“KITT come and get me” is a line craved in the memory of everyone who lived in the 80’s. “Knight Rider” was a series that starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a crime fighter backed by an artificially intelligent car, K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand).
Today some of KITT’s features are trending technologies: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Internet of Things (IoT) and even driverless cars. These fields have evolve significantly but how close are we from having cars like KITT?
In the series KITT artificial intelligence relied in a Knight 2000 microprocessor that allowed him to think, communicate, be self-aware and learn by itself. So the question is: Is there any AI so complex and advanced as KITT right now?
Not yet. We already have personal assistants like SIRI, interactive receptionists or Watson that won the Jeopardy game. These technologies all use machine-learning algorithms that enable them to react, respond in real time and learn from interactions, but they’re only good within a specific domain.
KITT falls into a more complex category – Artificial General Intelligence. This kind of AI includes general-purpose thinking machines that will have an intelligence comparable to humans or even more advanced.
Still this will take some time to achieve and even more time to be in hands of end users. Also there are plenty of philosophical, moral and etic questions to answer in the meantime.
Internet of Things
During the series it’s common to see Michael using his watch as a two way communication with KITT. The car was also connected to Michael’s gold pendant that would send it a signal so KITT would rush to his aid.
IoT and smartwatches are a big trend right now and there have been attempts to connect them with cars. The first try came from Mercedes, integrating with Pebble smartwatches. The purpose was helping users interacting with the car dashboard infotainment and navigation functions. With AT&T’s new connected car service drivers can unlock their car and garage doors and check car maintenance reports through a mobile app.
The possibilities given by Michael’s watch were far more interesting: you could actually start the car and make it pick you up wherever you happened to be. To achieve that kind of interaction NLP is crucial. As we said before, the car would need to be able to recognize speech, remove the ambiguity from it, interpret within a context, look for the right answer or action within its data and previous experiences and take action in seconds.
Companies like Wizdee are already exploring the possibility of using voice commands to explore great amounts of data, returning answers on the fly. With all the hype surrounding IoT and NLP we will be seeing fast and significant improvements in both fields.
We saw KITT driving by itself countless times. Its AI supercomputer used the so-called “Alpha Circuit” to drive the Pontiac.
We all heard about Googles’ self-driving cars but there are several questions surrounding this ground breaking technology. For instance, driverless cars have driven thousands of miles within a small geographic area, using preloaded maps with a great amount of detail. However building such maps for bigger areas won’t be easy and would require regular updates.
A better solution would be for the car to develop a higher level of intelligence so it could scan roads in front of it, and teach itself how to drive. But how long will it take for driverless cars to gain this kind of autonomy? Google has just released the news that they will start testing their cars in the roads of Mountain View, California, so hopefully we will have the answer to that question very soon.
None of us know exactly how much time it will take for us to be driving cars like KITT. Google’s creators say that self-driving cars will be ready by 2017-2020, however reaching the level of intelligence shown by KITT will probably take some more time. But let’s wait and see if in 2017 we will be calling our car through a watch, having philosophical conversations with it or even skip the driving.
Note: We are aware of “Knight Rider” remakes with more advanced technology but they will never be as charismatic as the first one. The 1982 Pontiac was the original, and that’s all that matters.