Artificial Intelligence & Assisted Driving – Research insights to steer our journey ahead

In Blog, Science, Science by Denis Naughten

Oireachtas Seminar for Science Week 2023  #BelieveInScience

This week, I was delighted to join Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society at Science Foundation Ireland, in introducing the virtual seminar ‘Artificial Intelligence & Assisted Driving – Research Insights to Steer Our Journey Ahead’. This event was organised by The Library & Research Service, in partnership with SFI.

The theme for this year’s Science Week, taking place from 12th to 19th November, is ‘Human?’. It invites people to consider what it means to be human in today’s world and how the decisions we make today will impact the people and world of the future.

The speakers were Professor Martin Mullins and Professor Martin Glavin.

Prof. Mullins, a Professor in Risk and Insurance at the University of Limerick (UL), is the co-leader of the Emerging Risk Group at Kemmy Business School and a member of the Expert Group on Digital Ethics in Insurance for EIOPA.

In Prof. Martin Mullins presentation he suggested that in the not-too-distant future, cars could evolve from being passive to actively planning our trips and even refusing to allow journeys in poor weather. He also raised several ethical questions we must grapple with regarding autonomous vehicles.

Prof. Glavin, Head of Electrical & Electronic Engineering at the University of Galway, has over 24 years of experience in research on signal and image processing for the automotive and agri-tech industries. He is also co-director of the Connaught Automotive Research (CAR) Group at the University of Galway and a member of Lero, the SFI Research Centre for Software.

In Prof. Martin Glavin presentation his focus was particularly on the potential impact of AI and autonomous vehicles in rural Ireland. He questioned how today’s technology, which can save lives on our roads, could be applied on rural roads that lack road markings. He also highlighted the potential use of today’s technologies in agricultural vehicles, currently the most dangerous profession in Ireland.

There were many more interesting aspects to both presentations, with numerous questions from Members of the Oireachtas. There was plenty to consider, including the data and conditions needed for fully automated driving, the future effects on motor insurance, and the control we would be handing over to automated vehicles.

Although there are risks associated with any new technology, we also have the opportunity and ability to prepare for it and use it for the greater good of humanity. We need to understand what is possible and be aware of the implications for our human autonomy in the future. We can then put plans in place regarding ethical considerations and legislation to ensure that we control the technology, rather than the other way around.

On foot of these presentations I had the opportunity to raise these issues on the floor of Dáil Éireann with the Minister for Finance