Technology StocksDrones, Autonomous Vehicles and Flying Cars

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From: Savant10/3/2017 11:57:46 AM
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Kalashnikov created a working hoverbike

Article mentions several others

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To: Savant who wrote (1454)10/3/2017 1:58:44 PM
From: Savant
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Video of Kalashnikov hoverbike flying from PM

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From: Glenn Petersen10/4/2017 6:06:13 AM
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Waymo to launch ride-sharing service — if it can get the cars to turn left

By Gina Hall – Contributor
Silicon Valley Business Journal
Oct 3, 2017, 2:00pm PDT
Updated Oct 3, 2017, 2:08pm PDT

Waymo's fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan 4
Waymo handout photo

Alphabet’s Waymo plans to launch a ride-sharing service with autonomous vehicles if it can patch one major flaw: its self-driving vans have difficulty making left turns.

Waymo wants to launch the first commercial ride-sharing service with no human “safety” drivers as soon as this fall, according to The Information. But there are still a few glitches to work out — one of the major software issues leaves the autonomous Chrysler vans struggling when there are no green arrows for turning left.

During the past the year and a half, Waymo’s self-driving cars have occasionally been forced to stop making left turns because the software wasn’t safe enough, a person close to Waymo’s operations told The Information. The company is currently transporting passengers in a public test in the suburbs of Phoenix.

"At the corner of South Longmore Street and West Southern Avenue in Mesa, Arizona, there's a flashing yellow arrow that permits cars to turn left," Waymo wrote in a recent blog post. "Navigating this type of intersection can be tricky for humans and self-driving cars alike — drivers must carefully move into a five-lane intersection and then find a gap in oncoming traffic. Turning left too soon may cause a driving hazard for oncoming traffic; making the move too late may mean frustrated drivers behind."

In addition, the vehicles occasionally have difficulty with other driving challenges, such as cul-de-sacs. Mall entrances, which are often times off a public street, also present problems when Waymo’s sensors haven’t mapped the area, per The Information report.

How quickly the company plans to patch the problems remains to be seen, but some internal discord could also become an issue for the company as it moves toward launch. Dmitri Dolgov, who heads up software programming for Waymo, has been privately critical of Waymo CEO John Krafcik, per three people who have spoken to The Information about his comments. Dolgov reportedly said that Krafcik’s lack of technical knowledge about self-driving systems will affect major decisions surrounding the commercial service launch.

The company hopes to be the first major tech company to successfully engineer a self-driving car without a driver sitting behind the wheel. Waymo is thought to be out ahead of traditional car makers, in addition to Uber Technologies and Lyft, in testing the technology.

Waymo is one of 40 companies that have DMV permits to test self-driving cars on California roads. Tesla Inc., Samsung, Ford Motor Co., Nvidia Corp., Uber and Lyft are among the others.As competition waits to see how Waymo will handle the challenges, the Mountain View-based company is working to avoid any negative publicity that might come along with any serious collisions. In January, the company removed monthly reports regarding traffic accidents on public roads with the self-driving vehicles, per Business Insider.

But the cars have put in the miles and the company hopes to hit the roads with customers soon. Waymo said its cars have driven more than three million miles on public streets and have driven billions of miles within simulation software, per The Information.

Last month, Santa Clara-based chipmaker Intel Corp. revealed that it's been working with Waymo since 2009.

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From: Glenn Petersen10/4/2017 7:22:30 AM
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Fast and Accurate Volume Measurement – The Reason Why Half of the Largest Mining Companies Use Pix4Dmapper

Pix4D - Surveying Solutions

Ultimate Pix4D tutorial 3D mapping

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From: kidl10/5/2017 10:21:21 AM
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Boeing Buying Drone Maker Aurora Flight Services

The proposed deal expands the aerospace giant’s reach in the field of electric-powered aircraft

Oct. 5, 2017 8:59 a.m. ET

Boeing Co. BA 0.12% on Thursday said it plans to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., a maker of aerial drones and pilotless flying systems that also expands the company’s reach in the new field of electric-powered aircraft.

Virginia-based Aurora is a specialist in autonomous systems that allow military and commercial aircraft to be flown remotely, including technology that automates many functions.

