Posted on Monday 12 June 2017 by Cruickshank Intellectual Property

In a recent interview head of Dublin based taxi company Lynk, Noel Ebbs stated that he sees semi and fully autonomous means of transport as a way forward within the taxi industry, believing they will fully be in existence by 2027.  The question remains however, when this mode of transport is readily available to all members of society will people trust in its abilities? Just a few months back the conducted a poll asking readers if they would trust a self-driving taxi. 48% of readers declared ‘No’, with 45% saying ‘Yes’ and just 5% saying ‘I don’t know.’ It seems opinions are still heavily divided.

We are no strangers to the idea of the self-driving car. Increasing advancements in motor technology with the use of artificial intelligence (AI), brake controls, sensors etc. have all paved the way for a transformation which has changed the way we perceive automobile ownership. The vehicle manufacturing race has made huge progress in the last decade and made the idea of fully autonomous cars on our roads much more of a reality.  We only have to have a look at Waymo, Google’s self-driving technology company to see how quickly this reality is happening. They work on their mission of ‘making it safe and easy for people and things to move around.’ Since their inception in 2009 they have been working tirelessly on testing autonomous cars and by 2012 had clocked up more than 300,000 self-driven miles and by 2015 had achieved the world’s first fully driving excursion on public roads in a vehicle containing no pedals and no steering wheel.

Automobile company Ford have also paved the way in this revolutionary industry. Investing one billion dollars (over €800million) in innovation they partnered with ‘Argo AI’ a leading American Artificial Intelligence company and together they will create the software needed to power driverless cars.

No stranger to controversy, car transportation company Uber launched their own driverless car service in 2016 starting in Pittsburgh. While the car drives itself, there is still a person in the driver seat ready to take control for safety reasons if deemed necessary. However such efforts were stalled following a crash in Arizona.

These practices in the automobile industry show no sign of slowing down, and with continued developments in technology and computer processing we will see an even greater advancement. Under the scope of Artificial Intelligence, we already see how far these advancements have taken us and the effect in the motor industry. While we are still quite some time away from an AI which embodies full human like capabilities, the progress which has been made in the last decade is astonishing. Remember last year when Google’s AI Alpha Go which beat Korean Champion Lee Sedo in the ancient Asian board game, Go? We could possibly in the future see AI embody cognitive tasks better than humans themselves. If so, it raises again the question surrounding Intellectual Property. What happens when the inventor or a creator is an AI? This question and many others have been raised on numerous occasions following developments in AI technology. IP focuses on creators and inventors but this focus is on the human inventor rather than machine. While many may argue that the AI is not human and therefore cannot be named, and that ownership lies with the developer of the software, problems may still arise over this ownership if the AI could create or invent without any human input.

Ireland itself is harbouring positive relationships within this technological sector. At FutureScope 2017, Professor Barry O’Sullivan delivered a key note speech on the topic of human versus machine. Ahead of his speech in an interview with the Irish Times he believes that Ireland has the prospective to be a leader in AI.

“All of the major names involved in AI already have a presence here, although most are not doing research locally. Given that, and Ireland’s academic credentials, and the accompanying increase in collaboration between industry and academia, there is massive potential for the country in this area.”

The idea of future technologies and the creation of AI’s are seen in either a positive or negative light. While many will question the threat of job losses, the safety of technology and its exposure, the truth is it is happening, and it’s happening fast. So while we may remain cautious and continue to ask many questions, there is no denying that there is no stopping this technological evolution.