Self-driving Cars and the Map App on Your Phone

Remember when GPS was a big thing?

Such a big thing that nobody quite understood how it worked but everybody was just amazed at how it magically knew your location and how to get where you wanted to go? Of course you don’t.

At first GPS was an option when you bought a new car. Then Garmin came along and made it a pocketable device that buried that inevitably out-of-date map data supplied on ancient media called DVD. Today GPS is just another app, free with your phone, giving you directions for walking, driving and public transportation.

Well, guess what? Self driving car technology will follow the same roadmap.

What is self driving technology anyway? Well, I hate to break it to you but it’s just a fancy word for image processing/recognition. It’s what Facebook uses to identify faces in your photos. It’s what lets you get in and out of the EU without the hassle of passport control and the unpredictable mood swings of immigration officers.

What is Deep Learning AI? That’s the process of teaching the system to generalize from specific examples, so it will be able to recognize a dog as a dog, even if it doesn’t look like any particular dog it has seen before.

This is where things get tricky. Like is that 2-wheeled moving vehicle a bicycle or a motorcycle that you see through the chain link fence at 2 o’clock? It’s approaching the intersection where you plan to turn right, but its behavior could be predicted with greater confidence if your AD system could tell the difference with at least human accuracy.

Or take driving at night along an avenue filled with neon signs, street lamps, red lights on top of emergency vehicles, other colors on taxis, and the red tail lights and brake lights of vehicles of every size ahead of you. Is that a red traffic signal in the middle of all that? You know, but does your AI enhanced AD system?

So, I wouldn’t blame some drivers for preferring a little Garmin-GPS-like AD (autonomous drive) device that would sit on your dashboard or in your cupholder and simply tell you what to do. Not autonomous yet. But car hackers would start selling interface kits that linked to your car’s drive-by-wire control modules … eventually. In the meantime you could stop worrying about the dangers of image nonrecognition because you’d be overriding any errors.

Instead of laser and radar sensors, the AD box would use GPS data and maybe a few cheap Bluetooth camera modules to notice and notify you of potential dangers. Sensors would provide distance data.

You could even fit it with an optional belt that would wrap around your brake-pedal leg and apply an electric shock to straighten your leg and cause, in effect, emergency braking. No, not seriously.

Next? AD as an app for your not-Google glasses.

originally published on Medium

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