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Toyota, Panasonic strike battery deal in threat to Tesla

USATODAY

Japanese car maker Toyota unveils a new humanoid robot that mirrors the movements of its remote operator, as Stuart McDill reports. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda spoke at the company's earnings press conference in Tokyo on May 10. (Photo: Toyota Motor Corporation) Toyota reached a deal to explore a new battery partnership with Panasonic in a move that threatens to encroach on Tesla's territory, heightening the ongoing rivalry between the two automakers. Toyota and Panasonic said Wednesday that they are launching a "feasibility study" to investigate the technological potential of batteries that use prismatic cells, which are grouped together in pouches to power electric cars. The deal places Panasonic in the unusual position of straddling the technological and strategic divide between Toyota and Tesla. Panasonic already has a major partnership with Tesla to jointly manufacture a competing battery technology that relies on different batteries relying on cylindrical cells.


Lyft offers self-driving car rides in Boston

Daily Mail

The ride-hailing company Lyft is now sending self-driving cars to pick up passengers in a Boston neighborhood. The cars will have backup human drivers at the wheel and will be limited to short routes within the city's Seaport District, a burgeoning tech startup hub. Lyft and its Boston-based partner nuTonomy, which builds self-driving software, announced Wednesday that the pilot project has begun. The Renault Zoe EVs will be limited to short routes within the city's Seaport District The cars will initially be a small number of Renault Zoe EVs, which Nutonomy began road-testing in Boston starting last November. Nutonomy engineers are already working on integrating Lyft software into'a couple of' vehicles, to be deployed sometime'in the coming months,' for actual customer pickups, though no more specific timeline was given.


Nvidia looks to reduce AI training material through 'imagination'

ZDNet

Nvidia researchers have used a pair of generative adversarial networks (GANs) along with some unsupervised learning to create an image-to-image translation network that could allow for artificial intelligence (AI) training times to be reduced. In a blog post, the company explained how its GANs are trained on different data sets, but share a "latent space assumption" that allows for the generation of images by passing the image representation from one GAN to the next. "The use of GANs isn't novel in unsupervised learning, but the Nvidia research produced results -- with shadows peeking through thick foliage under partly cloudy skies -- far ahead of anything seen before," the company said. The benefits of this work could allow for network training to require less labelled data, it said. "For self-driving cars alone, training data could be captured once and then simulated across a variety of virtual conditions: Sunny, cloudy, snowy, rainy, nighttime, etc," Nvidia said.


Intel and Warner Bros. are teaming up to build in-cabin entertainment for autonomous cars

Mashable

When fully autonomous vehicles finally hit the road, they'll turn everyone into a passenger. As such, we'll need something to do in order to pass the time while we're riding in our vehicles. Luckily, Intel and Warner Bros. are here to help. Intel and Warner Bros. announced today at the L.A. Auto Show that they're teaming up to develop in-cabin entertainment experiences for cars of the future. Intel CEO announces partnership with Warner Bros. to develop concept of what a self-driving car's entertainment might be #AutoMobilityLA pic.twitter.com/UV3NQ1wfqA


Lyft raises $500m 'war chest' in battle with Uber

Daily Mail

Uber rival Lyft is raising an additional $500 million in funding ion its ongoinjg battle with Uber, according to a U.S. share authorization document filed in Delaware. The additional funding round, led by Alphabet's CapitalG, is an extension of the $1 billion round announced in October. The additional funding round, led by Alphabet's CapitalG, is an extension of a $1 billion round announced in October, and raises the firm's valuation to $11.5 billion Axios was first to report the news. In October Lyft had said that the previous round of funding boosted its valuation to $11 billion from $7.5 billion. The fresh funding would raise its valuation to $11.5 billion.


Lyft wins permit to test self-driving cars in California

Daily Mail

U.S. ride-hailing firm Lyft has secured a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California, taking it one step further in the race with several other companies to bring self-driving cars to the masses. Lyft's permit, reflected on the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website, comes two months after it announced plans to offer a self-driving car as a ride option in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lyft already has partnerships in place with autonomous car companies to advance its self-driving strategy. Ride-hailing firm Lyft Inc said on Monday it would launch its service in Toronto, marking the first international expansion for the U.S.-based rival of Uber Technologies Inc. Ford self-driving test vehicles will be connected to Lyft's network, but at first, customers will not be able to use them, according to Sherif Marakby, Ford's vice president for autonomous vehicles and electrification.


Renault's self-driving car can avoid obstacles like pro drivers

Engadget

The Renault Group announced today that its autonomous vehicle control system can avoid obstacles just as well as professional test drivers. The company said that in designing the system, it was actually inspired by these drivers' abilities and used them as a sort of benchmark as to what level its technology should be performing. "Despite popular belief, the reality is that human beings are pretty amazing drivers, with less than one fatality per 100,000,000 kilometers in most developed countries," Simon Hougard, director of the Renault Open Innovation Lab, wrote in a Medium post. "Reaching and exceeding that benchmark is essential to improve safety and realize our dreams of autonomous cars, providing more productivity during our morning commutes and robo-vehicle services in city centers." The technology is a result of Renault's collaboration with Stanford University Dynamic Design Lab Director Chris Gerdes, who's also a former US Department of Transportation Chief Innovation Officer, and Renault says it will help with its goal to be one of the first companies to bring "mind off" technology to the public.


AutoNation announces Waymo fleet repair deal, shares jump

Daily Mail

US auto retailer AutoNation Inc announced a multi-year partnership on Thursday to support Alphabet Inc's Waymo self-driving car unit, including vehicle maintenance and repairs as the company adds new brands into its fleet, sending its shares up 13 percent to a high for the year. That news was accompanied by a better-than expected third-quarter profit as AutoNation performed well despite the impact of hurricanes during the quarter. There is fierce competition between large automakers to bring self-driving cars to market first. Lauderdale, Florida-based AutoNation is the latest in a series of recent partnerships the self-driving unit has formed. Google has revealed the self driving minivans it hopes could revolutionize the way we travel.


Tesla reports biggest-ever quarterly loss, Model 3 delays

Daily Mail

Tesla racked up a $619 million loss in the third quarter, its biggest-ever, driving its shares sharply lower as the electric-car maker spends to speed up production of its more affordable Model 3 sedan. The company, led by Silicon Valley star Elon Musk, also confirmed it had missed its Model 3 production goal for the third quarter, producing only 260 vehicles compared to an earlier estimate of 1,500. Its shares fell 5.4 percent in after hours trading. The company said it had $3.53 billion in cash and cash-equivalents as of Sept. 30, compared to $3.04 billion at the end of the second quarter. Tesla said last month it delivered 26,150 vehicles in the third quarter, a 4.5 percent rise on the same period of 2016, but added that "production bottlenecks" had left the company behind its planned ramp-up for the $35,000 Model 3. On Wednesday it said it now hoped to achieve a production rate of 5,000 per month by the end of the first quarter of next year, pushed back from the end of this year.


Video Friday: Rocket RoboBee, Willow Garage, and Caltech's Cassie

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

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 two 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. A new RoboBee from Harvard can swim underwater, and then launch itself into the air with a microrocket and fly away. At the millimeter scale, the water's surface might as well be a brick wall.