Artificial Intelligence (AI) is like a knife. You can use it to do good, or you can wield it to do harm. Thing is, once the knife was invented – no-one wanted to ban it because no-one could imagine living without it. So it is with AI. Elon Musk considers it one of the greatest dangers to mankind. Elon Musk also actively invests in and develops AI to make his cars better.
So when Hyundai and AI/Graphics giant NVIDIA announced their deal to create an AI cockpit for the seven million Hyundai vehicles made annually, people took note.
The AI cockpit seemed innocuous, at first. “It uses software-defined controls to replace the traditional array of electronic control units and switches to perform common functions such as adjusting the climate control temperature or changing the audio source.”
It handles aircon and changes radio stations. This is like buying a monster gaming computer to play Candy Crush and send emails. There must be more.
Oh, Hyundai can use the surplus capacity to check out where you are, what shops and restaurants might be nearby, and for navigation. It can also monitor the driver’s eyes to make sure they are kept on the road and check safety for passengers about to exit the vehicle.
This is frankly underwhelming until you see the bit about the AI system being continuously updated and you start thinking about what exactly AI is. This is where the future of this system will make a difference.
Your PC and your phone receive regular software updates because they are connected to the internet. Now your car is as well. Except your interaction with your car is on a practical level much more consequential than with your PC. Add AI to this interaction and you suddenly move into a new dimension.
So what is AI and why is it such a big thing in the automotive field? AI allows computers to think like us and mimic our action. Specifically, they are able to learn and solve problems. Before you put on the tinfoil hat, relax. You already use AI every day, when you google or go on Facebook or shop online. These platforms recognise you and continuously learn what you want and what you do, and try to make it easier for you. So when you go on Netflix, it gives you suggestions based on how it understands your interests are. It this good or bad? It is certainly quite handy most of the time.
The holy grail in vehicle development is self-driving. There are six levels of self-driving, ranging from completely manual to no driver. From the second level up, increasingly-complex AI is required to make it work. Recognising lane markers on a freeway is far easier distant freeway bride and a container truck crossing close in front of you – a real-world example. Updating will mean your self-driving tech will keep getting better.
Your Hyundai will also get to know you, where you drive, when you drive, how you drive. Its AI would be able to optimise your engine and powertrain to your particular driving peculiarities.
So you can see where the AI cockpit will most probably lead. Good thing? Bad thing? I imagine Hyundai would give you the option to opt-out of AI. But would you really? Like the Eagles said in Hotel California: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” You can keep up with news and tech developments at Hyundai in our blog.