In July at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference Tesla CEO Elon Musk made some startling claims. He says that the Tesla team is on the cusp of solving ‘One of the hardest technical problems that ever existed.’ And he is confident “that we will have the basic functionality for level-5 autonomy complete this year.”
The tech billionaire continues to make history as the CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and Neuralink. And it is typical that he creates controversy, as well.
What are self-driving cars?
Level-5 self-driving cars are totally autonomous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says “The vehicle can do all the driving in all circumstances, [and] the human occupants are just passengers and need never be involved in driving.”
Being fully autonomous means you no longer need a steering wheel or even a driver’s seat. Passengers can now spend their time in the car engaged in other activities like reading, watching a movie, talking on the phone, or working.
Currently, self-driving technology through Tesla’s autopilot is partial automation or level 2.
It can accelerate, steer, and brake under specified conditions. But drivers must always keep their hands on the steering wheel when on Autopilot. It is required to maintain control. And for insurance and legal purposes.
AI has a big role in getting to Level-5
One reason it’s been hard to get to level-5 autonomy is that human drivers often use intuition to make quick decisions when encountering a new situation.
The so-called computer in our brain comes equipped with intuition. And the machine learning that creates algorithms to make self-driving cars possible has to include every possible scenario.
There have been several instances of Tesla cars on Autopilot encountering new situations. And this resulted in an accident. These are cases where situations haven’t been programmed into the algorithm. And there is no human to exercise their intuition with their hands on the steering wheel.
So far the ability of the human brain to adapt to a situation has not been wholly incorporated into artificial intelligence.
But today we have machines that can learn, think, and ask questions. With the onset of big data, advanced neural algorithms, and super-powered parallel processing, we have unprecedented growth in the field of AI.
Elon Musk just might be right. You never want to underestimate this eccentric billionaire. After all, with SpaceX, he made development possible, in low-orbit-space. Level-2 to level-5 may not be that big a leap.