Tag: self-driving cars

Walmart Agrees To Work With Ford On Self-Driving Grocery Deliveries

Ford is working with Postmates and Walmart on a pilot program for self-driving grocery deliveries, the companies announced on Wednesday.

We are exploring how self-driving vehicles can deliver many everyday goods such as groceries, diapers, pet food and personal care items,” Ford said in a press release.

The grocery delivery pilot experiment will be based in Miami, where Ford’s self-driving car company, Argo, is already testing self-driving vehicles. Ford had been testing self-driving deliveries with Postmates prior to this announcement.

Like most car companies, Ford is racing to develop fully autonomous vehicle technology. But Ford has been more proactive than most of its competitors in exploring the non-technical aspects of a self-driving car service.

Last year, I got to sit in the seat suit of a fake self-driving car Ford was using to test pedestrian reactions to self-driving car technology.

Ford also experimented with delivering pizzas with mock-driverless vehicles in a partnership with Dominos.




Ford’s collaboration with Postmates over the last few months has been focused on figuring out the best way for customers to interact with a delivery vehicle.

Driverless cars won’t have a driver to carry deliveries to the customer’s door, so self-driving vehicles will need some kind of locker that customers can open to remove their merchandise.

Ford has been experimenting with multi-locker delivery vans, allowing its cars to serve multiple customers on a single trip—without worrying about one customer swiping another’s deliveries.

Ford also announced last month that Washington, DC would be the second city where Argo will be preparing to launch a commercial service in 2021 (in addition to Miami).

Ford has worked hard to cultivate relationships with local government officials, with Mayor Muriel Bowser attending last month’s announcement on DC’s waterfront.

Ford is betting that all of these preparations will help the company scale up quickly once its self-driving technology is ready.

That’s important because Ford appears to be significantly behind the market leaders: Waymo (which is aiming to launch a commercial service this year) and GM’s Cruise (aiming to launch in 2019).

But it’s also a risky strategy because if Argo’s technology isn’t ready on time, then all of Ford’s careful planning could turn out to be wasted effort.

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Google’s Self-Driving Cars Rack Up 3 Million Simulated Miles Every Day

Google uses its giant data centers to simulate 3 million miles of autonomous driving per day, the company has revealed in its monthly autonomous driving status report.

That’s a really long way — like driving more than 500 round trips between NYC and LA — but it actually makes a lot of sense. Americans drove some 2.7 trillion miles in the year 2000 alone and Google needs all the data it can get to teach its cars how to drive safely.

The real advantage comes when Google’s engineers want to tweak the algorithms that control its autonomous cars.




Before it rolls out any code changes to its production cars (22 Lexus SUVs and 33 of its prototype cars, split between fleets in Mountain View and Austin), it “re-drives” its entire driving history of more than 2 million miles to make sure everything works as expected.

Then, once it finally goes live, Google continues to test its code with 10-15,000 miles of autonomous driving each week.

The simulations also allow Google to create new scenarios based on real-world situations — adjusting the speeds of cars at a highway merge to check performance, for example.

Engineers can then design fixes and improvements and check them in the simulator, ensuring that things are as operating as safely as possible before Google’s cars make it out onto real roads.

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Changing Lanes Is Simple For Human Drivers. Not So For Autonomous Cars.

A driver sits engrossed in her laptop screen, catching up on emails as the car barrels down the highway. In the next lane, a father helps his kids finish homework while their vehicle swiftly changes lanes.

Nearby, an empty car returns home after dropping off its owner.—

These are the self-driving cars in which humans can be mindlessly commuting in as few as five years, some ambitious estimates claim.

It’s a highly disruptive technology that’s coming on a lot faster than people expect,” says Barrie Kirk, executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence.

He helps governments and companies prepare for the advent of automated vehicles.

Many automakers and tech firms have already entered the driverless car manufacturing game. Now it’s a race to perfect the technology and start selling these Knight Rider-style vehicles.




Companies hype the cars as the best safety feature since seatbelts and airbags, but there’s a sense that phasing driverless cars onto public roads may be anything but a smooth transition.

Self-driving car advocates, like Kirk, believe in the technology’s potential to save thousands of lives.

Humans, generally, are poor drivers,” he says. He would like to see human drivers banned from roads to make room for an all-automated-vehicle world.

Drivers’ mistakes are responsible for more than 90 per cent of crashes, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found.

Kirk hopes automated vehicles can eliminate 80 per cent of such collisions — a number often cited by advocates.

