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Audi's Self-Driving Cars See the World With Luminar's Lidar

WIRED

Volkswagen wants to put fully self-driving cars in fully human-filled cities by 2021, and that means it has limited time to crack the hardest thing about this technology: making a robot that can understand its surroundings in precise detail. Get perception right--know what's a kid and what's a fire hydrant--and the other pieces of the robo-driving puzzle get a whole lot easier. And today, the division of VW tasked with delivering on that 2021 deadline just revealed a key part of its approach. Audi AID (that's Autonomous Intelligent Driving) today announced that it is partnering with lidar maker Luminar. AID considered offerings from the dozens of lidar companies, but it was ultimately won over by how far the Luminar lidar sees--about 250 meters--and how good its resolution is.


Drone 50ft from hitting plane at Stansted

BBC News

A drone flying more than 20 times the allowed height came within 15m (50ft) of a Boeing 737 approaching a runway at Stansted Airport in Essex. The plane was flying at 10,000ft (3km) and coming in to land on 17 August when the captain spotted the drone. The first officer then saw "a dark-coloured square or rectangle-shaped object pass down the right side of the aircraft with minimal separation". The UK Airprox Board rated the risk of collision as the highest possible. After the incident, which happened at 16:36 BST, the plane was inspected on the ground and found no evidence of contact or damage.


Why your pizza may never be delivered by drone

BBC News

For years tech companies such as Amazon, Alphabet and Uber have promised us delivery drones bringing goods to our doorsteps in a matter of minutes. So why are they taking so long to arrive? If our skies are to become as crowded as our streets, airspace rules need updating to prevent accidents, terrorist attacks, and related problems, such as noise pollution. But that's easier said than done. According to a recent study by Nasa, the noise made by road traffic was "systematically judged to be less annoying" than the high-pitched buzzing made by drones.


Burger King's 1-Cent Whopper Is a Taste of the Robo-Car Future

WIRED

At first bite, it seems no more than a clever way to boost sales at the expense of a competitor. When a hungry customer walks into a McDonald's (or within 600 feet of one), they can use the Burger King app to order a Whopper for a penny. The app will then provide directions to the nearest BK, where the now famished customer can pick it up. The promotion, good until December 12, is called the Whopper Detour. Burger King's marketing chief told CNN Business that more than 50,000 people have cashed in on the deal, and the fast food giant's app jumped to first place in the iTunes App Store's Food and Drink category.


It's big, loud and secretive: We got a tour of Tesla's Gigafactory and here's how it works

USATODAY

Chris Lister, vice president of operations of the Tesla Gigafactory, provides insight during a tour on Dec. 3, 2018. Big numbers are one way to appreciateTesla's gargantuan Nevada Gigafactory. Operating 24-hours per day in shifts, workers produce enough battery packs and drive units in a week to power 5,300 of Tesla's Model 3 sedans. Tesla says at 5.4 million square feet, roughly equivalent to 50 Home Depot stores, the factory is just 30 percent of its potential size and is already producing more batteries than all other carmakers combined. With more than 7,000 Tesla workers, the factory is responsible for increasing manufacturing employment in the Reno-Sparks area by 55 percent since 2014, according to the Governor's Office of Economic Development.


Congress Races to Pass a Self-Driving Car Law By Year's End

WIRED

On Wednesday, Waymo officially launched its self-driving taxi service in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. Sure, the cars still have humans behind the wheel and they're only open to a subset of the few hundred people already enrolled in the company's exclusive beta tester program, but it's a reminder that driverless cars are coming (if more slowly than many had hoped and hyped). So it's high time that these new robo-things get firmer rules, regulators, consumer advocates, and even the self-driving industry itself has reasoned. To that end, this week, senators began to circulate new language for the AV Start Act, a bill that has lingered in congressional limbo for almost a year. In this new draft language, the bill would create a loose framework for the testing and deployment of automated vehicles, as a bill passed by the House of Representatives did last fall.


GM's Dan Ammann to Lead Cruise, Its Self-Driving Car Effort

WIRED

General Motors has given itself a deadline of 2019 to roll out a self-driving car service, a feat it would achieve though Cruise, a startup it acquired in 2016. And now Cruise has a new CEO in Dan Ammann, who is leaving his role as president of GM to take the full-time position. Founder Kyle Vogt will become the company's CTO, effective January 1. In the tech world, this is a common move, because founders are not always the best suited to take their companies from startups to behemoths. And while Cruise has offered no details yet on where, when, or how its commercial robo-car service will work, it has grown quickly in the past two years, from 40 to more than 1,000 employees.


Just a Few Self-Driving Cars Stop Traffic Jams

#artificialintelligence

In one scenario, replacing just one of 14 "human"-driven cars with a self-driving car doubled the average car speed, the researchers report. University of California, Berkeley researchers demonstrated that a few self-driving cars can prevent traffic jams, and in some cases double the average speed of surrounding vehicles. The team used a video game-style interface to control simulated cars on multiple virtual roadways; in each scenario, the researchers tested four algorithms that used reinforcement learning to learn how to navigate the streets. However, the algorithms can still be improved, which is why the team is making its programs public. If others think they have a more advanced algorithm, they can use this framework to test new ideas, the researchers say.


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.


Optimized Prime: How AI And Anticipation Power Amazon's 1-Hour Deliveries

NPR

Amazon has built a massive warehousing footprint around the country, including this Inside an Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore. And it's been adding smaller warehouses closer to city centers where Prime Now promotes super-fast delivery options. Amazon has built a massive warehousing footprint around the country, including this Inside an Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore. And it's been adding smaller warehouses closer to city centers where Prime Now promotes super-fast delivery options. By the time someone clicks "buy" on Amazon, Jenny Freshwater's team has probably expected it.