Ray Kurzweil: Self-Driving Cars & Other Predictions

Ray Kurzweil: Self-Driving Cars & Other Predictions

Apr 23


Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist and Google’s Director of Engineering


Automotive Engineering Magazine
April 22, 2015

Original Link

Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil sees a remarkable century with autonomous vehicles transporting smarter, healthier persons to various destinations.

“We’re already smarter by the fact that we can access all of human knowledge with a few keystrokes. A kid in Africa with a smartphone has access to more intelligent information than the President of the United States did 15 years ago,” said Kurzweil, Google’s Director of Engineering since 2012.

Kurzweil colorfully extolled his predictions to the SAE 2015 World Congress audience during a Tuesday morning keynote address inside the AVL Technology Leadership Center at Detroit’s Cobo Center.

The speed of change is on an exponential path.

“We’re very close to being able to actually emulate all the computation of the human brain for $1000, and that will be about 2022. The software will take a little longer,” said the author of several best-sellers, including “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,” a nonfiction book about artificial intelligence.

Kurzweil said that human bodies and brains eventually will carry ‘nano-bots’, small devices the size of blood cells. “They will augment our immune system and keep us healthy. They’ll go into our brains and provide virtual and augmented reality.

“My brain will get the signals (as if) it were in the virtual environment or the augmented environment. So we can have another person standing here and it would look just like she’s there, but it would actually be just kind of created in our nervous system.

“And we will make ourselves smarter by directly connecting to intelligence in the cloud. At that point, we’re a hybrid of biological and non-biological intelligence.”

As soon as the 2040s, it is possible that humans will be “predominantly non-biological. And the non-biological part will be so smart it will fully understand and be able to model and simulate the biological part,” according to Kurzweil.

The notion of having virtual-reality bodies that are as realistic as real reality is not any more far-fetched than being able to ‘backup’ brain activities.

“People 100 years from now will think it remarkable that we actually went through the day without backing up our mind file — kind of like not backing up your notebook computer,” said Kurzweil, the principal inventor of several technologies, including the first charge-coupled device (CCD) flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, and the first text-to-speech synthesizer.

Revolutionary technologies will alter all sorts of things, from what we wear to what drives us.

“We really need sub-micron resolutions for the most exciting applications in three-dimensional printing,” said Kurzweil, “We’ll be at sub-micron in about 2020, then you’ll be able to print-out — for example — clothing. There will be an open-source market where you can download for free cool designs for clothing and print them out at pennies per pound.”

Automobiles will also be transformed by 3-D printing. “It’s really not economic yet — 2020 is, I think, when this will be revolutionary (technology),” said the visionary with 20 honorary doctorates.

Vehicle manufacturers and automotive suppliers as well as Google are testing driverless cars.

“Someday an autonomous car will cause an accident, and it will be big news. But while we’ve been talking, several people have died from human drivers. There are 1.2 million deaths a year from human drivers worldwide. So (autonomous vehicles) are going to be a lot safer,” said Kurzweil, who noted that Google’s self-driving demonstration cars have tallied close to a million miles without an incident.

Change is a given, but whether change is better is a matter of interpretation.

“Technology has always been a double-edged sword. Fire kept us warm and cooked our food, but it also burned down our houses,” said Kurzweil.


David Undercoffler
Automotive News
April 21, 2015

Original Link

Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist and Google’s director of engineering, opened the SAE World Congress here by pointing out that predicting the future is easy. If you do it right. And he concluded self-driving cars are inevitable.

In a wide-ranging speech today in front of a standing-room crowd, Kurzweil laid out how and why he sees technology impacting lives over the next 30 years and beyond.

He touched on everything from 3D printing to virtual reality, immortality to autonomous cars, but he said advances in each were linked by a common thread.

“There’s one aspect of the future you can really predict and really anticipate when disruptive change will occur,” Kurzweil said on stage. “The price, performance and capacity of information technology — not every technology — follows a very predictable path.”

Google’s top visionary delved into the automotive world at a time when his company is developing autonomous vehicles and showing early prototypes.

On self-driving cars, Kurzweil said not only will they help drastically reduce the number of people injured and killed in accidents, they’ll also free us up to do something useful with our commute times. Additionally, the ownership model for cars will change once they’re able to drive themselves, potentially shifting to something like Uber or the house-sharing app Airbnb, Kurzweil said.

