“What is going to change the world is interpreting sensor data and making intelligent and safe decisions,” said Jesse Levinson, a PhD student from Stanford University working on his team’s artificial intelligence systems.
Levinson and others described the technology focus in the three races since 2004 by the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects agency, known as DARPA, as moving from hardware to artificial intelligence.
Products nearest completion are based on work in earlier races, such as Gray Matter Inc’s driver in a box — a computer that will drive a car without making complex decisions.
Aiming to make inroads into the auto test market, the handful of New Orleans engineers see demand for a plug-and-play driver that can cover the same route in the same way over and over again. So far they have not sold any, though.
Advanced technology is slowly creeping into cars, handling tasks such as parking. VW’s production Passat already has a cruise control feature that can follow the car in front of it.
“We may not be far from technology assisting drivers,” said Gerry Mayer, director of defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “We’re probably a long way away from full automatic.”