Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician in Trail and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail: nutechauto@telus.net

AI and the autonomous vehicle

Ron Nutini: Mechanically Speaking

I probably have said this before but I will say it again. I like technology.

I like to use the latest technology. AI or Artificial Intelligence is a technology that makes a lot of news these days. The quest for autonomous vehicles is pushing AI very quickly. Is it inevitable that cars will drive themselves? I am not sure of the answer but I believe it is possible.

I believe it even more now. I see a lot of news with regards to autonomous driving. I found this website comma.ai and a guy named George Hotz. He sells a dash camera that you mount on your vehicle that records your driving. A lot of people are using dash cameras these days to video what is going on in front of them while they are driving.

Sometimes it is kids just filming stupid stunts but in many cases people just want to have proof of what happened when they were driving. They want to incriminate other drivers but also may end up incriminating themselves.

George Hotz wants you to film your driving and he wants you to give him all your video. He figures in a group of 100 people most people will drive correctly on any road. He wants to feed your video into an algorithm that will build driving skills everywhere in the world that people drive. Essentially camera owners will be training computers to drive.

Instead of just a video camera, comma.ai sells an interface or recorder that will collect data from your vehicle. While video data shows the result of your driving skills, data from your vehicle shows your inputs to perform those driving skills.

Modern vehicles are chock full of sensors interpreting your inputs. The three most important to driving are the gas pedal, the brake and the steering wheel. By attaching the data from those sensors to the video data the information is there that proves what it takes to drive down the road safely. Simple? Maybe to him.

There are various versions of automobiles that have some form of autonomous driving system. The higher end more expensive vehicles push the limits of what is available. The most sophisticated systems are what is called Level 2 autonomous. Level 2 means they steer, accelerate and brake themselves but they still require human attention at all times. Arguably Tesla has the most advanced system that anyone can buy and use for themselves.

George Hotz has a 2016 Honda Civic with a Level 2 autonomous driving system. His dash camera combined with his data recorder and some fancy software added to that Honda Civic gives it self driving capability. The hardware investment is less than $1,000!

Pretty impressive stuff.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail: nutechauto@telus.net

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