from 2016’s 40,327. Despite the advancements in car safety systems, factors like distracted driving and higher speed limits are canceling out their benefits.
But now, automakers are looking towards a technological solution that may be the game-changer in terms of road safety in the form of artificial intelligence. AI systems are rapidly evolving to serve greater purposes for a diverse range of sectors, such as video games and digital marketing.
In the automotive industry, car companies are incorporating AI in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These are the car safety advancements mentioned earlier. Examples include back-up cameras with sonar detection, collision avoidance technology, and lane departure warning. The federal government has also mandated the installation of electronic logging devices (ELD), which also feature AI technology, on fleet vehicles. Verizon Connect’s ELD overview explains that they can monitor driver behavior and send warnings for speeding and harsh braking. For these devices to work properly, they have to be fully synchronized with vehicle engines.
However, the truly ambitious project car manufacturers are looking to master is the self-driving vehicle. This is a car that utilizes multiple sensors combined with AI technology to navigate through different environments. Since it does not require any human input, it eliminates the risk of human error in driving. Last year, Waymo’s self-driving cars were the first ones to drive on US roads without any safety drivers. Through this demonstration, the company is already way ahead of Tesla and Uber in terms of progress. It had also announced its plans of ordering 62,000 Pacifica minivans from Fiat Chrysler for its driverless ride-sharing service earlier this year. Meanwhile, the two other companies mentioned are under fire for fatal self-driving car accidents that occurred over the past few months. So even if most automakers are still improving the technology, there is at least one company that’s already reaching some impressive AI milestones.
Considering the rapid pace of AI’s evolution, it may only take a few more decades for mankind to develop a “human level AI”, or computers that have the same capabilities as the human brain. When this era comes, AI systems in cars will then have a human element, and may even be able to converse with their drivers. It would be similar to how Marvel superhero Iron Man interacts with his AI assistant, J.A.R.V.I.S.
Suggested video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrGPuUQsDjo
However, what will happen to humans when AI becomes far more intelligent than the human race? Elon Musk actually proposed a solution on how we can keep up with AI. He suggested that there should be a direct integration layer between the brain’s cortex and the AI, so that the robot’s intelligence becomes our own. In theory, this would mean that humans would be able to control complex technological systems with their minds. If say, a driver “links” with his or her vehicle, it essentially becomes a part of them. Combined with AI, these super intelligent drivers would be able to do more than just adhering to road safety regulations to make roads even safer for everyone concerned.
While this may all sound like science fiction movie at the moment, you can’t deny the tinge of possibility that it will be happening, especially when companies are already quite close to perfecting driverless vehicles. For more information on transhumanism concepts, feel free to explore the Transhumanity site in more depth.
by Brian Kingsman