Autonomous Vehicles

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Tesla owners immediately tested the new Smart Summon in parking lots

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Tesla released its latest software update, V10, on Thursday, and amongst the new games, streaming services (Spotify at last!), and Joe Mode, came an autonomous driving update.

Customers who have a Full Self-Driving capable car or Enhanced Autopilot package already had a Summon feature through the Tesla mobile app. Now they have Smart Summon. And everyone is trying it out. 

Smart Summon goes beyond its predecessor’s simple ability to remotely move the car forward and backward while outside the vehicle. Now you can set the car to navigate a parking lot and come to you — but only if the car is within your line of sight.  Read more…

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Ethics in the age of autonomous vehicles

Earlier this month, TechCrunch held its inaugural Mobility Sessions event, where leading mobility-focused auto companies, startups, executives and thought leaders joined us to discuss all things autonomous vehicle technology, micromobility and electric vehicles.

Extra Crunch is offering members access to full transcripts of key panels and conversations from the event, such as Megan Rose Dickey‘s chat with Voyage CEO and co-founder Oliver Cameron and Uber’s prediction team lead Clark Haynes on the ethical considerations for autonomous vehicles.

Megan, Oliver and Clark talk through how companies should be thinking about ethics when building out the self-driving ecosystem, while also diving into the technical aspects of actually building an ethical transportation product. The panelists also discuss how their respective organizations handle ethics, representation and access internally, and how their approaches have benefited their offerings.

Clark Haynes: So we as human drivers, we’re naturally what’s called foveate. Our eyes go forward and we have some mirrors that help us get some situational awareness. Self-driving cars don’t have that problem. Self-driving cars are designed with 360-degree sensors. They can see everything around them.

But the interesting problem is not everything around you is important. And so you need to be thinking through what are the things, the people, the actors in the world that you might be interacting with, and then really, really think through possible outcomes there.

I work on the prediction problem of what’s everyone doing? Certainly, you need to know that someone behind you is moving in a certain way in a certain direction. But maybe that thing that you’re not really certain what it is that’s up in front of you, that’s the thing where you need to be rolling out 10, 20 different scenarios of what might happen and make certain that you can kind of hedge your bets against all of those.

For access to the full transcription below and for the opportunity to read through additional event transcripts and recaps, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

Megan Rose Dickey: Ready to talk some ethics?

Oliver Cameron: Born ready.

Clark Haynes: Absolutely.

Rose Dickey: I’m here with Oliver Cameron of Voyage, a self-driving car company that operates in communities, like retirement communities, for example. And with Clark Haynes of Uber, he’s on the prediction team for autonomous vehicles.

So some of you in the audience may remember, it was last October, MIT came out with something called the moral machine. And it essentially laid out 13 different scenarios involving self-driving cars where essentially someone had to die. It was either the old person or the young person, the black person, or the white person, three people versus one person. I’m sure you guys saw that, too.

So why is that not exactly the right way to be thinking about self-driving cars and ethics?

Haynes: This is the often-overused trolley problem of, “You can only do A or B choose one.” The big thing there is that if you’re actually faced with that as the hardest problem that you’re doing right now, you’ve already failed.

You should have been working harder to make certain you never ended up in a situation where you’re just choosing A or B. You should actually have been, a long time ago, looking at A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and like thinking through all possible outcomes as far as what your self-driving car could do, in low probability outcomes that might be happening.

Rose Dickey: Oliver, I remember actually, it was maybe a few months ago, you tweeted something about the trolley problem and how much you hate it.

Cameron: I think it’s one of those questions that doesn’t have an ideal answer today, because no one’s got self-driving cars deployed to tens of thousands of people experiencing these sorts of issues on the road. If we did an experiment, how many people here have ever faced that conundrum? Where they have to choose between a mother pushing a stroller with a child and a regular, normal person that’s just crossing the road?

Rose Dickey: We could have a quick show of hands. Has anyone been in that situation?

Elon Musk is annoying the hell out of people who work with self-driving cars

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Elon Musk really went for it this week at Tesla’s Autonomy Day, ripping into widely used self-driving technology like laser sensors and (over)promising to put 1 million self-driving Tesla taxis on the streets next year. These bold claims certainly stirred up some feelings among autonomous vehicle experts and industry leaders.