In 2012, 2,077 people died in car crashes on Canadian roads, according to Transport Canada. If Kirk’s estimate holds, about 1,500 of those victims could have avoided an accident.

If you’re got a whole bunch of sensors that give you a 360-degree scan, 30 times a second,” he says, “humans can not come anywhere close to that.

There will be time to adjust before the new fleet of robot cars takes over roads.

We’re not going to be in a situation where we go from no automation to fully autonomous or self-driving vehicles,” says David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada.

Some people already own low-level autonomous vehicles, like ones that parallel park once the driver has properly aligned it. Some U.K. cities have started experimenting with low-speed self-driving shuttles on closed streets.

Even if safety is somewhat disputed, there are other potential benefits that can make the pursuit of these cars worth it.

Seniors, disabled people and others unable to drive will gain mobility. Families may need to own fewer cars if vehicles can travel empty to pick up and drop off family members.

Cities may require fewer parking spaces if cars can return home after dropping off owners.

But to see all those benefits and ensure safety isn’t compromised, these cars must be carefully brought into the public realm, says Shladover.

It has to be done in a sensible way.

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MIT Invented A Tool That Allows Driverless Cars To Navigate Rural Roads Without A Map

Google has spent the last 13 years mapping every corner and crevice of the world.

Car makers haven’t got nearly as long a lead time to perfect the maps that will keep driverless cars from sliding into ditches or hitting misplaced medians if they want to meet their optimistic deadlines.

This is especially true in rural areas where mapping efforts tend to come last due to smaller demand versus cities.

It’s also a more complicated task, due to a lack of infrastructure (i.e. curbs, barriers, and signage) that computers would normally use as reference points.

That’s why a student at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) is developing new technology, called MapLite, that eliminates the need for maps in self-driving car technology altogether.




This could more easily enable a fleet-sharing model that connects carless rural residents and would facilitate intercity trips that run through rural areas.

In a paper posted online on May 7 by CSAIL and project partner Toyota, 30-year-old PhD candidate Teddy Ort—along with co-authors Liam Paull and Daniela Rus—detail how using LIDAR and GPS together can enable self-driving cars to navigate on rural roads without having a detailed map to guide them.

The team was able to drive down a number of unpaved roads in rural Massachusetts and reliably scan the road for curves and obstacles up to 100 feet ahead, according to the paper.

Our method makes no assumptions about road markings and only minimal assumptions about road geometry,” wrote the authors in their paper.

Once the technology is perfected, proponents argue that autonomous cars could also help improve safety on rural roads by reducing the number of impaired and drowsy drivers, eliminating speeding, and detecting and reacting to obstacles even on pitch-black roads.

Ort’s algorithm isn’t commercializable yet; he hasn’t yet tested his algorithm in a wide variety of road conditions and elevations.

Still, if only from an economic perspective it’s clear repeatedly visually capturing millions of miles of roads to train cars how to drive autonomously isn’t going to be winning mapping technology for AVs; it’s just not feasible for most organizations.

Whether it’s Ort’s work, or end-to-end machine learning, or some other technology that wins the navigation race for autonomous vehicles, it’s important to remember that maps are first and foremost a visual tool to aid sighted people in figuring out where to go.

Like humans, a car may not necessarily need to “see” to get to where it’s going—it just needs to sharpen its other senses.

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Apple Shows VR Could Help Fight Motion Sickness & Boredom In Self-driving Cars

When you’re driving a car, you’re invested with a sense of purpose: stay alert, don’t crash, optimize your route for the fastest and most comfortable experience.

But what about when self-driving cars become the norm, and we’re no longer involved in those tasks?

You’ll probably want to catch up on work, or play a game to fight the inevitable boredom—two things Apple thinks will be done in VR in the near future.

A recently published patent from Apple delves into this all-too-likely future, and theorizes that VR will be used to not only fight boredom in the car.

But also mitigate motion sickness by completely supplanting screens such as laptops and smartphones and actively compensating for motion-related sickness.




Motion sickness is typically caused by the disconnect between what a user sees and what they feel, something early VR enthusiasts know all too well.

Many game design techniques can be employed to create exceedingly comfortable VR experiences, such as rendering cockpits, and using similar FOV filters to limit the sensation of movement in your peripheral view.

Although this is the first time we’ve heard these tried-and-true concepts being used outside the realm of objectively fun things like VR-enabled roller coasters and purpose-built motion simulators.

