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Automated Driving 4 min read

Leveling up AI: the role of robotics in autonomous driving

A close-up view of an AI-enabled car dashboard or digital cockpit.

The dawn of self-driving vehicles marks a big shift in transportation and smart cars are forecasted to reshape the way we drive forever.

As the automotive industry slowly advances through the six SAE Levels of Driving AutomationTM, vehicles are becoming more intelligent and intuitive every day. 

In this article, we explore the advantages and challenges of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the evolution of autonomous driving.

A woman sitting in her vehicle preparing for her journey ahead.

The high road

Luxury vehicles on the market today have come a long way from where they were just a few years ago. Yes, they still take you from A to B, but the journey in between is worlds apart from what it was before AI and robotics entered the scene. 

Thanks to the sophisticated technology that enables features such as autonomous steering, acceleration and braking (under various conditions), the latest cars and trucks can now make informed decisions that keep us safer, more comfortable and better entertained than ever before.

Here’s how.

The main advantage of AI lies in its ability to analyze data from various sensors and cameras, enabling vehicles to understand their surroundings better. Robotics assist by facilitating the execution of complex tasks such as navigating through traffic, parking and predicting potential road hazards

Together, they can take over parts of driving that are the most stressful, unpredictable and exhausting. This not only makes traffic safer, smoother and better for the environment, but it also allows human drivers to enjoy their rides stress-free. And although the progress has been promising, it’s not been without hurdles.

A car travels on a mountainous road.

Learning curves

Driving a car that makes sure you are in the right lane and moving at the appropriate speed while your favorite playlist runs in the background is great, but we are still a long way from full autonomy. And the reason might surprise you. As great as robotics are at advanced functionality, it’s the lack of what makes us human that might be the biggest obstacle robots face in achieving full autonomy.

This is because, apart from looking the part, AI and robotics have one human trait yet to learn. That trait is social interaction. Daily exchanges with other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians that are often intuitive to human drivers represent a unique problem for AI. 

Situations such as interpreting hand signals from a traffic officer or understanding the intent of a pedestrian waiting to cross the road are what humans excel at, but for robotics in autonomous driving, this is an area that still calls for improvement.

A car travels through an intersection in an American city.

A two-way street

Robots might be a long way from knowing if another driver just waived a thank you, but what they lack in human interaction they make up for in other potential advantages. Despite having trouble interpreting hand gestures, the same advanced features that are slowly enabling driverless cars are likely to reshape the future of the maritime industry as well, with the development of autonomous shipping ports.

Automated cranes and self-driving trucks now handle loading and unloading tasks, while AI algorithms are employed to optimize routing and scheduling. These innovations are not just boosting productivity but playing a crucial role in significantly reducing carbon emissions.

Cruising ahead

As we continue to level up AI and robotics, these two technologies are not just transforming vehicles into autonomous entities that make informed decisions – they are revolutionizing our entire approach to transportation. With each new level of automation, the collaboration between robotics and AI will continue bringing us closer to a future of fully autonomous cars where humans are nothing more than happy passengers.

Maja Stefanovic

Maja Stefanovic

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