2015 is officially in gear, and futuristic technology has never seemed closer. Last year, the Internet of things grew, robots pushed their way into headlines and Amazon worked on its mission to help you never leave your house.
What's coming for the new year? AutoWorldNews thinks these hot-button topics will become even more prevalent in 2015. Our cars may not drive themselves yet, and Amazon drones aren't making deliveries to our doors any time soon, but 2015 is still looking like a big year.
Internet of Things
Imagine a world where your car and your home are both connected devices. Cool--or scary?
With added convenience but potential risk, an Internet of things world will be a mix of both. Automakers are gung ho for self-driving cars--excuse me, "auto-pilot" cars--but connected vehicles will inevitably be vulnerable to hackers.
In 2014, the FBI predicted that the government will approve autonomous vehicles for everyday consumers within the next seven years, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk put the timeline for auto-pilot vehicles from the electric carmaker even sooner.
"Full auto-pilot capability is going to happen, probably, in the five- or six-year time frame," Musk told The Nikkei in September. "The overall system and software will be programmed by Tesla, but we will certainly use sensors and subcomponents from many companies."
Most automakers have been cautioning that self-driving cars will happen in an evolutionary process with steps such as self-parking systems, increased cruise control and automatic braking systems that sense a person or object in the road.
On the other hand, Google still seems optimistic about being able to debut a fully self-driving vehicle right off the bat even though its famous autonomous fleet can't yet navigate inclement weather or roads that haven't been mapped out in great detail.
Musk of Tesla and SpaceX called AI "our biggest existential threat" last year, cautioning scientists to be extremely careful.
"Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish," he told an audience in October. "With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon."
While it wasn't exactly demonic, artificial intelligence from Facebook left a bitter taste in some users' mouths when the social network's "Year in Review" feature brought up bad memories via algorithm.
Intended to remind users of their best moments from 2014, the feature tapped an algorithm that finds the picture with the most interactions from friends. While it was harmless for most users, the feature was an unhappy reminder for people like the dad who had lost his 6-year-old daughter to cancer.
Facebook has additionally been under fire for its uncanny photo feature that "recognizes" users in pictures to help with tagging.
According to the latest report from MIT Technology Review, AI that truly mimics human intelligence is a long way off, but 2014 was a year of steps forward for machine systems that can "learn" from experience.
Of course, no trend is complete without a nod from Hollywood. "Her," Spike Jonze's AI romance set in an unidentified future time, received a Best Picture nomination for last year's Academy Awards, while the eerily humanized robot "Chappie" will come to the big screen on March 6.
While some critics say so-called big data is overrated, OkCupid founder Christian Rudder's "Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)" showed last year that we can learn a lot from the wealth of data that gets collected when we put our lives into apps.
The world's biggest social network took a giant step forward in the world of big data when it announced a more detailed search feature last month.
"Facebook just went from data rich to Scrooge-McDuck-swimming-in-a-tower-full-of data rich," TechCrunch's Josh Contine wrote.
While old posts were formerly lost as they became buried in user's feeds, friends can now search one another's statuses and comments for information. Search can be useful for those who want to connect with friends who have similar interests--and in the future, it will probably be really handy for advertisers. We'll see what Facebook does this year with the power of being able to index 1 trillion posts.