The patent outlines a VR headset system that’s ties into the active controls of a self-driving car that could “provide virtual views that match visual cues with the physical motions that a passenger experiences,” and be “altered to accommodate a passenger upon determining that the passenger is prone to or is exhibiting signs of motion sickness.

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Uber Video Shows The Kind Of Crash Self-Driving Cars Are Made To Avoid

The police have released video showing the final moments before an Uber self-driving car struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street, on Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona.

The video includes views of the human safety driver and her view of the road, and it shows Herzberg emerging from the dark just seconds before the car hits her.

And based on this evidence, it’s difficult to understand why Uber’s self-driving system—with its lidar laser sensor that sees in the dark—failed to avoid hitting Herzberg, who was slowly, steadily crossing the street, pushing a bicycle.

And if Herzberg had approached the car at a different angle, she might have confused the system’s algorithms that classify obstacles and instruct the vehicle to behave accordingly.

The situations that are more difficult is moving at odd angles to the vehicle or moving back and forth, and the vehicle has to decide, ‘Are they going into my path or are they not moving into my path?’” says Shladover.




But Herzberg and her bicycle were at a 90-degree angle to the vehicle, fully visible—and clearly heading into the car’s way.

Shladover says an obstruction, like a parked car or a tree, might also have complicated matters for the car’s sensors, and the software charged with interpreting the sensors’ data. But maps of the area show Herzberg had already crossed a shoulder and lane of road before the car struck her in the right lane.

This is one that should have been straightforward,” he says.

That means the problems could have stemmed from the sensors, the way the sensors were positioned, how the sensors’ data was created or stored, or how Uber’s software responded to that data—or a combination of all of the above.

The video also shows the safety driver, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, looking down and away from the road in the moments leading up to the impact.

Uber’s drivers are charged with monitoring the technology and keeping alert, ready to take control of the vehicle at any moment. It is true that Herzberg and her bike appear suddenly from the shadows, and Vasquez may not have been able to stop the car in time to avoid hitting her.

But it’s worth asking whether Uber’s safety driver would have been ready to respond even if she had not.

This raises questions about Uber’s safety driver training. Today, potential Uber safety drivers take manual drivers tests and written assessments. They then undergo three weeks of training, first on a closed course and then on public roads.

The dynamics of the ‘operator’ are very different from that of a normal manually-driven vehicle,” says Raj Rajkumar, who researches autonomous driving at Carnegie Mellon University. “Besides identifying and fixing the technical issues, Uber must train the operators very differently.

And it raises questions about the efficacy of safety drivers in general. Can any human—even a highly trained one—be expected to pay perfect attention for hours on end, or snap out of a reverie to take control of a vehicle in an emergency?

The Tempe Police Department’s Vehicular Crimes Unit is still investigating Sunday’s incident. After its conclusion, the department will submit the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, for possible criminal charges.

An Uber spokesperson says the company is assisting authorities, and its self-driving fleets all over the country remain grounded.

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A Self-driving Uber In Arizona Kills A Woman In First Fatal Crash Involving Pedestrian

An autonomous Uber car killed a woman in the street in Arizona, police said, in what appears to be the first reported fatal crash involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian in the US.

Tempe police said the self-driving car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash and that the vehicle hit a woman, who was walking outside of the crosswalk and later died at a hospital.

There was a vehicle operator inside the car at the time of the crash.

Uber said in a statement on Twitter: “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.” A spokesman declined to comment further on the crash.

The company said it was pausing its self-driving car operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.




Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, tweeted: “Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.

Uber has been testing its self-driving cars in numerous states and temporarily suspended its vehicles in Arizona last year after a crash involving one of its vehicles, a Volvo SUV.

When the company first began testing its self-driving cars in California in 2016, the vehicles were caught running red lights, leading to a high-profile dispute between state regulators and the San Francisco-based corporation.

Police identified the victim as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg and said she was walking outside of the crosswalk with a bicycle when she was hit at around 10pm on Sunday. Images from the scene showed a damaged bike.

The 2017 Volvo SUV was traveling at roughly 40 miles an hour, and it did not appear that the car slowed down as it approached the woman, said Tempe sergeant Ronald Elcock.

Elcock said he had watched footage of the collision, which has not been released to the public. He also identified the operator of the car as Rafael Vasquez, 44, and said he was cooperative and there were no signs of impairment.

The self-driving technology is supposed to detect pedestrians, cyclists and others and prevent crashes.

