Tag Archives: SelfDriving

Mapbox partners Microsoft, Intel to provide self-driving car maps
May 30, 2018 6:02 pm|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Mapping startup Mapbox Inc said on Wednesday it is teaming up with Microsoft Corp, Intel Corp and Softbank Group Corp’s ARM Holdings chip unit to deepen its push into providing maps for self-driving cars.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Microsoft logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Mapbox does not make a mapping app itself. It instead competes against Alphabet Inc’s Google Maps and HERE Technologies, the map firm owned by a group of companies, to provide the underlying maps inside of other apps. Mapbox maps are found in Snap Inc’s messaging app and the Instacart grocery delivery app.

But the Washington, D.C.-founded startup, which has raised about $ 228 million from Softbank’s Vision Fund, DFJ Growth and others, has been pushing into providing tools for software developers who are making the software for self-driving cars.

“Our main focus has been in making maps for humans,” Chief Executive Officer Eric Gundersen told Reuters in an interview. But maps for self-driving cars are read by the cars’ computers and need more detailed data, he said.

At an event it held for software developers in San Francisco on Wednesday, Mapbox announced a handful of partnerships designed to make its technology more useful for self-driving cars.

FILE PHOTO: Intel logo is seen behind LED lights in this illustration taken January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

One of Mapbox’s products is software that lets either a mobile phone or a car’s computer see the road as the car drives, picking out things like lanes or speed-limit signs. The company said it will weave that software together with an offering from Microsoft.

The combination will let drivers in the car see real-time events like speed limit changes but then split off some of the camera data and send it to Microsoft’s cloud computer service, Azure. Once there, the data can be processed later by powerful servers to help improve the algorithms that help self-driving cars navigate.

Separately, Mapbox is also working with chipmaker ARM to optimize its self-driving vision software so features detected by ARM’s chips can be recognized as lanes, pedestrians and road signs even faster. In one form or another, ARM’s chips power the majority of mobile phones, tablets and other mobile computers that are making their way into cars.

Mapbox is also pairing with Intel’s Mobileye self-driving unit, which the chipmaker purchased last year for $ 15.3 billion.

Mobileye is building its own detailed database of road features that is stored in the cloud. Mapbox has built software that will live in cars to beam down Mobileye’s data without hogging up mobile data bandwidth. Cars that use the system will get a constant map ahead of about 200 meters (660 ft), providing a key backup to the car’s onboard sensors, the companies said.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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Ohio allows testing self-driving vehicles on state roads
May 9, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Ohio on Wednesday became the latest U.S. state to open its roads for testing self-driving vehicles, in a boost to a nascent industry that is facing heightened scrutiny over safety concerns.

The self-driving vehicles should meet safety requirements and comply with Ohio’s traffic laws, Republican Governor John Kasich said in an executive order.

Autonomous vehicle testing is also under way in Michigan, Pittsburgh, Arizona and California.

Calls for more regulation for companies developing self-driving cars followed the death of a woman in March after being hit by an Uber SUV in Arizona.

The Ohio order mandates that the self-driving vehicles register with Drive Ohio, created by Kasich in January, and have designated operators to monitor the vehicles and report accidents.

Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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Nvidia temporarily halts self-driving tests globally: source
March 27, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Chipmaker Nvidia Corp said on Tuesday it has suspended self-driving tests across the globe, a week after an Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] autonomous vehicle hit and killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona.

A NVIDIA logo is shown at SIGGRAPH 2017 in Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The company’s shares reversed course in afternoon trading after the news and were down 4 percent at $ 234.50, wiping out nearly $ 6 billion in market value.

“We are temporarily suspending the testing of our self-driving cars on public roads to learn from the Uber incident,” a company spokesman said.

“Our global fleet of manually driven data collection vehicles continue to operate.”

Uber suspended North American tests of its self-driving vehicles after the fatal collision on March 18 in Tempe, Arizona.

The incident has raised questions about the safety of autonomous technology in general, and of Uber’s system specifically.

Nvidia is testing its technology globally including in New Jersey, Santa Clara, Japan and Germany.

Reuters earlier on Tuesday reported about the test suspension, citing a source.

“Nvidia has no choice but to take steps in the context of the fear, uncertainty and outrage likely to be stimulated by a robot car killing a human being,” Roger Lanctot, an automotive technology analyst with Strategy Analytics, wrote in a blog post bit.ly/2GaIBCN on Tuesday.

