The transport ministry will speed up work to develop snow removal vehicles with self-driving technology so trials can be carried out on expressways starting this winter, officials have said. The ministry plans to test the vehicles on other public roads from fiscal 2018, using data from the Michibiki quasi-zenith satellite network behind Japan's version of the Global Positioning System set to debut in April. The use of snow removal vehicles requires skilled drivers, but most are getting too old, and the shortage is generating concerns. In fiscal 2015, people over 61 accounted for 19 percent of the drivers, up from 3 percent in 1998. Snow removal vehicles with self-driving technology will detect obstacles with sensors and warn drivers when they deviate from lanes or approach guardrails.
In my previous post on the recent Linley Processor Conference, I wrote about the ways that semiconductor companies are developing heterogeneous systems to reach higher levels of performance and efficiency than with traditional hardware. One of the areas where this is most urgently needed is vision processing, a challenge that got a lot of attention at this year's conference. The obvious application here is autonomous vehicles. One of the dirty secrets of self-driving cars is that today's test vehicles rely on a trunk full of electronics (see Ford's latest Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle below). Sensors and software tend to be the big focus, but it still requires a powerful CPU and multiple GPUs burning hundreds of watts to process all this data and make decisions in real-time.
Every day there's more news about the inevitable arrival of autonomous vehicles. At the same time, more people are using ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps, and the percentage of teens getting their driver's license continues to decline. Given these technologies and social changes, it's worth asking: Should Americans stop owning cars? We've conducted an analysis of the all-in cost of car ownership, and we found that mobility services such as ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps – which few people today would consider their main mode of transportation – will likely provide a compelling economic option for a significant portion of Americans. In fact, if the full cost of ownership is accounted for, we found that potentially one-quarter of the entire U.S. driving population might be better off using ride services versus owning a car.
Amidst the robocar hype, it's easy to forget that for all their powers, computers are still lousy drivers compared to humans. This week, Eric Adams introduced us to the people working to interpret hominid behavior for driving robots. Turns out perception is a remarkable, variegated thing, and cars need to learn how to do all the cool stuff we the fleshy can before performing seamlessly on the road. The same goes for companies. Google parent company Alphabet announced this week it will construct a techified neighborhood in Toronto.
When Elon Musk talks about the future of factory automation at Tesla, he envisions new breeds of robots and smart machines compressed in dense factories with little room for human operators, guided by self-learning software. "At the point at which the factory looks like an "alien dreadnought" -- a nod to a video game spaceship -- "you know you've won," Musk has told investors. But so far, the manufacturing of Tesla's new all-electric compact sedan, the Model 3, at its Fremont, Calif., factory is moving at a more earthbound pace. When Musk launched the car at an elaborate stage show in July, Tesla was anticipating a production rate of 20,000 Model 3s a month by the end of December. Over three months through September, though, Tesla had produced only 260 Model 3s -- about three cars a day.
The US ride-hailing company Lyft has secured a $1bn (£760m) investment from a Google-led consortium, a considerable war chest that will help finance its challenge to Uber in the US – and possibly overseas. The funding round was led by CapitalG (formerly known as Google Capital), the strategic investment arm of Google's corporate parent Alphabet, and takes the valuation of Lyft up to $11bn. That's still a fraction of Uber's market cap, which is somewhere between $50bn and $70bn, but it pegs the company as a major domestic competitor to the trouble-stricken cab firm. Lyft is tight-lipped as to what, precisely, the new funding will be spent on. In a statement announcing the investment round, the company said: "While we've made progress towards our vision, we're most excited about what lies ahead.
In May, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, discussed AI applications for digital pathology in his keynote speech to an audience of millions at Google's annual I/O event. Five weeks earlier, the FDA announced it had approved the first whole slide imaging system for primary diagnostic use in pathology. Both events point to the future of pathology and laboratory medicine: Software will soon dominate. Over the past 20 years, software has taken over the world. Retail was dominated by Amazon, Netflix put Blockbuster out of business, and Uber used software to take over the taxi industry.
Boeing's venture capital unit HorizonX is continuing its investment in autonomous technologies, recently backing Near Earth Autonomy, a Pittsburgh-based company that develops technologies to enable safe and reliable autonomous flights. The aerospace giant announced the investment on Thursday, but did not disclose the amount it has invested in the company. Near Earth Autonomy, which was spun out of Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, develops software and sensor technology for three-dimensional mapping and survey, motion planning, and landing zone assessment, among others. Its products are aimed at enabling aircraft to operate autonomously. According to a Washington Post report, the company has developed self-piloting surveillance drones that can navigate underground pathways, and is exploring ways for autonomous planes to navigate without reliance on GPS satellites.
But first, Baidu aims to complete a fully self-driving bus--running on a designated route--with a Chinese bus maker by next year. Baidu is hoping its open-source software is more appealing to car makers wary of joining with Waymo, the driverless-car unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc. GOOGL -1.08% Mr. Li said he pitches car makers that Apollo will give them more control of their data and user experience than a closed system like Waymo's. "You have much better control over your destiny," he said. Most industry experts agree, however, that Waymo has the most advanced self-driving technology, which it began developing in 2009.