Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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MIT moves us toward automated driving

October 30, 2009General

Yes, we've been hearing about these wonders since the Jetsons, but MIT is unveiling an in-car robot, AIDA (Affective Intelligent Driving Agent) that could change the way we drive. The idea is that this robot will pick up not only traffic problems around town, and know about icy streets, but will also learn a lot about us.

Cynthia Breazeal, director of the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab, says: “We are developing AIDA to read the driver's mood from facial expression and other cues and respond in a socially appropriate and informative way."

So, it'll figure out how to best to get to Wal-Mart, suggest gas stops, perhaps tell us to speed up a bit (if it has access to our calendar, which one day it will). I'm betting it will have sensors to detect how much we've had to drink, and will lock down the car if it's too much.

This is yet another step toward automatic driving. I think I've written here before Luis Von Ahn's prediction that within a generation, kids will be hacking cars to be able to drive them. It makes all the sense in the world. We're horrible drivers. We drink, talk on the phone, fiddle with the radio, speed, cross two lanes of traffic for an exit. Automated systems are safer, cleaner, more energy efficient. I'm not saying it'll happen all of a sudden. But robots like AIDA, a venture backed by Volkswagen, carry us in that direction.

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