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Self-driving car conundrum: Tesla's latest crash raises concerns about Autopilot safety claims

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

The perception that self-driving cars can really operate themselves without driver involvement is worrying automotive watchdogs, who say that some Americans have grown dangerously confident in the capabilities of semi-autonomous vehicles. Their comments come as electric vehicle maker Tesla's so-called Autopilot system is under scrutiny once again following a crash that killed two passengers in the Houston area late Saturday. "I would start by saying there are no self-driving cars despite what you may read about or what you've seen advertised," said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. "And there's certainly nothing anywhere close to self-driving that is in production right now." Tesla has been the most common target of critics for marketing that its vehicles are capable of "full self-driving" with an upgrade. They are not capable of full self-driving – and, in fact, Tesla says on its website that drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, ready to take over when the system is not able to steer, accelerate or brake on its own.


The Most Disturbing Part of the Latest Tesla Crash

Slate

Two men died near Houston, Texas, on Saturday while riding in a 2019 Tesla Model S that, according to local authorities, was speeding into a turn and ended up going off the road and crashing into a tree. It took first responders four hours and more than 30,000 gallons of water to put out the resulting fire, which kept reigniting; when damaged, the lithium ion batteries in electric cars can cause fires that are very difficult to extinguish because of how they store energy. Authorities reportedly attempted to ask Tesla for advice on how to put out the fire, but it's unclear whether they ended up getting any help. Besides the fire, there was something especially disturbing about the crash: No one was in the driver's seat. One of the men was in the passenger seat and the other in the rear.


Tesla crash: investigators '100% sure' no one driving car in fatal Texas incident

The Guardian

Federal safety regulators have sent a team to investigate the fatal crash of a Tesla electric car in a Houston suburb in which no one was behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Monday it had sent a special crash investigation team to Spring, Texas. Investigators are "100% sure" no one was driving the 2019 Tesla Model S on Saturday night when it ran off a road, hit a tree and burst into flames, killing two men inside, Constable Mark Herman of Harris county precinct four said. One man was found in the front passenger seat and the other was in the back seat. KHOU-TV reported that the car was a 2019 Tesla Model S, and the men were aged 59 and 69.


What Waymo's new leadership means for its self-driving cars

#artificialintelligence

Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car subsidiary, is reshuffling its top executive lineup. On April 2, John Krafcik, Waymo's CEO since 2015, declared that he will be stepping down from his role. He will be replaced by Tekedra Mawakana and Dmitri Dolgov, the company's former COO and CTO. Krafcik will remain as an advisor to the company. "[With] the fully autonomous Waymo One ride-hailing service open to all in our launch area of Metro Phoenix, and with the fifth generation of the Waymo Driver being prepared for deployment in ride-hailing and goods delivery, it's a wonderful opportunity for me to pass the baton to Tekedra and Dmitri as Waymo's co-CEOs," Krafcik wrote on LinkedIn as he declared his departure.


Audi's electric A6 e-tron concept has hi-tech headlights that beam video games onto walls

Daily Mail - Science & tech

In the event you get bored waiting for your Audi A6 e-tron to charge its batteries, instead of kicking back to read a newspaper you can play a video game in the car - and have it beamed onto a wall by the headlights. But beneath the fun, froth and frippery there's also some really significant stuff going on as its underpinnings become the basis for a new coupe-style saloon and a whole family of new Audi electric cars. For long distance travellers who want to cruise in style the new Audi A6 e-tron Sportback has a claimed range of more than 434 miles. Audi's electric saloon turned games console on wheels: Bosses say the new Digital Matrix LED headlights on the new A6 e-tron concept are so crisp that they can project'cinematic quality' footage - including video games - onto a wall The matrix LED lights can project images - even the indicator lights project their beam onto the ground as well as into the air, says Audi. Should you get bored while re-charging your car, the new electric A6 e-tron's main digital matrix LED front headlights enjoy a'cinematic quality' that can also be harnessed to play video games.