The proposed deal marks Boeing’s second acquisition in less than a year involving autonomous systems following last December’s purchase of Liquid Robotics Inc., a maker of ships and undersea vehicles, and adds to a portfolio that includes aerial drone maker Insitu.

Boeing’s venture capital arm also this year invested in Zunum Aero, a Washington state-based startup that on Thursday unveiled its plan for an electric-hybrid regional passenger jet.

Terms for the proposed purchase of Aurora weren’t disclosed. The firm has more than 550 staff and will be run as an independent unit in Boeing’s engineering and technology business.

Aurora also produces composite parts for aircraft and other vehicles. Boeing is looking to produce more of its own parts as part of an insourcing strategy to reduce costs and potential disruption in its supply chain.

Boeing has been considering further acquisitions as part of the push to expand sales at its newly formed services arm to $50 billion over the next several years from around $14 billion at present.

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From: kidl10/5/2017 10:44:54 AM
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US Senate bill tells humans to take a back seat: Self-driving cars don’t need steering wheels

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From: Glenn Petersen10/6/2017 6:07:49 AM
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Where Driverless Cars Brake for Golf Carts

New York Times
OCT. 4, 2017

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Molly Jackson, an 82-year-old retired nurse, was sitting in the back seat of a self-driving taxi when the vehicle jerked to a halt at a crossing as its computer vision spotted an approaching golf cart.

When the vehicle, a modified Ford Fusion developed by a start-up named Voyage, started to inch forward, it abruptly stopped again as the golfers pressed ahead and cut in front of the car.

Ms. Jackson seemed unfazed by the bumpy ride. As a longtime resident of the Villages Golf and Country Club, a retirement community in San Jose, Calif., she knew all about aggressive golf cart drivers.

“I like that; we made a good stop there,” Ms. Jackson said. “I stop for them. They say we don’t have to, but I do.”

Voyage is starting to expand its driverless taxi service beyond a small test in the Villages, a gated community of about 4,000 residents where the average age is 76. Retirement communities, with their tightly controlled roads, can be an ideal proving ground for autonomous vehicles.

In the Villages, there are 15 miles of roads where autonomous vehicles can learn how to navigate other cars, pedestrians, golf carts, animals, roundabouts and many other obstacles.

The speed limit, just 25 miles an hour, helps reduce the risk if something goes wrong. And because it is private property, the company does not have to share ride information with regulators and it can try new ideas without as much red tape.

Cars that can drive themselves could be a great benefit to older people. Residents at the Villages say that once people stop driving, they often pull back from activities and interacting with friends.

Ms. Jackson, who has lived here for three decades, was one of Voyage’s first test passengers. For now, the company is limiting rides in two driverless cars (with a third arriving in two weeks) to a busy, two-mile loop. A person stays in the driver’s seat in case something goes awry. And the plan is for any Village resident to be able to summon one of Voyage’s cars through a smartphone app for free door-to-door service.

Voyage’s introduction to the Villages comes as self-driving vehicles interact more and more with regular cars. Waymo, the driverless car unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, started a trial ride-hailing program in Phoenix this year with several hundred cars. The ride-hailing service Uber is also testing the technology in more than 200 cars with real passengers in Arizona and Pittsburgh.

Voyage uses a modified Ford Fusion for its driverless taxi service. Credit Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

Voyage was formed this year after spinning out of the online education start-up Udacity. How an online education start-up ended up operating an autonomous taxi service in a retirement community is an “only in Silicon Valley” story.

It started with a drive from nearby Mountain View to San Francisco. When Udacity started to offer a self-driving car curriculum, a team of employees created a challenge for themselves: Make a 32-mile drive on busy El Camino Real during rush hour and without human intervention.

After five months of failure, the team finally completed the route. Sensing an opportunity, Udacity executives spun out the self-driving car project into a new company. Voyage raised $5.6 million from investors.

The company had a major selling point: Udacity’s chairman, Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Google’s driverless car project and a pioneer in autonomous vehicle research, was joining Voyage as chairman. He pushed the idea of starting in a retirement community.

It was a good match. Last year, the Villages had conducted a survey about what amenities residents wanted to see over the next 15 years. Among the top answers: autonomous cars and a shuttle service.

