IEEE Spectrum


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.


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...


Zipline Expands Its Medical Delivery Drones Across East Africa

IEEE Spectrum

While companies like Amazon pour considerable resources into finding ways of using drones to deliver such things as shoes and dog treats, Zipline has been saving lives in Rwanda since October 2016 with drones that deliver blood. Zipline's autonomous fixed-wing drones now form an integral part of Rwanda's medical-supply infrastructure, transporting blood products from a central distribution center to hospitals across the country. And in 2018, Zipline's East African operations will expand to include Tanzania, a much larger country. Delivering critical medical supplies in this region typically involves someone spending hours (or even days) driving a cooler full of life-saving medicine or blood along windy dirt roads. Such deliveries can become dangerous or even impossible to make if roads and bridges get washed out.