AI: The Autonomous Future of the Automobile Industry

Think back to March 23rd of 2016 when Microsoft released one of the premier AI programs to the world. Remember how the internet turned the AI, “TayTweets”, into a neo-nazi within 24 hours? Members of the internet would issue repeat-after-me statements, forcing the AI into repeating anything they said. A majority of those statements are too vulgar to repeat, but since the AI learned from communicating with various humans on the internet, Tay figured that these disturbing statements reflected the true beliefs of humankind. Microsoft swiftly reacted by removing their AI prototype within 24 hours of Tay’s initial release. While this was a pioneering event for AI technology, the fear of having artificial intelligence that could result in Skynet-like consequences lingers in the back of all our heads.

Tay’s sacrifice created a learning moment for developers and humankind: are we [humans] the sole incubator for AI learning? Furthermore, to what extent could Tay and subsequent AI models aid different businesses, industries, and the corporate world as a whole? Thus, we take a look at the future autonomy of the automobile industry.

With varying types of vehicles reaching new speeds, the demand for safe and smart technology in the transportation industry has sharply risen. Just recently, I ordered an Uber, but to my surprise, the vehicle had a perpetually rotating mechanism planted atop the roof. As I entered the vehicle, the driver acknowledged the device. He said that it scans the entire environment around the vehicle, and that he was only present to watch for malfunctions and technological errors. Uber’s first step into the driverless car market has sprung forward a new movement, one that will certainly yield a safer and more efficient driving experience. Our hearts go out to the family of Elaine Herzberg, the pedestrian who was recently struck and killed by a self-driving Uber in Arizona. The incident is an utter tragedy, however, it is a pull towards the reality that self-driving cars are still in their early developmental stages. While Uber provides their own driving services, artificial intelligence has already made strides for the regular car owner as well.

With automatic braking and a focus on safety external to the vehicle, companies like Volkswagen have revamped their mindset towards the next ten years of technology. You will soon hear about the apt changes to the operating processes like safety within production facilities and correcting human error at the production level. Keep in mind how vehicle safety features are not always at the pure discretion of the driver. For instance, most accidents can be avoided with safe driving and awareness. In my personal experience, the only accident I have had while I was the driver occurred when I was properly stopped at a red light. While the light was red, the car behind me suddenly accelerated into my bumper. After exchanging information, the driver told me that she thought the light turned green, which it had not. With awareness, she would have avoided the situation, but how could I have avoided it? Volkswagen and Nvidia have the answer.

Nvidia, an American tech giant that designs graphics processing units (GPU), has promoted the idea of chip-based supercomputer technology in the automobile industry. GPUs manage the performance of both the video and graphics of the tech that uses them. In addition, Nvidia and Uber have already partnered to use the technology in Uber’s self-driving vehicles. As I digress, this chip-based supercomputer essentially has the ability to communicate to any entity that has a chip. We will be seeing NVIDIA DRIVE IX, the platform, in Volkswagen-made vehicles in the near future. The IX hopes to be the pioneering safety-providing technology through Volkswagen’s I.D. Buzz, which will be used in their electric car campaign. By 2025, Volkswagen aims to release a fully-electric, 20 model line with the I.D. Buzz. By doing so, not only will the driver’s car have control internally, but the connectivity also allows for other cars with the technology to communicate with the IX platform, thus communicating with the cars around the driver.

While not on the scale of an imposing world take over, advancements in technology have crept into the business world to promote faster production times, cost-efficient processes, etc. all while reducing the fundamental source of error: humans. Think about it this way: how many times have you made a mathematical error in your head? And how many times has your calculator? With an increase in smart-manufacturing technology, the leaders of the manufacturing industry are industrializing the use of smart-manufacturing resources like Industry 4.0 to completely revise the role that humans play in production and switch to a hive-mind like system.

Industry 4.0, a cloud-based AI, controls various functions of a factory from the equipment itself to technical analyses; the system is the first of its kind. In order to conceptualize the factory, the program uses sensors to form processable data, which Factory 4.0 uses to make simple cyber-decisions. However, data security and IT issues become the biggest concerns with connectivity, especially with the consequent accessibility. Furthermore, from an ethical standpoint, where will the floor-level jobs go to? By further industrializing the factory, human capital shifts towards IT and management positions.

The Factory 4.0 technology opens up a world of benefits for the automotive industry. Keep in mind that Ford’s radical assembly line redefined the manufacturing process of automobiles. The Factory 4.0 technology takes the process to a new level, much like the assembly line did back in the early 1900s. This is similar to IBM’s Watson as it uses databases of information to answer a question, while the factory has its own private data for use.

The world of AI will bolster employee and driver safety, improve overall production and travel efficiency, and drastically alter the contemporary business model. The evanescent days of elbow grease and dangerous labor are changing towards specialty positions all thanks to advancements in technology. The automobile industry will soon become one of the most complex sectors. However, the industry will grow in complexity for artificial intelligence, not so much in terms of complexity for humans.

Artificial Intelligence is playing an increasingly important role in our lives. For instance, Amazon just released their own autonomous grocery store, changing the speed of your shopping trips while allowing a quick fix if you’re planning to eat on the go. If you want to read further about the developing autonomy in other industries, read about Amazon’s newest breakthrough from our own Megan Sitlinger: HERE

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