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Indian Origin Team Develops Model For Safer Self-driving Cars

"When the system is deployed into the real world, it can use learned model to act more cautiously and intelligently," said Ramakrishnan

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Uber began testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh and is now rolling out the service in San Francisco. (Uber), VOA

A team of Indian American researchers has developed a novel model that uses human inputs to uncover Artificial Intelligence (AI) “blind spots” in self-driving cars, so that the vehicles can avoid dangerous errors in the real world.

The model developed by MIT and Microsoft researchers identifies instances in which autonomous systems have “learned” from training examples that don’t match what’s actually happening in the real world.

Engineers could use this model to improve the safety of AI systems, such as driverless vehicles and autonomous robots.

“The model helps autonomous systems better know what they don’t know,” said first author Ramya Ramakrishnan from Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.

“Many times, when these systems are deployed, their trained simulations don’t match the real-world setting [and] they could make mistakes, such as getting into accidents.

“The idea is to use humans to bridge that gap between simulation and the real world, in a safe way, so we can reduce some of those errors,” explained Ramakrishnan.

Waymo, driverless cars
Waymo has been giving rides to a group of volunteer passengers in Arizona in driverless cars since last year. Flickr

The AI systems powering driverless cars are trained extensively in virtual simulations to prepare the vehicle for nearly every event on the road.

But sometimes the car makes an unexpected error in the real world because an event occurs that should, but doesn’t, alter the car’s behaviour.

The researchers validated their method using video games, with a simulated human correcting the learned path of an on-screen character.

The next step is to incorporate the model with traditional training and testing approaches for autonomous cars and robots with human feedback.

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Co-authors on the papers are Julie Shah, an associate professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and head of the CSAIL’s Interactive Robotics Group; and Ece Kamar, Debadeepta Dey, and Eric Horvitz — all from Microsoft Research.

“When the system is deployed into the real world, it can use learned model to act more cautiously and intelligently,” said Ramakrishnan. (IANS)

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Every Second Car to Be Electric by 2050: Experts

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Electric car
In 2050, every second car on the streets could be electric which would reduce global CO2 emissions. IANS

In 2050, every second car on the streets could be electric which would reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 gigatons per year — equivalent to the total current CO2 emissions of Russia, a new study has predicted.

Under current conditions, driving an electric car is better for the climate than conventional petrol cars in 95 per cent of the world, said researchers. It is a known fact that electric cars are friendlier to the environment and produce fewer greenhouse gases than petrol vehicles.

“The answer is clear: to reduce carbon emissions, we should choose electric cars and household heat pumps over fossil-fuel alternatives,” said study lead author Florian Knobloch from the Radboud University in the Netherlands.

The study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, found that average lifetime emissions from electric cars are up to 70 per cent lower than petrol cars in countries like Sweden and France (which get most of their electricity from renewables and nuclear), and around 30 per cent lower in the UK.

Electric car
Under current conditions, driving an electric car is better for the climate than conventional petrol cars in 95 per cent of the world, said researchers. Pixabay

In a few years, even inefficient electric cars will be less emission-intensive than most new petrol cars in most countries, as electricity generation is expected to be less carbon-intensive than today. The research team also looked at electric household heat pumps, and found that these too produce lower emissions than fossil-fuel alternatives in 95 per cent of the world. Heat pumps could reduce global CO2 emissions in 2050 by up to 0.8 gigatons per year – roughly equal to Germany’s current annual emissions, it added.

The study examined the current and future emissions of different types of vehicles and home heating options worldwide. It divided the world into 59 regions to account for differences in power generation and technology.

In 53 of these regions – including all of Europe, the US and China – the findings show electric cars and heat pumps are already less emission-intensive than fossil-fuel alternatives. These 53 regions represent 95 per cent of global transport and heating demand and, with energy production decarbonising worldwide, Knobloch said the “last few debatable cases will soon disappear”.

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The researchers carried out a life-cycle assessment in which they not only calculated greenhouse gas emissions generated when using cars and heating systems, but also in the production chain and waste processing. “Taking into account emissions from manufacturing and ongoing energy use, it’s clear that we should encourage the switch to electric cars and household heat pumps without any regrets,” Knobloch noted. (IANS)