Technology

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

More?

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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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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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September 22, 2008

Searching for the Higgs Boson

Higgs Boson Production
The Higgs Boson may be produced through the decay of two gluons. Source: Wikipedia Commons. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

The Large Hadron Collider's Search

The Higgs boson is the only particle left that has not yet been observed by experimental research in the Standard Model of particle physics which lists some 40 species of elementary particles. One of the goals of CERN's Large Hadron Collider, situated beneath the border between France and Switzerland, is to search for this particle when it reaches full operation.

The Higgs boson is a component of the proposed Higgs field. Even in completely empty space, the Higgs field has a value that is non-zero. It is theorized that this non-zero value gives mass to other elementary particles that do in fact have mass.

How Does Mass Arise?

But how can one particle give rise to mass in another particle? This would seem at first glance to involve circular reasoning. The Exploratorium gives a great analogy here:

Imagine you're at a Hollywood party. The crowd is rather thick, and evenly distributed around the room, chatting. When the big star arrives, the people nearest the door gather around her. As she moves through the party, she attracts the people closest to her, and those she moves away from return to their other conversations. By gathering a fawning cluster of people around her, she's gained momentum, an indication of mass. She's harder to slow down than she would be without the crowd. Once she's stopped, it's harder to get her going again.

One reason that the Higgs boson has not yet been observed is because of the predicted large amount of energy necessary to create it. Generally, physicists believe that the Higgs boson will have a mass between 114 and 1,000 GeV / c2. The LHC will be able to operate at up to 7,000 GeV  / c2 on two beams.

by Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net

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Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net. Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here.

September 19, 2008

Puzzling Discrepancies in Space Probe Trajectories

Gravity Waves
© iStockphoto.com / Karl Dolenc

The Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes were launched in 1972 and 1973 respectively with missions to survey Jupiter and the outer solar system. At the end of their successful missions, both probes had trajectories which left them on hyperbolic courses to exit the solar system forever.

After their primary missions were completed, NASA continued to monitor the probes until they were no longer able to transmit signals. The last time Pioneer 11 was heard from was in November 1995, and Pioneer 10's signal has not been detected since January 2003.

Unexplained Acceleration

Close examination of data regarding the paths of the spacecraft has shown that there is a very small acceleration towards the sun that cannot be accounted for after every known force is taken into account. A large number of possible effects have generally been ruled out including fuel leakage, the solar wind, and navigational errors.

The Pioneer probes are not the only probes that have experienced unexplained changes in acceleration. A number of more recent missions have also experienced small changes in velocity as they passed close to the Earth for gravitational-assist maneuvers:

Possible Causes

The cause of the effect is still an open question and their is not enough data to resolve the question conclusively. A number of potential causes have been suggested, including:

A mission to specifically to study the effect has been proposed, but has not been approved. Scientists will be especially interested in the third flyby of Earth by the Rosetta mission which will occur on November 13, 2009.

September 11, 2008

Win Two VIP Passes to The Singularity Summit 2008!

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The Singularity Summit 2008

NestedUniverse.net is a proud sponsor of The Singularity Summit 2008 being held October 25, 2008 at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose, California, USA. This event is an annual event held by the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence that gathers the smartest people around to explore the biggest ideas of our time.

 

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To promote free subscriptions to NestedUniverse.net RSS news and email updates, NestedUniverse.net is giving away two (2) VIP passes to this event to one (1) winner. These passes provide exclusive benefits and access to The Singularity Summit 2008 event that are not available to standard ticket holders.

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Include your email address as the subject line, and your name and contact phone number in the body of the email.

 

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One entry allowed per email address. One winner will be randomly drawn from the entries submitted and will win two (2) VIP guest tickets to The Singularity Summit 2008, to be held October 25, 2008 in San Jose California, USA. Tickets are for admission only and include access to the VIP reception on Friday October 24, 2008. Tickets do not include any other associated items, including but not limited to, transportation and lodging.

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September 10, 2008

Photo-Realistic Animated Model Emily - Impossible to Tell From Real Thing

Emily O'Brien

Keith Kleiner at Singularity Hub brings an incredible story and video of Emily, a photo-realistic computer animation created by Image Metrics. Emily was animated by a new video motion capture technique that allows facial movement to be captured without physical markers and then transferred to a character rigging for software animation and rendering.

Creating Emily

First, Image Metrics scanned actor Emily O’Brien to develop a custom template for her computer generated model. Then, eight animation artists built a custom rigging for her character in software. They captured O’Brien’s performance with video, motion tracked her facial movements, and then applied those tracked movements to the computer model. Because this process is more efficient than traditional methods, the 90-second animation took just one week to complete after the rigging was built.

The Uncanny Valley

This work definitely crosses the uncanny valley into photo-realistic animation that is nearly impossible to tell from the real thing. Check out the links above to Keith's site for additional behind-the-scenes video.

by Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net

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September 06, 2008

Incredible Book Scanning Robot

Awesom-o at the blog Artificial Intelligence and Robotics has an article about the ingenious book scanning robot ScanRobot® by the Austrian company Treventus.

The robot can scan up to 2500 pages per hour without human intervention - 8 times faster than manual methods. It can scan books produced from the 15th century to the present at 300 dpi and with 30-bit color depth. Cold light LED technology illuminates the pages without damage. A cradle which can be adjusted to open the book at an angle from 60 to 90 degrees prevents overstretching the spine and allows books to be scanned extremely gently, efficiently, and with no optical distortion.

Meta data can be entered at the time of operation, and the scanner can use OCR technology to recognize text in more than 170 languages, including Gothic script font and musical notations.

August 29, 2008

The Singularity Summit 2008

The Singularity Summit 2008

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence has issued a press release with details of The Singularity Summit 2008: Opportunity, Risk, Leadership. The event will be held October 25, 2008 at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose, California. Previous summits have featured Nick Bostrom, Eric Drexler, Douglas Hofstadter, Ray Kurzweil, and Peter Thiel.

Keynote speakers include Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near, and Justin Rattner, CTO of Intel. At the Intel Developer Forum on August 21, 2008, Rattner explained why he thinks the gap between humans and machines will close by 2050. "Rather than look back, we're going to look forward 40 years," said Rattner. "It's in that future where many people think that machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence."

Other featured speakers include:

  • Dr. Ben Goertzel, CEO of Novamente, director of research at SIAI
  • Dr. Marvin Minsky
  • Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks, creator of Twine.com
  • Dr. Vernor Vinge
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky

To register for The Singularity Summit 2008, click here. You can find a comprehensive list of other upcoming worldwide Singularity and Artificial Intelligence events here.

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Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net. Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here.