We’ll Be Sleeping Inside Self-Driving Cars And The AI Ought To Help

Dr. Lance Eliot, AI Insider

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(Ed. Note: For reader’s interested in Dr. Eliot’s ongoing business analyses about the advent of self-driving cars, see his online Forbes column: https://forbes.com/sites/lanceeliot/)

When I was working on my doctorate degree, doing so at a prominent west coast university, I decided that during the summer break I would go visit various doctoral colleagues that were doing their PhD's at east coast universities. I was a starving student at the time and was trying to stay within a minimal budget for the trip.

Once I arrived to the east coast and had picked-up the rental car, I drove to the first of the series of campus visits. I had not booked any hotels as yet and figured that once I got to a particular university, I’d find a nearby inexpensive hotel to stay the night and then continue onward to the next campus. Upon trying to find a hotel that first night, I discovered that the only rooms available were quite highly priced and it seemed a shame to pay such an exorbitant cost for just a place to sleep for the night.

I decided therefore to sleep in the rental car for the night.

Sounds kind of questionable, I realize. since I was not destitute per se. It just seemed like the easiest way and most practical approach to do things at the time.

When I had walked around the campus and met with some of the doctoral students, they showed me the campus gym and explained that anyone could make use of it, though this was not publicized per se. In essence, even a non-student of the campus could use the gym. I decided that since I was going to sleep in my car, I could use the campus gym the next morning to get a shower and shave and be tidied-up accordingly and be prepared for visiting the next campus on my list.

Overall, this is the same methodology I used for the entire trip.

I learned some handy lessons about sleeping in a car.

My Personal Journey

First, I slept in the backseat since the front seats were separate bucket seats and it would not be realistically possible to sleep across the two seats.

Second, I discovered that I couldn’t just park anywhere to sleep overnight (a campus security guard rapped on the window of my car at 3 a.m. one night and told me I’d have to move my car since there was no overnight parking allowed in the space that I was in).

Third, it got cold inside the parked car. I went and purchased an inexpensive blanket so that I could use it over me when I was sleeping in the car.

And so on.

Some More Facets About Sleeping Inside Cars

Several years after my starving student trip, I came to realize that sleeping inside a car can potentially have nearly magical properties, especially if the car is in-motion.

Here’s the skinny on that.

When my children were first born, they sometimes at night would have a hard time sleeping.

After several nights of being continually disrupted in trying to sleep when they were (not) sleeping, I had a thought that prompted me to try something.

I drove around the neighborhood with them safely tucked away in their baby seats. Sure enough, they fell asleep. It was a miracle!

I assumed it was either the motion of the car that soothed them, or perhaps it was the feeling of being snugly packed into their car seat, or some other such reason. I didn’t really care why it worked, it just plain worked and that was good enough.

AI Autonomous Self-Driving Cars And Sleeping Inside Them

What does this have to do with AI driverless self-driving autonomous cars?

At the Cybernetic AI Self-Driving Car Institute, we are developing AI software for self-driving cars. One aspect that can be expected to occur would be that people will likely want to sleep in their AI self-driving cars, doing so from time-to-time. As such, the AI ought to be established to appropriately deal with sleeping human occupants.

Allow me to elaborate.

Let’s start by dividing up the matter into two parts, there is the situation of sleeping while in a moving car, and a separate matter involves sleeping in a parked car.

My story about having visited numerous college campuses and sleeping in my car overnight is an example of sleeping in a parked car. I had mentioned several lessons learned from that experience.

An AI self-driving car should presumably be a “partner” in assisting any human occupants that might want to sleep inside the AI self-driving car when it is parked. This consists of the AI offering to find a suitable place to park the AI self-driving car.

I realize that some pundits would say that it is not up to the AI to help determine where to park the self-driving car and that instead this is a matter entirely for the human occupants to decide.

I’d vote instead that it be a two-way street, of sorts, in that the human occupants might offer ideas or suggestions of where to park the self-driving car, of which the AI might try and ascertain the suitability. Likewise, the AI might offer suggestions and see what the human occupants think of the proposed locations. This would be an interactive NLP (Natural Language Processing) dialogue between the human occupants and the AI.

I mention this because it might become relatively commonplace to sleep inside your parked AI self-driving car. In my case of sleeping in a rental car for my campuses journey, it seemed likely odd to you.

