AI development is moving ahead at a pace most industries are unready to adapt to, with looming promises of workers being replaced with deep-learning systems and automation with human oversight. Many sectors both public and private are unready for these changes yet as small a step as autonomous vehicles could lead to effects felt outside of the tech industry and may impact the world’s economy as a whole.
Self-driving vehicles and the AI era
While we may still be leaps and bounds away from streets filled with nothing but cars that drive themselves without any driver intervention, companies are already rolling out self-driving delivery pilots while companies like Tesla test their consumer-grade autonomous vehicle technologies.
As it stands, these vehicles still require a human being to be behind the wheel due to a combination of current laws and the need to have intelligent responses to situations that AI cannot currently react to appropriately. Autonomy, as it stands now, is less like self-driving vehicles and more like a form of cruise control taken a few steps beyond what is expected. Small startups are flocking towards the AI sector to the point where we may be harbouring an incorrect vision of the sector.
There’s little to no chance of seeing big companies unloading proprietary information for smaller companies to scavenge, yet some of those same smaller companies are taking an open source approach to the modernisation of autonomy. Companies like Comma.ai already offer a sort of self-driving beta program where drivers can opt into assisted driving systems for certain makes and models of vehicles at no cost, with optional purchases for data tracking capabilities to help further Comma.ai’s programs.
If the world at large opts into smaller programs without the necessity of purchasing expensive vehicles or driving assistance gadgets, the autonomous revolution could come earlier than anyone is ready to adapt to at a reasonable rate.
The slow development realities
Autonomy isn’t coming at the sort of breakneck pace expected as little as a decade ago in what some analysts are referring to as the AI winter. Like any new industry or technology, the initial wave of development and excitement surrounding those developments will wear off and show some of the more realistic projections that might be lost in the first wave of consumer excitement. Blockchain technology was once the fastest-growing technology in the world, only to slow considerably as market uncertainty and future implementation concerns struck.
Autonomous vehicles have the distinct disadvantage of being a very transparent market to the average consumer; While not everyone may understand what goes into blockchain technology or even why AI works as it does, anyone can understand the ramifications of a self-driving car being involved in an auto accident. New legal precedents must be set and the basis for road laws as a whole need to be reworked in nearly every country. Even if the technology is ready, the world may not be.
With a potential to generate $800 billion in annual benefits when autonomy becomes the standard, one can only expect the world to catch up quickly. Nothing changes laws and regulatory fundamentals quite like the promise of profit.
We may still be several years off from a self-driving revolution. It’s not the sort of technology that will simply come and go or even quietly integrate into our lives without causing a ruckus no matter how smoothly the transition period is. Expect industries to shift their focus towards autonomy and deep learning if they wish to remain relevant and expect those changes to start happening soon.