“This is precisely the type of event that is capable of slaying a nascent industry in the crib,” Lanctot wrote.

Nvidia leads the autonomous industry with its artificial intelligence platform and has partnered with major global automakers such as Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), Tesla Inc and Audi AG.

Uber has been using Nvidia’s computing technology since its first test fleet of Volvo SC90 SUVS were deployed in 2016.

Around 320 firms involved in self-driving cars – from software developers, automakers and their suppliers, sensor and mapping companies – use Nvidia Drive platform, according to the company’s website.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Fransisco and Sonam Rai in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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Nvidia halts self-driving tests in wake of Uber accident
March 27, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Chipmaker Nvidia Corp said on Tuesday it has suspended self-driving tests across the globe, a week after an Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] autonomous vehicle hit and killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona.

A NVIDIA logo is shown at SIGGRAPH 2017 in Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The company’s shares reversed course in afternoon trading after the news and were down 4 percent at $ 234.50, wiping out nearly $ 6 billion in market value.

“We are temporarily suspending the testing of our self-driving cars on public roads to learn from the Uber incident,” a company spokesman said.

“Our global fleet of manually driven data collection vehicles continue to operate.”

Uber suspended North American tests of its self-driving vehicles after the fatal collision on March 18 in Tempe, Arizona.

The incident has raised questions about the safety of autonomous technology in general, and of Uber’s system specifically.

Nvidia is testing its technology globally including in New Jersey, Santa Clara, Japan and Germany.

Reuters earlier on Tuesday reported about the test suspension, citing a source.

“Nvidia has no choice but to take steps in the context of the fear, uncertainty and outrage likely to be stimulated by a robot car killing a human being,” Roger Lanctot, an automotive technology analyst with Strategy Analytics, wrote in a blog post bit.ly/2GaIBCN on Tuesday.

“This is precisely the type of event that is capable of slaying a nascent industry in the crib,” Lanctot wrote.

Nvidia leads the autonomous industry with its artificial intelligence platform and has partnered with major global automakers such as Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), Tesla Inc and Audi AG.

Uber has been using Nvidia’s computing technology since its first test fleet of Volvo SC90 SUVS were deployed in 2016.

Around 320 firms involved in self-driving cars – from software developers, automakers and their suppliers, sensor and mapping companies – use Nvidia Drive platform, according to the company’s website.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Fransisco and Sonam Rai in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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At Uber, Troubling Signs Were Rampant Long Before a Fatal Self-Driving Crash
March 24, 2018 6:13 pm|Comments (0)

For more than a year prior to a fatal crash in Arizona, Uber’s self-driving cars failed more often, and more dramatically, than competitors’ autonomous vehicles. At the same time, Uber reduced some safety precautions, and was sometimes misleading in its description of its program and its failures. And regulators in Arizona, the locus of Uber’s testing, have taken little action to protect residents despite those worrying signals.

It is not yet clear whether Uber’s system was at fault or not in the latest crash, but Uber has now halted all testing of its autonomous vehicles, with no clear timeline for reactivation.

The New York Times reported yesterday that, in October of last year, Uber altered its testing program by putting only one safety monitor in each autonomous car rather than two, over the safety concerns of some employees. That move came despite evidence of deep problems with Uber’s autonomous vehicle efforts, dating back as far as December of 2016. That’s when Uber vehicles were seen running red lights in San Francisco. The company first blamed one of its human safety drivers, before it was uncovered in February that the problem was actually with the autonomous system itself.

Evidence quickly emerged that this was not a freak occurrence. In March of 2017, Recode obtained internal documents showing that human drivers had to take over from Uber’s system very frequently relative to the same numbers for other self-driving efforts. Then, the same month, a self-driving Uber flipped on its side in Arizona, though Tempe police found the Uber was not at fault.

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These public troubles seemed to reflect internal problems. The leadership of Uber’s self-driving car unit has frequently been described as troubled, with high levels of engineer attrition. Meanwhile, Google spinoff Waymo alleged in an explosive lawsuit that Uber had stolen technology from it by way of former Waymo executive Anthony Levandowski, who was fired from Uber in May of last year.

Finally, just a few days before this week’s fatal crash, an Uber vehicle in self-driving mode crashed into another vehicle in Pittsburgh. Fault in that crash had not been determined as of recent reporting.

San Francisco regulators put a quick stop to Uber’s testing there in the wake of the red-light incident. But even after sustained warning signs, Arizona officials took no such action, and reiterated this week that there were no plans to change the state’s hands-off regulatory approach.

