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) …
More than a dozen companies have long been approved to test out self-driving cars in California. Now, they can also charge passengers if they launch a robotaxi service. On Thursday, November 19, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved both the ability to launch robotaxi services and charge for them after many months of these companies -- such as Cruise, Waymo, Aurora Innovation, Pony.ai, and Zoox -- lobbying for such policies. Of course, the companies still have to jump through various stacks of paperwork in order to be granted such approvals, but all in time. Waymo has been operating such a service in Arizona, Waymo One, for more than a year.
The incoming Biden administration is expected to increase regulatory oversight of electric and self-driving cars and trucks. FreightWaves spoke to a few investors and analysts in the mobility and freight tech space, as well as the CEOs of a couple of autonomous trucking and delivery companies, about what they expect from a Biden presidency. Electric vehicle uptake in the United States has been tied to strong pollution reduction mandates and purchasing incentives found in Europe and Asia, said Reilly Brennan, partner, TrucksVC. "A Biden administration likely moves some of our policies closer to what we see in other parts of the world," he said. Among the incentives Brennan sees coming down the pike is an "EV for clunkers" scheme as soon as next year, promoting and supporting people who turn in their vehicles for zero-emissions cars and trucks.
The Society for Automotive Engineering (SAE) has identified five levels of self-driving which describe how much a particular vehicle is able to handle its own driving tasks. Level 1 means that the vehicle handles either the speed or the steering, but not both, and it requires supervision. While ordinary cruise control technically falls into this level, most people associate cruise control with adaptive cruise control, which slows down or speeds up with traffic. A Level 2 car can control the speed and the steering but the driver must still maintain full vigilance. At Level 3, the driver need not maintain total vigilance but must still be able to take control upon request.
The driverless taxi era has finally arrived, in parts of Arizona, at least. Two weeks after Alphabet-owned Waymo started its driverless taxi service to the public in Phoenix, other autonomous vehicle developers are following suit with test vehicles on public roads as well. Until spring this year, Waymo's self-driving vehicles were in their testing phase and were used in up to 10% of the firm's rides. The pandemic forced the company to shutter its doors and temporarily suspend on-road testing, but it is now back online and is expanding its operations. However, as is still required by law, the Waymo One taxi currently requires a human driver to be present to manage the car's autonomous operation and take control when necessary.
In its first report on its autonomous vehicle operations in Phoenix, Arizona, Waymo said that it was involved in 18 crashes and 29 near-miss collisions during 2019 and the first nine months of 2020. These crashes included rear-enders, vehicle swipes, and even one incident when a Waymo vehicle was T-boned at an intersection by another car at nearly 40 mph. The company said that no one was seriously injured and "nearly all" of the collisions were the fault of the other driver. The report is the deepest dive yet into the real-life operations of the world's leading autonomous vehicle company, which recently began offering rides in its fully driverless vehicles to the general public. Autonomous vehicle (AV) companies can be a black box, with most firms keeping a tight lid on measurable metrics and only demonstrating their technology to the public under the most controlled settings.
Daimler Trucks, which makes semis and commercial trucks for Mercedes-Benz and other truck brands around the world, will soon start offering Waymo's self-driving platform on some of its Class 8 trucks in the U.S. The partnership between the leaders in self-driving and commercial truck manufacturing was announced Tuesday. In a media briefing beforehand, Waymo CEO John Krafcik called it "sort of an epic moment." Waymo is bringing its Driver platform, a machine-learning-based sensor and camera system that enables Level 4 autonomous driving ability without human intervention, into Daimler Freightliner Cascadia trucks. The integration will start in the U.S. and could eventually expand to Europe and other markets. There was no set timeline for when Waymo autonomous features will be built into the next generation of long-haul trucks that carry loads across the U.S. Krafcik said he planned to work with Daimler to set the standard for what an autonomous truck looks like, which includes changes to steering, braking, and control systems.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be defined as the field of study of Intelligent Agents, or a system's ability to correctly interpret external data, to learn from such data, and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals and tasks through flexible adaptation, or something that enables machines to learn, think, execute and problem solve like a human being or more colloquially, the term "artificial intelligence" is often used to describe machines (or computers) that mimic cognitive functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as learning and problem solving. A quip in Tesler's Theorem says "AI is whatever hasn't been done yet". Artificial intelligence was founded as an academic discipline in 1955. The field was founded on the assumption that human intelligence "can be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it". Smart machines think alike human beings and have necessary memory built in so that, it can outsmart human beings. So it would seem that AI is a very powerful technology, and like other powerful technologies would like to be used by big corporations to boost productivity, make their products more user friendly or intelligent and in-turn gain customers.
"So that's a step or two beyond what we'll be doing initially with this permit," said Dan Ammann, Cruise's chief executive. "It's not too far down the road," he said, but declined to share a timeline. In a blog post, he added, "We're not the first company to receive this permit, but we're going to be the first to put it to use on the streets of a major U.S. city." It will be an important step for Cruise to charge customers. For any of the companies to start making money in California, a separate permit is required, state officials said.
The age of the driverless taxi has arrived – at least in parts of Phoenix, Arizona. Self-driving car company Waymo, owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, announced its autonomous vehicles are now available to the general public (or at least paying customers). The service is only available in a limited area for now, both because regulations in Arizona are relatively permissive and because the cars need a detailed three-dimensional map to tell them all about the road environment. Until earlier this year, the self-driving vehicles were under testing and were used in 5-10% of Waymo's rides. The service has been shut because of the pandemic, but is now back and Waymo is aiming to increase availability.
Last week, Waymo, the self-driving vehicle developer owned by Alphabet, expanded a first-of-its-kind service offering rides to paying passengers around Phoenix--with no one behind the wheel. Videos shared by Waymo and others show its minivans navigating wide, sunny streets with ease. Now rival Cruise, a General Motors subsidiary, has taken a step towards running its own self-driving taxi service--on the hilly, winding, pedestrian-swarmed streets of San Francisco. On Thursday, Cruise said the California Department of Motor Vehicles had granted it a permit to test up to five of its modified Chevy Bolts without anyone behind the wheel. In a blog post, Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said truly driverless cars would operate in the city before the end of the year.