Before RDW’s keynote started, we asked ourselves what subjects RDW would talk about. Among the questions we worndered were: “Will they talk about car licensing management?”; “do they actually use machine learning within their company?”; “will they talk about self-driving cars (which was already mentioned in Quintor’s keynote)?”; “will they talk about car accident simulations?”; and “does RDW collect data from car accidents to improve car regulations?” Much to our surprise, almost all of these questions were discussed in some form or another.
RDW is a company that deals with everything concerning vehicles in traffic. They license vehicles, check car types and their regulations, and have the responsibility for creating driver's licenses. Furthermore, the company is also concerned with developing regulations for car software. Since there are no car software regulations yet, RDW is trying to tackle questions regarding which regulations a car should have when it’s software contains over a million lines of code – like a Tesla – and how these regulations should be formulated.
Intelligent Transport Systems
Among other things, RDW talked about Intelligent Transport Systems, the systems that regulate how intelligent cars behave in an intelligent infrastructure. In this, the vehicles have to interact with the infrastructure and vice versa. There are five levels of self-driving cars, with level zero being the driver doing everything himself. From level 0 onward, the amount the driver has to do decreases with every next level: Level 1 is that the car helps the driver; autonomous functions are ascribed to level 2; level 3 specifies limited self-driving; high automation is ascribed to level 4; and finally, level 5 is a completely self-driving car in which the driver doesn’t have to do anything. Level five cars have sensors and actuators that are able to control the entire driving process. This obviously means that a computer has to be on board of the vehicle. This computer uses machine learning algorithms to prevent making the same mistakes in situations that it has encountered before. These computers connect self-driving cars to the internet, which allows them to communicate with one another.
A level 5 car, however, raises some questions that are in desperate need of answering. For example, “how do you protect the car against hackers?” RDW ensures that they put security before everything else, but during their presentation they didn’t explain how they would deal with this issue. Currently, RDW has a testing area in the Groningen seaport Eemshaven. At this area, RDW is testing fully automated self-driving buses that are communicating via a 5g-internet connection.
For the future, RDW is striving to be able to test different traffic situations via simulations. These could prove to be a much cheaper and faster alternative to the current real-life tests that they perform. In this pursuit, RDW is hoping to achieve a simulation percentage of 80% vs. 20% of real-life tests, since real life testing will still be necessary to test vehicles in various (extreme) weather conditions. The current percentage of simulation testing is still at 0%, however, so there is still much work to be done in this department.
Altogether, RDW wants the driver to be less active in the actual driving process. This goal poses us the fundamental question: “Do we as humans, want to have less control over the driving process?” Some fear that this development would take all the fun out of driving, while others are convinced that it provides for much safer driving experiences. Perhaps both are right, but we will have to wait a bit longer to find out for ourselves.
Overall, the three keynotes gave good insights in the current developments within the IT sector. Quintor appears to have its hands full in the development of machine learning, which proves to become an interesting IT sub-field once again. IBM already won two prizes in a single hackathon by finding effective applications of Blockchain technology for societal issues. In effect, IBM proved that 48 hours is enough to develop an innovative idea for a complex problem. Furthermore, Blockchain technology appears to become the foundation for more and more different applications. RDW works hard to keep up with the fast moving developments within the automating of vehicles. The time of completely automated cars is upon us, and it is up to companies like RDW to guide these developments in a safe direction.
A more technologically advanced and automated future may be closer than we think. Our society is currently on the brink of huge technological developments thanks to companies like Quintor, IBM, and RDW that strive to keep on pushing the boundaries of what's possible.