This year is for self-driving car

I think the biggest technology news story from 2017 is that Andrew Ng left Baidu.

Not long ago, Andrew Ng, VP & Chief Scientists of Baidu, Co-founder of Coursera, Adjunct Professor at Stanford University, announce to left Baidu. According to reliable source, he will join as chief scientist of Drive.ai, which is founded by former lab mates out of Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. Without a few days, the valuation of Baidu decrease almost 5%.

Why such a quit of one employee affect so much for an over 50,000 company? No doubt, the biggest technology that change human’s life in 2017 is definitely self-driving car. Google have been working on self-driving car since 2009. There are two challenges waiting for most brilliant, smartest engineers and scientists and overcome, which are computer vision and artificial intelligence. For over almost ten years, Uber, Apple, Tesla, Drive.ai successively make progress on development of autonomous car. We should focus on those news, events and see how it goes. But why computer scientists, big name company, hottest start-up pay so much attention on self-driving vehicles? Because it brings future of human being, less car accidents, safer world.

Driverless car is basically combined with computer vision and artificial intelligence, which are two major exponential technologies for last three years. With advance of distributed system, improvement of sensor accuracy. Silicon Valley take advantage of this technique to simulate the input and output when a people drive a car. That news never stopped dazzling us. For example, 2015 Google subsidiary company Waymo, which stem from Google self-driving car project declare first fully self-driving ride on public roads. Without steering wheel, pedals, and of course driver, it drove Steve Mahan, who is former CEO in Santa Clara Valley Blind Center down to the hospital. When everyone expected and is excited about the next generation of transportation.

Some researcher, however, poured cold water over them because of the other challenge, artificial intelligence. The artificial intelligence here did not just mean Machine Learning, Data Mining, it’s some kind of Decision Strategy appointed by British scientist that we face a dilemma that the machine need to make decision whether sacrifice two lives outside the car to keep minimum injury of one people inside or vice versa for greater goodness in an evitable car accident. Many people might agree on saving two people’s lives because they are outnumbered. But who will be willing to buy a product that hurt customer? When such a decision involved not only technology but, more importantly, ethics, benefit, it’s a conundrum that impede the development of autonomous vehicles.

The other major news happened occurring on the horizon are Google have sued Uber of stealing the design when former employee left Waymo and took lots of confidential sensors technology documents later joined Uber. What’s worse, authority suspend the temporary approval of experiment test of Uber self-driving on San Francisco due to a car accident happened in Arizona after several fight with government. It shows that government will not allow self-driving car to begin operation after we have over 95% confidence on its security.

In fact, not only Google, Uber want to benefit from this market. There are other companies like Apple, Tesla or numerous startup try to steal a march. The most interesting part of such an exponential innovation is that we will never know who will win even when it looks like Google have been ahead of others for almost ten years.

As a software engineer, I am so proud that we invent, improve technology not only for making money, or for interests, but make this world a better place.