Kevin Kelly on the Future of Autonomous Cars

Several years ago, I tech edited a book on the Internet of Things. Prior to that, I had not thought that deeply about the complex issues surrounding self-driving cars, except (as a person with severe spinal arthritis) looking forward to owning one in my future. After editing that chapter, I came away with a much greater understanding on the infrastructural changes that will need to happen and the profound moral and legal questions that will need to be addressed before this technology becomes commonplace. My takeaway: I won't be owning an autonomous car in my lifetime. This is technology that is 20 or more years away.

In this video, part of Kevin Kelly's The Future Of series, he discusses autonomous cars. His takeaway: the infrastructural changes that will need to happen and the profound moral and legal questions that will need to be addressed mean that self-driving cars will not be commonplace for another 15-20 years. Read the rest

Driverless delivery van to be road-tested in Texas

An autonomous delivery van will be tested on the streets of Houston, Texas. It's the first driverless vehicle to win an exemption from requirements that a human operator be present.

US transport secretary Elaine Chao said given that the vehicle's top speed is capped at 25mph, these requirements "no longer make sense". The Department of Transportation (DoT) will also be enforcing greater oversight of the testing. It will require Nuro to report information about the operation of the R2 and reach out to the communities where the vehicle will be tested. In a blog post, Nuro's co-founder Dave Ferguson said the decision was a "milestone for the industry".

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Marvel at this autonomous, drifting DeLorean

MARTY is the name of this 1981 DeLorean that researchers from Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab customized into a self-driving electric car. Now, Jon Goh and Tushar Goel have augmented MARTY so it's capable of drifting through a complicated driving course with incredible precision. From Stanford:

Conducting research in high-speed, complicated driving conditions like this is a bread-and-butter approach of the Dynamic Design Lab, where mechanical engineer Chris Gerdes and his students steer autonomous cars into challenging driving situations that only the top human drivers can reliably handle. On-board computers measure the car’s response over dozens of runs, and the engineers translate those vehicle dynamics into software that could one day help your car quickly dodge a pedestrian that darts into the road.

Most automated vehicles on the road have been designed to handle simpler cases of driving, such as staying in a lane or maintaining the right distance from other cars.

“We’re trying to develop automated vehicles that can handle emergency maneuvers or slippery surfaces like ice or snow,” Gerdes said. “We’d like to develop automated vehicles that can use all of the friction between the tire and the road to get the car out of harm’s way. We want the car to be able to avoid any accident that’s avoidable within the laws of physics.”

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Apple layoffs hit nearly 200 employees in self-driving car division

The company says 190 employees in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, CA will lose their jobs.

Watch an autonomous race car navigate a course

Autonomous racing company Roborace demonstrated their latest technology for the crowd at the 2018 Festival of Speed. Read the rest

Self-driving cars face a huge challenge in detecting bicycles

Self-driving cars have a hard time predicting bicycle movement, and workarounds that require cyclists to buy transmitters are running into resistance from some. Read the rest

Watch an impressive series of crashes avoided by autonomous vehicles

Some of these near-misses would probably have been catastrophic and unavoidable without predictive autopilot. Read the rest

Here is Apple's self-driving car prototype

Here are new images of Apple's self-driving car technology (Project Titan) mounted on a Lexus RX350. That gear on the top is a rack of six LIDAR sensors that use lasers to collect spatial data about the vehicle's surroundings.

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An in-depth look at Castle, Waymo's fake city for testing self-driving cars

Alexis Madrigal got a chance to visit the fascinating town of Castle, a roads-only city constructed by Waymo for the sole purpose of developing self-driving cars. Read the rest

"Self-driving" van actually driven by human disguised as car seat

A self-driving van was spotted tooling around in Arlington, Virginia. But when local News4's Adam Tuss spotted the vehicle and approached it, he realized that it was actually being operated by a person disguised as the car seat. The driver ignored Tuss's questions. From News4:

After multiple inquiries by News4, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said Monday afternoon that the van and van driver are part of a study they are conducting on driverless cars. The worker was wearing the uniform he was supposed to wear.

"The driver's seating area is configured to make the driver less visible within the vehicle, while still allowing him or her the ability to safely monitor and respond to surroundings," a statement from the institute says.

(via Laughing Squid)

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