The most famous autonomous car lives in a 1980s TV series


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If you had to name an autonomous car, there’s usually only one answer. You guessed it – it’s KITT, the artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible Trans Am that had more wit than a human sidekick would ever have. It lived in a popular TV series, Knight Rider, where a lone crime fighter and his car battled against the forces of evil. The show could have had any actor, but the star would have always been KITT.

The series entertained us with the wonders of voice recognition, artificial intelligence, robotics, wearables and M2M. All these technologies were fantasied – with surprising accuracy – over 30 years ago and yet, we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of what that reality will be like.

The good thing is, we are starting to see things really take off, and quickly too. There’s been a substantial leap forward in the technologies behind autonomous cars. Even engineering and automotive giants Bosch and Daimler are launching a citywide pilot in the US to test autonomous vehicles to challenge firms like Waymo and Uber. Both Bosch and Daimler have been making a variety of moves into driverless cars and ridesharing services.

But autonomous vehicles go beyond people carriers. I personally have suffered frustrating conversations with delivery drivers trying to direct them to my home address, in spite of the fact that they all possess sat nav systems. Something I’m sure anonymous vehicles will be able to get around.

Clearly, there have been some serious obstacles to their introduction, else we would already be living in a world where autonomous vehicles are the norm. I supposed the usual suspects are human intervention, M2M communication and availability of accurate, real-time data.

Then there’s the issue of security. In the Knight Rider world, nobody tried to use KITT to rob a bank, steal weaponry or hack into secure databases for personal gain. Risks, especially with regards to technology, have evolved and, dare I say, adapted to today’s trends such as the cloud, where masses of sensitive information is stored, managed and used.

The risks today are centred around data – the person or organisation with the most valuable data has the highest risk. So that makes me think about today’s artificial intelligence – the data, the security and communication between hyperconnected devices and the trust in allowing machines to make the right decisions for us.

So really, how close are we to that world? How soon will people think about an autonomous car or manufacturer or even an organisation that has a self-sustaining eco-system that’s supported by autonomous vehicles without having to think back to the 80s? Simple answer? No one really knows. But a good guess would be, with the way things are developing, it can’t be too long now.

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