Milton Keynes, the Model Town Building Itself Around Self-Driving Cars

IEEE Spectrum

In October, the largest self-driving car project backed by the British government wrapped up three years worth of testing aimed at getting autonomous vehicles onto roads by 2021. Many of the autonomous car and pod tests took place in Milton Keynes, a town built for cars that represents one of the fastest-growing city or town economies in the United Kingdom. Originally founded as a new "model town" in 1967, Milton Keynes is a city in all but name after having grown to 280,000 people in 50 years. But the same economic success means that Milton Keynes--built in a grid layout and suburban style--faces a number of growing pains that it's looking to ease with the help of autonomous vehicle technology. The recent UK Autodrive tests were designed to test the capabilities of both self-driving cars and smaller autonomous pod vehicles made by Coventry, UK-based Aurrigo, a division of RDM Group, with an eye toward easing traffic congestion and possibly even eliminating the need for cars in the city center.

Are women in science any better off than in Ada Lovelace's day? Jess Wade


In recognition of the fact that their obituary pages had been dominated by white men, in 2018 the New York Times published an obituary of the Countess Ada Lovelace. Alongside Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson, Lovelace has become an icon for women in technology. So much so that the second Tuesday in October is recognised internationally as Ada Lovelace Day. Lovelace was from a wealthy background; her father was the poet Lord Byron and her mother, Anne Isabella Milbanke, the "princess of parallelograms", was a keen mathematician and social reformer. Social scientists of today would describe Lovelace as having high "science capital" – her well-connected parents meant her mentors and advisers were members of the British scientific elite, including the polymaths Mary Somerville and Charles Babbage.

Auto Consultant Lawrence Burns Dishes the Dirt on Waymo

IEEE Spectrum

The genesis of the modern self-driving car across three Darpa challenges in the early 2000s has been well documented, here and elsewhere. Teams of universities, enthusiasts and automakers struggled to get cars to drive themselves through desert and city conditions. In the process, they kick-started the sensor, software and mapping technologies that would power today's self-driving taxis and trucks. A fascinating new book, "Autonomy" by Lawrence Burns, explores both the Darpa races and what happened next--in particular, how Google's self-driving car effort,now spun out as Waymo, came to dominate the field. Burns is a long-time auto executive, having come up through the ranks at GM and spent time championing that company's own autonomous vehicle effort, the impressive but ill-fated EN-V urban mobility concept.

Daimler and Bosch to Test Self-Driving Taxis Next Year

IEEE Spectrum

Daimler and Bosch say they'll test a self-driving car in a ride-hailing service in California in 2019. The two German companies didn't say which model Mercedes car or SUV they'll use, only that the first self-driving taxis will put safety drivers behind the wheel, just in case, and will incorporate Pegasus, Nvidia's self-driving hardware and software package. According to Automotive News, later iterations of the car will use a Bosch system based on Nvidia hardware. There's a lot the companies didn't say. For one, they haven't selected the city in California where the program is to roll out.

Chip Hall of Fame: Nvidia NV20

IEEE Spectrum

Many researchers have co-opted powerful graphics processing units, or GPUs, to run climate models and other scientific programs, while tech and financial giants use large banks of these processors to train machine-learning algorithms. They all have video-game players to thank for the emergence of these workhorse processors: It was gamers who stoked the original demand for chips that could do the massive amounts of parallel number crunching required to produce rich graphics quickly enough to keep up with fast-paced action. By 1995, movies like Pixar's Toy Story, the first full-length digitally animated movie, had demonstrated the potential of high-quality computer animation. But gamers drove the technology in a very specific direction. Pixar had created Toy Story's graphics by slowly rendering each frame individually and then stitching it all together.

Robot heads for North Sea oil rigs in 'world first' scheme


An autonomous robot will be deployed to an offshore oil and gas platform in the North Sea later this year, in a first for the sector. The £4m project's backers said the move was designed to take humans out of dangerous and dull jobs, and reinvent oil and gas as an industry of the future. Under the pilot scheme, the robot will initially be deployed at the French oil firm Total's gas plant on Shetland before being sent to join the 120 workers on the company's Alwyn platform, 440km north-east of Aberdeen. The machine, made by Austrian firm Taurob and supported on the software side by German university TU Darmstadt, will be used for visual inspections and detecting gas leaks. Rebecca Allison, asset integrity solution centre manager at the publicly-funded Oil and Gas Technology Centre, insisted autonomous robots would not be used to cut the wage burden of offshore workers who are paid a premium for working in tough, remote conditions.

Transforming Robotic Steering Wheel Is a Reminder That Your Car Needs You

IEEE Spectrum

Most of the autonomous vehicles that you're likely to encounter in the near future are either Level 2 or Level 4 autonomous. Level 2, which you'll find in a Tesla on the highway, means that the car drives itself in specific situations but expects you to be paying attention the entire time. Level 4 y...

New dog-like robot from Boston Dynamics can open doors – video

The Guardian - Technology (UK)

Ground-breaking robotics engineering and design company Boston Dynamics have released footage of the SpotMini, a dog-like robot that can open doors in the most unsettling manner possible. The four-legged robot uses a mechanical arm with a pincer on the end to grasp and turn the handle and then hold open the door.

Waymo v Uber: Who stole what?

BBC News - Technology

Waymo, the self-driving car company spun out of Google, is locked in a legal battle with Uber, alleging the cab company stole its key technology.

Drone hit newly erected crane during Kent site survey - report

BBC News - Technology

A pilot has flown a drone into a crane, according to an air-accident report. The pilot had planned the drone flight in Kent with four reference points, all at 400ft above ground level - higher than three existing cranes on the site. But another crane was erected after his site safety visit, and on take-off the drone crashed into the jib of the new structure, damaging the unmanned craft. The crash, in June last year, is listed in the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) update this month. The incident report was picked up by The Register.