Uber's self-driving car unit has been valued at $7.3bn (£5.6bn), after receiving $1bn of investment by a consortium including Toyota and Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. With weeks to go until the loss-making San Francisco firm's stock market float, expected to value the company at up to $100bn, Uber said it had secured new financial backing for its plans to develop autonomous vehicles. Japanese carmakers Toyota and its compatriot Denso, a car parts supplier, will invest a combined $667m in Uber's Advanced Technologies Group (ATG). The remainder will come from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank's $100bn Vision Fund, whose largest investor is Saudi Arabia. Toyota and SoftBank are already major investors in Uber, with the latter owning 16%.
Over more than a decade, self-driving vehicles have logged millions of miles on roadways across the globe. Despite all that driving, researchers say, the machines are still unable to replicate the sophisticated problem-solving and spontaneity human drivers employ each time they get behind the wheel. In their ambitious attempt to create an autonomous car service, companies like Waymo run their software through millions of potential scenarios, create three-dimensional maps using lasers, and outfit their vehicles powerful sensors like LIDAR that can cost more than the cars they guide. The goal is to prepare the vehicle for anything it might encounter before it touches the road, creating a system of rules that predetermine behavior. Now, an upstart British company called Wayve claims to have created a self-driving car using technology that almost sounds Stone Age compared to the competition.
All you need to fool Tesla's autopilot into changing lane is a handful of stickers. Tesla's autopilot uses cameras to detect lane markings, so that it can position itself in the middle of the road and automatically change lanes when required. A team at Keen Security Labs, run by Chinese technology giant Tencent, managed to confuse the system onboard a Tesla Model S with just three stickers placed on the road. The car's autopilot system incorrectly classified the stickers, which were placed over road markings to make a jagged, rather than straight-edged. This caused the Tesla to move onto the wrong side of the road.
If you're inclined to puns, you might say medical samples are the lifeblood of hospital systems. But if you actually work with them, you know they're more of a headache. Because the same road traffic that keeps you from getting home keeps the couriers charged with moving these tissue and blood samples, collected by the millions daily and often in urgent need of analysis, from completing their missions. So it makes a lot of sense that when the FAA decided to sanction the first revenue-generating drone delivery scheme in the US, it went with one that promises to speed up that process, run by UPS and autonomous drone technology firm Matternet. It makes sense from the tech perspective, too: The cargo is extremely lightweight and compact, allowing the companies involved to focus on the delivery processes and mechanisms rather than trying to manage unwieldy payloads.
A self-driving car has learned to make high-speed turns without spinning out. The skill could come in useful during emergency manoeuvres. J Christian Gerdes and colleagues at Stanford University used a type of artificial intelligence algorithm called a neural network, which is loosely based on the neural networks in our brains, to create the self-driving system. They trained the neural network on data from more than 200,000 motion samples taken from test drives on a variety of surfaces, including on a mix of snow and ice at a track near the Arctic Circle. The team equipped a Volkswagen GTI with the algorithm and tested it on an oval-shaped race track.
In the food industry, it seems, the robot revolution is well underway, with machines mastering skilled tasks that have always been performed by people. In Boston, robots have replaced chefs and are creating complex bowls of food for customers. In Prague, machines are displacing bartenders and servers using an app. Robots are even making the perfect loaf of bread these days, taking charge of an art that has remained in human hands for thousands of years. Now comes Briggo, a company that has created a fully automated, robotic brewing machine that can push out 100 cups of coffee in a single hour -- equaling the output of three to four baristas, according to the company.
Nuro has partnered with Fry's Food Stores to utilize its autonomous vehicles to deliver groceries in Scottsdale. Supermarket giant Kroger said it soon will end a pilot program in which more than 2,000 grocery deliveries were made in self-driving vehicles from a store in Scottsdale, Arizona. The program, launched last August, featured deliveries in autonomous vehicles from robotics company Nuro from the Kroger-owned Fry's store at 7770 E. McDowell Road for customers in ZIP code 85257. The companies described it as the nation's first program featuring deliveries to the general public from fully unmanned vehicles. Wednesday will mark the final day of deliveries.
An extended 5km (3.1 miles) no-fly zone for drones has come into force around airports in the UK after reported sightings at Gatwick, Heathrow and Dublin airports in recent months grounded hundreds of flights and left thousands stranded. Previously, only a 1km (0.6 mile) exclusion zone was in place. But despite the negative reputation they have received, the use of drones isn't all bad. From finding missing people to delivering takeaways, here are some of the ways the unmanned aircraft can be beneficial. A Norfolk man who went missing in June last year was only found when a police drone spotted him stuck on a marsh.