Giant tech companies and automakers with abundant financial resources are developing autonomous vehicles. Robot taxis have begun operating in some parts of the U.S. and China, but it is difficult to predict all the behaviors of human-driven cars, bicycles, and pedestrians, and they are still at the stage of demonstration experiments and demo runs in very limited locations.
Shunsuke Aoki aims to complete a fully autonomous driving system based on two research projects: "Development of artificial intelligence (AI) that recognizes driving conditions using camera images," and "development of a super-human-class driver using end-to-end deep learning." During the five-year period up until 2020 in which he was enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University's Automated Driving Systems Research Group in the United States, Aoki developed an autonomous driving software that can drive more safely by coordinating and cooperating with surrounding vehicles and infrastructure. The software has a huge end-to-end deep learning network that takes image data as input and outputs gas pedal, brake, and steer operating angle values, resulting in an automated driving system that enables safer and more stable autonomous driving. Some of the technology is also used in General Motors' self-driving module.
In contrast with most existing automated driving software, which follows rules set by humans, Aoki's novel approach adopts the concept of leaving driving judgment and action decisions to a super-human-class AI driver. This is a very bold idea based on the hypothesis that AI's judgment and decision-making ability exceeds the abilities of humans, but it has already been proven that AI's judgment ability exceeds that of humans in specific fields such as shogi, go, and e-sports. "This singularity can also be realized in the driving behavior of automobiles," Aoki says with confidence.
Aoki opened the Aoki Laboratory at the National Institute of Informatics in Japan in April 2021 to promote the social implementation of his research results. In August 2021, he founded the start-up company TURING, which raised a total of 1 billion yen within 10 months of its founding. TURING will incorporate the fully autonomous camera-based driving technology that Aoki has designed and developed so far into actual vehicles. He aims for a future in which AI automatic driving functions will be as essential as seat belts and airbags, and in which there will be zero fatalities and injuries caused by automobiles.