A Guide To Machine Learning: Everything You Need To Know

#artificialintelligence

Artificial Intelligence and other disruptive technology are spreading their wings in the current scenario. Technology has become a mandatory element for all kinds of businesses across all industries around the globe. Let us travel back to 1958 when Frank Rosenblatt created the first artificial neural network that could recognize patterns and shapes. From such a primitive stage we have now reached a place where machine learning is an integral part of almost all softwares and applications. Machine learning is resonating with everything now, be it automated cars, speech recognition, chatbots, smart cities, and whatnot.


Two die in Tesla car crash in Texas with 'no one' in driver's seat – police

The Guardian

Two men died after a Tesla vehicle, which was believed to be operating without anyone in the driver's seat, crashed into a tree north of Houston, authorities said. "There was no one in the driver's seat," Sgt Cinthya Umanzor of the Harris County Constable Precinct 4 said of the crash on Saturday night. The 2019 Tesla Model S was traveling at high speed when it failed to negotiate a curve and went off the roadway, crashing to a tree and bursting into flames, local television station KHOU-TV said. After the fire was extinguished, authorities located two passengers, with one in the front passenger seat while the other was in the back seat of the Tesla, the report said, citing Harris County Precinct 4 police officer Mark Herman. Tesla and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


This Week's Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through April 17)

#artificialintelligence

The massive document, produced by the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, is packed full of data and graphs, and we've plucked out 15 that provide a snapshot of the current state of AI." Geoffrey Hinton Has a Hunch About What's Next for Artificial Intelligence Siobhan Roberts MIT Technology Review "Back in November, the computer scientist and cognitive psychologist Geoffrey Hinton had a hunch. After a half-century's worth of attempts--some wildly successful--he'd arrived at another promising insight into how the brain works and how to replicate its circuitry in a computer." Robotic Exoskeletons Could One Day Walk by Themselves Charles Q. Choi IEEE Spectrum "Ultimately, the ExoNet researchers want to explore how AI software can transmit commands to exoskeletons so they can perform tasks such as climbing stairs or avoiding obstacles based on a system's analysis of a user's current movements and the upcoming terrain. With autonomous cars as inspiration, they are seeking to develop autonomous exoskeletons that can handle the walking task without human input, Laschowski says." Microsoft Buys AI Speech Tech Company Nuance for $19.7 Billion James Vincent The Verge "The $19.7 billion acquisition of Nuance is Microsoft's second-largest behind its purchase of LinkedIn in 2016 for $26 billion.


Connected cars: How 5G and IoT will affect the auto industry

#artificialintelligence

This ebook, based on the latest ZDNet / TechRepublic special feature, examines how 5G connectivity will underpin the next generation of IoT devices. Autonomous cars (and other vehicles, such as trucks) may still be years away from widespread deployment, but connected cars are very much with us. The modern automobile is fast becoming a sensor-laden mobile Internet of Things device, with considerable on-board computing power and communication systems devoted to three broad areas: vehicle location, driver behaviour, engine diagnostics and vehicle activity (telematics); the surrounding environment (vehicle-to-everything or V2X communication); and the vehicle's occupants (infotainment). All of these systems use cellular -- and increasingly 5G -- technology, among others. Although 5G networks are still a work in progress for mobile operators, the pace of deployment and launches is picking up.


Walmart invests in GM-owned autonomous car startup Cruise

Engadget

Walmart is signaling its commitment to autonomous deliveries with a new investment in self-driving company Cruise. The two already have a cozy relationship, having recently worked together on a delivery pilot in Scottsdale, Arizona. Walmart was so impressed with Cruise's "differentiated business, unique tech and unmatched driverless testing" that it decided to take part in the GM subsidiary's $2.75 billion funding round. The investment will see Cruise become an important part of the retailer's "last mile delivery ecosystem" -- industry parlance for the final journey from warehouse to customer. Walmart has struck additional partnerships on driverless deliveries with companies including Google's Waymo, Ford and Udelv.