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Will Artificial Intelligence Become Your Co-Pilot on the Road?

Nov. 10, 2017
Artificial intelligence will be used to augment the driver’s ability to control the car under different operating conditions. The amount of AI software and hardware required, though, will far surpass any computer system in today’s vehicles.

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Tractica opened eyes with its detailed market forecasts for artificial-intelligence (AI) hardware, software, and services targeting the automotive market during the 2016 through 2025 period. The report defines AI as a technology that uses data and algorithms to mimic an individual’s ability to learn and solve problems. Tractica says the automotive industry has seen the promise of such technology, and is among the industries at the forefront of using AI to augment human actions and mimic the actions of humans, while also harnessing the advanced reaction times and pinpoint precision of machine-based systems.

Both semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles of the future will rely heavily on AI systems. However, associated AI algorithms can require enormous resources of memory and computer time. Therefore, efficient AI algorithms are a high priority.

Most AI hardware and software includes a mixture of various technologies. One that’s particularly critical is deep learning, which imitates the activity of the brain’s ability to think. This software learns, in a very real sense, to recognize patterns in digital representations of sounds, images, and other data.

In fact, deep-learning technology is expected to be one of the biggest and the fastest-growing areas in automotive AI. It’s used in voice recognition, voice search, recommendation engines, sentiment analysis, image recognition, and motion detection. Autonomous cars employ deep-learning technology for image processing, speech recognition, and data analysis.

It’s difficult to put a number on the amount of code that has to be written and the amount of memory that will be required for AI. There’s no doubt, though, it will require mega man-hours to write the necessary code.

Thousands of lines of code present a dilemma to automotive electronics system designers. They would undoubtedly have to support these systems with periodic updates for the lifecycle of the car. And, large code bases are prone to introducing errors. There may be a compromise to minimize dependence on software, which would require special hardware circuits or systems on a chip (SoCs) to take over some of the software tasks. However, this could exacerbate infighting between hardware and software engineers trying to solve the cause of problems.

Another subject that must be resolved is what processor and what speed will be required to handle AI in a timely manner. Then, how much power will be needed for the processor and memory? In an EV, this could siphon power away from the battery that supplies power to the vehicle. And, how will the necessary circuits be packaged so that they can fit in the car and allow them to be maintained?

Furthermore, how can the auto industry—known for its “penny-pinching” ways—minimize the cost of the hardware and software? Don’t forget, any hardware would have to meet automotive quality and reliability standards. It’s likely to be several years before an optimal solution is found, but many automotive companies are moving in that direction.

A New Concept

One of the companies actively involved in automotive AI is Toyota Motor Corp. (Toyota). Toyota has announced an outline of the concept car "Toyota Concept-i" series that embodies the future vision of a mobility society. Besides the four-wheel model Toyota Concept-i exhibited at the 2017 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2017, a universal small mobility vehicle and a walking-area mobility vehicle have been added to the Toyota Concept-i series. They were on display at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show 2017, which ran from October 25 through November 5.

Toyota’s Concept-i series combines AI and automotive technology, advancing them to the point where the driver's feelings can be anticipated (Fig. 1). An AI Agent that understands people is able to disengage and re-engage with the driver, thereby supporting seamless mobility and aiding the driver to achieve safe and fun mobility.

1. Concept-i exterior

A four-wheel model representing the Toyota Concept-i series, which uses artificial intelligence and essentially becomes a driving partner, aims to become a car of a new era. It combines technology that understands people ("LEARN") with automated driving and Agent technology, providing drivers with safety and peace of mind ("PROTECT") as well as new Fun to Drive experiences ("INSPIRE") to enrich the enjoyment of moving.

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A cabin with a forward projecting futuristic silhouette and an advanced human-machine interface (HMI), as well as interactions with the Agent, achieves a new user experience. Figure 2 shows the interior of the Concept-i vehicle.

2. Concept-i interior

Concept-i estimates emotion and level of alertness by reading the driver's expressions, actions, and tone of voice in a complex manner. It compares general information, e.g., news on the web, with information on individuals, such as social media activity, GPS information, and conversation history in the car, and estimates the driver's preferences based on recurring topics that arise.

Technologies such as deep learning are used for “understanding” people. Concept-i estimates the driver's condition using such technology, and monitors the reliability of the driver and the car. For example, if the car's reliability is high and car support is deemed necessary, like a situation in which the driver is overcome by a dangerous or high-stress situation, Concept-i switches to automated driving. Based on Toyota's "Mobility Teammate Concept" for automated driving, which aims to both watch over and assist drivers as needed, Concept-i guides with safety and peace of mind.