Many observers believe that the future of Uber hinges on the success of its autonomous driving program. The company regularly posts quarterly losses with few historical parallels, even as regulators and critics argue with growing vehemence that the company is exploiting and underpaying its drivers.

Autonomous vehicles were intended to square that financial circle by taking driver pay out of the equation. The company, according to the Times, had planned to launch a self-driving car service in Arizona by December. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has canceled a planned April visit to Phoenix to check in on the program’s progress, though the company claims that change is unrelated to the crash. The company’s bigger plans could also now wind up delayed – including not only progress on the road to autonomous driving, but towards its hotly anticipated initial public offering.

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BMW to double self-driving car testing fleet despite U.S. fatality
March 21, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

MUNICH (Reuters) – BMW will not change its strategy on autonomous vehicle testing despite the death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving car during tests by ride-hailing firm Uber [UBER.UL], senior executives said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of the German luxury carmaker BMW is seen during the company’s annual news conference in Munich, Germany, March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo

The German carmaker added it would double the size of its autonomous vehicle testing fleet to around 80 this year.

“Our estimation about autonomous driving technology remains unchanged even though this appears to be an extremely regrettable accident,” Klaus Froehlich, BMW’s board member responsible for research and development, said of the fatality. [nL1N1R1168]

“The path to autonomous driving is a long one. I have spoken about a mission to Mars,” he said, adding BMW was conducting its own tests under a high level of security.

Froehlich said BMW’s self-driving cars would undergo a test regime equivalent to 250 million driven kilometers (155 million miles).

Of this, 20 million km will be on real roads, while a giant supercomputer will simulate traffic scenarios in a virtual test regime equivalent to 230 million kms, Froehlich explained.

Self-driving cars will appear sooner if cities dedicate special lanes for autonomous cars in ring-fenced areas.

“In a dedicated space for only autonomous vehicles, it is easier to anticipate what other vehicles and traffic will do,” Froehlich said. “This makes it easier to program vehicle reflexes and may even allow a car to have fewer sensors and less processing power than a vehicle which needs to navigate normal traffic with things like bicycle couriers.”

BMW plans to launch an autonomous vehicle in 2021. Introducing a vehicle earlier than this is not plausible, since chipmakers and software designers have not yet developed a computer capable of processing the sheer volume of data generated by a self-driving car, Froehlich said.

BMW is preparing for a new era of on-demand mobility where customers locate and hail vehicles using smartphones. Ride-hailing and car-sharing could be replaced by fleets of autonomous cars, once self-driving cars are roadworthy, Froehlich said.

Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Mark Potter

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Toyota pauses self-driving car testing amid Uber accident probe
March 20, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

DETROIT (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said on Tuesday it will pause autonomous vehicle testing following an accident in which an Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] self-driving vehicle struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona.

Visitors look at car models on the Toyota stand during the 88th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Separately, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix said it was awaiting the results of an investigation by Tempe police of the fatality before reviewing whether any charges should be filed.

Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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Woman dies in Arizona after being hit by Uber self-driving car
March 19, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A woman died of her injuries after being struck by a Uber self-driving vehicle in Arizona, police said on Monday, and the ride hailing company said it had suspended its autonomous vehicle program across the United States and Canada.

FILE PHOTO: Uber’s logo is pictured at its office in Tokyo, Japan, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The accident in Tempe, Arizona, marked the first fatality from a self-driving vehicle, which are still being tested around the globe, and could derail efforts to fast-track the introduction of the new technology in the United States.

FILE PHOTO: A fleet of Uber’s Ford Fusion self driving cars are shown during a demonstration of self-driving automotive technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk/File Photo

At the time of the accident, which occurred overnight Sunday to Monday, the car was in autonomous mode with a vehicle operator behind the wheel, Tempe police said.

“The vehicle was traveling northbound … when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle,” police said in a statement.

A spokesman for Uber Technologies Inc said the company was suspending its North American tests. In a tweet, Uber expressed its condolences and said the company was fully cooperating with authorities.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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Waymo and GM Lead the Self-Driving Car Race, New Data Shows
February 5, 2018 6:03 pm|Comments (0)

Most of the questions surrounding the coming age of driverless cars pertain to practical things: regulation, insurance, training protocols for the cars’ remote human backups. Some are philosophical: What do we owe the people whose jobs will be annihilated? Do robo cars need ethics lessons? At least one question is practical and philosophical: How do we know when these things are ready to ditch their human safety drivers and roll about unattended?

