June 12, 2012

Self-Driving Cars: End of the Human Driving Era

Self Driving Car
iStockphoto / pagadesign

It's 2030 and less than 1% of the current 190 million drivers in the U.S. can still legally drive. The reason: all 51 states (Puerto Rico was granted statehood in 2022) have prohibited human drivers from taking direct control of passenger vehicles while on public roads unless they are specifically trained and have a compelling reason. Farfetched?

The Case for Autonomous Cars

There are pressing reasons to get artificially intelligent, self-driving cars to market as quickly as it is safely possible to do so. Yet, while the idea of fleets of Google carbots delivering pizzas automatically is mesmerizing, the real justification to accelerate availability of this technology is the potential for a dramatic reduction in injury and fatality rates.

In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizes the impact that both alcohol use and distracted driving have on public safety. Recent data shows that:

However, statistics in the United States compare quite well to most of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists traffic fatalities as the #10 cause of death worldwide, accounting for 1.2 million deaths in 2008.

With approximately 3 trillion miles logged each year in the United States, there is an average of 1 death per 88 million road miles. Although much more data is needed to accurately gauge the safety prospects of self-driving vehicles, the track record is very promising. Of the 250,000 miles logged by Google's autonomous cars so far, two accidents have been recorded and both were the fault of human operators. Two things are certain: self-driving vehicle software won't drink while driving, and it actually can keep its attention on the road while posting Facebook updates.

Industry analysts believe that this technology won't be ready for public consumption for 10 years, but signs point to a more rapid adoption. The attention that car manufacturers are investing indicates a desire to make this capability available quickly. Google project manager Anthony Levandowski states that their self-driving cars are already completing test courses faster than humans and he thinks that a better-than-human safety record will be shown much sooner than the next decade.

Industry Embraces Autonomous Technology

In 2008, General Motors stated that they would begin testing driverless cars by 2015, and that they could be on the road by 2018. More recently, General Motors chairman William Ford, Jr. talked about a connection revolution at the ITS 2011 conference in Orlando. Similarly, GM's Vice President for Global Research and Development Alan Taub promoted technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications, but worried about the significant challenge of still having humans at the wheel. In 2011, Taub stated:

The technologies we’re developing will provide an added convenience by partially or even completely taking over the driving duties. The primary goal, though, is safety. Future generation safety systems will eliminate the crash altogether by interceding on behalf of drivers before they’re even aware of a hazardous situation.

The impact of intelligent vehicle systems can already be seen in declining fatality statistics in the U.S. - down nearly 58% from 1.73 (per 100 million) in 1995 to 1.14 in 2009.

Evolving Legal Status

Once legal hurdles, liability issues and public perception challenges are overcome, and autonomous vehicles cars begin driving with injury and fatality rates lower human-driven vehicles drivers, the liability burden will shift. Unless a compelling reason can be found, humans must yield to self-driving cars that have a better, proven track record. While Taub says that driving for humans is "fun", fun is no longer an option when lives are at stake and better alternatives exist.

The shift to self-driving cars is not something that has occurred overnight. Although this technology has received a lot of press in the past few years, we've actually been moving towards greater vehicle autonomy for decades with capabilities such as adaptive cruise control, electronic stability control, collision warning systems, and lane departure detection to name a few.

Self-driving technology will initially require a competent driver be able to take control at a moment's notice and many governments are racing to make changes in the law. These changes seem premature since the legal and liability issues presented by this type of augmentation should not be different than with today's intelligent technologies - the human driver is still ultimately responsible for the vehicle operation at all times.

However, the question of liability will become murky at the point when self-driving vehicles can fully assume control of the vehicle from start to finish, and not require that a human driver be capable of taking control. A second round of changes in laws will be required, and questions of legal liability must be decided. Although driving will be much safer overall, in any particular accident, an assumption of fault will fall on autonomous technology until proven otherwise. Manufacturers and the developers of such technologies cannot afford millions of dollars in settlements for each incident. We must eventually make decisions to offer legal protection to manufacturers and the developers of these technologies since the benefits to the public as a whole are clear.

by Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net

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October 21, 2010

Predicting Stock Market Behavior with Social Networks

Stock Market Intersection
iStockphoto / James Steidl

Using a self-organizing fuzzy neural network model, researchers were able to correlate stock market movement 3 days in advance with a nearly 90% success rate by analyzing mood from a statistical sampling of tweets from Twitter.

Two mood measurement tools were used in the model. OpinionFinder measured public sentiment with simple positive / negative values while a new tool created by the authors called Google-Profile of Mood States, measured mood along six dimensions.

The paper discounts the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) which states that, on average, returns greater than the market average can't be obtained because prices reflect all information that is currently publicly available. However, the authors don't take into account that while there may be a short-term opportunity to take advantage of such tools, once publicly available, these tools will themselves simply provide new sources of information that will be built into to market prices, thus reducing the window of opportunity for using them to an advantage.

