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Instant access to information via smartphones has rapidly transformed the way the world gets around. At the push of a button, travelers access rides, rental cars, bikes, and scooters. In San Francisco alone, city officials estimate ride-sharing has grown to 15 percent of all vehicle trips. Apps like Waze provide convenient information on traffic and suggestions for the best routes at any given time. These crucial advances have happened in just the past decade. Imagine what the next decade could bring to how we travel. Much of today’s congestion issues stem from the inefficient use of vehicles and roadways. The world’s billion cars travel 10 trillion miles per year, but most of the time they’re parked, taking up valuable real estate. And when driven, they’re often stuck in traffic on overcrowded streets and highways. More than 6 million accidents occur every year in the U.S., causing over $240 billion in damages, according to the Department of Transportation. About 94 percent of those accidents are caused by human error or driver distraction.
Though self-driving cars sound like science fiction, autonomous driving technology holds the potential to solve these traffic safety and inefficiency problems. By removing the human driver, rides become safer, easier to access in less-populated regions, and more affordable—some estimates project robo-taxi rides costing as little as 17 cents a mile once they reach scale. Self-driving cars will also open up valuable economic opportunities—KPMG estimates driverless vehicles and related services will be a $1 trillion industry by 2030. Using artificial intelligence technology along with simulation helps manufacturers build an expert driver with essentially decades of experience. This experience is gained in a fraction of the time it would take to drive those miles in the real world. Developers can exhaustively train AI on massive amounts of data, teaching it how to recognize other vehicles and pedestrians and follow the rules of the road.
"Simulation allows AI's deep learning algorithms to experience any possible situation, in any condition, as many times as needed until the system handles it seamlessly"
Simulation allows AI’s deep learning algorithms to experience any possible situation, in any condition, as many times as needed until the system handles it seamlessly. When combined with public road testing, simulation creates a robust validation process for self-driving hardware and software. But this technology is just one piece of a future mobility ecosystem that will fundamentally change the way we get around. AI can extend inside the vehicle, creating a personalized travel experience, no matter how you choose to get there. An intelligent experience software with natural language understanding and facial tracking will enable a car to recognize voices and understand who in the vehicle is speaking. This AI copilot can help keep drivers safe, warning of potential hazards. It can also be a voice-or gesture-activated assistant, adjusting convenience features like temperature or seat position seamlessly. These advances will bring more than convenience.
With the power of an AI brain, robo-taxis can avoid accidents that typically result from human error, including distracted or impaired driving. Shared rides can reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and communications between vehicles can ease congestion by optimizing routes and departure times based on real-time traffic information. Smarter vehicles used more efficiently will be constantly moving, freeing up for shared community use the massive amounts of valuable space currently dedicated to parking. And those who can’t drive on their own will be able to enjoy the freedom of traveling independently. Experts project that mobility-as-a-service will enable people to travel up to 50 percent more than current rates. Getting where you need to go should be effortless, anytime, anyplace. While major strides have been made in ride-hailing, car-sharing, and other mobility services, there is still much work to be done to make mobility for all a reality. AI and cloud technology will help get us there.