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Fragmentation in self-driving cars will eventually be a problem

Fragmentation in self-driving cars will eventually be a problem
From Engadget - December 23, 2017

It seemed like magic at the time (which is good, because that's also the extent of my programming skills). That's sort of where the automotive AI world is in 2017. Artificial intelligence is on the cusp of bringing to life the sort of futuristic computer that can identify, parse and react to real-world driving scenarios.

But like everything in tech, it's in a hype cycle that's seeing dozens of companies, large and small, competing to make sure their technology is in the car of the future. This past year, I have have a non-stop parade of startups pitch me about their AI autonomous driving systems. Many of them are suspect, while a few, like AImotive and Comma AI, look like they are destined either to be swallowed up by a larger entity or to become part of the industry standard. But do not expect a lot to change in 2018.

"The autonomous vehicle industry is just getting started, and it's going to be decades and decades of development," said Danny Shapiro, NVIDIA's senior director of automotive. As the company building the hardware underpinning many current AI systems, NVIDIA has an insider's view. As Shapiro sees it, any standard for vehicle AI would just squelch innovation this early in the game.

Instead, for the next decade or so, you can expect to see consolidation. Automakers or large tech companies will gobble up smaller startups for their AI prowess or talent. It's a story that's played itself out over and over again in Silicon Valley. Over the past year Intel acquired MobileEye. GM (which had invested heavily in Lyft) invested heavily in Uber. Meanwhile Waymo is now teaming up with Lyft.

But the stakes are far higher for autonomous cars. They have the potential to save lives, expand transportation options for people who ca not drive, and change the way cities and vehicles handle parking. And, of course, they will reduce CO2 emissions, by either being an EV or hybrid, or by driving more conservatively than humans.

But there needs to be a standard eventually. At some point, autonomous cars will be on the road and if there is not a federally regulated standard governing how these vehicles interact with the world, there will be chaos as consumers, cities and automakers with competing systems follow slightly different rules. For example, if every vehicle treated an intersection differently, the resulting chaos would be no better than when humans are behind the wheel. Automakers understand this.

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