A number of ways to increase the accuracy of the authors' model can be imagined. For example, an improved model might give proportional weighting to the number of subscribers that an information source reaches to take in to account influence.

by Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net

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December 12, 2009

Mathematically Predicting the Arrival of Human-Level Artificial Intelligence

Michael Anissimov, Steve Rayhawk, Anna Salamon, Tom McCabe, and Rolf Nelson have released the beta version of an application created from a Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence research project. The Uncertain Future predicts when human-level Artificial Intelligence will arrive based upon a rigorous mathematical model.

The application allows users to provide their own estimates as to the likelihood of key parameters. To assist you in determining the values of these parameters, links to noted schools of thought are provided with corresponding values spanning the gamut from true naysayer to advocate. Do you believe that Artificial Intelligence is impossible in principle like John Searle, or are you as optimistic as Stephen Hawking?

Check out Michael's blog about the topic and then visit The Uncertain Future to see what your estimates predict. What were your results?

by Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net

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December 07, 2008

5 Inventions We Owe to Science Fiction

Science Fiction Inventions
iStockphoto / Alex Nikada

In more ways than one can probably imagine, science fiction has helped generate ideas for investors dating back centuries. Human imagination generally has preceded ingenuity, which is increasingly catching up as technology accelerates, making ideas that were once solely in the realm of sci-fi more feasible in the real world. Over the past few decades, many literary concepts have entered the real world, including:

Electronic Book Readers

Say what you will about the level of sophistication of devices such as the Kindle, Electronic books are a growing segment today in large part due to the vision put forth by Douglas Adams. His classic 1979 work "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" used a self-reference to the novel to describe the process of how "you push this button here, you see, and the screen lights up, giving you the index.."

Wireless Tracking Monitor Bracelets

Using wireless technology to transmit the location of a person, tracking bracelets are used to keep tabs on house-arrest criminals as well as honing in on the location of various VIPs, for security purposes, using wireless technology. First mentioned in the 1990 novel "Shadowspeer" by Patricia Jo Clayton, in the context of government officials keeping track of inter-stellar travelers, the bracelets gained widespread use beginning in the late 1990s.

Light Sculptures

While Science Fiction has brought us its share of operational innovations, there are also a number of breakthroughs in technical art that can be attributed to the genre. In 1973, Isaac Asimov's "Light Verse" foretold light sculptures as means of creative expression. Asimov described them as "a new symphony of light...crystalline effects that bathed every guest in wonder..."

Networked Electronic Voting Machines

Although some might argue that we're still waiting for reliable electronic voting, John Brunner envisioned electronic voting in his 1975 novel "The Shockwave Rider". Interestingly, the novel is based on the premise of a network which had shifted the powers to the elites and a hacker who uses a program to help democratize society once again. While others foresaw electronic voting, none of them saw a full, decentralized network of voting the way Brunner did.

Computerized Language Translation Software

Since Adams' novel broke a lot of technical ground, we return to "Hitchhiker's" for our final invention reference. Not only did the novel foretell computerized language translation, but it would even lend the term "Babel Fish" to the web site that would make computerized translation available to the general public.

This guest post comes from Maya Richard (@ gmail.com) who writes on the subject of high speed internet.

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November 30, 2008

Walking Proteins Move Cargo

Kinesin
Kinesin dimer / David S. Goodsell, Scripps Research Institute

One way to transport objects inside a cell is by the use of Kinesin motor proteins. Three things are required: a motor to move the cargo, a track along which to move it, and the cargo itself that needs to be delivered.

Motor Proteins

Proteins are essential components of cells that are involved in a number of processes. They are formed by linking amino acid molecules together in chains. The sequences of amino acids needed to build proteins are specified by genes as part of the genetic code.

Motor proteins are a special form of protein that do physical work. Remarkably, these proteins have the ability to move along surfaces, transport cargo that is attached to them, or produce force. They use the chemical Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) as an energy source to power their movement. The motor protein myosin, for example, is involved in the contraction of muscle fibers in animals. Dynein is a motor protein that is found in flagella, the long tail-like structure that projects from certain types of cells like sperm to help the cell move.

Microtubules

Microtubules are one of the components of the cytoskeleton, the infrastructure that supports the cell. They are made by linking repeating units of the tubulin protein together. The resulting chain is then curled into a hollow cylindrical shape. They can grow or shrink to produce force, and also serve as conduits along which other cellular components can be transported.

Kinesin Cargo Transportation

Small molecules in the cell can move to where they are needed by the process of diffusion. However, larger molecules that are synthesized in the cell body are transported by motor proteins to their destinations. Kinesins are a type of motor protein that use microtubule tracks to walk along. 

Two intertwined chains with globular heads on one end form a Kinesin dimer. To move, the heads repeatedly attach and detach to the tubulin units of the microtubule track, moving everything forward in a hand-over-hand fashion. The opposite ends of the dimer drag the cargo along that they are attached to.

