Technology StocksDrones, Autonomous Vehicles and Flying Cars

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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
   of 1841
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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From: 99FXD10/13/2017 9:49:14 AM
2 Recommendations   of 1841

Global UAV's NOVAerial to offer lidar, other sensors

2017-10-13 08:54 ET - News Release

Mr. Michael Burns reports


Global UAV Technologies Ltd. is in the process of advancing NOVAerial as an authorized reseller of electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), lidar and multispectral sensors. The company's subsidiary also announces it has completed a large-scale high-resolution survey on a diamond project in Northern Saskatchewan.

NOVAerial robotics update

Global UAV's wholly owned subsidiary NOVAerial Robotics Inc. has started discussions on agreements to become an authorized reseller of remote sensing equipment. The advancements are focused on multispectral, lidar and EO/IR sensors. This will allow NOVAerial to offer fully integrated high-end sensor packages as turnkey solutions for its customers. The sensors are widely used in the security, environmental, agriculture and natural resource industries.

Global UAV's president and director, James Rogers, states: "The Global UAV team projects there will be an increase in demand for security-specific UAV's equipped with thermal and optical sensors. By becoming an authorized reseller of these and other sensor technologies, the company aims to be well positioned to provide a wide range of industries with turnkey UAV solutions."

NOVAerial's primary UAV is the Procyon 800E Helicopter. The easy-to-fly Procyon is an ideal platform for these specialized payload instruments and applications due to its reliability, endurance and fast launch capability.

NOVAerial is also currently developing a multirotor UAV which will be competitive in price and capability to the current high market demand systems. In addition, NOVAerial products offer a more secure control on user collected data by utilizing Ardupilot open source flight control software.

Pioneer Aerial update

The company would also like to announce its wholly owned subsidiary Pioneer Aerial Surveys Ltd. has completed a UAV-MAG survey on a Northern Saskatchewan diamond project. This marks the third and largest diamond-focused survey conducted by the company.

Pioneer Aerial completed a 573 line km survey in the Fort a la Corne diamond district in Northern Saskatchewan. The survey was focused on identifying potential kimberlite targets for diamond exploration. The survey was flown with 20 m line spacing and at low altitudes for high resolution. The survey was completed in four days by a team of two people.

Clarification of stock options issuance

On Oct. 4, 2017, the company announced the issuance of stock options with an expiry term of five years which was incorrectly stated. The correct expiry length is three years.

About Global UAV Technologies Ltd.

With its growing technical expertise and expanding reach globally, Global UAV Technologies is the leader within the commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sector. Through its wholly owned subsidiaries -- Pioneer Aerial Surveys, High Eye Aerial Imaging, UAV Regulatory Services and NOVAerial Robotics -- Global UAV Technologies provides a full spectrum of UAV-based services and products. These opportunities include production and research and design of professional grade UAVs, geophysics and remote sensing survey services, and regulatory consulting and management.

Global UAV Technologies will continue its growth through expanding the business of its current subsidiaries and the continued evaluation of potential acquisitions with the goal of creating a consortium of businesses that, when fully integrated, will cover all aspects of the UAV industry.

We seek Safe Harbor.

© 2017 Canjex Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.

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From: Glenn Petersen10/14/2017 8:12:10 PM
2 Recommendations   of 1841
Your Next Gig: Map the Streets For Self-Driving Cars

Author: Steven Levy
10.11.17 07:00 am

From left to right: Mapper CPO Jonathan Glanz, CEO Nikhil Naikal, and CTO Alonso Patron.
Stephen Lam

I went for a drive in San Francisco’s Mission District last month. It was late morning, and there wasn’t much traffic. As I wended my way through the side streets, I avoided a double-parked armored car and steered around construction sites. Though it might have seemed like an aimless outing, my brief sortie was anything but. Every centimeter I drove, every object I encountered, and even the double line I crossed to avoid the Brinks truck was being recorded by a device affixed across the top edge of the windshield, just above the rearview mirror.

