Should self-driving cars come with black box recorders?

Every commercial airplane carries a “black box” that preserves a second-by-second history of everything that happens in the aircraft’s systems as well as of the pilots’ actions, and those records have been priceless in figuring out the causes of crashes.

Why shouldn’t self-driving cars and robots have the same thing? It’s not a hypothetical question.

Federal transportation authorities are investigating a dozen crashes involving Tesla cars equipped with its “AutoPilot” system, which allows nearly hands-free driving. Eleven people died in those crashes, one of whom was hit by a Tesla while he was changing a tire on the side of a road. 

Yet, every car company is ramping up its automated driving technologies. For instance, even Walmart is partnering with Ford and Argo AI to test self-driving cars for home deliveries, and Lyft is teaming up with the same companies to test a fleet of robo-taxis.

But self-directing autonomous systems go well behind cars, trucks, and robot welders on factory floors. Japanese nursing homes use “care-bots” to deliver meals, monitor patients, and even provide companionship. Walmart and other stores use robots to mop floors. At least a half-dozen companies now sell robot lawnmowers.  (What could go wrong?)

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Self-Driving Cars Could Generate Billions in Revenue: Study

Self-driving cars could generate billions of dollars a year in revenue from mobile internet services and products, even if occupants spend only a fraction of their free time on the web, according to a new study by McKinsey & Company.

Self-driving cars could generate billions of dollars a year in revenue from mobile internet services and products, even if occupants spend only a fraction of their free time on the web, according to a new study by McKinsey & Company.

The study, released Thursday, also projects that widespread adoption of self-driving cars could lead to a 90 per cent reduction in US vehicle crashes, with a potential savings of nearly $200 billion a year from significantly fewer injuries and deaths.

In addition, the McKinsey study warns of several risks to established companies, including vehicle manufacturers, dealers and even insurance companies.

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Real driverless cars are now legal in Shenzhen, China’s tech hub

y Rita Liao

There are plenty of autonomous driving vehicles testing on the roads of Shenzhen today: Pony.ai, Baidu, DeepRoute, AutoX, you name it. But these vehicles are not really the unmanned vehicles that tech upstarts envision for the future, as they have been required to operate with a safety driver behind the wheel.

A set of provisions introduced by the Shenzhen government is bringing the industry one step closer to a driverless future. The “Silicon Valley of China” that’s home to the likes of Huawei, Tencent and DJI is historically known for its progressive economic policies, so it’s unsurprising that the city just became the first in China to have laid out comprehensive rules governing smart and connected vehicles.

The regulation, which is set to take effect on August 1, grants permission for autonomous driving vehicles to operate without a human in the driver’s seat — though only within areas designated by the city’s authorities.

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Baidu Unveils Next-Gen Autonomous Vehicle With Detachable Steering Wheel

China’s Baidu, Inc. has unveiled its next-generation fully autonomous vehicle (AV) Apollo RT6, an all-electric, production-ready model with a detachable steering wheel. Designed for complex urban environments, Apollo RT6 will be put into operation in China in 2023 on Apollo Go, Baidu’s autonomous ride-hailing service.

The steering wheel-free design frees up more space to allow the installation of extra seating, vending machines, desktops, or gaming consoles.

Apollo RT6 integrates Baidu’s most advanced L4 autonomous driving system, powered by automotive-grade dual computing units with a computing power of up to 1200 TOPS.

The vehicle utilises 38 sensors, including 8 LiDARs and 12 cameras, to obtain highly accurate, long-range detection on all sides.

Apollo RT6 is the first vehicle model built on Xinghe, Baidu’s self-developed automotive E/E architecture specially for fully autonomous driving.

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DRIVERLESS CARS NEED SMARTER ROADS: A TALE FROM SAN FRANCISCO

As Jonathan Bartlett notes, the recent Frisco foul-up shows the need for roads adapted to include self-driving cars     

The future was here, briefly at least. The driverless cars of GM’s autonomous driving unit, Cruise, started charging fares early last month in a limited area in San Francisco. Google’s Waymo also operates driverless cars in Frisco but hasn’t yet started charging fares. With the regulators and the tech media, it certainly seemed like all systems were go:

The era of commercial autonomous robotaxi service is here — Cruise officially became the first company to offer fared rides to the general public in a major city as of late Wednesday. The milestone comes after Cruise received official approval from the California Public Utilities Commission in early June to operate driverless in a commercial capacity.

Initially, Cruise’s driverless autonomous offering will operate only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and only on designated streets in the city. 

DARRELL ETHERINGTON, “CRUISE’S DRIVERLESS AUTONOMOUS CARS START GIVING RIDES TO PAYING PASSENGERS” AT TECHCRUNCH (JUNE 24, 2022)

But then, less than a week later,

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Cornell algorithms help self-driving cars learn from own memories

Carlos Diaz-Ruiz, a doctoral student, drives the data collection car and demonstrates some of the data collection techniques the autonomous vehicle researchers use to create their algorithms

 By ANTHONY JAMES

Autonomous vehicles that rely on artificial neural networks to navigate the world around them have no memory of the past, unlike humans, and are therefore in a constant state of seeing the world for the first time – no matter how many times they’ve driven down a particular road before. 

This is particularly problematic in adverse weather conditions, when the car cannot safely rely on its sensors, say researchers at the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science and the College of Engineering, who are currently researching how best to overcome this limitation by providing self-driving cars with the ability to create ‘memories’ of previous experiences and use them in future navigation.

Doctoral student Yurong You is lead author of ‘HINDSIGHT is 20/20: Leveraging Past Traversals to Aid 3D Perception,’ which You presented virtually in April at ICLR 2022, the International Conference on Learning Representations [‘Learning representations’ includes deep learning, a kind of machine learning].

