How artificial intelligence is contributing to the car of the future.

5 March 2020


How artificial intelligence is contributing to the car of the future.

5 March 2020

The Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept car projecting a pedestrian crossing on the road as a person walks in front of the car

The Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept car demonstrates what an autonomous vehicle could do in the future through artificial intelligence – here, it projects a pedestrian crossing onto the road as a safety feature. Image: Supplied.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be responsible for revolutionising the future of the car.

For one thing, it makes autonomous driving possible. AI allows cars to 'think' in real time due to technology known as deep learning, and this is how self-driving vehicles respond to situations on the road just like a human driver would.

As brands like Mercedes-Benz develop the technology, it is also being used in other ways – for example, to predict a driver’s needs and moods and improve their comfort.

What is deep learning?

Artificial intelligence innovations like this only became possible recently due to breakthroughs made in deep learning. Through deep learning, computers are taught to perceive the world through a hierarchy of concepts. They are introduced to more and more complex ideas until they 'learn' from past concepts, eventually giving them the ability to independently seek out new knowledge.

How is AI used in self-driving cars?

Self-driving cars are, of course, one of the most exciting advancements made possible by AI technology.

Autonomous vehicles have been a talking point for Mercedes-Benz. Not only has self-driving technology been a key feature in recent concept cars, including the VISION AVTR and the Mercedes-Benz F 015, which hint at the technology’s more futuristic capabilities, but it is also influencing the more immediate future.

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG has partnered with key collaborators to develop automated technology that will be available to the public in the coming years. Independently, Mercedes-Benz is also working on DRIVE PILOT, a semi-autonomous system that allows the driver to switch off and focus on other tasks – like work or entertainment provided by the car’s infotainment system – while DRIVE PILOT takes over the vehicle during highway travel.

All of these projects involve developing AI systems that rely on sensors, GPS, cameras and cloud services to give the vehicle its reactive, ‘human brain’. In the DRIVE PILOT example, artificial intelligence will tell the vehicle to break if a person darts in front of the car or if a car merges suddenly in front of it.

But in the fully autonomous vehicle of the future, the possibilities are exciting. Theoretically, if all cars gain the ability to communicate with each other through AI, they could do more than prevent accidents – they could also coordinate traffic patterns, making traffic jams a thing of the past.

The future of luxury

Artificial intelligence systems also have the potential to significantly increase our comfort when we drive.

In 2018, Mercedes-Benz debuted an AI-powered operating system, the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), in the new A-Class. The intelligent technology is revolutionary because it responds to natural language. All you have to do is say, “Hey Mercedes” and it will understand conversational commands like “I'm cold, make it warmer in here" or "play my favourite song". It also adapts to the driver’s habits over time.  

A close up of a Mercedes-Benz dashboard

MBUX is an AI-powered system in all new Mercedes-Benz vehicles that allows the driver to communicate through voice commands. Image: Supplied.

“The car is a learning system,” explains Daimler CEO Ola Källenius. “It’s like a very good butler — the more you use it, the better it knows and anticipates your preferences.”

In-car conveniences will be taken much further in the years to come. In January, Bosch wowed audiences at CES with a prototype of its Virtual Visor, which is expected to go into development over the next few years. The transparent LCD screen fixes to the windscreen and uses an RGB camera to track the movement of the sun on the driver's face. If it detects too much sunlight, the screen becomes tinted, blocking the glare. Given how often temporary blindness contributes to accidents, this is both a comfort feature and safety feature.

Several brands and start-ups, such as Affectiva Automotive AI, are working on dashboard technology that uses cameras and microphones to monitor the driver's face and voice for fatigue and distraction. If this ‘emotion detection’ system believes you’re in danger, then it might play music to wake you up or take control to pull the car over. Not only would this function prevent accidents, but it could also reduce driver stress. While this is difficult technology to develop because of the nuances in human facial expressions, it’s an exciting innovation that hints at the artificial intelligence possibilities of the future.  

By Emily Tatti