DETROIT – It wasn’t a coincidence that Mercedes-Benz had a scientist come out to inform the media that people have nothing to fear from artificial intelligence, despite warnings from Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk.
Worries about computers suddenly becoming self-aware and deciding to do away with their inferior human masters, like the plot of countless science-fiction movies, are totally misplaced he assured everyone.
Why all this talk about artificial intelligence at a pre-auto show car unveiling?
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche then proceeded to introduce the ’17 Mercedes E-Class, which may be equipped with the highest level of machine intelligence of any production car on the planet.
Mercedes is part of a growing number of automakers developing a type of artificial intelligence known as “deep learning” where cars are able to interpret their surroundings and even learn to predict people’s intentions by analyzing gestures, movements or postures.
“Humans do not just learn from their own experiences…we also learn from what others tell and share with us. Now imagine thousands of intelligently connected cars out on the streets communicating and instantly sharing experiences and roadside information,” he tells journalists on the eve of the North American International Auto Show.
“The new E-Class is the very first series-built car that is equipped with car-to-X communication. This technology enables the E-Class to continuously ‘talk’ to other cars and the infrastructure, and keep learning,” he says. “I can assure you, the new E-Class will be ahead of the game in all the advantages of machine intelligence that are available today,” Zetsche boasted.
Car-to-X communication essentially is a Smartphone-supported exchange of information with other vehicles further ahead on the road so the driver can do the equivalent of see around corners or through obstacles well in advance.
This means the driver receives an earlier warning in the event of imminent danger, such as a broken-down vehicle at the edge of the road or black ice on the road ahead.
The new E-Class simultaneously acts as a receiver and a transmitter, since warning messages are conveyed automatically by evaluating vehicle status or manually by the driver to the backend.
The car also takes another step toward autonomous driving with its Drive Pilot system, which can not only follow cars on both freeways and country roads at high speeds at a predetermined distance; it can also change lanes automatically on multi-lane roads.
And, in addition to a mind-numbing number of other features, the ’17 E-Class also offers a new air-suspension system, 9-speed transmission, a sumptuous interior with a big high-definition display and stunning ambient lighting with 64 colors to choose from.