Thoughts on Tech ( TOT ) #1

( today’s topic : flying cars and self driving cars )

So I am starting out this new personal blog , where I would simply pen down my thoughts on the technological advances I read about on a daily basis. I strongly think, every individual should have a solid knowledge about these tech innovations and a general awareness on how these things work. Why another blog I hear the geeks say ? this is for the non-geeks who don’t consume hackernews, wired, techcrunch and reddit.

First of , the amount of progress we are making in tech is insane and to be honest, mind-blowing for a single out of the loop individual to digest. There are self driving cars, flying cars, brain computer interfaces ( go DARPA go !), machine learning bringing science fiction to life, augmented reality, cryptocurrency, the list goes on !


Today I am going to talk about flying cars and self driving cars (SDCs). Imagine this, there are already cars out on the road that are driving for themselves. Tesla, Google, Nvidia , Mercedes are only some among the many names in a race to put a fully reliable driver-less car on the road. We even hear of budding startups like comma.ai , drive.ai and amber which are stepping up in the race.

Here is an SDC driving in rain at night (yeah, you heard it right, and it’s totally insane given this car does so well in its job)

Mercedes launched a commercial featuring its self driving trucks:

So what is the underlying tech? Let’s break it into parts:

  1. We feed it with sensor inputs and a video footage of what is ahead of it. It generates signals to control car steering, gas and brakes accordingly. If your car is manufactured after 2004, it is highly likely that you can control it via software .
  2. The mounted cam provides an input footage on which it applies CV algorithms to detect where the lane lines are, detect other cars to find its way through traffic (path finding), detect people and other obstacles or traffic signals to stop.
  3. There is a LIDAR sensor on top which helps it to do SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping ) . To dumb it down: it reconstructs the 3D space around itself in software so it has an awareness of its surroundings. Now, it can localize (know where it is) and move accordingly .
  4. Deep learning, which is a type of machine learning. What is it? you simply show the computer how to do a thing instead of explicitly fixing the rules in its head. How do these SDCs learn to drive? By being fed thousands of hours of real life driving. They learn by seeing , just as humans do. This is what makes ML exciting, it is a one stop solution to life, universe and everything. :)

I have just scratched the surface, the curious souls can visit this : sdc working.

As for flying cars, there are plenty of startups already putting their cars in the air, but I find kittyhawk special, as it is headed by the man who pioneered deep learning, founded udacity and made so many awesome things possible through his research : Sebastian Thrun. Just watch the video on their homepage and share my excitement for our future automotives.

Disruption caused by SDCs, (when this tech matures) :

  1. No accidents whatsoever, so safer roads.
  2. Lesser traffic congestion as routes would be optimized and we could take a nap or do whatever we want even when stuck in traffic it that happens rarely. So more productivity.
  3. Less usage of gas as the braking and acceleration would be optimized. We may as well add pollution decrease as traffic is being decreased and gas usage is improved.
  4. Availability of a car would be increased as no chauffeur is required, so there would be a car for you guaranteed if you need to go somewhere
  5. Cost of a cab would go down as no man power is required so poorer people can afford the commute.
  6. The cars could be constantly on move so no parking space required, as these could constantly cater to people who want a cab ride, also eliminating the need to buy a car.

As for flying cars, I know one thing for sure: they make my dream of flying over the sea come true :) . Imagine enjoying the sunset while flying slowly over the sea, experiencing the breeze!

There is so much to share, with the world around us being constantly disrupted by ambitious tech companies and startups all over the world. Let’s take it apart one disrupt a day. I hope to write daily, do let me know in the comments what you think of this initiative.