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Baidu's Chief Scientist Thinks Autonomous Cars Could Be Ready Before 2020

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There seems to be skepticism about self-driving vehicles being ready to hit the road in 2020, the way several automakers have targeted.

During the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 in Las Vegas this past January, senior officials from Toyota and Mercedes-Benz each offered doubts about vehicles being fully autonomous in only four years. Instead, they were more comfortable saying that we're likely to see improvements in driver-assistance features.

But one artificial intelligence expert doesn't agree. Andrew Ng, chief scientist of Chinese Internet juggernaut Baidu, believes that self-driving cars will be commercialized by 2019 and mass-produced by 2021, predicting that much at the Structure Data conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, as reported by Forbes.

Ng, a former Google AI researcher, believes that the computer vision technology needed to power self-driving vehicles still has long ways to go — such as the ability for a car to sense the difference between a construction worker flagging it down to stop versus a worker waving a car through the construction zone.

"Computer vision can't in near term distinguish between those two things," Ng said, as reported by Forbes.

That being said, he still thinks autonomous vehicles can be ready by 2019.

While Ng didn't address the possible regulatory complications, which could differ from state to state, in addition to the government's overall role with autonomous vehicles, he confidently thinks self-driving cars will be more effective than human drivers — not to mention, safer.

"They will be much safer than human-driven cars," Ng said.

Ng's bold predction differs from that of Toyota Research Institute (TRI) CEO Dr. Gill Pratt, who told Tech Times at CES 2016 that he's iffy about fully autonomous cars being ready by 2020.

"I am skeptical that we will be done with both in four years," Pratt said. "That's a very short time and we have a long way to go [with the full development of autonomous cars]. And again, just because we are 90, 95 percent of the way there doesn't mean if you've been climbing a mountain and you've been walking through the foothills - and that's 95 percent of the miles you have to go - that the last 5 percent when you have to climb up to the peak ... that's the hard part. It's going to take us a lot longer to get up the rest of the way of the peak than it has been the easy part."

That being said, Baidu is working on an autonomous car, so maybe Ng knows something we don't regarding the technology's advancement.

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