Getting into Self-Driving Cars

Today Udacity hosted a live discussion to kick off the self-driving car nanodegree program. The inaugural cohort began today (jealous!), and yesterday there was a last-minute call for short testimonial videos to be included as part of the live video.

I was a little surprised to find that I was one of only a handful of people to respond, so of course my video was included (and of course it was hard to watch, but I’m glad I did it - personal branding, people!). I answered the question, “why did I decide to enroll in the Udacity SDC nanodegree program?” I packed about as much as I could into that 30 seconds, the gist of it being: I’m a geek about transit, and I’m pretty much obsessed with self-driving cars and how they promise to revolutionize transportation.

So, to expand upon that: I vaguely recall hearing about the original DARPA Grand Challenges in the mid 2000’s and at the time my mind didn’t wander much further than the novelty of it. I think that’s a common initial reaction - “So what if my car can drive itself? I guess I can stay better caught up on Twitter?” But there’s so much more to consider!

I had been fascinated by public transit since before then (around the time of my first trip to New York City, it would have been 2004 or so), but I didn’t put the two together at the time. I’d often hoped that one day Oklahoma City might get with the program and make some huge investments in transit infrastructure. But without much of a foundation to begin with, and being one of the most sprawling metro areas in the country - not to mention we’re basically broke - it’s just not going to happen.

We have the roads, though! I think it was a couple of years ago, probably after reading some article about Google’s self-driving car, that I finally put the two together. From there my imagination has been running wild with the possibilities, and now I’m thoroughly convinced that the self-driving car is going to save Oklahoma City. Just yesterday I had another… epiphany, I guess? Why would anyone bother to take a short flight (airports, security, etc. - a two-hour flight easily takes up half a day) when they could just hop in a car with a pillow and sleep the entire way there?

That’s just one silly idea, but I could go on and on. And I will eventually go into all of my favorite implications of self-driving cars. But for now I have more courses to take to prepare for my cohort beginning in December. I’m almost done with Artificial Intelligence for Robotics, and I’m going to take the Linear Algebra refresher course before moving on to either Computer Vision or Deep Learning (hopefully both). I’ll blog more about all of these classes along the way.

Until next time!