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Licensing Self-Driving Taxis Is a Huge Step for China, World
By Satyen K. Bordoloi  |  May 26, 2022
Licensing Self-Driving Taxis Is a Huge Step for China, World
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The tech breakthroughs needed to make a fully functioning autonomous vehicle render it among the hardest problems in artificial intelligence. China’s lead in granting licenses to fully driverless robot taxis is a step in the right direction and will benefit the world, thanks to the attendant tech that will emerge from it, writes Satyen K. Bordoloi.

MUMBAI - On March 18, 2018, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was crossing the road with her bicycle in Tempe, Arizona when a self-driving autonomous vehicle (AV) Uber was testing crashed into her and caused a fatal accident.The cause of this incident was that the artificial intelligence (AI) system driving the car was unable to classify what was in front of it quickly enough as a ‘vehicle,’ ‘bicycle,’ or ‘other.’

Herzberg thus became the first human killed by an AV. Some claim this event slowed research and development of self-driving cars, as even Uber ended up selling its AV division. The truth, however, is that this affair merely highlighted one simple fact: it is incredibly difficult to make a fully self-driven robot taxi.

So far, United States companies have had the most success in driverless cars or AVs. This is partly because the US has among the widest roads, most structured traffic, and most rule-abiding drivers in the world. In contrast, many parts of Asia - where 60 percent of the world lives - are so overcrowded, chaotic, and unstructured that these factors are bound to overwhelm an AI system.

Take Bangalore, India’s information technology capital that boasts tons of AI startups. Its road users encounter a host of two-wheelers - cycles, mopeds, bikes - along with pedestrians and beggars with handcarts, street vendors and potholes, three-wheel rickshaws, four-wheel cars, jeeps, and a medley of other vehicles, along with 6- to 12-wheel buses and trucks and, on a bad day, heavily polluted air and foam from its polluted lakes. How can an AI possibly identify and differentiate all of these many things that come at the vehicle faster than it can detect them?

Given these factors, it should come as no surprise that an otherwise tech-savvy and entrepreneurial city such as Bangalore has not even a single startup working on autonomous vehicle technology.

Ever since 2014, Elon Musk h

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Whoever is able to overcome these obstacles will have made a major contribution to both its home market and the world. Also, since roads tend to be much more chaotic and difficult to navigate in emerging markets like China and India, self-driving cars that can be successfully deployed there are much more likely to also work effectively in places like Europe and North America. There have been many disappointments thus far, but hopefully such failures just represent another step closer to major positive breakthroughs in the not-too-distant future!
Let's hope companies are able to crack the self-driving car conundrum in China which the US has so far been unable to do, because in a way, on this rests the entire future of Artificial Intelligence in the world. Another AI winter can be prevented by breakthroughs in self-driving cars.
Will self-driving taxis rob taxi drivers' jobs? It's still a problem, and futurists said AI would replace over 90% of occupations. If the prediction is correct, we have to value the cost to society. China takes advantage of the e-commerce business. In the shadow, the truth is Alibaba ate thousands and millions of SMEs. When the AI era comes, we can't let the disaster repeat again.