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Driverless car
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University demonstrate a driverless car in 2014. (CMU photo)

“No human drivers wanted”: That just might be the road sign for the high-speed highway transit lanes of the future, if artificial intelligence and driverless cars turn out the way Microsoft Research’s Eric Horvitz expects.

The managing director of Microsoft Research’s Redmond lab sketched out his vision of the future today at MIT’s EmTech conference in Cambridge, Mass., which highlights emerging technologies in computing, biomedicine and other fields. Part of that vision is the creation of “hyper lanes” that would smooth the way for autonomous vehicles, and potentially leave those pesky human drivers behind.

“The Hyperlane idea is just a personal observation Eric’s had recently while driving his Tesla around Seattle,” Travis Reed, a spokesman for Microsoft Research, said in an email to GeekWire.

Driverless cars are clearly among the most promising near-term frontiers for A.I.: TeslaGoogle, Uber, Toyota and Boeing are just a few of the companies that want to build more artificial intelligence into next-generation vehicles. And it’s not surprising that a leading scientist at Microsoft Research is also interested in the topic.

Horvitz said about a quarter of the roughly 1,200 scientists and engineers at Microsoft Research are working on A.I. – and it sounds as if they’re just getting started. Here are a few more tweets from EmTech that give you an idea where Horvitz’s head is at:

During last week’s Xconomy Seattle 2035 conference, Oren Etzioni of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence said manual driving would someday become a hobby analogous to hunting, and Madrona Venture Group’s Tom Alberg said driverless cars are shaping up as “another platform” for advanced technology, on a par with virtual reality and cloud computing.

Will Microsoft get in on that platform? That would be the naturally intelligent bet.

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