Artificial intelligence is a familiar concept to many, commonly depicted as it is in science fiction. But AI is closer to reality than it may seem – and not only that, but also seeing practical use on today’s roads, in the form of ‘self-driving’ vehicles.
Granted, ‘self-driving’ cars are not yet commercially available, and experimentation is still underway in the pursuit of full vehicular autonomy – but AI is already well-enmeshed in the automotive industry, and merging with the vehicles we drive every day. How has this come to pass, and what does it mean for the future of transport?
The Emergence of EVs
Electric Vehicles, or EVs, have seen an exponential increase in use on UK roads in recent years. Research and development, spurred on by sustainability incentives and government initiatives to become a net zero society, have seen electric vehicle technology improve rapidly; where once EVs were underpowered and short-ranged, commercially available EVs today compete directly with their petrol or diesel counterparts.
The increased viability of EVs on today’s roads has seen a significant number of people begin to switch for the more eco-friendly form of travel, whether by leasing a new electric vehicle or funding a new one outright. The technology is still improving, but cars on the market today already display intelligent engineering – and the foundations for the future of private travel.
Technological Advancement, and AI Integration
There have been many technological advancements driving new innovation in vehicle manufacture, with clever engineering and electronics managing complex systems such as intelligent braking and other safety features. These advancements are the beginnings of intelligent vehicle design, as programs read inputs from sensors in order to react accordingly.
Conventional ideas of AI, as understood in science fiction and speculative thought, conjure it as consciousness – but the reality is much more complex, and in many ways more banal. Machine learning and algorithms see programs ‘think’; they adapt and react to new information, altering their response iteratively in some cases.
This is how early self-driving technology was developed, and continues to be developed: a natural progression from simple braking and traction programs. But the pace of development has quickened, and many AI-enabled cars are now able to navigate roads with little-to-no human intervention.
The Most Advanced Examples on the Market
Though trials and testing remain underway for truly ‘self-driving’ vehicles, there are already some incredibly advanced vehicles readily available in the automotive market.
Tesla Model 3
Tesla are trailblazers in this regard, having forged the path for other manufacturers to innovate their own electric vehicles; the Model 3 is a powerful vehicle, with its Autopilot technology granting it level 2 vehicle autonomy in the SAE Vehicle Autonomy scale.
BMW has been at the forefront of engineering innovation for some time, and their first forays into EVs are no different. The iX boasts powerful technology, from adaptive sensors to bells and whistles like its electrical tinted sun-roof and radiant panel heating.