Driverless | Hod Lipson

Summary of: Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead (MIT Press)
By: Hod Lipson


Embark on a journey into the future of transportation as we explore the world of intelligent, autonomous vehicles in ‘Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead.’ Author Hod Lipson delves into the transformative impact these advanced machines will have on society, from the potential for saved lives and decreased pollution to the loss of jobs in the transportation sector. Learn about the importance of artificial intelligence and robotics in the development of driverless cars, as well as the ethical and privacy considerations that come with this revolutionary technology. Discover the gradual and safe emergence of autonomous vehicles in the coming decades and how they will reshape the way we commute, work, and live.

The Driverless Future

The rise of autonomous vehicles will revolutionize transportation, save lives, and improve the environment. Though concerns of job loss, privacy, and ethical dilemmas will arise, the benefits outweigh the downsides. As deep-learning software and robotics advance, driverless cars will become twice as safe as human-driven cars. Moreover, autonomous cars will rely heavily on data and sensing technologies to navigate through the complex social environs of drivers and pedestrians. It is believed that driverless cars will emerge gradually and safely over the next few decades. People will initially use them for freight, then as shuttles, and finally, as personal transport. For the first time, cars will become the first mainstream autonomous robots that we entrust with our lives, and this disruptive shift will impact everyone.

The Pros and Cons of Driverless Cars

With the advent of driverless cars, we are poised to enter a new era of transportation that promises greater convenience and less pollution. However, there are also some concerns about the potential for increased congestion and wear and tear on vehicles. Moreover, the automotive industry lacks experience in “robotic operating systems” and seeks gradual shifts to autonomous driving that maintain profitability and limit liability. Current autonomous systems lack integrated intelligence, and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) favors a gradual shift into driver-assist and limited autonomy. Despite these challenges, the benefits of driverless cars are clear: they cut the need for parking lots, freeing up space for urban improvements, and cheap, easy personal commutes would bring people a greater choice of jobs and lifestyle. With Google, Apple, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagen investing heavily in car autonomy R&D, federal transportation officials have the resources and legislative muscle to throw their support behind driverless cars and save tens of thousands of lives each year.

Driverless Car Operating Systems: The Quest for Reliability and Safety

With the rise of driverless cars, the operating system (OS) must meet high-level controls that plan and navigate, as well as low-level feedback that regulates systems. The vehicle’s safety relies on the system speed, reliability, security, and redundancy and involves expertise from university robotics departments, such as Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center. Researchers face challenges, including Moravec’s paradox and “artificial perception” requiring machine learning. Federal regulators may require a “humansafe” rating to double an average human driver’s distance before an accident.

The Rise and Fall of the Electronic Highway

The 1956 Federal Highway Act and the Interstate Highway System jumpstarted the “car culture” in America. General Motors and RCA proposed a futuristic “electronic highway” using buried cables and in-car sensors for feedback control, but the idea failed due to high costs. Carmakers shifted focus to consumer-safety issues, and the rise of fuel prices and traffic congestion stalled out futuristic visions. However, with the cost of equipping an autonomous vehicle dropping rapidly, outdated paradigms like “vehicle-to-vehicle” and “vehicle-to-infrastructure” systems for data exchange are being replaced by cheaper Internet of Things technology on standard roads. Federal regulations could enforce safety standards, define liabilities, and protect privacy in the rise of autonomous vehicles. As of 2015, Nevada, California, Florida, and Michigan had autonomous vehicle driver’s license schemes in place.

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