No one has much of a response. You could say that as soon as the robot is safer than the average human driver—who crashes once every 238,000 miles or so—it’s wrong to keep it in the lab. Or you can argue that robo cars ought to be held to higher standards: Should they be 10 times better than the human? 1,000 times? Whatever the answer is, data will help us get there. And so we turn to the California DMV’s 2017 Autonomous Vehicle Disengagement Reports.

The Golden State, home to many of the companies leading the robo revolution, has some of the strictest rules for AVs in the country. Operators who run cars on public roads must publicly report any crashes they’re involved in. And at the end of every year, they must hand over data on how many miles they drove and how many times their onboard human safety driver had to take control from the machine—that’s called a disengagement. Combine those, and you have a number approximating how far any company’s self-driving car can go without human help. Something like a grade.

The metric is imperfect, and this data comes with a crate of caveats. But before we get into those, know this: Waymo (formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project) and General Motors appear to be leading the pack and making rapid progress toward the day when human drivers, with all their inattention and distraction and tendency to crash, will be obsolete.

Ifs and Buts

You can read more about the shortcomings of disengagement reports here, but here’s the quick rundown:

  • They’re unscientific, because each company reports its data in a different way, offering various levels of detail and idiosyncratic explanations for what triggered the human takeover.
  • They’re packed with vague language and lack context. Delphi cites “cyclist” as the reason for a bunch of disengagements. Zoox blamed every disengagement on a “planning discrepancy” or “hardware discrepancy.”
  • They’re little use for anyone who wants to compare rival companies, because those companies aren’t running the same tests: Waymo does most of its testing in simple suburbs; GM focuses on the complex city. They’re better for tracking the progress of each outfit, but still not great, because those companies change how and where they test over time.
  • A disengagement does not mean the car was going to crash, only that the human driver wasn’t 100 percent confident in how it would behave.
  • They only cover driving on public roads in California. So we don’t know anything about Ford, which focuses its testing around Detroit and Pittsburgh. We don’t see data for Waymo’s increasingly important test program in Phoenix—where its cars are tooling about without anyone inside.

On the other hand, the disengagement reports are the best data we’ve got for evaluating these development efforts. No state but California demands anything like this, and private companies only share such info when the government demands it.

So, let’s sprinkle some grains of salt on the numbers and take a look. We broke them down into a pair of two-axis charts. The first looks at Waymo and General Motors. It notes how many miles they drove in 2016 and 2017 (in green) and how many miles they averaged between disengagements (in blue). (By the way, Uber didn’t have to file a report, because this data isn’t required until your first full calendar year of testing. Uber didn’t get its permit to test in California until March of 2017.)

The takeaway here is that Waymo’s software remains excellent, and it’s still doing tons of testing in California. For GM, you can see a huge ramp-up in miles driven, and a steep increase in miles per disengagement. That’s progress, and it’s a good thing: GM plans to launch a car without a steering wheel or pedals next year. Keep in mind that GM does nearly all its public street testing in San Francisco, a much more complicated environment than Palo Alto and Mountain View, where Waymo works.

HOTLITTLEPOTATO

Next, we have the data for Delphi (now known as Aptiv), Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and Zoox, a San Francisco–based startup working to build a self-driving vehicle that looks nothing like today’s cars—not that it will say anything more than that for the time being. Each has a serious program, but they do so much less testing than Waymo and GM that we put them in their own chart. (Otherwise, the scales would just be totally out of proportion to each other.)

HOTLITTLEPOTATO

More caveats: Mercedes-Benz may not look so hot in California, but that data’s from just three vehicles. It does much more work in Europe: In 2017, it sent an autonomous S-Class on a five-month tour of five continents. Nissan does a lot of testing at NASA’s Ames Research Center, which doesn’t count as public land, so doesn’t require data reporting. And to get the most interesting bit of data from Zoox, you have to dive into its report.

In its first year of testing (thus the lack of 2016 numbers), it drove just over 100 miles through August. Over the next three months, it drove about 2,000. Yet its rate of disengagements remained steady. Overall, it averaged 160 miles per disengagement. But if you look at just November, when it was doing lots of testing in downtown San Francisco, that number jumps to 430. Even with the caveats, it’s a clear sign that Zoox is making impressive progress—and that more than one of these students is getting ready to throw on a gown, grab its diploma, and give you a ride.


