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Americans Can't Have Audi's Super Capable Self-Driving System

WIRED

Between Silicon Valley's disruption-happy tech giants and Detroit's suddenly totally on board automakers, it's easy to think of America as the center of the self-driving universe. And so it seems a bit backwards that Audi has decided to release the world's most capable semiautonomous driving feature in … Europe. When the 2019 A8 sedan hits dealer lots later this year, Europeans will have access to Traffic Jam Pilot, which will take control of the car on the highway at speeds below 37 mph; no need for the constant human supervision required by current systems like Tesla's Autopilot. On this side of das pond, however, as CNET reports, too many questions remain about laws that change from one state to the next, insurance requirements, and things like lane lines and road signs that look different in different regions. When the A8 goes on sale here, it won't come with Traffic Jam Pilot.


Fundamental equations guide marine robots to optimal sampling sites

MIT News

Observing the world's oceans is increasingly a mission assigned to autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) -- marine robots that are designed to drift, drive, or glide through the ocean without any real-time input from human operators. Critical questions that AUVs can help to answer are where, when, and what to sample for the most informative data, and how to optimally reach sampling locations. MIT engineers have now developed systems of mathematical equations that forecast the most informative data to collect for a given observing mission, and the best way to reach the sampling sites. With their method, the researchers can predict the degree to which one variable, such as the speed of ocean currents at a certain location, reveals information about some other variable, such as temperature at some other location -- a quantity called "mutual information." If the degree of mutual information between two variables is high, an AUV can be programmed to go to certain locations to measure one variable, to gain information about the other.


Uber flying taxis get a government boost

USATODAY

Ride-hailing service Uber announced plans for a flying taxi on Wednesday that could provide relief from road congestion for the commuters of the future. This is a rendering of UberÕs VTOL concept., flying car, an electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle. SAN FRANCISCO -- Uber executives continue to grapple with a host of challenges to their ride-hailing business, from taxi industry pushback in cities such as London to political fallout due to a self-driving car death in Arizona. But none of that has put the brakes on the company's futuristic -- and somewhat outlandish -- plans to develop a network of flying taxis, a project that gained a bit more altitude at Tuesday's kickoff of the two-day Uber Elevate conference in Los Angeles. Uber announced new partnerships with government officials and aircraft manufacturers aimed at further developing eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) craft, which use wing-mounted propellers to provide lift, as with a helicopter, and a tail-mounted propeller to generate forward thrust, as with a plane.


Uber's self-driving car saw the pedestrian but didn't swerve – report

The Guardian

An Uber self-driving test car which killed a woman crossing the street detected her but decided not to react immediately, a report has said. The car was travelling at 40mph (64km/h) in self-driving mode when it collided with 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg at about 10pm on 18 March. Herzberg was pushing a bicycle across the road outside of a crossing. She later died from her injuries. Although the car's sensors detected Herzberg, its software which decides how it should react was tuned too far in favour of ignoring objects in its path which might be "false positives" (such as plastic bags), according to a report from the Information.


Police: Sedan That Collided With Waymo Vehicle Ran Red Light

U.S. News

The safety of self-driving technology has come under recent scrutiny. A pedestrian in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe died in March after she was struck by a self-driving Uber vehicle. It was the first death involving a fully autonomous vehicle.


Maybach's Electric SUV, Tesla's Autopilot Shakeup, and More Car News

WIRED

Engineers love the complex challenge they present. But right now, what are they for, really? In the weeks after a self-driving Uber hit and killed an Arizona woman, it's hard to remember. Our own Jack Stewart has something close to a solution: Autonomous developers need to figure out how to explain the point of these vehicles, in the near term, and it's not saving the world. Aim smaller, maybe, breaking the complex task of building a vehicle that can go anywhere into steps.


After Uber's Fatal Crash, Self-Driving Cars Should Aim Lower

WIRED

More than a month after a self-driving Uber struck and killed a pedestrian crossing the street in Arizona, it's still not clear what sort of failure might explain the crash--or how to prevent it happening again. While the National Transportation Safety Board investigates, Uber's engineers are sitting on their hands, their cars are parked. The crash and its inconclusive aftermath reflect poorly on a newborn industry predicated on the idea that letting computers take the wheel can save lives, ease congestion, and make travel more pleasant. An industry dashing toward adulthood--Google sister company Waymo plans to launch a robo-taxi service this year, General Motors is aiming for 2019--and now, suddenly, on the verge of being rejected by a public that hasn't even experienced it yet. In other words, AV makers are clearing the technological hurdles and tripping over the psychological ones.


Your fancy new car steers and brakes for you; so why keep your hands on the wheel?

USATODAY

USA Today's Nathan Bomey takes Cadillac's Super Cruise for a test drive. In this Friday March 23, 2018 photo provided by KTVU, emergency personnel work a the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif. The National Transportation Safety Board has sent two investigators to look into a fatal crash and fire Friday in California that involved a Tesla electric SUV. The agency says on Twitter that it's not clear whether the Tesla Model X was operating on its semi-autonomous control system called Autopilot at the time. Investigators will study the fire that broke out after the crash.


People must retain control of autonomous vehicles

#artificialintelligence

Driverless vehicles are being tested on public roads in a number of countries.Credit: Prostock/Getty Last month, for the first time, a pedestrian was killed in an accident involving a self-driving car. A sports-utility vehicle controlled by an autonomous algorithm hit a woman who was crossing the road in Tempe, Arizona. The safety driver inside the vehicle was unable to prevent the crash. Although such accidents are rare, their incidence could rise as more vehicles that are capable of driving without human intervention are tested on public roads. In the past year, several countries have passed laws to pave the way for such trials.


Arizona's Governor Suspends Uber's Self-Driving Cars After Fatal Crash

WIRED

More than a week after a self-driving Uber hit and killed a woman crossing the street in Tempe, Arizona, the company is facing the consequences. Today, on the orders of Arizona governor Doug Ducey, the Arizona Department of Transportation commanded Uber to suspend its testing of autonomous and highly automated vehicles on the state's roadways. It's an obvious setback for Uber's embattled self-driving program, which does much of its testing in Arizona, but the kibosh job also signals how local and state politicians elsewhere will be looking to control a new technology that comes with the promise of great safety and economic benefits--but also the potential to destroy jobs and, when it fails, to kill. And it's an unexpected blow from Ducey, who until the crash had championed the technology and encouraged companies like Uber to do their testing work in Arizona, where virtually no rules dictate what they can do where and when, and where they face no requirements to report or disclose anything about their programs, including crashes. In 2015, Ducey signed an executive order telling all state agencies to "undertake any necessary steps to support the testing and operation of self-driving cars."