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Gearing up to self-driving cars

Auction.co.za’s New Business Development Executive, Mohammed Sader

When most of us are asked about Artificial Intelligence (AI), our first notion is to respond with how little we know about what AI actually is, and how it is used. The truth is, you’re probably using AI to get from point A-to-Z already.

Auction.co.za’s New Business Development Executive, Mohammed Sader, walks us through every-day uses of AI we may not be aware that we’re already using.

Let’s start with US e-hailing platform Uber, launched back in 2013 in South Africa,with just over one million active riders and over 13 000 drivers as of October 2019. Since its launch we’ve seen the creation of similar services like Taxify, Bolt and Zebra Cabs. Riders use these apps on either their mobile phones or PC’s and slot in their current location and intended destination and a driver close-by selects the trip. 

Most taxi-apps, like Uber, make use of AI-empowered algorithms to predict and show users the price of a trip before it is even selected. These apps also use AI to assist their in-house data scientists with predicting route and arrival times in real-time using the technology to assess the effects of granular, geographic phenomena and changes in daily road traffic patterns.

Similarly for Samsung and Android users, the Google Maps app that’s preloaded on these devices uses AI-based machine learning to measure the best and shortest route for your journey. This is made possible through real-time images of your route being processed by AI to quickly update you on accident sites, traffic hotspots and sudden road obstructions. Google Maps, available for individual vehicle use, bus routes and pedestrian commuting also uses SLAM virtual reality technology, combining machine learning and augmented reality to automatically generate the best projections of the surroundings in a virtual environment, making sure the app is able to process images of the area you are travelling in at lightning speed with updated traffic warnings. 

According to worldwide online payments system PayPal, South Africans will have spent R61 billion shopping on online stores by 2020. This includes the purchase of vehicles online on sites like Auction.co.za’s digital car auction service which uses AI technology to track what consumers are purchasing. 

This smart learning remembers what consumers purchase, the year, model and make, storing those details along with the consumers profile information. If the same or similar stock becomes available again, or next time a similar vehicle appears, the platform’s AI automatically sends an email to the previous buyer to let them know that what they like is available again on the platform. Many online stores make use of the same AI technology in order to continue offering consumers the items they are known to enjoy purchasing.

Tracking and vehicle insurance companies like Tracker and Discovery Insure are now able, through the use of AI, to more accurately monitor your driving behaviour. Consumers are asked to place a tracker or sensor on their vehicles, allowing for their driving habits to be processed. Companies are then able to monitor the driving style of the chief car user, predict whether certain driving styles are prone to accidents, and pick up on whether an unknown driver has made use of the car with AI monitoring variances in historical driving pattern data. With this technology, vehicle-tracking companies and law-enforcement officers are able to respond faster to crimes before they are reported - putting them a step ahead of criminals.

AI-powered advanced driver-assistance systems are also increasingly popular in South Africa. Many vehicles are able to warn users, with flashing lights or beeping sounds, if an object is too close to the car. Other AI functions we’re used to using daily are automatic braking, lane departure warning and predictive maintenance, flagging the need for the next service, or air in a tyre.

According to a recent McKinsey report on the use of artificial intelligence in mobility, despite existing since 1950, this technology has only begun to gain wider functionality in commercial industries in the past few decades, with South Africa consumers increasing the demand for availability of these types of smart technologies in their vehicles and mobile phone applications. Although we can still expect to have self-driving cars on our roads in the next few years, it’s fascinating to see how AI is already driving a great many everyday occurrences.

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