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  • It's one of the most dangerous things we can do each day-getting into a car

  • as either a driver or a passenger.

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,

  • 2.2 million people were injured in car accidents in the U.S. in 2011 alone.

  • It's statistics like these that motivate Sebastian Thrun to build a safer car.

  • Its just unacceptable to me.

  • I mean, if you want to be innovative, you have to be unhappy, right?

  • So I am really unhappy about the state of transportation today,

  • and I really want to change it.

  • Thrun is a computer scientist at Stanford University who has received research funding

  • from the National Science Foundation.

  • He is also a Google fellow, an honor granted to outstanding engineers.

  • At Google headquarters in Mountain View, California,

  • Thrun and his team of software engineers are working to create a fleet

  • of safer self-driving cars using artificial intelligence.

  • In the self-driving car theres this vision

  • that we can equally transform society and make cars safer, right.

  • Its a really, really big vision.

  • Artificial intelligence is about understanding the mechanisms that underlie human thought

  • and behavior and applying these principles to computing devices,

  • such as Deep Blue the chess playing computer or iRobots used by the military

  • for things like disarming bombs.

  • These intelligent machines are programmed to make decisions based

  • on information they gather from the world around them, much as humans do today.

  • So we are able to think, we are able to make decisions.

  • And we want computers to make equally good or even better decisions.

  • Self-driving cars gather information from multiple sources.

  • A spinning laser range finder on top of the car uses beams of light

  • to detect objects in 360 degrees.

  • A radar on the front bumper determines the range, speed,

  • and direction of objects at close range.

  • Two video cameras on the front dash use a narrow view lens to detect things

  • like traffic lights and stop signs,

  • and a wide view lens to record a video of the entire journey.

  • There is also GPS to help the car locate itself and navigate toward its destination.

  • All of these data gathering devices are connected to a central computer

  • that processes the information and controls the car.

  • Its able to process all these data streams in real time

  • and turn them into relatively simple things, in driving,

  • the use of hands for the steering wheel, the use of feet for breaking and gas.

  • And thats about the level of complexity of what comes out of the computer.

  • What makes the self-driving car so innovative isn't the way it gathers information,

  • it's the way the car interprets it.

  • The car's computer is programmed to doubt the information it gathers

  • and second guess its decisions.

  • Figuring out that maybe, you know, that the camera is being blinded by the sun

  • at the moment so it should rely on the laser better or something like that.

  • Nathaniel Fairfield is part of Thrun's team of software engineers.

  • His job is to program the car's computer software to make safer decisions.

  • Sometimes when people are thinking about how the car works inside,

  • they sort of imagine this huge decision tree, they call it, where its like if its Monday

  • and its before nine oclock and there is a pedestrian right there and Im going 55

  • and there is a car up ahead, then I should ba da da da da da right?

  • Its not like that.

  • Instead, the self-driving car learns through practice:

  • first by mapping the surrounding road while a human is driving,

  • and then combining that information with the data it receives

  • when the car is driving itself.

  • Once it knows sort of what the local situation is, sort of the tactical situation,

  • and it knows where all the moving objects are around it,

  • it can then make decisions about how it wants to actually steer.

  • Some of the robotic and artificial intelligence systems incorporated

  • into the self-driving vehicle have been developed thanks to NSF funding,

  • including those Thrun developed at Stanford.

  • While a trained driver must monitor the car's decisions on the road, in the future,

  • Thrun says that won't be necessary.

  • It turns out the average American worker spends about an hour a day in commuter traffic.

  • What if he could actually reduce that time and give people the ability

  • to do something else like sleep or already start work?

  • In all, Thrun has received 4 patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office

  • for elements of the self-driving car.

  • And none of them have to do with the car itself.

  • Instead, the patents relate to the car's decision making system

  • and the way it communicates with the occupant.

  • Thrun says this patented technology could potentially be added to any car,

  • giving it the ability to drive itself, as well.

  • We use patents as a way to make sure that we go forward and we have the legal rights

  • to build and sell and manufacture what we are inventing.

  • These self-driving cars have already driven hundreds of thousands of miles in California

  • and Nevada without a single at fault accident.

  • While they are still years from mass production, state legislatures have passed laws

  • in Florida, Nevada, and California that will allow them on the road.

  • Thrun believes self-driving cars have the potential to change driving forever.

  • My wife is at the point where she says please let the car drive.

  • The car is a better driver than you, Sebastian.

  • And I try really hard.

  • For Thrun and his team, the self-driving car is an innovation

  • that may soon pave the way to safer roads in the future.

It's one of the most dangerous things we can do each day-getting into a car

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B1 UK driving driving car safer da computer artificial intelligence

Science of Innovation -- Driverless Cars

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