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.

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The Self-Driving car race between Tesla, GM and Ford takes a big turn

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Tesla’s Autopilot uses a different guiding technology than GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s new ADAS.

It took Tesla years to convince the old automobile world that electric is the future and drag the world’s largest gasoline carmakers into the race of electric vehicles. Now, the Elon Musk-run EV pioneer, which recently surpassed Toyota to become the world’s most valuable automaker, is leading a different game in the auto world: self-driving cars—or, more realistically, semi self-driving cars, at least for now.

Tesla’s hands-free driver assist system, Autopilot, has been in the market for nearly six years, with software updates released every few months, each edging the vehicle closer to fully self-driving. However, due to the inherent high risk of this feature (Autopilot is believed to have played a role in at least three fatal crashes due to driver misuse), most of Tesla’s EV rivals had been hesitant to develop competing technologies until recently.

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MIT tech lets self-driving cars “see” under surface of road

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In poor visibility, your car could look for landmarks — under the surface of the road.

 MIT is working on self-driving technology that allows cars to “see” through the ground up to a depth of ten feet below the surface of the road. The idea is to allow self-driving cars to figure out exactly where they are — especially when snow, heavy fog, or other bad weather obscures road markings.

Current-generation self-driving cars typically rely on cameras and light detection sensors (LIDAR) to position themselves on roadways. But once the snow starts falling and covers up lane markers, it can get tricky for the car to tell where it is — and that could spell disaster, especially at highway speeds.

A team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have come up with a new system they call “Localizing Ground Penetrating Radar” (LGPR) that can create a real-time map of the ground below the road’s surface.

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IBM is using self-driving car technology to power a new patient monitor for seniors

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The 65+ Age Group Will Make Up a Growing Portion of the US Population

 IBM Watson is trying its hand at in-home health monitoring with a new system that combines IBM’s machine learning software with cutting-edge Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors to paint an accurate, real-time picture of seniors’ daily lives.

IBM’s teaming up with UK-based startup Cera Care — which links caregivers with elderly patients — to get the product into roughly a dozen patient homes in a six-month pilot phase launching in June, Reuters reports.

Here’s what it means: IBM’s making its home healthcare debut with a unique approach.

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Meet China’s growing fleet of automated delivery drones

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Meals being air freighted, plus armies of delivery robots.

As part of its multi billion-dollar plan to build a nationwide network of automated logistics, China’s JD.com is testing its tri-copter drones in testing zone in Shaanxi.

Chinese companies are going all-out on unmanned systems for delivery logistics. A fleet of new autonomous cargo drones, robotic trucks, and fast quadcopters are private-sector developments that are making China a future world leader in robotics.

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Here’s how Uber’s self-driving cars are supposed to detect pedestrians

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A self-driving vehicle made by Uber has struck and killed a pedestrian. It’s the first such incident and will certainly be scrutinized like no other autonomous vehicle interaction in the past. But on the face of it it’s hard to understand how, short of a total system failure, this could happen, when the entire car has essentially been designed around preventing exactly this situation from occurring.

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Study: Southern California Long Overdue for a Major Earthquake

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A trench at the Bidart Fan sector of the San Andreas fault.

Researchers find major quakes on the southern section, on average, every 88 years — three times as often as previously thought. It’s the strongest evidence yet that we’re overdue for a massive quake.  Southern California is long overdue for a major earthquake along the San Andreas fault, according to a landmark study of historic seismic activity released August 20, 2010.

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ROAMS Robot – Making 3D Maps on the Move

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ROAMS Robot uses off-the-shelf components to build 3D maps of an area

At a robotics conference, a vehicle called ROAMS demonstrated a cheap approach to mobile map-making. 

ROAMS (Remotely Operated and Autonomous Mapping System) was created by researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, with funding from the U.S. Army. It uses several existing mapping technologies to build 3D color maps of its surroundings, and it was demonstrated at the 2009 IEEE conference on Technologies for Practical Robot Applications in Woburn, MA last week.

 

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