SAN FRANCISCO – A Nissan Leaf equipped with aftermarket self-driving car technology was crashed by its human driver, according to a California Department of Motor Vehicles report.Cruise Automation was testing its vehicle when, in autonomous driving mode, it first started drifting left within its lane, and then right. At this point, the driver took control of the car but it then struck a parked Toyota Prius. Both cars sustained minor damage, and there were no injuries, according to the DMV report.The accident, which took place on Jan. 8 in downtown San Francisco, puts a spotlight not only on the complex interface between humans and machines when it comes to driving a vehicle but also the difficulty inherent in adding such technology onto existing traditional vehicles.Cruise, which was started by Internet and robotics veteran Kyle Vogt, is looking to provide an aftermarket self-driving option that consists of rooftop-mounted sensors, a computer and actuators that control the steering wheel and pedals.
You may worry about a future in which robots will take your job, but in Japan, that future is already happening — and it’s being led by SoftBank’s Pepper robot.On Wednesday, the Japan-based telecom giant announced plans to launch a public-facing cellphone store staffed primarily by Pepper robots, with just a few lowly humans allowed to hang around as robot helpers.
A computer just beat a champion of the complex strategy game Go, a feat that may have enormous implications for artificial intelligence (AI) research.Go isn’t a particularly popular or well-known game in the west, but it is popular worldwide, where it is played by about 40 million. There are Go tournaments that are held, at which regional and world champs are crowned.One such celebrated player, European Champ Fan Hui, just had his hat handed to him (five games to zip) by AlphaGo, a computer-based Go-playing AI built by Google’s DeepMind.
There is now way of knowing for sure exactly when autonomous cars will achieve mass adoption, but the fact is that the race to launch the first driverless vehicle has been in full effect for quite some time now.The Renault-Nissan Alliance has not been working on autonomous driving technology as vigorously as some other car makers, focusing instead on long-range electric cars, but it has decided to change that and start putting much more effort into self-driving vehicles.Mass-Produced Driverless CarsThe Alliance, which is currently the global leader in electric-car sales, has announced that by the end of the decade, it plans to launch several vehicles that will feature advanced self-driving technologies and will have a high level of autonomy.Renault-Nissan says that it intends to bring more than 10 autonomous cars to market by 2020, which is an ambitious goal, given that it has yet to introduce its first self-driving model. However, there is another aspect of the alliance’s plan that might be even more intriguing. It’s the fact that every single autonomous model that it will introduce will be mass-produced and affordable.“Renault-Nissan Alliance is deeply committed to the twin goals of ‘zero emissions and zero fatalities,’” Renault-Nissan Alliance Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn said at the Renault-Nissan Silicon Valley Research Center. “That’s why we are developing autonomous driving and connectivity for mass-market, mainstream vehicles on three continents.”Developing a mainstream, mass-market self-driving car would be a major challenge even for automakers that are larger and have more resources than the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The technology that goes into autonomous vehicles is still extremely expensive, which is why self-driving cars are expected to cost drastically more than conventional vehicles, at least during the first couple of years after their commercial deployment. Gradual Introduction of Self-Driving TechnologyHowever, the Alliance did say that it won’t roll out a fully-autonomous car right away, but rather introduce various self-driving technologies in several stages over the next four years. The first autonomous feature that will be launched is called single-lane control, and it will be available later this year. Cars that will be equipped with this feature will be able to operate completely independently on the highway, as long as it stays in one lane, as well as on city streets.In 2018, the plan is to give cars the ability to change lanes while driving themselves on highways, which means they will be able to overtake other vehicles and avoid various obstacles on the road on their own.At the end of the decade, a feature that allows cars to drive through intersections and move on crowded city streets without any input from a human driver, which would be one of the latest stages before achieving full autonomy.Renault-Nissan will roll out the 10 planned mass-produced models with self-driving capabilities in four major markets: the United States, Europe, Japan and China. Simultaneously with developing autonomous driving technologies, the Alliance says that it is working on creating new connectivity applications, that should improve the overall occupant experience.
Tesla compares these features to those found on passenger airplanes in that they simply assist with the most boring tasks such as commuting on a highway or parking.The driver remains in control and ultimately remains responsible for the car but at the push of the button is able to hand over the steering duties on a motorway to the Model S. It will then intelligently adapt its speed and can even change lane automatically simply by pushing down on the indicator.Tesla’s newly updated dashboard shows the car in ‘Autopilot’ mode.What’s most impressive about all these features though is that they’re all available via a simple software update.Tesla started outfitting its cars with all the required technology over a year ago knowing that eventually the time would arrive when they would be able to start using it for self-driving.Well that time is now and every Model S that runs Tesla Version 7.0 software will get those capabilities.
In Silicon Valley, companies such as Google, Tesla Motors, Nissan, and Toyota, are on a race to be the first to mass produce self-driving cars. But in Manhattan, a similar technology is being developed. A NYC startup company has launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce what it claims to be “the first intelligent stroller in the world.””Smartbe is a revolutionary concept as regards design and functionality that solves real parents and baby needs,” the company explained on Indiegogo. “We have built a new baby stroller with all the needed intelligence to provide new levels of child safety and comfort never before imagined together in a stroller.”
GRAY MATTERS In a self-driving Tesla, cruising down WestheimerWhat will Houston look like when cars can steer themselves?By Raj Mankad, via Offcite.orgJanuary 25, 2016 Updated: January 25, 2016 2:02pm 1 Photo: Raj Mankad, Cite MagazineSteve Tennison’s Tesla drives on autopilot down the Southwest Freeway.“I find I speed less when autopilot is on,” says Steve Tennison — hands at his side, feet off the pedals — as his 2015 Tesla Model S 85D smoothly makes its way down the Westpark Tollway.You are already sharing the road with self-driving cars. This technology may have a profound impact faster than expected, especially on cities like Houston that have multiple centers spread across a huge area. Early adopters like Steve open a window into the near future.The trip in the Tesla begins in Montrose on a Saturday afternoon. A storm has just cleared and the January sun on my face feels good. Steve operates the vehicle himself and zips onto the I-69 Southwest Freeway. While fiddling with the audio recorder on my phone, I don’t notice that Steve has turned on the autopilot feature. With trucks and cars all around us, the Tesla deftly passes through the grand columns of the 610 interchange.The steering wheel turns itself, which is spooky. The dashboard display shows an approximation of what the Tesla detects using cameras, radar, ultrasonics, and GPS. Lanes and nearby vehicles are highlighted in blue. Model S owners were given the autopilot function with a surprise software update last October. (You can read Tesla’s official description of the autopilot feature here.)The car changes lanes on its own as well with a tip of the turn signal lever. Steve takes control again to get on the ramp to the Westpark Tollway, which the Tesla autopilot then handles with ease. Steve is attentive and ready to grab the wheel at any moment. We follow the route of his office commute.Near his office, Steve demonstrates the car’s ability to parallel park on its own. On a quiet road, he turns off autopilot and then floors it. The standard Model S can hit 60 in about five seconds; my stomach is 50 feet behind me somewhere in the middle of the road.I really prefer the ride when the autopilot is left on. Maybe I should have asked Google for a ride in Austin, where it is testing its car at speeds no higher than 25 miles per hour.