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) …
Slowly, the UK government is realising its dream of making the nation a self-driving research hub. UK Autodrive, a publicly funded consortium that includes Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and TATA Motors, has announced a new set of trials in Coventry today. They will focus on self-driving cars and vehicles that can instantly share information with other motorists and city infrastructure. Researchers will be testing a signal, for instance, that can be sent out by the emergency services -- ambulances, fire trucks and police cars -- to nearby drivers, advising them when and where to move aside. Other test features include a warning signal for intersections deemed too unsafe to cross, in-car information about accidents and traffic jams (negating the need for signs on bridges) and an alert system when a driver in front suddenly hits the brakes (the idea being that this can be hard to spot in rain and fog).
The Renault Group announced today that its autonomous vehicle control system can avoid obstacles just as well as professional test drivers. The company said that in designing the system, it was actually inspired by these drivers' abilities and used them as a sort of benchmark as to what level its technology should be performing. "Despite popular belief, the reality is that human beings are pretty amazing drivers, with less than one fatality per 100,000,000 kilometers in most developed countries," Simon Hougard, director of the Renault Open Innovation Lab, wrote in a Medium post. "Reaching and exceeding that benchmark is essential to improve safety and realize our dreams of autonomous cars, providing more productivity during our morning commutes and robo-vehicle services in city centers." The technology is a result of Renault's collaboration with Stanford University Dynamic Design Lab Director Chris Gerdes, who's also a former US Department of Transportation Chief Innovation Officer, and Renault says it will help with its goal to be one of the first companies to bring "mind off" technology to the public.
Waymo has begun testing truly autonomous vehicles that don't even need to hand off control to human drivers in dangerous situations. Alphabet's autonomous car development arm has shown off the latest version of its Chrysler Pacifica minivans at an event in California, where the vehicles drove people around without a person sitting in the driver's seat. According to Reuters, the company decided to drop the driver handoff feature after experiments conducted in Silicon Valley back in 2013 showed that users acted like full-on passengers inside the vehicle. Testers napped, put on make-up and used their phones on the road. In other words, they'd lost context of where their car was going or how fast it was and would've been taken by surprise if they were suddenly given control of the vehicle in dangerous situations.
If Chinese search giant Baidu is going to fulfill its dreams of building a self-driving car platform, it needs maps accurate enough that vehicles can safely get from point A to point B. Thankfully, it has a solution: the company has just forged a partnership with the state-backed ride-hailing service Shouqi. Baidu will supply Shouqi with the tools it needs for both its existing business and driverless cars, including map services, its Apollo autonomous platform and its conversational AI platform DuerOS. In return, Shouqi will supply Baidu with high-precision maps. It's no secret as to why Baidu is signing a deal like this: it's making a big bet on self-driving technology, and it doesn't have much time to fulfill some of its promises. The company wants to start producing autonomous self-buses in 2018, and it expects mass production of Level 4 (that is, almost entirely self-driving) vehicles with BAIC Group in 2021.
At this point, if you're an automaker and you're not talking about autonomous cars, you might want to take a long hard look at your product roadmap. During a briefing at its Mountain View research campus, BMW talked about how it plans to bring a level 3 (autonomous driving in very specific circumstances where the driver should be ready to take over control) car to consumers in 2021 and deliver level 4 and 5 ride-hail vehicles to urban pilot programs the same year. Right now a lot of that strategy hinges on its partners while the automaker maintains the BMW brand. The varying degrees of autonomous vehicles the automaker is set to drop in 2021 are nothing new. BMW announced those plans way back in March.
I'm never sure what to expect when I walk up the steps of Comma AIs office (which is actually a house in a San Francisco neighborhood). Its founder and all-around rabble-rouser George Hotz (the iPhone and Playstation hacker more commonly known as geohot) has strong opinions about the automotive industry and how he can fix it. The company's "ghost riding for the masses" tagline won't win over regulators, but Comma AI's longterm goal of running your car's operating system seems doable. But first, it's concentrating on dash cams that tap into your car's data. Comma AI's latest piece of hardware is the EON dash cam developer kit.
Like so many companies, Apple has been working on its own version of self-driving technology. Last year, we learned that the company had moved away from designing its own vehicle, opting instead to develop a system that could be incorporated into existing vehicles. We've had glimpses of this system before -- it's codenamed Project Titan -- but thanks to Voyage cofounder MacCallister Higgins, we now have an up-close view of it. Going to need more than 140 characters to go over's Project Titan. I call it "The Thing" pic.twitter.com/sLDJd7iYSa
It looks like New York City will be hosting its first test of fully autonomous vehicles very soon and surprisingly, they're not from Waymo or Uber. Instead, General Motors and Cruise Automation have submitted the first application for sustained testing and are aiming to do so in Manhattan. New York state only recently opened its roads up to self-driving vehicles, joining California, Arizona and Pennsylvania in allowing tests of the technology. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in May that the DMV had begun taking applications for said tests on New York's roads and GM is the first in line. In order to be approved, companies like GM will have to cover each vehicle with a $5 million insurance policy, reimburse state police for any costs that come with overseeing the tests and keep a person in the driver's seat at all times.
There are a lot of hurdles to clear before autonomous cars can fully take over the roadways. Chief among them is training the police on how to react and handle a self-driving car error, as spotted by Recode. Currently, Waymo is working with local police forces and first responders in Arizona, California, Texas and Washington to educate them on how to identify and access an autonomous car in the event of an accident. Furthermore, if there isn't a driver present, the car will find a safe place to stop if a collision happens or if there's a system error. Same goes for times when its sensors are essentially whited out during a snow storm or other inclement weather.
Instead of sticking a puck on its cars, it's using the sensors to map the highways of the United States and Canada and geofence its semi-autonomous Super Cruise feature, instead of letting drivers use it anywhere they want. The realization of a fully autonomous-car future rests on regulations, sensors, high-powered computers and maps. Yet, it'll be highly detailed maps like the one used by Cadillac that'll make robotaxis a reality. The LiDAR map used by Super Cruise and stored in the trunk of the CT6 is accurate within 10 centimeters.