Cruise, the self driving division at General Motors, is on a mission to deploy a ride-hailing service using self-driving vehicles. The company has raised $7.25 billion over the last year and is making key steps toward large scale development in San Francisco.
Having previously led the development of machine learning platforms for Google and Facebook, Hussein Mehanna is now helping to develop the machine-learning technology in the electric, self-driving cars at Cruise. Now the head of artificial intelligence at Cruise, Mehanna broke down its importance for self-driving tech.
"AI has a lot of definitions, but in simple it is trying to achieve a human or near human capabilities and driving is certainly one of those," Mehanna told Cheddar. AI helps self-driving vehicles understand the environment around them by building virtual models, letting the cars process complex driving scenarios. The hope is for these self-driving capabilities to go beyond that of human drivers.
"We don't only want to achieve similar levels of human safety, we want to surpass those," he said.
The urban setting of San Francisco should help Cruise reach those goals, according to the division's CEO Dan Ammann.
And other cities could soon experience the tech behind the wheel at Cruise.
"Any cooperation is extremely welcome." said Mehanna. When asked how cities could be of service to the driver-less cars on the roads, the head of AI said it's important to understand the urban enivronments. “We are building our technology to be able to understand the world around us and build accurate and reliable maps."
Additionally, the industry is seeing engineers flock to solve the challenges that come with self-driving vehicles, and Mehanna says demand is definitely there for AI-wired minds at Cruise.
"Hiring great people is always a challenge but over the last year we have grown to over 1,600 employees at Cruise and most are engineers," he said. "We are hiring AI experts that work in all different fields. They realize the next frontier is self-driving cars."
As Cruise continues testing and expanding, Mehanna sees big things happening for the industry at large.
"I think the transportation industry is going through an exciting transformation, and autonomous vehicles are playing a big role," he claimed. "How the future will shake out, we don't know, but I do believe cars will be driving themselves."