It is predicted that due to the ridesharing economy that will be spurred by the advent of AI self-driving cars, sleeping inside an AI self-driving car will be considered ordinary and routine.

Advent Of Self-Driving Cars As Sleeper Vehicles

Why will things be different about sleeping in a car?

First, you will be able to presumably go greater distances by having an AI automated system that can drive your car for you.

Rather than taking a train that perhaps has a sleeper compartment, you might instead just get into your AI self-driving car and tell it to drive you from say Los Angeles to Chicago. You’ll likely sleep inside the AI self-driving car during that lengthy trip.

Also, the interior of AI self-driving cars will likely be different than the interior of today’s conventional cars. If you remove the driver controls such as the steering wheel and pedals, you no longer need to have a driver’s seat that is fixed into position at the front of the car. Instead, most designs suggest that we’ll have swivel seats in AI self-driving cars, allowing the human occupants to swivel around and see each other directly and chat with each other. No more of the backseat facing the backs of the front seat passengers.

It is also envisioned that the swivel seats might be convertible into being sleeper seats.

As a society, we are likely to go from perceiving sleeping in a car as something untoward to instead it will become a norm of a kind.

When I say this, please note that there is a difference between “living” in your car and sleeping from time-to-time in your car. If you park a car at a spot and leave it there for months at a time and sleep and live out of it, this seems different than using an AI self-driving car that generally is going to be in-motion and from time-to-time will need to park someplace.

Overall, one would expect that an AI self-driving car will nearly always be in-motion rather than sitting someplace for someone to sleep in it. The cost of the AI self-driving car is likely to be affordable by being offset by the money that can be made by using it as a ridesharing service. One would assume that the human occupants will pay mainly for the time that the AI self-driving car is taking them to their desired destination. When the AI self-driving car is parked, it is less likely to be making money.

Of course, there are some ridesharing arrangements that will likely include the ability to pay for sleeping while the AI self-driving car is parked. It’s another way to make some bucks.

Sleeping Inside A Moving Autonomous Car

I’d like to next consider the aspects of sleeping as it relates to being in a moving AI self-driving car.

Recall that I told the story of using my conventional car to take my young children for late night short drives to get them to fall asleep. That’s an example of a car being in-motion and sleeping in it.

One prediction is that people might choose to live much further from work than they do today.

The logic is that they can merely get into their AI self-driving car and tell it to take them to work. They can even catch some extra winks during the commute.

Let’s consider this notion of sleeping while the AI is driving the self-driving car.

First, you’d need to be rather trusting to be willing to fall asleep while the AI is driving the self-driving car. I would argue that your trust is presumably already going to be high if you are even allowing the AI to drive the self-driving car when you are awake. In other words, if you are awake and it is driving, there is not much you are going to be doing about the driving task anyway.

If it is the case that while awake you are doing little about the driving, it would seem that you’ve already placed your trust in the abilities of the AI to drive the self-driving car.

Here’s where the AI then comes to play in a manner more so than when the self-driving car is parked. Let me explain.

Suppose you have fallen asleep while the AI self-driving car is heading to your work. Maybe there is a snarl on the freeway and so the AI decides to take a different route, going to side streets. Normally, let’s assume that the AI would have let you know that the freeway is crowded, and it is intending to take an alternative route. If you were awake, you might carry on a dialogue with the AI via its NLP and either agree to the rerouting or insist to remain on the freeway. You might have good reasons to not go to the side streets.

Should the AI wake you up to let you know that it is desirous of rerouting the self-driving car?

This seems like a rather simple question, I realize.

Some AI developers would say that there is no need to awaken the human occupant and that the AI should just proceed as it deems necessary.

Meanwhile, there are some other AI developers that would contrarily insist that of course the AI should awaken the human occupants. It is the polite and proper thing to do.

There you have it, the usual on-and-off world or bits-and-bytes or 0-or-1 binary perspective that many computer-focused people have. It would be unlikely that those with such a mindset might consider asking the human occupants beforehand what they want to have happen once they fall asleep. This would require that the AI anticipate the sleeping aspect and be “programmed” accordingly. I’m sure that some would say that’s version 2.0, once enough people get upset that their AI either didn’t awaken them when it should have, or the AI did waken them and they are upset that it did so.