Four years ago, the Villages considered a shuttle, but decided it was too costly to have a full-time driver. There is a service called the Villages Medical Auxiliary to take people to the doctor’s office or the supermarket, but there is a shortage of volunteer drivers and people need to make appointments two days in advance. It pushes residents to keep driving when they shouldn’t.

Ask almost anyone at the Villages and he or she can tell you about an accident: the driver who drove into a pond or the person who hit the accelerator instead of the brake and took out the tennis court fence.

“The driverless car would be far less risky than the drivers that we currently have,” said Bill Devincenzi, a former board president of the Villages whose term expired in June.

Another issue that could be solved by driverless cars is a shortage of parking spots. Like many of the Villages’ residents, Nancy Green, 88, is active. She swims three times a week, regularly attends wine-tasting dinners and participates in a weekly bridge game. But after three back operations, she struggles to walk long distances.

For popular events, she sometimes arrives an hour early to secure one of the few handicap spots. If none are available, she turns around and goes home. She said she did not like eating dinner at the clubhouse at 5:30 p.m., but the chances of finding a parking spot at her preferred time of 7 p.m. were “slim and none.”

“From that perspective, I think the self-driving car would be great,” she said.

But what seemed like a done deal hit a roadblock this year. The agreement to offer self-driving car rides in the retirement community almost fell apart when negotiations hit an impasse over insurance. California requires autonomous vehicles to have $5 million of coverage, but the Villages insisted on 50 percent more coverage because it is a private community with more liability risk.

Voyage’s self-driving car making a trip around a gated community. Retirement communities, with their tightly controlled roads, can be an ideal proving ground for autonomous vehicles. Credit Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

“We’d call the Geicos and Progressives of the world and asked them, ‘Do you do self-driving car insurance?’” said Oliver Cameron, Voyage’s 29-year-old chief executive. “The answer was no.”

Working with an insurance broker, Voyage delved into “exotic insurance” policies and had to pay twice as much per car for its insurance policy versus the standard $5 million coverage.

The insurer, Munich Re, also had an unusual request. It wanted data — any data — produced by the cars. Because this is a new field, even insurers wanted to understand the potential risks of self-driving cars. Voyage agreed to hand over nonidentifiable, sensor data.

Another issue arose when Mr. Thrun had to leave the company because of a conflict of interest. He was also the chief executive of Kitty Hawk, a flying car start-up backed by Larry Page, chief executive of Alphabet, which owns Waymo.

Coupled with the fact that Voyage and not Udacity would be operating in the Villages, some in the community were concerned that they had fallen for a bait and switch.

To sweeten the deal for the Villages, Voyage offered them an equity stake — the equivalent of what it would grant a new hire.

For the last few months, Voyage has been testing at the Villages. The cars — nicknamed Homer and Marge after the characters on “The Simpsons” — have often prompted questions from curious onlookers in the Villages.

Are you from Google? (No.)

What’s that spinning top on the roof? (It’s a sensor that helps the car see the world around it.)

How do I invest? (Flattering, but we’re not taking new investors now.)

Then, there were the skeptics who questioned whether driverless cars were safer. Mr. Cameron said the residents’ concerns were a welcome reality check from the hype of Silicon Valley. “It’s preparing us for the sorts of questions many millions have on their mind when it comes to the technology,” he said.

Ms. Jackson, who still drives regularly and shuttles friends to church, activities and other community events, said she could not distinguish between human driver and machine during her ride.

“I thought it was great,” she said. “I wasn’t fearful.”

A version of this article appears in print on October 5, 2017, on Page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Where Cars Brake for Golf Carts.

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From: Glenn Petersen10/10/2017 4:11:12 PM
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Level 5 - The Holy Grail:

Nvidia, one of the world’s best known manufacturers of computer graphics cards, announced a new, more powerful computing platform for use in autonomous vehicles. The company claims its new system, codenamed Pegasus, can be used to power Level 5, fully driverless cars without steering wheels, pedals, or mirrors.

The new iteration of the GPU maker’s Drive PX platform will deliver over 320 trillion operations per second, which amounts to more than 10 times its predecessor’s processing power. Pegasus will be marketed to the hundreds of automakers and tech companies that are currently developing self-driving cars starting the second half of 2018, the company says.

