If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
The race to conquer the driverless car market has stepped up a gear, with the first ever tests of an autonomous vehicle built in Britain on the country's public roads. Jaguar Land Rover is leading the pack with its'major landmark' trial, which aims to help vehicles react in a similar way to people. The pilot project is part of a government-backed bid to encourage more widespread use of automated cars by 2020. The race to conquer the driverless car market has stepped up a gear, with the first ever tests of an autonomous vehicle built in Britain on the country's public roads. The UK Autodrive project is the UK's largest trial of connected and autonomous vehicle technology.
With headlines like these, it's hard not to get excited about autonomy and self driving cars. After all, we've seen the cars in Minority Report, Total Recall, and iRobot, and thought to ourselves: "When can we finally get into those cars?" Truth be told, it may be quite a while before we're actually there. There's a general misalignment between what the public think is "fully autonomous" versus what these executives are actually saying. Elon Musk's 2018 goal is to have a self driving car that's safer than a human driver.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of the State of New York declared last month that New York City will join 13 other states in testing self-driving cars: "Autonomous vehicles have the potential to save time and save lives, and we are proud to be working with GM and Cruise on the future of this exciting new technology." For General Motors, this represents a major milestone in the development of its Cruise software, since the the knowledge gained on Manhattan's busy streets will be invaluable in accelerating its deep learning technology. In the spirit of one-upmanship, Waymo went one step further by declaring this week that it will be the first car company in the world to ferry passengers completely autonomously (without human engineers safeguarding the wheel). As unmanned systems are speeding ahead toward consumer adoption, one challenge that Cruise, Waymo and others may counter within the busy canyons of urban centers is the loss of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite data. Robots require a complex suite of coordinating data systems that bounce between orbiting satellites to provide positioning and communication links to accurately navigate our world.
A driverless shuttle bus crashed less than two hours after it was launched in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The city's officials had been hosting an unveiling ceremony for the bus, described as the US' first self-driving shuttle pilot project geared towards the public, before it crashed with a semi-truck. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the human driver of the other vehicle was at fault, there were no injuries, and the incident caused minor damage. The oval-shaped shuttle -- sponsored by AAA, the Review-Journal added -- can transport up to 12 passengers at a time. It has an attendant and a computer monitor, and uses GPS and electric curb sensors instead of brakes or a steering wheel.
Waymo, formerly known as Google's self-driving car, is launching a fully autonomous Uber-like ride-hailing service with no human driver behind the wheel, after testing the vehicles on public roads in Arizona. Waymo, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, said members of the public will begin riding in its fleet of modified Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with self-driving technology in the next few months. Passengers will initially be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but will eventually travel alone in the robotic car. The service will first be available to those who are already part of the company's public trial already under way in Phoenix. Rides will be free to start with, but Waymo expects to begin charging for journeys at some point.
Waymo is one of the biggest players in the self-driving development race, but it's not equipped to service its rapidly growing number of driverless vehicles. As the Google spinoff increases operations beyond its limited pilot programs in California, Arizona, and Michigan, it'll need some help maintaining its fleet of autonomous vehicles. Today, the driverless car company announced a multi-year service agreement with national automotive retailer AutoNation, which will provide maintenance and repair support to extend Waymo's vehicle lifecycles. AutoNation will initially be tasked with servicing Waymo's Chrysler Pacifica minivans, but the agreement clearly states that the companies expect the fleet to grow. More automotive partners could add Waymo's platform to their vehicles, and AutoNation's new and used car dealerships across the U.S. will make expansion an even easier process for Waymo.
Urban planners talk about two visions of the future city: heaven and hell. Hell, in case it's not clear, is bad--cities built for technologies, big companies, and vehicles instead of the humans who actually live in them. And hell, in some ways, is here. Today's US cities are dominated by highways there were built by razing residential neighborhoods. It's all managed by public policies that incentivize commuting in your car.
The NHTSA has asked for feedback on the state of autonomous vehicles and how current US regulations can be refined to promote research and deployment. The US National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report on potential rule changes on Friday, which states the agency is looking for comments "to identify any unnecessary regulatory barriers" to the deployment of autonomous vehicles on US roads. NHTSA said that input relating to regulatory barriers is key, as well as any thoughts relating to hurdles companies face when attempting to test their self-driving vehicles. Compliance problems are a serious problem for vendors researching and developing self-driving car technologies. In particular, the agency recognizes that vehicle designs "that are not equipped with controls for a human driver" are a stumbling block, such as a lack of a steering wheel, brakes, or accelerator pedals.
For a moment there, Arizona was the place for autonomous vehicles learning to drive. It's a logical starting point for experimental tech--still in its wobbly, Bambi legs stage--that likes warm weather, little rain, and wide open roads. It's easier for their complicated sensors to "see" there, you see. Arizona is, in other words, a lot like California, without the aggressive Department of Motor Vehicles and its pesky regulations. Governor Doug Ducey has directed all state agencies to make it as easy as possible for fully self-driving cars to test in Arizona, no permitting or reporting required.
The advent of autonomous vehicles may not be all doom and gloom for the automotive industry as some have predicted, senior enterprise architect at Toyota Australia's Information Systems Division David Johnston-Bell has said. Speaking at Informatica's Data Disruption Summit on Wednesday, Johnston-Bell said there are reports suggesting that autonomous vehicles could significantly reduce personal car ownership -- possibly by 80 to 90 percent. Even Jacinta Hargan, director of the Future Transport Program at Transport for NSW, said the state government's future transport technology roadmap is based on four potential "futures", one of which centres on the idea that people will share ownership of connected and autonomous vehicles, and another where vehicle ownership is no longer important. While projections are "useful for scenario planning", they can be quite premature, Johnston-Bell told ZDNet. "I think it's great that we can say, 'what can happen in the world if 90 percent of the cars disappear?'