Data Driven

Over the past few years we’ve seen simple objects merge with technology to interesting effect. A wristwatch can now make and receive phone calls. A fridge has a screen that can display recipes, and even connect to Skype if you feel like chatting to a relative with your eggs and milk at eye level. In fact, you can now use the screen on your watch, to see inside your fridge when you’re at the supermarket (yes, weird but true). And despite all this being fascinating, the one that really gets me is the concept of a ‘driverless car’. Google recently announced plans to commercialise their self-driving car project, which has been in development over the past 7 years. If this goes ahead, driverless cars could soon be a very normal sight.

 

An absolute plethora of questions and concerns surround self-driving vehicles, but put simply, how do they operate? In steps big data. A ‘smartcar’ is essentially be an ENORMOUS  data-collection engine, with data being used to configure traffic congestion avoidance, GPS systems, and safety through exchanging data with other vehicles to predict how many cars are around at any time and much more. But the cars are not just lumps of files, they’re the result of learning algorithms, and catalogued information based on previous experience. For example, a car may not initially know the difference between a glass bottle or a newspaper, but by absorbing more data through driving and real experience, it may learn.

car

So what does all of this mean for the consumer? According to Google, the self-driving car will improve road safety, with ‘94% of accidents in the U.S. involving human error’. Uber recently made waves on the self-driving scene by enticing consumers to their new driverless cars by making them completely free. Personally, I think I’d pay the $8 for my ride until I’m sure the things are safe, but the idea of an Uber without the awkward chit chat is appealing. Is there a future for both the cars with and without drivers? The concept of having no drivers on the road does seem farfetched, but possibly not as much as it once did.

(P.S., clearly some still see the merit in some driver/passenger banter)

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5 thoughts on “Data Driven

  1. This is a really interesting article Matt! I’ve always wondered about driverless cars, would the ‘passenger’ still be able to take over in an emergency? How would finding a perfect car park on a side street work? And I understand it being able to talk to other cars and avoid them but what if a dog runs onto the road? Will it be able to stop in time.
    I know we’ll all be telling our grandkids one day about how we used to have to drive those things and they’ll think its so weird and ancient. But personally I’m with you, I’ll wait till its more normal and Tesla driverless cars stop crashing.

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    1. Thanks Kiri! These are all questions I’ve considered too. The ethical dilemma of avoiding one accident which causes another is a huge concern of self-driving vehicles. There was an incident this year when a prototype Google self-driving car avoided sand bags on the road, but in-turn crashed into a bus. Clearly these are the sort of situations that will need to be resolved beyond a shadow of a doubt before the vehicles are truly commercialised.
      As for the grandkids, I’m sure we will too! Having watched my Grandma begrudgingly give up her car license and struggle to get around due to old age, perhaps the driverless technology will be refined just in time for us? Here’s hoping anyway..
      p.s. details on the Google crash are below:
      http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/648725/Google-Self-Driving-Car-Bus-Crash-Accident

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Witty title!
    Really interesting post. It’s so interesting…can’t really get my head around driverless cars, it’s fascinating! Everything seems to be developing and improving at a rate of knots…I can’t keep up!
    The video was cool to see as I’ve never researched the Google car before, I’m not sure I like the look of it though, looks like something out of a cartoon I used to watch as a kid. I wonder, if this new age car took off, whether Mercedes-Benz and other luxury car dealers would design their own. I suppose they would lose their strongest selling point, which is German engineering is world class. To build these kind of cars it takes a completely different kind of engineering, and enormous amount of technological skill. It’s amazing that we are now building cars with data!
    It’s pretty impressive and in theory I would absolutely love it! It’s like having a personal driver, imagine how much more we could get done in our day if we were able to utilise all the wasted time spent driving.
    Really interested in following the Google car’s progression.

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    1. Thank you! Pretty mediocre pun in the title but I couldn’t help myself. You would think that as is the case with any technology advancement, market leading companies such as Mercedes would adapt rather than lag behind. Definitely a different type of engineering, but their capital and brand image created over time would most likely provide the leverage for them to succeed in the new market of self-driving cars. Recently Mercedes partnered with self-driving car engineers, which suggests they’re trying to get ahead of the game already. Who knows whether this technology will truly come to fruition but it will be interesting to watch it play out!
      Details on their partnership are below:
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/alanohnsman/2016/09/13/ex-google-car-chief-mercedes-nvidia-partner-to-train-self-driving-car-engineers/#199199633e2d

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