Exploring the three elephants in the autonomous vehicle room

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The expression “elephant in the room” refers to an important question that everyone knows about but no one wants to discuss because it makes them uncomfortable.

Today, in the area of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs), there are three elephants in the room which are worth exploring.

Let’s get started.

Continue reading… “Exploring the three elephants in the autonomous vehicle room”

Renault arms entire french town with free electric cars

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Renault wants people to know that it’s easy to go electric.

The automaker giant Renault has gifted an entire village in France its Renault Zoe electric vehicle in a recent power move. The move comes as an effort to demonstrate that EVs are suitable for not only urban areas but also rural communities just as well as gas-powered cars.

Renault offered three-year leases of its Zoe EV to every house in Appy, a small town in the Ariege region of France. There is only one thing the automaker requires them to do: giving Renault periodic updates on whether they like the car and EV ownership or not.

Accordingly, this move will help Renault “understand the way customers interact with and use electric vehicles day to day.”

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Elon Musk says Tesla is launching an insurance company

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Tesla is about to get into the auto insurance game, CEO Elon Musk announced Wednesday.

On a call with investors, Musk said that Tesla is in the process of “building” what he called a “major insurance company,” Business Insider reports. By the end of the year, he hopes to have launched in a handful of U.S. states, generating premiums and rates for drivers based on data collected by their cars’ internal sensors.

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World’s first fully self-driving car will be ready this year, Elon Musk claims

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Tesla’s Autopilot software, which relies on various cameras and sensors to operate, can be updated remotely.

‘I’m very confident about full self-driving functionality being complete by the end of this year,’ he says. ‘It’s because I’m literally driving it’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the electric car maker will have fully self-driving vehicles on the road by the end of the year.

During an earnings call with investors on Wednesday, the serial entrepreneur revealed that he is already testing an updated version of the firm’s Autopilot software on his commute to work in Los Angeles.

“It’s almost getting to a point where I can go from my house to work with no interventions, despite going through construction and widely varying situations,” he said.

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The ‘android of self-driving cars’ built a 100,000x cheaper way to train AI for multiple trillion-dollar markets

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Level 5 self-driving means autonomous cars can drive themselves anywhere, at any time, in any conditions.

How do you beat Tesla, Google, Uber and the entire multi-trillion dollar automotive industry with massive brands like Toyota, General Motors, and Volkswagen to a full self-driving car? Just maybe, by finding a way to train your AI systems that is 100,000 times cheaper.

It’s called Deep Teaching.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it works by taking human effort out of the equation.

And Helm.ai says it’s the key to unlocking autonomous driving. Including cars driving themselves on roads they’ve never seen … using just one camera.

Continue reading… “The ‘android of self-driving cars’ built a 100,000x cheaper way to train AI for multiple trillion-dollar markets”

Australia to start paying EV owners for transferring electricity back to the national grid

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Electric vehicles can help keep the air clean in our cities – as we’ve seen recently with the reduction of traffic through COVID-19 lockdowns – but they face two obstacles.

 In the short term they’re still expensive. In the long term charging millions of vehicles from the electricity grid presents challenges.

I’m part of a new project, launched today, that tackles both of these obstacles head-on, and it could mean owners earn more money than they’re likely to pay for charging their electric vehicles.

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Tesla (TSLA): Elon Musk says ‘very close’ to level 5 autonomy complete

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Tesla (TSLA): Basic functionality for level 5 autonomy is complete this year, says CEO Elon Musk.

Today, Musk virtually attended the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai and participated in a Q&A session.

Musk oversees several projects involving AI, but the most prominent one is Tesla’s effort to deliver a full self-driving level 5 system.

At the conference, Musk briefly discussed Tesla’s effort to reach full self-driving and showed great confidence in delivering such a system soon:

I am extremely confident that level or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think will happen very quickly. I think at Tesla, I feel like we are very close to level 5 autonomy.

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NEVS unveils autonomous electric shuttle for urban use

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NEVS Sango autonomous electric shuttle, image credit: NEVS

Way last century, Sweden had two global auto manufacturers — Volvo and Saab. Volvo built staid cars that were as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. Saab was the quirky cousin that insisted on mounting its ignition switch in the center console rather than on the dashboard. It also offered styling that was trés avant. If you wanted safety in your Swedish car, you bought a Volvo. If you wanted a little dash of excitement, you bought a Saab.

Both companies got caught up in a game of “mine’s bigger than yours” that played out between Ford and General Motors at the end of the last century. Ford started things off by buying Jaguar and Land Rover as it put together what it called its Premium Auto Group. Then it bought Volvo in 1999. Not to be outdone, General Motors then purchased Saab. Less than 10 years later, both once proud Swedish manufacturers were toast and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy as the Great White Fathers in Detroit bled both companies dry.