Message 31299454

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From: FUBHO10/11/2017 3:44:09 PM
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Nvidia Outpaces Intel in Robo-car Race
News & Analysis
10/11/2017 1 comment
Nvidia pushed computational performance for autonomous cars to a new level by unveiling a new member of its Drive PX family, codenamed Pegasus. At 320 TOPS, has Pegasus’ computational performance literally blows Nvidia’s competitors out of the water?

Noting that Pegasus can compute 320 trillion operations per second, CEO Jensen Huang boasted, “Our new DRIVE PX Pegasus AI computer — roughly the size of a license plate — can replace the entire trunk full of computing equipment used in today’s Level 5 autonomous prototypes… DRIVE PX Pegasus has the AI performance of a 100-server data center.”

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang at GTC in Munich (Photo: Nvidia)

Nvidia’s Pegasus reportedly comes with a four-chip architecture featuring the equivalent of two Xavier units, plus two next-generation discrete GPUs.

Although computational power alone can’t solve all the challenges still posed by Level 5 autonomous cars, Nvidia appears to have edged ahead of its rivals.

Luca De Ambroggi, principal analyst for automotive electronics and semiconductors at IHS Markit, noted, “Processing power is a very important point and with Pegasus we are getting close to the POPS (Peta operations per second), which I expect to be the minimum requirement for L5 vehicle.”

In De Ambroggi's opinion, the Pegasus platform is likely to be ready for “Geo-fenced L5” self-driving cars — Robo-taxis — but not for the mass market. “We will probably see a few more generations of ICs (such as Nvidia's Xavier 3, 4, 5 and Intel/Mobileye's EyeQ 5, 6, 7)” to improve performance, De Ambroggi said.

Mike Demler, a senior analyst at the Linley Group, cautioned that Nvidia is “now pre-announcing chips more than one year before we see first samples.” But he, too, acknowledged that “the combination of Nvidia’s more open software platform and the GPU-compute architecture” position Nvidia well to address deep learning.

While industry analysts aren’t declaring Nvidia the sole winner of the autonomous car race yet, they aren’t refuting the clear leadership role Nvidia has seized.

Phil Magney, founder and principal advisor for Vision Systems Intelligence (VSI), said, “Nvidia is developing and learning just like everyone else.” However, he added, Nvidia has “put a lot into developing automated vehicle technologies and their efforts are beginning to pay off. They have essentially democratized AI in automotive, which is to be commended considering the auto industry's position on AI up until now.”

Currently, no vehicle commercially available today exceeds Level 2 autonomy. The future of higher level automation still hangs in the balance but, at least, Nvidia is “the first to offer a complete A/V stack for L4/L5,” noted Magney.

Describing Pegasus as “a production ready platform to support L4/L5 automation,” Magney added, “It is very robust and has lots of redundancies and fall back methods. It will run on QNX which is an ASIL D embedded operating system.”

Other functional safety measures Nvidia has installed in Pegasus, according to Magney, include, “Decomposing the neural network components and validating the AI libraries.” He added, “Nvidia says they can examine the performance of the network layers by isolating certain tasks such as perception.”

Asked about sensor fusion on Pegasus, Magney who was at Nvidia’s GTC in Munich this week, said, “Nothing different… Nvidia advocates fusing raw data despite the high capacity physical layer. Nvidia claims their architecture can handle massive amounts of data so no need to process outside of the domain controller.” Pegasus “supports more sensors - up to 16,” he added.

How does Pegasus stack up?
Before going into competitive analysis, how does Pegasus stack up against Nvidia’s own, other Drive PX chips?

The Linley Group’s Demler said Pegasus is not fundamentally different [from other Drive PX chips]. “In fact, architecturally Nvidia is actually reversing course from their initial positioning of Xavier,” he observed.

Next page: Comparison with Intel/Mobileye


PAGE 1 / 3 NEXT >

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From: kidl10/12/2017 9:19:45 AM
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Agriculture looks to space in latest push for precision agriculture

Drones promised to bring an end to that problem, but Barnes said they’re proving more difficult to operate than expected.

“Everyone thought drones would fix this problem of frequency, but the problem was drones are just too much work and just weren’t logistically feasible.”

The challenges with drones are compounded by the increasing size of farms, said Andrew Pylypchuk, account lead for Farmers Edge at Planet, something he says satellites help address.


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