Looking into the future: Machine learning and self-driving cars

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There’s nothing like a two-day summit at Google (Alphabet, Inc.) headquarters to give you a sense of where the world is heading. Although non-disclosure agreement requirements prohibit me from discussing specific details, I can certainly make some general observations based on publicly available material.

The first is that machine learning has become a very important part of the technology landscape. Machine earning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are often used interchangeably, but this Forbes article explains the subtle difference.

Artificial Intelligence is the broader concept of machines being able to carry out tasks in a way that we would consider “smart”.

And,

Machine Learning is a current application of AI based around the idea that we should really just be able to give machines access to data and let them learn for themselves.

The current applications relate to translation, speech and image recognition, and large volume data analysis.  Manifestations include the tools that allow you to give oral commands to your smart phone (or home automation device) or ask for instant translation/interpretation with smartphone earbuds. 

Outside of the formal sessions, some of my AdSense forum volunteer peers who have backgrounds in computer code rather than journalistic writing, were talking about how they could learn some of the new models to apply to their own projects. In these days of self-learning, there are massive repositories at Udacity, where the programs are entirely free, unless you want to apply for and receive formal certification.

I expect in time these tools will become powerful with Building Information Modelling and will influence the way structures are designed, engineered and constructed.

As for the self-driving car, Google’s early self-driving prototypes had been on display at previous summits. Yesterday, the company’s self-driving subsidiary announced that its tests in Phoenix have reached the stage where the cars are now able to operate without a safety driver the wheel, and commercial driverless taxi service will be available soon in some districts within the Arizona city.

From concept to reality in less than a decade . . . the world is changing.  It is an exciting time.

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