One of the most promising applications for artificial intelligence is driverless transportation.
Self-driving cars, once the exclusive domain of big companies like Google are now facing competition from startups.
One of the hottest is Silicon Valley’s Drive.ai, which was recently named to CB Insights most promising artificial intelligence startups.
Mark Niu pays them a visit to go for a self-driving ride.
I hop in with anticipation, for my driver today, has a hands-off approach.
Tao Wang, the founder of Drive.ai says he’s never nervous about getting into an autonomous car, even saying it’s very fun.
In the parking lot, the van starts off conservatively.
But once it hits the open road you might say it has a free-wheeling spirit, kind of like Mr. Wang.
Wang – from Wuxi, China – founded Drive.ai with fellow students from a deep learning research group at Stanford University.
“In a lot of cases machines are more reliable than humans because humans get distracted, get tired when they are driving and that’s when most of the accidents happen,” Wang said. “But there are very hard challenges building an AI system that can drive very reliable.”
Drive.ai is building a complete solution – both software and hardware – that can turn almost any vehicle into a self-driving car.
They’re focusing on business fleets that can have pre-programmed route-though the cars still have to be able to adapt to whatever comes its way.
In 2017, Drive.ai’s vehicles traveled more than 10,500 kilometers in autonomous mode and had to disengage 151 times to allow a human driver to take over.
“I think one of the major contributors are behaviors of other agents on the road,” Wang said, “like pedestrians behaving in a weird way or cars cutting us off really aggressively.”
All the data collected – and the camera views from every angle, of each journey – can be dissected later.
Visualization projects leader Pat Marion shows us how he can program adjustments and replay simulations to see if it works going forward.
Wang says one of the ongoing challenges for any self-driving vehicle is knowing, like humans, when it’s okay to break a rule, for example, in emergency situations.
And while acknowledging that the technology will cut the number of professional driving jobs, Wang believes increased safety and less traffic will help create a more productive economy.