Breakthroughs in battery technology for both hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicles remain 10 to 15 years away, as they piggyback on developments in nanotechnology that will allow for much denser energy storage than is available today.

Later in this century, virtual reality will become indistinguishable from actual reality, and humans will be able to “back up their brains” much in the same way they back up phones and computers today.

“I don’t believe our consciousness and free will and identity is limited to just a body,” Kurzweil said.

The technology path

The path for technology development is exponential rather than linear, Kurzweil said. This is why a smartphone today is a million times cheaper and several thousand times more powerful than computers when Kurzweil, now 67, was a student at MIT in the late 1960s.

Over the course of his speech, Kurzweil discussed how this accelerating pace of advancements will impact life — a theme he’s written about at length in several best-selling books.

In his first, written in 1990, Kurzweil predicted the rise of the Internet and connected smartphones more than a decade before they became mainstream.

By extrapolating this growth into the future, Kurzweil said today, he expects a $1,000 computer will be able to “emulate all the computation of the brain” by 2022. Advances in 3D printing will allow consumers to print clothes from home by the end of the decade.

Shrinking computers

Computers will continue to shrink, so much so that by 2030, they’ll be the size of blood cells, which will have a dramatic effect on prolonging life. This also will allow people to connect directly to the Internet without external devices, an advancement that isn’t as big a leap from what is done today as it may seem, he pointed out.

“Our brains are already on the Internet, just need to use devices to access the information with our fingers, our eyes and our ears,” Kurzweil said.

But not everything can be fixed by technology, the inventor admitted.

“You can fix a broken heart, for example, but not yet for romance. That’s going to take a couple more decades.”


Taipei Times
April 23, 2015

Original Link

Self-driving vehicles hold the key to reducing traffic fatalities and will transform the automobile industry, a top Google Inc executive predicted on Tuesday.

Ray Kurzweil, a leading expert in artificial intelligence who joined Google in 2012, told the annual conference of SAE International that the rapidly declining cost of computing power and advances in artificial intelligence will make autonomous driving a reality.

Kurzweil told the audience that autonomous driving, utilizing artificial intelligence, is definitely coming.

“The technology works. It’s not far away,” Kurzweil said, although he was not prepared to say just when self-driving cars would become a common sight.

“Google advised me to share with you they don’t know the answer… The technology is not going to be introduced until it’s ready,” he said.

The need and value of autonomous vehicles is clear, he told hundreds of the industry’s top engineers.

“Google cars have gone close to a million miles without incident,” he said.

“Someday, an autonomous car will cause an accident and it will be big news, but while we’ve been talking, several people have died from human drivers,” Kurzweil said.

Autonomous cars “are ultimately going to save millions of lives,” he said, noting that traffic accidents now kill 1.2 million people worldwide per year.

“They also provide more efficient use of roads and parking lots. There are a lot of benefits,” he said.

However, he said Google was not going to put its self-driving cars on the market “until they’re safe.”

“They have to be much more reliable than the technology they replace,” Kurzweil said.

The appearance of the original Google Car prototype touched off a race among the world’s automakers. Ford Motor Co, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Nissan Motor Co have set up engineering centers near Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley to focus on self-driving technologies.

“People will still buy cars,” Kurzweil said.

“But the Uber model with self-driving cars will become very popular. We should share our cars. I think that model will grow when we have autonomous cars,” he said.

“Every company has to reinvent itself. Not everything is predictable,” he added.

Kurzweil said that, until now, the transportation industry, including the automobile business, has not been considered part of the digital world.

“But we see information of every kind coming into every form of transportation,” he added.

At the same time, the price of digital information is dropping dramatically.

Kurzweil said disruptive technologies become feasible at different times. Search engines, such as the one developed by Google, became practical in the late 1990s, because of the exponential growth in computing power.

If you tried to build a search engine after that you “missed your opportunity, but if you are running a business you can anticipate when changes will occur,” he said.

“There is one aspect of the future you can predict reliably,” Kurzweil said. “The price performance and the capacity of information technology follows a very predictable path and that path is exponential, not linear.”

As for slower-moving technologies like batteries — the key to more electric cars — he predicted longer lasting batteries in 10 to 15 years, at a “more mature phase of nanotechnology where you can manipulate matter on the atomic level.”

Other technology, such as solar power, is developing more quickly than many experts expected.

“Solar power is growing exponentially. It’s doubling every two years. In many parts of the world, it’s reached parity with fossil fuel,” Kurzweil said.




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