Drive.ai wants to give self-driving cars more brainpower, personality

Sure, the Google self-driving cars cruising around Mountain View and the Uber fleet expected to roll out any day now in Pittsburgh are expected to stop at red lights, avoid pedestrians and obey speed limits.

But do they have personality?

Mountain View startup Drive.ai, which unveiled its technology Tuesday, wants to focus on that aspect of self-driving cars. The company’s artificial intelligence system uses software and hardware to make autonomous vehicles smarter, enabling them to not only navigate obstacles, but also to communicate both with people inside and outside the car.

“Vehicles of the future will communicate transparently with us,” Co-Founder and President Carol Reiley wrote in a news release, “they’ll have personality, and they’ll make us feel welcome and safe, even without a human driver.”

Eventually Drive.ai hopes that human-robot communication will encompass all the ways drivers today interact with pedestrians and other drivers when they’re behind the wheel — head nods, waves, honks, etc. To that end, the startup plans to sell self-driving kits that include some sort of communication device that can be mounted on a car’s roof. According to TechCrunch, those devices eventually will be able to communicate with humans by flashing written words and even emojis.

On Tuesday Drive.ai also announced the addition of new board member Steve Girsky, former executive and board member at GM.

“We all know that the automotive industry is in the midst of a foundational shift,” Girsky wrote in the Drive.ai release. “The emergence of self-driving technology, and deep learning in particular, brings an incredible opportunity to save countless lives, transform the transportation landscape, and shift the way we think about cars and technology. The team at Drive.ai has the vision and expertise to lead this new era.”

Drive.ai was founded in 2015 by a team from Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, and has raised $12 million in funding, according to the company.

Image: A rendering shows the Drive.ai artificial intelligence system for self-driving cars. (Drive.ai)

 

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