Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. Can someone please teach me how to be that stylish? This week Rolls-Royce announced that they're working on small robots designed to inspect engines: What's getting a little bit lost in the announcement is that the robots themselves are based on (and perhaps, at this point, entirely identical to) Harvard's HAMR robot that we covered back in February: The Velodyne VLS-128 is the world's most advanced LiDAR sensor.
Drones and other unmanned systems are to be tested on Salisbury Plain by the British military, to tackle the costly and often dangerous task of delivering essential supplies to frontline troops. One such company is Animal Dynamics, a spinout from Oxford University. The startup has turned to recent advances in computational analysis to help it learn from nature and challenge engineering conventions. By tapping into design lessons from millions of years of evolution, Animal Dynamics is producing machines that mirror the mechanics of animals to help them perform better and move more efficiently. The Financial Times reports that Stork, the firm's autonomous paraglider, is one of five unmanned transport concepts chosen by the British government's Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory for assessment during a four-week military exercise on Salisbury Plain this November.
WASHINGTON (WISH) - Ohio lawmakers want to boost automated vehicle testing in the state. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking the U.S. Transportation secretary to reverse an Obama-era policy that keeps the Transportation Research Center in Ohio from getting federal money to test self-driving cars. Ohio lawmakers say the center is the perfect place to test self-driving cars. They say it's the largest and most sophisticated independent vehicle testing ground in North America. U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, a Republican from Ohio, said, "They can test in different road conditions, different weather conditions, wind conditions.
Every so often, WIRED gets to take a good, long sojourn behind the scenes, to observe what the people we write about are doing all day. This was one of those nice weeks. Editor Alex Davies hopped a plane to Winnemucca, an isolated mining town in northern Nevada that's hosting Alphabet's latest moonshot: its effort to spread the gospel of internet via broadcasting balloons. Senior writer Jessi Hempl got under Uber's hood after the announcement that HR chief Liane Hornsey--the woman brought in to fix the unicorn's culture--resigned for improperly handling allegations of racial discrimination. Contributor Wendy Dent got the scoop on Elon Musk's attempt to build some kind of vehicle that would help the Thai youth soccer team escape a cave complex.
Cameras and GPS navigation system gear are placed on a self-driving Mercedes car on display at an event to present a project on autonomous driving at former Tempelhof airport on July 10, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. Discussion about autonomous driving tends to focus on the leading company in the field, Google, which back in October 2010 set the ball rolling. Following the restructure that led to the creation of Alphabet, a subsidiary was set up called Waymo, which already has fleets of self-driving cars without safety driver on the roads of Phoenix, Mountain View, San Francisco, Austin, Detroit, Atlanta and Kirkland, selected mainly for their geographic and meteorological conditions. Which is not to say other companies aren't actively pursuing their own autonomous vehicles. In Arizona and several other cities, Cruise, owned by GM, has a large fleet.
At the blockbuster plenary sessions, the chairs stretched so far back that even the most youthful Silicon Valley college dropouts-turned VC hoovers had to squint to see the action up in front. A handful of large projection screens hung between the ballroom's chandeliers, displaying loop-de-looping flow charts on vehicle safety systems, sensor alignments, liability law. But despite the best efforts of the downtown San Francisco Hilton's air conditioners, the air shared by the attendees of this year's Automated Vehicles Symposium was thick with secrets and doubt. Eight years after Google first showed its self-driving car to The New York Times, the autonomous vehicle industry is still trying to figure out how to talk about itself. Over the three-day conference, engineers, business buffs, urban planners, government officials, and transportation researchers grappled with how to tell the public that its wonder drug of a transportation solution will have its limitations.
Australian startup Baraja is giving car manufacturers an alternative to the 13kg drum Uber is using for driverless vehicle mapping, launching its Light Detection and Ranging-based solution to help progress driverless vehicles. The product, Spectrum-Scan, uses shifting wavelengths of light to create "eyes" for autonomous vehicles. CEO and co-founder Federico Collarte told ZDNet the lidar solution solves the scalability, reliability, and performance issues that have "challenged automakers, rideshares, and the tech behemoths as they race toward a fully-autonomous future". At this point, it doesn't matter what type of vehicle the sensors are mounted to, as Collarte said "today you don't buy self-driving cars, you buy cars and you give them self-driving capabilities". Up to four sensor heads are connected via fibre optic cable to a central processor.
Uber's dreams of a fleet of self-driving taxis may be on the rocks, if the firm's latest move is anything to go by. The ride-hailing company laid off 100 safety drivers after autonomous vehicle tests were suspended in the US, following a high profile crash in Arizona. Uber initially said it was not shuttering its entire autonomous vehicle program in the aftermath of the incident, in which 49 year old Elaine Herzberg died. Instead, it announced it was focusing on more limited testing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and California, aiming to resume self-driving this summer. That decision may have been revised, if the latest news is anything to go by, with all 100 redundancies at its Pittsburgh base of operations.
Have you ever dreamed of the day where your car could drive for itself freeing you to do other things, such as reading, catching up on emails, watching a movie, or sleeping rather than focus on the road while in the car? Automotive manufacturers and transportation technology vendors are rapidly progressing us to that goal. Indeed, we discuss that "Autonomous Everything" is one of the four key parts of our AI-Enabled Vision of the Future. The power of AI and Machine Learning combined with extremely detailed city and road mapping, lane-keeping, collision avoidance, and self-parking is leading to automobiles and trucks that can take us to our destinations without us having to keep our feet on the pedals or hands on the steering wheel. However, as we have seen recently, a number of incidents and accidents have called into question how ready this technology is for general use.