Autonomous Vehicles


Punny SUVs at the NY Auto Show and More Car News This Week

WIRED

On the floor of the New York Auto Show this week, Genesis showed off its sweet little Mint concept, an electric two-seater with a very abbreviated sedan body. The Hyundai luxury arm does not, however, have any plans to put the adorable thing into production--perhaps because, as we learned this week, getting world-changing tech into the market takes a fair amount of elbow grease. Elon Musk's Boring Company is slowly making its way through the necessary paperwork to make its DC to Baltimore Loop concept a real, live thing. Uber is rounding up the oodles of cash it needs to develop self-driving vehicles. "Flying taxi" engineers are trying to get their concepts past now-nervous aviation regulators.


Google's brand-new AI ethics board is already falling apart

#artificialintelligence

Just a week after it was announced, Google's new AI ethics board is already in trouble. The board, founded to guide "responsible development of AI" at Google, would have had eight members and met four times over the course of 2019 to consider concerns about Google's AI program. Those concerns include how AI can enable authoritarian states, how AI algorithms produce disparate outcomes, whether to work on military applications of AI, and more. Of the eight people listed in Google's initial announcement, one (privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti) has announced on Twitter that he won't serve, and two others are the subject of petitions calling for their removal -- Kay Coles James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and Dyan Gibbens, CEO of drone company Trumbull Unmanned. Thousands of Google employees have signed onto the petition calling for James's removal.


From '12345' to 'blink182', the most hacked passwords revealed in warning over cyber-security

The Independent

Using easily guessed passwords across multiple accounts is a major gap in the online security habits of British people, a government study has found. The survey by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) found that many internet users did not know the best ways to protect themselves from cybercrime, with 42 per cent expecting to lose money to online fraud. Only 15 per cent of the survey's 2,500 respondents said they knew "a great deal" about how to protect themselves from harmful activity online, while fewer than half of respondents said they do not always use a strong, separate password for their main email account. We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.


Drone discovers a Hawaiian plant that was thought to be extinct

Mashable

The plant, which is also known as "Wood's hau kuahiwi" and was thought to be extinct, is apparently still around and possibly even flourishing in its native Hawaii. Researchers for the National Tropical Botanical Garden on the island of Kauai made the discovery with a little help from a drone. Three of the plants were spotted in footage captured by a drone that was sent out to explore Kalalau Valley. The remote region of Kauai is known for its biodiversity, thanks to cliffs that make the region inaccessible to the humans and goats that pose a threat to local plant life. You can see the NTBG's drone footage below, and see the plant itself (clearly marked) at roughly the halfway point.


Uber's self-driving cars are still a 'science experiment,' report says

Mashable

Business Insider reports that Uber's self-driving tech is still far behind competitors like Waymo. The report, which cites interviews with employees in Uber's Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), compares the self-driving cars project to a "science experiment," and says that the cars "perform reliably only on limited well-mapped routes, and aren't making much progress on handling more." That may sound like a harsh assessment, but as BI points out, Uber has had other priorities besides autonomous driving alone. Since the company resumed testing its self-driving cars in December following a fatal accident in Arizona, Uber has been progressing much more slowly. It's possible the cautious approach is frustrating to some employees, who may want to see more rapid improvements in the underlying technology rather than safety-related updates alone.


Uber's self-driving car unit valued at $7.3bn as it gears up for IPO

The Guardian

Uber's self-driving car unit has been valued at $7.3bn (£5.6bn), after receiving $1bn of investment by a consortium including Toyota and Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. With weeks to go until the loss-making San Francisco firm's stock market float, expected to value the company at up to $100bn, Uber said it had secured new financial backing for its plans to develop autonomous vehicles. Japanese carmakers Toyota and its compatriot Denso, a car parts supplier, will invest a combined $667m in Uber's Advanced Technologies Group (ATG). The remainder will come from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank's $100bn Vision Fund, whose largest investor is Saudi Arabia. Toyota and SoftBank are already major investors in Uber, with the latter owning 16%.


Uber's self-driving unit gets its own CEO and a $1 billion investment

Engadget

As Uber finally closes in on its IPO, its self-driving car unit is getting a big cash infusion and some independence. The company announced tonight that Toyota, Denso and Softbank are investing a total of $1 billion in its Advanced Technologies Group (Uber ATG), in a deal that values that part of the company at $7.25 billion. This adds onto Toyota's $500 million investment last year, which the two said would lead to the creation of an autonomous fleet based on Toyota's Sienna minivan. So far, many of the big car companies are teaming up to develop autonomous tech combined with ridesharing angles as it's expected to be a huge market in the next few years. According to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, "The development of automated driving technology will transform transportation as we know it, making our streets safer and our cities more livable. Today's announcement, along with our ongoing OEM and supplier relationships, will help maintain Uber's position at the forefront of that transformation."


Rivian turned down GM investment so it could build EVs for others

Engadget

Reports emerged last week that GM would not join Amazon in investing in electric vehicle startup Rivian, and now we have a little more clarity on why talks broke down. It seems GM wanted some exclusivity, but Rivian plans to build vehicles for other companies, as well as release up to six models under its own branding by 2025. Founder RJ Scaringe said Rivian is working on something related to the Amazon investment, but hinted to Bloomberg that it may not be a vehicle. He's open to selling his company's technology (it has developed long-lasting batteries) to other businesses for various products, including stationary batteries. So perhaps Amazon is interested in using Rivian's know-how for something other than vehicles, though it has also invested in a self-driving car startup.


Uber Recruits Some Rich Friends to Drive Its Autonomous Cars

WIRED

When Uber publicly filed for an initial public offering last week, it cemented its reputation as a technology behemoth with more than a few liabilities. One particularly weighty albatross: its Autonomous Technology Group, which since 2015 has poured hundreds of millions into building self-driving car tech it has yet to commercialize. Make that at least $1 billion: According to the filing, Uber spent $457 million in 2018 on research and development for autonomous vehicles (and its other tech moonshots, like "flying taxis")--a figure up 19 percent from 2017. So it was good news for Uber--not to mention the potential shareholders circling its IPO--when it announced a major investment into its Autonomous Technology Group from a Japanese consortium on Thursday. The $1 billion infusion comes from Toyota, the automotive supplier Denso, and the Softbank Vision Fund, which is aggressively bankrolling ambitious transportation technology companies.


SoftBank, Toyota and Denso invest $1 billion to pump up Uber's self-driving unit ahead of IPO

The Japan Times

SAN FRANCISCO - Uber's autonomous-vehicle unit has raised $1 billion (¥112 billion) from a consortium of investors including SoftBank Group Corp., giving the company a much-needed funding boost for its pricey self-driving ambitions ahead of its public stock offering. Uber Technologies Inc. said Thursday that the investment values its Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), which works to develop autonomous driving technology, at $7.25 billion. SoftBank will invest $333 million from its $100 billion Vision Fund, while Toyota Motor Corp. and automotive parts supplier Denso Corp. will invest a combined $667 million. Toyota will also contribute up to an additional $300 million over the next three years to help cover the costs of building commercial self-driving vehicles, Uber said. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the funding "will help maintain Uber's position at the forefront of" a transforming transportation industry.