On Friday, Velodyne president Marta Hall released a long statement — with a lot of ALL CAPS — defending her company’s main product, LiDAR sensors for autonomous vehicles. While acknowledging Tesla’s good work with electrification and car design, she shredded Musk’s “claims” about deploying Teslas without a driver and without “lame” LiDAR sensors. Tesla only uses cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and a radar unit for its sensor suite. Read more…

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Lyft investors are banking on self-driving cars, not ride-sharing

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Lyft became the first ride-hailing app to go public on Friday, skyrocketing to a $23.4 billion valuation.

But don’t get too excited for drivers. Investments in Uber and Lyft are basically big bets on future products like autonomous vehicles, not the people behind the wheel. 

As we’ve seen, Lyft isn’t profitable. Last year it lost nearly $1 billion. So it’s not Lyft’s cash flow bringing in investors — it’s the company’s growth and the potential of its platform. 

“Wall Street is infamous for caring more about growth than profits,” said Investing.com senior analyst Clement Thibault in an email. “Lyft is likely to get a pass on profitability if it can manage to continue its impressive growth streak.” Read more…

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This city is letting people try out self-driving cars for free

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If you’re visiting Arlington, Texas, and have been itching to try out an autonomous vehicle, you’re in luck. 

Starting Friday, three Drive.ai self-driving cars (and eventually five) will be available to ride — for anyone, not just office workers, city officials, or a select group of “early riders.” Back in July, Drive.ai piloted the autonomous Nissan NV200 vans in Frisco, Texas. The Arlington deployment will be around for the next year.

“This is a not a quick demonstration,” CEO Bijit Halder said in a phone call this week.

If you’re interested, you can download the Drive.ai app or order a car from a kiosk at five pickup points. The cars are taking passengers along three routes that hit the Dallas Cowboys stadium, the Texas Rangers ballpark, the Arlington Convention Center, restaurant districts, and other venues.  Read more…

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Crunch Report | Twitter tests a new tweetstorm feature and Tesla unveils a semi truck

 Today’s Stories Apple pushes back on the release of the Homepod Twitter tests a new tweetstorm feature Tesla unveils a new semi truck Walmart will pilot the new Tesla Semis Credits Written by: Sarah Buhr Hosted by: Sarah Buhr Filmed by: Chris Gates Edited by: John Murillo Notes: Tito continues his journey in the Outback this week so you’re with me til Friday. Let’s… Read More

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SoftBank’s self-driving bus project pulls in $4.6M to push for 2020 commercialization

 SoftBank is doubling down on its self-driving bus project in Japan. SB Drive, an entity created last year to develop autonomous vehicle technology for public transport, just got a cash windfall after Yahoo Japan led a 510 million JPY ($4.6 million) investment. Yahoo Japan, the Yahoo affiliate which is one of Japan’s most influential tech companies, provided 490 million JPY ($4.4… Read More

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Why a cybersecurity solution for driverless cars may be found under the hood

spiral-road1 Autonomous vehicles were one of the most talked about technologies in 2016. Ever since Tesla, Google and Uber put these vehicles on the consumer trend map, I’ve been daydreaming of the day I might own one. Unfortunately for me, and the auto industry, that day might not be coming too soon — if they can’t keep the cars and their drivers safe, I’ll never have one sitting in… Read More

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Forget flying cars — passenger drones are the future

remote controlling passenger plane In the July 1924 issue of Popular Science, “Ace of Aces” fighter pilot E.V. Rickenbacker told readers to expect “Flying Autos in 20 Years.” Rickenbacker’s flying car would have retractable 12.5-foot wings, a sea-worthy hull and wheels to cruise America’s growing network of highways. Ninety-three years later, personal cars remain land-bound. Read More

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This driverless car will hit South Korea roads this year

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While Uber and Tesla grab headlines in self-driving car tech, Korean engineers are building an autonomous vehicle that is planned for roadworthiness by the middle of this year.

A team at the Seoul National University have been building their self-driving car — cleverly named SNUber — for the past couple of years. While it’s been available for use on campus via an app, the team is ready to test the outside terrain, thanks to Korea recently opening downtown roads to self-driving cars.

In a ride I had with two engineers, the car safely maneuvered through traffic on the Seoul campus, stopping for pedestrians, slowing traffic and oncoming buses that poked into its lane.  Read more…

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