To understand the future of cars, not only do we need to understand what we mean by artificial intelligence, but we may reach a point where we need to look at what we mean by cars. But before we go forward, let's look back.
In 1982, NBC launched a new crime series starring minor soap opera star David Hasselhoff. (Not until 1989 would he join Baywatch and sing on the Berlin Wall and go on to become the Guinness world record holder most watched man on TV.) What was interesting about NBC's new show, however, was not its star, but its costar - a robot. Danger, Will Robinson! Robots had played supporting roles in TV shows before.
Doctor Who had K9. But could a robot hold up to the Hoff? It could in this case because this robot was a car, a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. It was called KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand). Today it would be called AI. (This is not the first car co-star vehicle, believe it not. There was a 60s sitcom called My Mother the Car!)
In the real world of cars and AI, it is expected that within two years the added value of AI to the automotive industry will be well over ten and a half-billion dollars. From its use beginning with car design, manufacture, and marketing all the way through to the use of AU in its recycling, there is no part of a future car's life cycle that AI will not touch to varying degrees.
AI is my co-pilot
Probably the use of IA that captures the public's attention the most is its use in driverless cars. KITT could drive itself. Can AI cars? Almost. We already have lane detectors, blind spot cameras, proximity alarms, emergency braking, and driver-assisted steering, not to mention traffic-responsive navigational tools. What makes these features AI is when they exceed performing a program - as any computer can do - and start to learn. You may already have a car that can parallel park itself using a system called ADAS (advanced driver assistance system).
KITT can also talk to the Hoff. SapinentX is working on making a car's voice interface more engaging. This AI uses natural speech recognition to make its smart avatar more conversational. Its speech synthesis program works in the context of complex sentences, user preferences, even emotion. Most drivers are comfortable with AI monitoring conditions outside the car such as crossing traffic and weather conditions.
But there are also AI systems, particularly in use with commercial vehicles, which also monitor the driver - for fatigue, distracted driving, and other conditions. AI is moving way past facial identification as a security feature. The company eyeSight uses IR sensors and TOF (Time of Flight) cameras to adjust a driver's Heads Up Display (HUD) and even their Infotainment systems in real-time.
KITT is uninsurable. The destruction causes itself and other cars and whole city blocks would be an insurance nightmare. On TV, nobody cares. In the real world, someone has to pay the bills.
AI will not only change whether we drive or not. It will also change how we drive. Incentive programs have existed for a while now allowing you to install a device that monitors your driving and offers an insurance discount if you drive carefully.
When all cars have AI data, there is bound to be some controversy about who has access to the data. AI may also allow insurers to include data external to your driving in the way they calculate your rates - such as health issues, deaths and births in your family, bankruptcy, unemployment, and other financial stressors. AI will also be used in settling insurance claims as it already is in China.
KITT is like Wilson. I knew he wasn't alive, but when he floated away from Tom Hanks, I cried. Many of us personify our cars. We give them names and pronouns. But they are not self-aware. KITT is self-aware. Now, I won't pretend that any near-future car AI will be self-aware. But it may be almost self-repairing.
Because of the huge amount of subtle data that your AI can quickly and constantly collect, analyze, and act on for all the systems of your car, maintenance may end up being the most impacted of all parts of the car's life cycle. AI may become so sophisticated that car maintenance changes from the current system of mostly after-the-fact repairs. AI may make a system of mainly preventative car maintenance a reality in our lifetime.
KITT has one purpose - to deliver the good guy to the scene (and occasionally to take the bad guy away). But commuter traffic, even at the apex of the age of single-occupancy vehicles, accounts for only so much of the congestion in our cities and on our highways. You may have noticed all the trucks.
Refraction AI has developed a delivery vehicle called REV-1 for last-mile deliveries from and to homes and restaurants, pharmacies, and grocery stores. What is revolutionary about the REV-1 is the size and weight of its design, which allows it to use roads or bicycle lanes depending on traffic conditions.
Now, KITT cannot fly. Neither can AI cars - yet. But AI is changing the shape of cars. It is changing car usage as well. Waymo already offers driverless ride-sharing in Phoenix. Will individual car ownership remain economical in the age of AI cars? Only AI will tell...
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