AI-assisted driving here long before autonomous vehicles

An AI-powered driver assist platform from Nauto helps fleet drivers deliver their goods safely. Using voice commands, the system acts as a real-time coach.

Wide use of autonomous vehicles is far off in the hazy future.

But truck and "last mile" delivery van fleets serving online shoppers are already using advanced AI technology to guide drivers to their destinations safely.

As Stefan Heck, CEO of Nauto, vendor of an AI-powered driver and fleet safety system, explained it on the Targeting AI podcast from TechTarget Editorial, Nauto uses the same driving tools as autonomous vehicles, but leaves human drivers in charge.

"We're not trying to replace the driver at all. We're a co-pilot or a guide, an adviser or safety warning system for the driver," Heck said on the podcast. "We use similar AI to what an autonomous vehicle does in terms of understanding what's happening."

Nauto's predictive AI package uses sensors, a dual-facing camera, computer vision and neural network technology to see, understand and anticipate driving conditions in real time. It can issue verbal assist alerts to drivers if they take their eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel or act sleepy.

But unlike the tech in expensive autonomous vehicles, which are still largely in the testing phase and have run into serious safety and other operating problems in San Francisco and elsewhere, Nauto's system is more approachable at a cost of about $500 per vehicle.

As for privacy considerations, while drivers are fully aware that the AI system is there and can't turn it off while they're driving, Heck said the vendor tries to make it as nonintrusive as possible so that drivers don't get annoyed.

And the Nauto onboard box, mounted on the windshield, is polite, Heck argued.

"It is an algorithm looking in real time for certain risks and behaviors only," he said. "We don't have an algorithm that says ... 'Stefan's picking his nose today.' But we do look for, did you fall asleep? Did you not see the stop sign where you're not paying attention?"

Shaun Sutner is a senior news director for TechTarget Editorial's enterprise AI, business analytics, data management, customer experience and unified communications coverage areas. Esther Ajao is a TechTarget news writer covering artificial intelligence software and systems. Together, they host the Targeting AI podcast series.

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