Tag: Safety

This is F%$#ing Inspired

Self-driving cars are all the rage right now, though I really don’t see the tech taking off for a very long time.

The problem is how to make an AI play nice with people on the road, who are inattentive, stupid, violent, vindictive, and frequently malicious.

And once you do, how do you test it?

Rolling it out on the road, with an operator in the drivers seat, is expensive.

Just the liability insurance would be insane.

Obviously, one solution, for the software at least, is to test it in a virtual environment, but this raises an important question: Where can one find a virtual reality that even comes close to mimicking the insanity that is humans driving cars?

Three Words: Grand Theft Auto:

Developers building self-driving cars can now take their AI agents for a spin in the simulated open world of Grand Theft Auto V – via OpenAI’s machine-learning playground, Universe.

The open-source MIT-licensed code gluing GTA V to Universe is maintained by Craig Quiter, who works for Otto – the Uber-owned startup that delivered 51,744 cans of Budweiser over 193km (120 miles) using a self-driving truck.

The software comes with a trained driving agent; all developers need is a copy of the game to get cracking. After that, programmers can swap out the demo AI model with their own agents to test their code and neural networks. Universe and Quiter’s integration code takes care of the fiddly interfacing with the game.

Video games new and old provide great training grounds for developing reinforcement learning agents, which learn through trial and error – or rather, trial and reward when things go right. OpenAI’s Universe was released in December, and is a wedge of open-source middleware that connects game controls and video displays to machine-learning agents so they can be trained in the virtual arenas.

Admittedly, GTA, with its hot rods, weapons, and rampant crime is only a pale shadow of commuting in Boston,* but putting self driving automobile software through its paces in the fictional burg of San Andreas, is a truly inspired reuse of code.

*No joke: I knew that it was time for me to leave New England when I screamed at someone for NOT cutting me off in a parking lot.

Bad Day at the Office

Imagine if you will, you are a pilot of a B-52, it’s a lovely day, and you are on a training mission.

Then, ​an engine falls off.

On the bright side, it’s better to lose AN engine than it is to lose THE engine, but still it ain’t good:

A US Air Force B-52 bomber dropped one of its engines during a training mission over North Dakota this week, according to the service.

During a 4 January training mission from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, the pilot declared an in-flight emergency after discovering the engine had dropped from the bomber. The mammoth Boeing aircraft, which is powered by eight Pratt & Whitney TF33 engines, landed safely without injuries to the five personnel on board, the air force says in a statement. No weapons were on board during the mission.

Minot deployed its 54th Helicopter Squadron to search for engine pieces and has located possible debris in an unpopulated area about 25nm (46km) northeast of the base, the air force says.

The B-52’s loss could mark a gain for Pratt & Whitney, which has pushed for an upgrade of the 55-year-old TF33 engines. While the air force had considered four-engine options as part of a potential upgrade programme, the service ditched the effort.

 Not a fun day for the pilot and crew, I imagine.