How Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming The Auto Industry
It is tempting to hurl insults at your car when it does something to annoy you, like breakdown when you’re late for a meeting, but one day your car may have the intelligence to respond! This is not a scene from the movie “Herbie Goes Bananas”, it’s the future of personal transportation.
This is because your future vehicle will very likely have advanced artificial intelligence (A.I) baked in. This newly acquired intelligence, acting like a brain and central nervous system, will enable vehicles to self-drive, self-park and potentially even self-heal. Occupants will be able to communicate via voice command or gesture so talking to yourself and waving your arms erratically during long journeys will no longer be regarded as a sign of madness. In future, talking to inanimate objects in this way, as if they were alive, will become a part of our everyday lives!
In the movie iRobot there is a scene where the protagonist speaks to his in-car computer via heads-up display. Set in the year 2035, it’s worth checking out because as well as being a shameless piece of product placement by Audi, it also serves as a perfect illustration of how the ‘in-car experience’ may evolve over time, minus the killer robots – we hope!
Audi is not the only OEM that is thinking about how how A.I. could be used to add value to its customers’ driving experience. Jaguar Land Rover is in the process of developing what they call “a truly intelligent self-learning vehicle”. Using the latest machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, their proposed “self-learning car” will offer a comprehensive array of services to the driver. By being able to recognise who is in the car it will be able to learn their preferences and driving style.
Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology for Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Up until now most self-learning car research has only focused on traffic or navigation prediction. We want to take this a significant step further and our new learning algorithm means information learnt about you will deliver a completely personalised driving experience and enhance driving pleasure.”
Jaguar Land Rover’s ‘Smart Assistant’ will apparently be able to take a peek at your calendar and set the in-car navigation to find the quickest route based on your schedule. It will also learn, for example, that you like your car hot when you head to the gym in winter but cool when you return to the vehicle, post-workout. Settings will be ‘portable’ so rental cars, for example, made by Jaguar Land Rover will automatically recognize the passenger and adjust the car’s settings accordingly. Jaguar Land Rover have yet to announce when ‘Smart Assistant’ will become available but we’re sure it will be worth the wait, so watch this space.
One OEM that is at the forefront of A.I. innovation is Tesla Motors. CEO, Elon Musk, announced last week that the latest Model S will feature “autopilot,” which will enable the driver to relinquish control under specific circumstances. In addition, the all new all-wheel drive Tesla D will also sport the same “semi-autonomous driving system”.
Another pioneering organisation that is set to revolutionise car design is, of course, Google which has so far tested their driverless creations on more than a million miles of tarmac.
Driverless vehicles became legal in California, Nevada and Florida earlier this year so it is inevitable that other states and nations will soon follow. When you see one of Google’s driverless bug-eyed bubble cars whizz down your street, you’ll know the future has finally arrived in your neighbourhood!
Another area where A.I. is being utilized to great effect is vehicle crash testing. Silicon Valley-based Stottler Henke developed a product called Aurora-VT, which uses A.I. to reduce the number of cars needed during vehicle safety and crash testing. Over 100 vehicles are usually destroyed during the process! By working with one of the world’s largest OEMs, Stottler Henke has been able to reduce the number of cars destroyed by a over 10 percent, equating to millions of dollars saved. In the case of Jaguar’s new F-Type R Coupé, 60 cars were tested to destruction. At around one hundred thousand dollars per unit retail that’s already big bucks, but test vehicles that are built before production are more like hand-build prototypes so cost around half a million dollars each! The thought of all those beautiful objects being smashed, bashed and crashed makes me wince!
Yet another application for A.I. is robotics. When we think of robots we usually conjure up images of Honda’s ASIMO – the cute and affable automaton. In fact the area of greatest progress is the production-line where robotic arms, not humanoids, rule the roost. An increasing number of OEMs have seen dramatic increases in both quality and productivity since the introduction of robotic workers. Ford has been using robots at their manufacturing plants in Europe for a while but more recently the corporation installed an additional 700 at their Louisville assembly plant in Kentucky and a further 600 robots in their Flat Rock plant in Michigan.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, average industrial robot sales between 2008 and 2013 have increased by 9.5% per year (CAGR). The automotive industry remains the most important customer worldwide increasing investment “significantly” since 2010, according to the IFR.
All this technology is very exciting but a word of warning from an industry luminary. While speaking at an event in San Francisco earlier this month Musk spoke about his belief that humanity may become architects of its own demise. He said “I hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.”
You have been warned!
“I, Robot” is copyright © 2014 storem via flickr made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license.