On the long, possibly dead-end road to fully automated driving, the promise of “connected” vehicles is something like a way station. When cars can communicate with one another over Wi-Fi and GPS, drivers should be able to anticipate hard stops, lane blockages, slippery pavement, and other kinds of unexpected terrain. Ultimately, connected robo-cars would be able to turn the untidy churn of human-driven traffic into a frictionless ballet of computer-controlled mobility. But for now, flesh-motorists can still benefit from such “smart” features: Many will soon be available in Ford’s lineup, for example. If you can’t shell out for a new ride, however, you’re out of luck.
On the other hand, Nexar, an AI-powered driving safety app, provides similar features to the masses. It deploys your smartphone like a dashcam, recording your commutes.* Stored in the cloud, that video footage can come in handy if you’re filing an insurance claim after a crash. Using artificial intelligence, it also helps Nexar predict possible accidents: The company combines the videos with data from your phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope to detect and alert you to dicey driving conditions.
Now some of the live footage from Nexar users—who number in the hundreds of thousands, in 160 countries—is available for anyone who wants a gander. The web-based Live Map, which shows close-to-real-time street views snapped from their dashboards, launched in July for New York City, and is soon to roll out in hundreds of other cities. The interactive web map is updated every few minutes with freshly captured chunks of streetscape. Using AI, it also identifies key features on the roads, such as traffic signals, stop signs, traffic cones, and barricades. It’s like Waze mashed up with Google StreetView.
Like Google’s mapping platform, Live Map is an addictive tool for digital globetrotters keen on aimless wandering. It also has a number of near-term practical applications, says Nexar CEO Eran Shir. City governments could use Live Map to snoop on construction sites, in order to assure workers are complying with permits. Or it could help them create a digital inventory of their street signage, a service that other AI-powered mapping companies, such as Mapillary, have gotten into.
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