Canadian Start-Up Develops Digital Drill Instructor for Self-Driving Vehicle AI Software

CC0 / / Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.02.2022
The nascent self-driving vehicle industry is also headed into freight transportation, although "driver" AIs are far from perfect. Self-driving vehicles are also expected to replace taxi services and, perhaps most importantly, help drivers cover exhaustingly long distances without having to stop to sleep.
A Canada-based tech start-up, Waabi, has unveiled an artificial intelligence (AI) that is reportedly capable of teaching an AI in a self-driving/autonomous vehicle (AV) to be better at its job. The product, Waabi World, is said to create a simulation of real-world environments and various situations on the road, so as to teach self-learning "driver" programs new tricks and ways to avoid incidents.
The use of a virtual world to teach driving AIs is not new. Instead of driving AVs countless hours along roads that might not generate critical situations (such as pedestrians crossing the road outside the crosswalk or an aircraft making an emergency landing on a highway), developers are trying to recreate these situations in virtual environments. The problem is – they are meticulously created by hand and require a lot of time and effort.
According to Waabi, their new product is itself based on AI technology, which takes a different approach to teaching. Instead of programmers directing situations in a virtual world, Waabi's AI will do it for them.
There is more here than just labour efficiency, however. Waabi World will be trained to spot the weaknesses of a given AI drive bot, not only assessing its performance on a virtual road, but also pushing the program to its limit in areas where it appears to underperform. As the start-up promises, their AI will create "adversarial scenarios" for a driver program to fail and eventually learn to solve.
"One way to think about this is that Waabi World is deliberately playing against the Waabi Driver, identifying and exploiting its weaknesses while the Driver simultaneously learns its skills. It’s a battle of scenarios and driving skills — one AI system versus another", the company said in a statement.
Such rigid and aggressive training should help existing driver AIs to compensate for that one skill that they have not yet been able to replicate: intuition. Instead of intuitively guessing the safe way out of a potential incident, these AIs will rely on extensive experience in resolving similar near-crash situations.
Waabi did not say whether any company has expressed interest in their product or when it could be available, but a virtual "drill sergeant" AI could be a popular scenario. Several major companies and tech start-ups are rushing to create self-driving vehicles – autonomous cars and trucks to travel long distances without having to address the bothersome need for humans to rest. Some companies, such as Embark and Waymo Via, are making trial runs even as driver AI software continue to be fine-tuned and trained to act safely on roads.
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