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 future of self-driving cars may arrive sooner than you think, if General Motors gets its way. The Detroit-based automaker on Thursday revealed its plans for a fully-autonomous, electric car to hit the road by 2019. GM says the automobile is "the first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals or manual controls." Called the Cruise AV, an ode to Cruise Automation, the startup GM purchased in 2016 and converted into its autonomous vehicle division, the car will be GM's fourth-generation self-driving car following a version of the Chevy Bolt introduced late last year. But despite its anticipated release date, the Cruise AV is not guaranteed to hit the streets by next year.
For years, major automotive players like Ford, Honda, and Toyota have flaunted their latest advancements in smart car technology at CES. But what may be one of the most ambitious concepts at this year's conference is coming from a little-known startup called Byton, which is showcasing a concept vehicle that will be launching in China next year before moving to the U.S. and Europe in 2020. Pricing will start at $45,000. The vehicle's most striking feature is its gargantuan screen that stretches across the entire dashboard, which the company calls the Shared Experience Display. Byton, like many automotive and technology companies exhibiting this year, aims to add more personalization to the car in order to make commuting feel like less of a chore.
It started like any other Lyft pickup: After entering my destination in the app, a car appeared at my location several minutes later. But as I stepped inside the vehicle and shut the door, I was required to confirm my trip details on a tablet mounted near the center console facing the backseat. A driver sat in the front seat, but he took his hands off the wheel just a few moments into our drive. Suddenly, a disembodied voice announced that the car would be entering autonomous driving mode. My ride was the result of a partnership between Lyft and automotive technology company Aptiv, which are proving self-driving taxi rides during this year's CES in Las Vegas.
At this year's CES, chipmaker Nvidia is showcasing new technology that could enable automakers to develop AI virtual assistants that are far smarter than the in-car versions of Alexa and Siri we're used to interacting with today. Nvidia announced two new software platforms for self-driving cars during a press conference on Sunday: Drive IX and Drive AR. The former allows carmakers to create artificially intelligent co-pilots that take advantage of sensors both inside and outside of the car to provide assistance. Volkswagen will be one of the first partners to begin experimenting with Drive IX in its I.D. Buzz prototype. Meanwhile, AI co-pilots built on Drive IX would be able to use facial recognition to identify the driver in order to accomplish tasks like starting the car or detecting whether or not the person behind the wheel is too drowsy to drive.
Automated cars–once a far-off dream–have in recent years left the realm of science fiction and leapt closer to the American garage. Leading U.S. automakers say that bona fide self-driving cars are coming within two decades and they're fighting to stay competitive, from Ford's $1 billion investment in an artificial-intelligence company earlier this year to Uber's 2016 purchase of self-driving truck company Otto. These advances promise relief to drivers sick of two-hour commutes and bumper-to-bumper traffic, but they leave open questions for a society shaped for the past century around the automobile. Perhaps no area is more quantifiably uncertain than the environmental impact of automated vehicles. One report from the Department of Energy found that automated vehicles could reduce fuel consumption for passenger cars by as much as 90%, or increase it by more than 200%.
"It's easy to make an autonomous vehicle that works 99% of the time," Russell says later. His company plans to start shipping an "auto-grade" sensor that costs less than $1,000 in 2018, he says, assuming it checks the boxes in a battery of tests. Oryx Vision, an Israeli startup that is building a test unit for cars, hopes to eventually sell lidar sensors to vehicle manufacturers for about $100. Tesla's Elon Musk has argued that advanced radar could do the same job as lidar, and other startups are working on super-powered cameras to help cars see more clearly.
Roborace, the driverless car championship that has been under development for more than a year, unveiled its vision for the future on stage Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. For the startup, that future is an electric race car that can reach a top speed of 199 miles per hour that's driven by software, not humans. The car was revealed by Roborace CEO Denis Sverdlov and the company's chief design officer Daniel Simon during a keynote address on the evolution of autonomous vehicles. Simon, who designed the car, is an automotive futurist responsible for creating vehicles for movies, including the cycles in Tron: Legacy. "Roborace opens a new dimension where motorsport as we know it meets the unstoppable rise of artificial intelligence," Simon said Monday.
Wallpaper-thin TVs, drones that can dive underwater, and a computer the size of a credit card. Those are only a few of the gadgets that have been unveiled this week at the annual CES gadget expo in Las Vegas, where companies in the tech, automotive, and home appliance industries flaunt their latest innovations. Many high-profile tech companies, like Apple and Google, typically hold their own separate events throughout the year to unveil new products rather than debuting new wares at CES. Still, the annual convention, now in its 50th year, often provides a look at the next big trends in tech. The biggest themes at CES this year include self-driving cars, home robots, and tons of integrations with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant.
I've been writing a tech predictions column for nearly 30 years now. I study our research and look for trends and information that give me hints of what I believe might be the hot topics, trends or issues that will impact the tech industry in the coming year. It's well known that Silicon Valley was generally not a big supporter of President-elect Donald Trump. However, technology executives are pragmatic, and they know they need to deal with his administration if they want to see their tech agenda advanced over the next four (or eight) years. Trump's recent meeting with leaders like Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and others allowed these leaders to share with Trump their concerns.
Reaction to Musk's latest move, announced on Wednesday, has been no different. His decision to equip all new Tesla vehicles with radar and cameras that will enable them to (eventually) drive autonomously--without human intervention--has been described as brilliant while others have called it dangerous. "People are always talking about how expensive fully autonomous cars will be initially," Gartner analyst Mike Ramsey told Fortune. Tesla's new self-driving hardware doesn't include Lidar, the light-sensitive laser imaging radar that Google, Ford, and other automakers are using to develop driverless cars.