Furthermore, it supports the driver by stimulating the five senses, including vision, touch, and smell, depending on the driver's emotion, degree of fatigue, and level of alertness to rouse drivers into an alert state when they feel drowsy. It also helps drivers experiencing higher levels of stress to feel more relaxed.

Concept-i engages in conversation based on the emotions and preferences of the driver. The car suggests topics of interest based on the driver’s mood, achieving a completely new style of two-way free conversation. In addition, it creates an "Emotion Map" by periodically mapping the driver's emotion and GPS data. By collecting data on individual emotions and using this information as big data, the Toyota Concept-i series can deliver fresh experiences by suggesting new, enjoyable routes as slight detours.

The vehicle design comprises a cabin with a forward-projecting futuristic silhouette and a simple and open interior. Starting from the Agent located at the center of the instrument panel, the design theme flows from the inside out with seamless styling, whereby the instrument panel continues to the body exterior. In addition, it provides a new user experience through intuitive HMI interaction with the Agent using a 3D-HUD (head-up display).

Toyota plans to have the Toyota Concept-i on the road by around 2020 and conduct road tests of vehicles equipped with some of the concept car's functions from this exhibition in Japan.

Toyota Concept-i RIDE

A small mobility vehicle that emphasizes universality based on the concept of "user-friendly city mobility," the Concept-i RIDE features gull-wing doors, an electric universal sliding seat, and a joystick, achieving user-friendly operation for wheelchair users. The seat layout and automated driving functions make it possible for anyone to drive safely and securely (Fig. 3).  Figure 4 shows the vehicle’s interior.

3. Concept-i RIDE exterior

4. Concept-i RIDE interior

The car’s use with sharing services is also envisioned. By sharing with more people, universal mobility is made easier to use.

Gull-wing doors provide a large opening to an electric seat that slides to the entrance, so that even wheelchair users who feel uneasy when moving between the wheelchair and the car can transfer easily. In addition, the opening and closing of the gull-wing door supports loading and unloading of the wheelchair, and the seat’s design enables the wheelchair to be easily stored in the rear section. A version with wheelchair access is shown in Figure 5.

On top of that, the vehicle uses a joystick, eliminating the steering wheel and accelerator and brake pedals. The size of the vehicle enables wheelchair users to park and enter/exit a common parking space for one vehicle, with emphasis placed on easy operation while driving, and stopping or parking.

5. Concept-i RIDE provides access to a wheelchair.

The RIDE’s AI Agent, a key feature of the Toyota Concept-i series, is positioned on the large-size display of the instrument panel. It actively provides information that supports and enhances outings, such as the provision of information on barrier-free facilities.

The driver's seat is positioned at the center when driving. While parking and stopping, driving-assistance functions such as automated parking and automated valet parking, are employed, allowing anyone, including not only wheelchair users but also elderly people, to drive safely with peace of mind.

Toyota also envisions the use of sharing services with the Toyota Concept-i RIDE. By sharing universal mobility access, which is currently accessible mainly on an individual ownership basis, Toyota aims to provide convenient mobility that can easily be used and accessed by anyone. The Toyota Concept-i RIDE provides safe, convenient, and enjoyable movement even at outside locations, using the AI Agent to disengage and re-engage with the driver across the vehicles in the series, thereby being “together with the driver.”

Concept-i WALK

Toyota’s Concept-i WALK represents another form of mobility (Fig. 6). Its compact size fits in with walking areas and automated driving function, increasing the range of movement with safety and peace of mind. Three wheels, a wheelbase variable mechanism, steering function, and a low floor make it easy to use, and it doesn’t necessitate the use of specific clothing or footwear. The mobility vehicle can be used via sharing services and at sightseeing spots and other locations.

The compact Concept-i WALK takes up space equivalent to that of a pedestrian while walking. It also understands the driver based on conversation with the AI Agent and data obtained from sensors in the handles, guiding the driver to a safe state depending on the situation. If the vehicle senses danger while driving, it will actively warn the driver and automatically take avoidance measures. Furthermore, three wheels and a wheelbase variable mechanism that corresponds to speed are used, thus ensuring stability when stopping and driving.

6. Concept-i WALK

By using a steering function, riders don’t need to shift their body weight when operating the Toyota Concept-i WALK, which enables anyone to easily operate it. Thanks to the lowered floor, people can get on and off smoothly and ride without being restricted by their age, gender, or clothing (e.g., skirts).

With the Toyota Concept-i WALK, Toyota envisions sharing services that take advantage of the characteristic of the "AI Agent" to disengage and re-engage with the rider across the vehicles in the series, once again enabling it to be “together with the riders.” The aim is for a mobility vehicle that can be used as part of short-distance movement in coordination with other transportation facilities, such as use at outside locations and when walking around sightseeing spots.

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