“The fundamental question is, can we learn from repeated traversals?” said senior author Kilian Weinberger, professor of computer science at Cornell Bowers CIS. “For example, a car may mistake a weirdly shaped tree for a pedestrian the first time its laser scanner perceives it from a distance, but once it is close enough, the object category will become clear. So the second time you drive past the very same tree, even in fog or snow, you would hope that the car has now learned to recognize it correctly.”

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Baidu’s Electric Vehicle Firm Jidu Unveils First ‘Robot’ Car

Baidu’s electric vehicle (EV) arm Jidu Auto on Wednesday launched a “robot” concept car, the first vehicle to be revealed by a Chinese internet company’

Baidu’s electric vehicle (EV) arm Jidu Auto on Wednesday launched a “robot” concept car, the first vehicle to be revealed by a Chinese internet company. 

The concept car, which is free of door handles and can be fully controlled via voice recognition, was launched through an online press conference held on Baidu’s metaverse-themed app Xirang. 

Jidu, an EV venture controlled by Baidu and co-funded by Chinese automaker Geely, plans to mass produce the model, which would be 90% similar to the concept car, in 2023. 

The ‘robot’ EVs will possess autonomous Level 4 capabilities that need no human intervention as well as utilize Qualcomm’s 8295 chips, which will enable users to access voice assistance offline when internet connection is poor. 

Baidu’s EV-making plan comes as tech companies around the world race to develop smart cars after Tesla’s success in commercializing electric vehicles. 

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CRUISE’S DRIVERLESS AUTONOMOUS CARS START GIVING RIDES TO PAYING PASSENGER

By Darrell Etherington

The era of commercial autonomous robotaxi service is here — Cruise officially became the first company to offer fared rides to the general public in a major city as of late Wednesday. The milestone comes after Cruise received official approval from the California Public Utilities Commission in early June to operate driverless in a commercial capacity.

Initially, Cruise’s driverless autonomous offering will operate only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and only on designated streets in the city. But the limits are part of a plan by regulators and the company to prove out the safety and efficacy of its system before deploying it in more locations at additional times. The new operating window already extends its total active time by 1.5 hours as compared to the free driverless test pilot service it was offering between June of last year and the debut of this paid service.

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United Nations proposal could open up Tesla’s Full Self-Driving to Australia

The UN is advocating for higher speed limits, but only for robocars.

By Ben Zachariah

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has put forward a draft amendment which would allow autonomous cars to drive up to 130km/h – more than double the current limit.

The proposal would mean passenger vehicles with Level 3 autonomous driving technology would be able to perform actions like automatic lane changing on freeways.

With Australia being one of the signatories to the regulatory framework set by the UNECE, the move could allow Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) system to become available within six months.

Despite the full suite of functions not being approved locally, Tesla allows its Australian customers to purchase FSD for $10,100 as an optional extra.

In recent days, Automotive News reported the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was extending its investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot system – a lower level of semi-autonomous driving tech – to include a total of 830,000 built between 2014 and 2022.

The investigation opened following a spate of accidents and one fatality which have been allegedly attributed to the technology.

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Putting the metal to the pedal! Robotic taxi service gets green light to begin charging passengers for DRIVERLESS rides in San Francisco

By FIONA JACKSON

  • Regulators in California have approved the state’s first ever autonomous taxis
  • Robot cab company Cruise can now charge for driverless rides in San Francisco
  • They are confined to offer trips between 10pm and 6am in less congested areas
  • Previously it could only offer free rides to passengers without a backup driver 

We are one step closer to never having to parallel park again — as regulators in the US have given the green light to the first commercial fleet of driverless taxis in California. 

Robotic taxi service Cruise received approval to offer rides in San Francisco. 

It will be the first time an autonomous ride-hailing service in the state has been allowed to charge for rides that will have nobody else in them besides the passengers.

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UK public want self-driving cars to be labelled

The finalized prototype of Google self-driving car.

Nearly nine out of 10 people in the UK (86%) want self-driving vehicles to be labeled so they can be clearly distinguished from human-driven vehicles, according to a major new survey led by UCL researchers.

The research team surveyed 4,860 members of the British public in late 2021 about their attitudes to self-driving vehicles. The questions were created following interviews with 50 experts involved in developing the technology.

The researchers found that, while experts tended to downplay concerns about self-driving vehicles, members of the public were more skeptical. This skepticism, the researchers said, would not be resolved with better public understanding of the technology, but reflected real uncertainties that developers needed to address.

Most survey respondents were uncomfortable with the idea of using self-driving vehicles (58%) or sharing the road with them (55%)—a trend that has remained consistent over five years of public surveys.

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Indy Autonomous Challenge racecar sets new speed record for driverless vehicle

BY DAVID EDWARDS 

The Indy Autonomous Challenge racecar, a Dallara AV-21 programmed by team PoliMOVE from Politecnico di Milano, Italy, and the University of Alabama, USA, has set a new land speed world record of 192.2 mph / 309.3 kph at the historic Kennedy Space Center.

Operating the Dallara AV-21, PoliMOVE set out to push the limits of a boosted engine package during test runs yesterday at Space Florida’s Launch & Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center.

The upgraded engine package, capable of delivering 30 percent more horsepower than previous models, will be on all IAC racecars moving forward. Future competitions will be announced in the coming months. 

Paul Mitchell, president, Indy Autonomous Challenge, says: “The Autonomous Challenge @ CES in January pushed our racecars to their limits and maxed out what was possible at the time.

“Yet here we are just four months later, in another iconic venue, with an upgraded engine package setting yet another world record.”

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