How Artificial Intelligence Is Teaching Vehicles How To Drive

How Artificial Intelligence Is Teaching Vehicles How To Drive

Artificial intelligence, or machine learning, is one of the hottest topics in the tech industry right now, and it is certainly spilling over into the automotive world.

Self driving autonomous intelligent carsArtificial intelligence, or machine learning, is one of the hottest topics in the tech industry right now, and it is certainly spilling over into the automotive world. If the idea of artificial intelligence brings to mind Sarah Connor running from a huge A.I. cyborg who would later become California’s governor, don’t feel alone. Many individuals have trepidation about machines that are getting smarter at an exponential rate and are being taught how to think for themselves.

If we look at this situation in a different light, machine learning is experiential computer programming. In a vehicle, we have tons of sensors that simulate human senses in one way or another. We also have controls and inputs that now have sensors — like steering angle, brake pedal pressure, cameras and other biometric sensors — that are designed to watch and see if we may be tired, stressed or experiencing road rage.

With all of these sensors influencing the way we drive, it seems only logical that we could take these inputs, record them and analyze situational awareness, road conditions and the time of day to gather information on how human drivers react to variables encountered on the road. In this way, the vehicle could learn how to drive well from good drivers and know which situations to avoid from bad drivers. The desired outcome would be to reduce crashes, or at the very least, reduce the severity of crashes.

If all of this learning occurred inside of a closed ecosystem (e.g., the sample size of a single vehicle), it would not be very effective. Imagine what would happen if you had a whole family of bad drivers the vehicle was learning from? In this scenario, how would the impressionable new car ever learn to make it in this big-bad world if there were no good drivers to teach it how to successfully navigate the road?

Cue Big Data. Still some years off, faster mobile services like 5G will have exponentially higher bandwidth to handle what some experts suggest could be 15,000 data points, or PIDS, that vehicles have to contend with. The result would be a car that generates around a terabyte of data per day. This data could then be analyzed to get us the big picture answers as to what separates good and bad driving habits. Of course, you can make the leap that in the future, autonomous vehicles will simply have this type of data pre-programmed to survive on the streets with human drivers.

In the short run, we do not have this level of Big Data available to be utilized yet. Despite the origins of V2X technology that allows vehicles to communicate with one another and receive and transmit data on dangerous road conditions, we are just beginning down the road toward machine learning. An example of this is seen with the Mercedes-Benz 2017 E Class. While this vehicle can only communicate with other such models at this point, this technology will eventually catch up to the vehicle population at large to help protect our roads.

This does not mean that the Wi-Fi or 3G and 4G systems out there currently cannot provide some help in allowing vehicles to more safely navigate our streets. It does mean that adaptive response is not on the immediate horizon.

The future of automotive A.I. can be a bit imposing to think about. But, the idea of machine learning or artificial intelligence riding along with you to learn and assist in your driving performance should be nothing new. In my case, I know I have had loved ones “helping” me to drive better for years. Now, does that classify as Level 2 Driver Assistance?


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2013 Ford: No Radio, No A/C, Airbag Light On

How many times have you been working on the computer when it suddenly locks up? Not one single key or command works, and the more you click, the less it responds. The only thing left to do is hold down those three magic keys, “Ctrl-Alt-Del,” or shut the whole thing off and restart the computer.

How many times have you been working on the computer when it suddenly locks up? Not one single key or command works, and the more you click, the less it responds. The only thing left to do is hold down those three magic keys, “Ctrl-Alt-Del,” or shut the whole thing off and restart the computer. Chances are you’ll have lost whatever it was you were working on.
These days, with the advent of multiple computer systems crammed under the dash and hood, it was just a matter of time before communication between the modules was going to be an issue. This communication breakdown is usually caused by some corrupted information being passed from one module to the next. How that corrupted information gets in there is still a mystery to me. I’ve run across a few common causes: changing a battery, loose battery clamps, jumpstarting another car, etc.
An example of one of these breakdowns rolled into my shop in the form of a 2013 Ford with no radio, no A/C and with the airbag light on. Not a single button on the touchscreen did anything at all; although, you could change the volume and select limited stations from the steering wheel controls. The A/C was stuck on MAX hot air with the blower on high speed. (Real nice when it’s 95 degrees in the shop already, but it is what it is.)
Doing a full scan on the car led to three codes popping up — one for the airbag, one for the radio and one for the HVAC system. I thought that I might as well start somewhere, and the airbag seemed as good a place as any. I looked up the definition of the code, “U0422: invalid serial data,” but its description left me even more puzzled. It read, “This is not a failure. This is only to report that the Restraints Control Module (RCM) received a missing or invalid message from another module.” What the code was telling me was that the airbag was fine. It was effectively tattle-telling on one of the other modules.
Both the radio and the A/C had “U” codes stored for loss of communication. Like that was a surprise. Nothing in the car was talking to anything else, but I knew the airbag had some information it was not telling! Seeing how I had never run across this problem before, my thoughts were to read every line, every link and every note on the two other “U” codes in the diagnostic and description pages. This way I could play a little hide and seek to see where this game might lead.
I read page after page of diagnostic information, which seemed to all start with, “Remove and check connections for powers and grounds.” Yet, after reading the same info time and time again like it was Groundhog Day, I finally found this paragraph in the diagnostic tree: “If none of the buttons work, disconnect the battery for five minutes, then reattach the battery connections and restart the vehicle. Within 10 seconds, touch any button on the FCIM (Front Controls Integrated Module). After releasing the button, the FCIM will go into a recalibration and initialization procedure. This may take a few minutes. If the buttons fail to work after this procedure, replace the FCIM.”
I left the battery disconnected for the recommended five minutes, then followed the rest of the directions in the diagnostic chart. The screen went blank and a computer progress bar appeared that slowly went from left to right. Then the message, “calibration complete,” displayed. Like magic, everything was working again. Even the airbag light was off!
I cleared all the codes while I sat in the comfort of the cool breeze from the air conditioner, pondering what just occurred. I thought: Who could have imagined such a complicated scenario of events occurring in a car just a few decades ago? But at the end of the day, a good result is a result that ends with a happy customer. Hey, and for doing nothing more than hitting “Ctrl-Alt-Del” automotive-style, I’ll take it.

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Some customers may comment on a clunk or thump noise coming from the front suspension while driving over rough road surfaces. This noise will typically occur when the front suspension is returning to the upward position after a hard downward stroke, such as after driving through a large rut or pothole.

GM: Intermittent Check Engine Light, DTC P2138 With Reduced Engine Power

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