John M Simpson, privacy and technology project director with Consumer Watchdog, said the collision highlighted the need for tighter regulations of the nascent technology.

The robot cars cannot accurately predict human behavior, and the real problem comes in the interaction between humans and the robot vehicles,” said Simpson, whose advocacy group called for a national moratorium on autonomous car testing in the wake of the deadly collision.

Simpson said he was unaware of any previous fatal crashes involving an autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian.

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GM Faces Lawsuit Over Self-Driving Car Collision

Self-driving car manufacturers dread lawsuits over crashes due to questions of liability, and GM is about to learn just how problematic they can be.

Oscar Nilsson has sued GM after a December collision between his motorcycle and one of the company’s self-driving Chevy Bolts.

According to his version of events, he was trailing the Bolt when it started changing lanes.




He tried to pass the autonomous car, but it “suddenly” swerved back into his lane, knocking him to the ground and injuring both his neck and shoulder.

GM, not surprisingly, disagreed with the interpretation in a statement.

It pointed to the San Francisco Police Department’s collision report, which didn’t lay blame but said that Nilsson merged into the Bolt’s lane “before it was safe to do so.

There have certainly been disputes over the involvement of self-driving technology in crashes — just ask Tesla.

Those incidents involved semi-autonomous cars where the human driver was always expected to share some responsibility, though, rather than fully autonomous vehicles where a human only serves as backup.

And that makes cases like this problematic. If GM bears any responsibility at all, was it the fault of the developers, or the backup driver for not spotting the abrupt move?

The lawsuit won’t completely settle the question, but it may lay the groundwork for future suits.

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The Dark Side Of The Singularity

Or… How To Not Be A Horse.
Automation and AI promise to usher in an era of amazing productivity and innovation. But they also threaten our very way of life.

Partial Transcript:

For hundreds, even thousands of years, the horse was humanity’s go-to form of transportation. And in 13 years, that all changed.

Right now, we are on the cusp of a technological disruption that will make the switch from horses to cars look like switching from Coke to Pepsi.

So we talk a lot on this channel about exponential growth, artificial intelligence, the singularity, and that’s a lot of fun, but there is a dark side to all this change, one that really needs to be talked about because the way we respond to it is going to significantly alter our future as a species.

The BBC released a report just a few weeks ago that said that 30% of jobs are going to go away in the next 10 years because of automation.

In the U.S., we’ve heard a lot over the last election about the proverbial coal miners and our current president specifically campaigning to bring back coal jobs.

But coal is just one of hundreds of industries that are taking advantage of employees that can work 24/7, never need a bathroom break, never sleep, never make a mistake and work twice as fast. Oh, and you don’t have to pay them.

Factories already decimated by outsourcing are now losing even more jobs to automation. And as automation becomes more sophisticated, more industries are at risk.

The transportation sector actually makes up 25% of the jobs in the United States, if you can believe that. A full quarter of the population. And autonomous cars… They’re pretty much here, guys.

Famously, the Tesla Model 3, going into production this year, will have autonomous capability, though it may not have the software available, it will have the hardware ready for it.

But less famously, there are a lot of other car companies trying to beat Tesla to market with this. Nissan has a fully self-driving prototype in development that they took a drive in on Fully Charged and it was spooky how good it was.

Cadillac is so bullish on self-driving technology, they spent millions of dollars to create a lidar map of every highway in the United States using their own proprietary system.

This way their cars won’t just rely on sensors and GPS to find their way, the Cadillac system will contain a 3D map of everything, including the roadsigns.

Google’s working on a car, Apple supposedly is working on a car, but the people who are really big on this technology are the service providers.

Uber made over 2 billion dollars last year. Imagine how much they could make if they didn’t have to pay their drivers…

Uber has been working for years on a transportation fleet of autonomous cars, and even Ford has made some intentions known of pivoting in a similar direction.

Many are predicting that cars will go from a retail industry to a service industry, with Peter Diamandis saying that in ten years, car ownership will be an outdated idea.

The fact of the matter is, you can be for automation or against it, you can agree with its use or not, but this is happening. And we need to be ready for it.

Some people are talking about a basic minimum income, a flat amount of money that everybody in a society makes, as a safety net to keep people above water. This is an interesting idea that’s even being tested in some places.

There is a coming change on a fundamental and massive level in this world. One that is filled with amazing advancements and technological wonders. The question is, will we be able to change with it?