Will the self-driving cars come to us in 2020?

city-1284400_640Since last year, the progress of development of self-driving cars are accelerated rapidly.  When I wrote about it last year, someone may not be convinced that the self-driving cars come true. But now no one can doubt about self-driving cars anymore. The problem is when it comes in front of us.  I would like to consider several key points to develop the technology of self-driving cars.


1.Data from experiments

It is key to develop self-driving car effectively. Because self-driving cars need artificial intelligence in it to drive cars by themselves without human interventions. As you know, artificial intelligence looks like our brains.  When we are born, our brain is almost empty. But as we grow, we can learn many things through our experiences.  This is the same for artificial intelligence. It needs massive amounts of data to learn. Recently, Google and  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV announced that they cooperate to enhance development of self-driving cars. According to the article on Bloomberg, “The carmaker plans to develop about 100 self-driving prototypes based on the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid-powered minivan that will be used by Google to test its self-driving technology.”(1)  The more cars are used in the experiments, the more data they can obtain. Therefore, it enables Google to accelerate to develop self-driving cars more rapidly.


2. Algorithm of artificial intelligence

With data from experiments, artificial intelligence will be more sophisticated.  The algorithms of artificial intelligence, which are called “Deep Learning” should be more effective from now.  Because driving cars generates sequences of data and need sequential decision making processes, such as stop, go, turn right, accelerate, and so on,  we need algorithms which can handle these situations. In my view, the combination of deep learning and reinforcement learning can be useful to do that.  This kind of technologies is developed in research centers, such as Google DeepMind which is famous for the artificial intelligence Go player. It says this technology can be used for robotics, medical research and economics.  So why not for self-driving cars?


3. Interactions with human drivers

It seems to be very difficult to decide who is responsible for driving cars.  Initially, self-driving cars might appear with the handle and brakes. It means that human can intervene the operations of self-driving cars. When accidents happen,  who is responsible?  Human or machines?  When self-driving cars without handle and brakes are available,  machines are responsible as human can not control cars anymore. So the machines are 100% responsible for accidents. It is very difficult to decide which is better, self-driving cars with and without handle and breaks. It depends on the development of technologies and regulations.


Impact on society is huge when self-driving cars are introduced to us.  Bus, Taxi, Track could be replaced with self-driving cars.  Not only drivers but also road maintenance  companies, car insurance companies, roadside shops, traffic light makers, railway companies, highway running companies,  car maintenance companies and car parking providers are also heavily impacted. Government should consider how we can implement self-driving cars to our societies effectively. I do not think we have spare time to consider it. Let us start it today!


(1) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-03/fiat-google-said-to-plan-partnership-on-self-driving-minivans


Note: Toshifumi Kuga’s opinions and analyses are personal views and are intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only and should not be construed as individual investment advice or solicitation to buy, sell or hold any security or to adopt any investment strategy.  The information in this article is rendered as at publication date and may change without notice and it is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any country, region market or investment.

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