Thanks to Nested Universe reader Faris Naji for inspiring this topic, and discovering the attached video which shows the Kinesin protein in action.

by Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net

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November 22, 2008

When Fact Meets Fiction – Learning Science the Fun Way

Books
iStockphoto / Ugur Evirgen

I don’t normally read science fiction, but Michael Crichton is an entirely different story. I fell in love with his work even before he gained a greater degree of fame with Jurassic Park and its sequels. Right from Andromeda Strain to the Sphere, I’ve enjoyed the way he combines a little bit of fact and a whole lot of fiction to spin a believable yarn about worlds of both the future and the past.

Another author who qualifies for such bouquets in my book is Dan Brown, not for The Da Vinci Code, the famous (notorious) bestseller that caused a ton of controversy, but for its sequel, Angels and Demons, which in book, was a better book than the Code. I particularly took a great deal of interest in the Large Hadron Collider and the way antimatter was explained and used to cause great mayhem and potential destruction. And when I saw the fine print that said that this fact was indeed fact and that fiction had been woven around it, I looked up the project on the Internet and read all I could about it. I admit I was a bit smug when I could tell all my friends that I knew all about this project more than a year ago, and even though they initially thought that I had turned into some kind of science junkie (which I definitely am not), they were surprised to learn that good fiction can have fact as its basis.

Science is a subject that not everyone understands easily; but when it is couched in fiction, when a compelling yarn is woven using the slightest thread of truth, it’s then that people want to learn more and discover more. That’s the best part of books, the fictional kind, because they teach you more than their subject-specific counterparts ever will. Just ask any aficionado of medical and legal mysteries – they’re bound to be familiar with a whole lot of facts, processes and procedures that relate to hospitals and the courtrooms respectively.

And that’s because they don’t consider the process as one of learning, but one of enjoyment. Reading these books are leisure activities for them, while slogging over textbooks is drab, routine work that must be done to achieve good grades. There’s a vast difference in the results achieved when a task is done just for the sake of it and when it’s really enjoyed wholeheartedly. And this delineating line is where fact meets fiction!

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of web learning versus class learning. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com

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Silicon Valley Artificial Intelligence MeetUp

MeetUp
iStockphoto / Kronick

Monica Anderson will speak about Model Free Methods and Artificial Intuition at the Silicon Valley Artificial Intelligence MeetUp at the TechShop in Menlo Park, California at 12 noon Sunday, November 23, 2008. The talk is one hour, followed by an hour discussion about any AI related topic.

Attendance is free but limited to 70 people. The event will be video recorded and may be posted on the web later.

Please join the AI MeetUp group and RSVP on the web site below if you want to attend: http://www.ai-meetup.org/events/9183657/?action=detail&eventId=9183657

The calendar page http://www.meetup.com/ai-silicon-valley/calendar is updated regularly.

October 21, 2008

Your Entire Life On An iPhone

Atomic Wires
iStockphoto / James Benet

Thanks to Mohir at K21st for a recent article describing how Professor Lee Cronin and Dr. Malcolm Kadodwala of the University of Glasgow have developed a nanotechnology technique that can store 150,000 times more data per square inch than current technology.

With this technique, the researchers were able to assemble a functional nanocluster just one nanometer in size. This tiny size would permit an incredible storage of 500 trillion bytes per square inch - enough capacity to store:

  • 100 million MP3s
  • 5 million CDs
  • 100,000 DVDs
  • 100 years of video at 1Mbps

Storage capabilities at this level like this will benefit projects like Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell's MyLifeBits. Gordon's project aims to store and index an entire human's lifetime of books, emails, phone calls, video, audio, and more.

Combine this incredible amount of data storage with an eyeglass cam, and OCR, speech and facial recognition software. Now imagine being able to search and play back anything you've ever seen, heard or read right from your iPhone.

You can read the original article from the University of Glasgow here.

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October 20, 2008

Brain Science Is About To Fundamentally Change

After inventing the Palm Pilot, Jeff Hawkins focused his efforts on neuroscience. He describes his memory-prediction framework theory of the brain in his book On Intelligence.

Predicting Patterns

This theory describes the process of how the brain makes predictions of future events by matching sensory inputs to stored memory patterns. Inputs that are processed from the bottom-up interact with expectations from the top-down to generate predictions. When a particular level recognizes a pattern, a label is associated and forwarded to the next level in the hierarchy.

Jeff Hawkins was inspired by an issue of Scientific American dedicated to the brain. He saw that neuroscience lacked a comprehensive framework to describe the operation of the brain and embarked on an effort to build one. In this TED video, he describes his ideas and their implications on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

by Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net

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October 11, 2008

Singularity Summit VIP Pass Contest Results

Congratulations to Faris Naji, the winner of the Nested Universe Singularity Summit 2008 VIP pass giveaway.

The drawing was held by numbering the six entries in order of their arrival. Then, random.org was used in Integer Generator mode to select a number from 1 to 6, 3 being the value that was returned.

by Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net

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