Robo-Drive

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Self-Driving Cars Companies Are Using Remote Babysitters, And More Car News This Week
February 2, 2018 6:30 pm|Comments (0)

Is there anything more satisfying than finder a quicker way to your destination? You might be in a car, or on foot, or you’re building a software product or a company culture and suddenly—Jeez, that was easier.

Sometimes, it works. As transportation editor Alex Davies reported this week, companies building self-driving cars have found that it’s important—necessary, even—to use remote drivers, sitting behind screens miles away, if they want to get their less-than-perfect tech on the road. Sweet. Alex also took a look at Nuro, a brand new self-driving mini-truck startup that wants to deliver your snacks to you, so you never have to leave your block again. Also sweet.

Sometimes, however, shortcuts are a bad idea. Uber bought an ex-Waymo engineer’s autonomous truck startup because it thought the engineer’s company could give it a tech boost. But Waymo sued, and the two tech giants are set to face off in court next week. State governments thought they could go green quickly by buying “recycled” pavement—but they might not be saving money, or the environment, in the long run. Pick your timesavers carefully, kiddos.

Plus, news about an Alphabet company’s new effort to organize cities’ travel data, a Pax Britannica among tech companies for the purpose of building safer streets (and protecting their business models), and a place to find everything you have ever wanted to know about autonomous vehicles. Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • A blockbuster trade secrets lawsuit between Waymo and Uber is set to kick off Monday. Here’s what you need to know about the self-driving tech dispute—and why you really, really must pay attention.

  • Alex uncovers a secret fact about the growing autonomous vehicle sector: Almost every tech developer is leaning on remote drivers, who can guide cars through problem spots from miles away. Self-driving…to a point. For safety’s sake, of course.

  • Ford looks out into the horizon and sees the sunset of the personal automobile—in cities, at least. So it’s building a cloud platform, an operating system for the city of the future.

  • Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s urban solutions company, is doing something similar, trying to put all public and private city transportation data in one, accessible, shareable space. Say hello to its new spin-off company, Coord.

  • Fifteen tech companies came together to sign onto ten new, very nice-sounding “commandments” for livable cities. They include open data, equity, and a zero-emission future. But don’t give anyone too much credit. Those companies still have to make actual changes to the way cities operate, writer Jack Stewart warns.

  • A new report suggests American public transit needs to adapt to meet the future—and can’t blame all its problems, or pin all its hopes, on mobility companies like Uber and Lyft.

  • In a vague-ish announcement, Waymo says it’s purchasing “thousands” of new Chrysler Pacificas that will operate without a driver at the wheel.

  • Hello to Nuro, a new self-driving delivery truck startup from fancy Google alums. The company is betting it can deliver stuff sans humans in three to five years.

  • I take a deep dive into the science of “green” pavement. If done wrong, pavement could hurt the local ecosystem; if done right, that black and grey stuff beneath your feet could do its part to save the world.

  • Need to get up to speed on what self-driving cars even mean? Check out WIRED’s new guide, a constantly updated deep dive.

Car-Table Hybrid of the Week

The world is a wide and wondrous place, so of course you can plunk down some undetermined sum of money to buy a car frozen into a table, à la Han Solo Chez Jabba. The specially commissioned, 10-car/table collection is from the chrome nerds at Discommon.

Discommon

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet.

  • Because Uber and Waymo shouldn’t have all the fun, this week the beseiged electric car company Faraday Future filed suit against its former CFO’s new startup—for trade secret theft.
  • Joby Aviation, which has raised $ 130 million in funding, unveils its new flying car cough electric plane-drone hybrid cough. The company wants to operate its own airborne ride-hailing service.
  • Self-driving vehicle startup Phantom AI gets into a scary crash while operating semiautonomous features—and while TechCrunch reporters were inside.
  • Uber teams up with electric bicycle-sharing company Jump for a San Francisco pilot project. Users will be able to track down a bike and and pay for a ride within Uber’s app.
  • California startup Udelv staged an autonomous vehicle grocery delivery in the Bay Area this week. It wants dozens more of its orange robots on the roads soon.
  • If you’re the type of car nerd who watches the Super Bowl for the commercials, here’s everything you need to know before the game.
  • Is this German man a hero or a villain?

In the Rearview

Essential Stories from WIRED’s canon

India’s Silicon Valley nearly doubled in population in less than two decades. But it turns out you can’t take shortcuts to economic development without caring for the natural resources. Last May, Samanth Subramanian explored why Bangalore, once land of hundreds of lakes, is now dying of thirst.

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