AI Detecting Who Is Sleeping

Speaking of waking up, the AI could serve as a kind of alarm clock too.

You might even indicate that the AI should swing through a Starbucks just as it is going to be waking you, allowing you to drink some coffee as a means to further awaken before reaching work.

This brings up another aspect about the AI and sleeping human occupants.

Should the AI be clever enough to know who is asleep in the self-driving car?

Suppose you are in the AI self-driving car and have another adult with you and a child. The child falls asleep during the driving journey. The AI could potentially detect that the child has fallen asleep.

There is also the motion sickness aspect to be dealt with.

If people are going to be routinely sleeping in their in-motion AI self-driving cars, our society is likely going to be experiencing a lot more motion sickness overall (due to the sheer volume of people henceforth sleeping in moving cars). The AI could try to minimize the chances of motion sickness.

Sleeping In Short Naps Versus Longer Sleeping

When I say the word “sleeping” you might be thinking of long sleep periods such as several hours of being asleep. That’s one way to sleep inside a self-driving car.

You might also want to take so-called cat naps.

Perhaps you are tired from your last appointment as a salesperson that uses your self-driving car to go from client to client. You want just a few minutes of rest before you get to your next client. You might tell the AI that you are going to shut your eyes and it should wake you up in about 10 minutes.

There are some that suggest we might even have the AI try to help lull you into sleep.

The AI might automatically go into the “sleeping human” mode and try to dim the lighting and modify the temperature and so on.

There are other considerations too.

Suppose a human awakens and they are so groggy that they try to get out of the self-driving car, not realizing they are inside a moving self-driving car?

Or, maybe the human is the kind of person that is prone to sleepwalking. They might unbuckle their seat belt and try to get out of the car, yet still be completely asleep.

These kinds of “edge” cases or corner cases will need to be dealt with by the AI.

Suppose you put your small child into the AI self-driving car and do so to have the AI drive the child to pre-school. You aren’t going to travel with the child. There is no adult in the self-driving car. The child falls asleep on the way to the pre-school. The AI self-driving car arrives at the pre-school. The child is still asleep. What then?

Via Machine Learning (ML), the AI might be able to discern patterns of human behavior regarding the use of the self-driving car.

You tend to sleep in your self-driving car during your morning commute on Mondays and Thursdays, and thus the AI anticipates your chance of falling asleep during those days and times. You are the type of person that prefers to be awake when driving past an accident scene, and therefore the AI opts to wake-up in such instances, assuming that you are otherwise asleep. These kinds of patterns can be utilized to create a kind of “deep personalization” for you of the AI of your self-driving car.


For many of us, the notion that we would sleep like a baby while inside an in-motion AI self-driving car seems completely unreal and surreal. No way, most people might insist.

They want to be awake and watch everything that the AI is doing. I admit I’m currently in that same camp. It is hard to imagine that we’ll perhaps one day have AI self-driving cars that we become so enamored of them that we gracefully and without hesitation fall asleep while inside one, doing so while it is driving on the freeway at 80 miles per hour. Hard to imagine!

Well, anyway, that’s what is supposed to eventually happen, namely we will sleep inside a moving AI self-driving car like a baby.

I hope it does happen.

We are working hard to try and make AI that will inspire that kind of confidence and trust.

In fact, I seem to be missing a lot of sleep trying to make this occur, but I suppose that someday I’ll be able to catch-up on lost sleep by merely sleeping in my trusted AI self-driving car. AI, please sooth me to sleep, will you?

For free podcast of this story, visit: http://ai-selfdriving-cars.libsyn.com/website

The podcasts are also available on Spotify, iTunes, iHeartRadio, etc.

More info about AI self-driving cars, see: www.ai-selfdriving-cars.guru

To follow Lance Eliot on Twitter: https://twitter.com/@LanceEliot

For his Forbes.com blog, see: https://forbes.com/sites/lanceeliot/

For his Medium blog, see: https://medium.com/@lance.eliot

For Dr. Eliot’s books, see: https://www.amazon.com/author/lanceeliot

Copyright © 2019 Dr. Lance B. Eliot

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Dr. Lance B. Eliot is a renowned global expert on AI, Stanford Fellow at Stanford University, was a professor at USC, headed an AI Lab, top exec at a major VC.

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