Volvo was rescued by Geely but Saab slowly sank between the waves. Its car manufacturing assets were purchased out of bankruptcy by a new corporation somewhat grandly known as National Electric Vehicle Sweden, which set about converting the last generation Saab 9-3 to electric power. In 2015, the company signed a strategic collaboration agreement with Panda New Energy Company of China to deliver 150,000 9-3 electric vehicles by the end of 2020.

Evergrande Group of China acquired 51% of the shares in NEVS in January 2019. Evergrande has since then increased its holdings to 68%. National Energy Holding, owned by Kai Johan Jiang, owns the remaining shares. The company is still peddling the converted 9-3 battery electric car to a largely uninterested audience.

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Tesla begins taking Cybertruck orders in China, Will drive one across America

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If reports about the number of reservations it has garnered are true, the Tesla Cybertruck may be the most eagerly anticipated new vehicle in history. Back in February, 532,000 people around the world were reportedly on the waiting list for one of Elon Musk’s segment-smashing vehicles. The no-obligation reservations are little more than a marketing tool for the company at this point. Tesla hasn’t even decided where to build the Cybertruck yet, let alone start constructing a factory. But that hasn’t stopped the company from taking orders for it on its Chinese website, according to Tesmanian.

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Didi Chuxing: Apple-backed firm aims for one million robotaxis

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Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing says it plans to operate more than a million self-driving vehicles by 2030.

The robotaxis are to be deployed in places where ride-hailing drivers are less available, according to Meng Xing, Didi’s chief operating officer.

Mr Meng was speaking at an online conference hosted by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper.

One analyst suggested it was a very ambitious aim.

“I’ll be surprised if we see a million by 2030,” a spokesman for market research firm Canalys said.

“I hope that happens but there’s a lot to take place in meantime.”

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Study says autonomous taxis will cost users more than car ownership

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When Sir Thomas More coined the term “utopia,” he lifted two words from Ancient Greek that roughly translate into “not a place.” Turns out people from the 16th century still understood satire, perhaps better than we do today. After all, we are the ones operating under the assumption that we can remap society in order to build consequence-free transportation network without a shred of humor to keep us grounded.

We may not need satire in this instance, however. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health asks questions about how just effectively the shift to autonomy will benefit society as a whole. Industry leaders have broadly framed the shift toward self-driving as kicking down the door to an idyllic universe where no one wants for transportation, with autonomous taxis serving as the first wave of this planned paradise. The reality may be vastly different that what’s being sold, however.

The study essentially asserts that the entire concept of robotic cabs doesn’t actually serve poor communities any better than just buying one’s own automobile. Researchers compared the costs of a robo-taxi trip with those of owning a conventional used vehicle in an urban environment. Tabulating the combined costs of vehicle financing, licensing, insurance, routine maintenance, fuel/electricity and everything else they could account for, the team estimated that self-driving taxis would cost a minimum of $1.58 per mile. By contrast, the total cost associated with traditional vehicle ownership (assuming one is trying to be thrifty) ended up being 52 cents per mile. At least, that was the case for their model in San Francisco.

While your author has long suspected that unsupervised robotic taxis might outpace the subway as one of the dirtiest ways to get around (and become potential liabilities for whoever operates them), the general assumption has been that they’ll offer societal and health benefits that vastly outperform private vehicle ownership — almost as if the people making these assessments have never taken a regular cab or piloted an inner-city ZipCar. Other presumed benefits involve improved air quality by making it easier for people to get by without an automobile of their own.

But this thinking comes with some problems. Studies have already shown that ride-hailing firms exacerbate congestion by having a fleet of cars constantly scouring the streets in search of fares. That interim period between riders wastes energy and will be broadly similar when/if autonomous vehicles arrive. Why should we believe they’ll be any different when they’ll be similarly competing for riders and milling around neighborhoods? Even if they’re entirely electric, that energy has to be sourced from somewhere, and much of it will be in service of nothing.

Continue reading… “Study says autonomous taxis will cost users more than car ownership”

Chinese automaker plans satellite network to support autonomous vehicles

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Geely’s constellation will provide connectivity to its next-gen autos.

 One of the most important components in an autonomous vehicle is its communications technology—which allows it to access the data needed to navigate its route. Chinese automobile company Geely has developed a solution to maintain a reliable data feed for its products: making its own satellite constellation.

The giant automaker—which sold 2.18 million vehicles in 2019 and also owns Volvo and a stake in Daimler-Benz—is investing $326 million in a new satellite manufacturing plant in Taizhou, close to its existing assembly lines. The plant will manufacture 500 satellites a year by 2025—with its first launches scheduled for later this year—and will have the capability of producing different satellite models. It will feature modular satellite manufacturing lines, research and testing centers and a cloud computing facility. The facility will be the first private satellite factory in China.

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