Soon, thousands of people might be installing those gadgets in their cars, hoping to make some extra bucks—and, in the process, contributing to the next great crowdsourced project: a ridiculously detailed and constantly updated map of the world’s roads, readable only by the vast swarm of self-driving cars that will populate our byways.

The device is made by a San Francisco-based startup called Mapper, which comes out of stealth today after a year of development. The company’s maps don’t resemble the classic gas station fold-outs, or even the ones made by Google or Apple that have supplanted them. They are meant for machines, not humans, and when you see them rendered, they are made up of glowing pixels where objects, lane markers, and traffic signals are delineated by rough shapes and tell-tale colors. These are the maps of the future, and allegedly the bedrock of a multi-billion-dollar market. Self-driving cars can’t operate without such maps.

“As humans, if we are blindfolded and dropped in a new place, we'll find our bearings—we have millions of years of common sense to help guide our awareness,” says Nikhil Naikal, Mapper’s CEO. “A machine, on the other hand, needs a large amount of up-to-date 3D map data to have foresight of what to expect around the corner. And that's exactly the kind of maps that we deliver.”

Currently, companies that are testing autonomous vehicles—such as Waymo (spun out of Google’s research division), Uber, General Motors, and others— have to make their own maps. It’s a painstaking process that requires people to drive vans equipped with sophisticated lidar (a combination of lasers and radar) equipment over designated roads in multiple passes to log every curb height, fire hydrant, and lane marking. As a result, those vehicles are virtually fenced in by the pre-mapped region; a Waymo car’s self-driving mode won’t even kick in unless it senses that it’s in a mapped zone.

Mapper’s solution is to create an army of part-time workers to gather data that will accrue to a huge “base map” for autonomous cars, and to update the map to keep it current. Think of the work as an alternative to driving for Uber and Lyft, without having to deal with customer ratings or backseat outbursts from Travis Kalanick.

The key to Mapper’s scheme is that it can create high-definition 3D maps without using lidar. That expensive and sometimes finicky combination of lasers and radar has become the standard not only for piloting autonomous cars, but also for producing the cartography that grounds them. Mapper’s founders are PhD engineers who have participated in DARPA challenges and created an indoor mapping startup, Flyby Media (bought by Apple), and the company believes it can match lidar-quality results by relying on sophisticated modeling and data-compression techniques that allow it to use over-the-counter parts to snare data.

The company has created a femur-sized plastic device called the S1, which has multiple cameras and sensors that goes over one’s dashboard and a single cable connecting it to the cigarette lighter for power. It wirelessly syncs with a driver’s iPhone. “It cost $350 to make, it’s composed of commodity parts, and it is designed so it can be easily installed in any car,” says Naikal. After installation, the Mapper app directs the driver to a predetermined route and tells him or her how quickly to go. More accurately, how slowly to go—Naikal says the optimal velocity for a mapping session is between 10 and 30 miles an hour. (Mapper might consider issuing drivers bumper stickers identifying why those cars are creeping.)

Mapper doesn’t expect its drivers to work full time; Naikal says that more than four hours following the exacting directions from the app results in “cognitive overload.” Ideally, his drivers will use the app for an hour or two at a time. In addition, when not taking directions from the app, drivers can leave the system on, and Mapper will collect the data from wherever they wander. (This passive mode also pays, but much less.) “This can be anyone who wants to have a side hustle, who wants to make a little bit of money on the side,” says Naikal. “It could be construction workers; it could be people that are just out on the street a lot, who want to have an ability to do something cool and get paid to do it.”

Because a lot of the value that Mapper provides lies in updating the map—city streets might need refreshing at least once a week to reflect construction, new traffic patterns, and even grass growing higher—the work will be consistent. Mapper’s chief product officer, Jonathan Glanz, estimates that when the company scales up, it will be able to maintain its base map with about 10 thousand mappers—far fewer than Uber’s hundreds of thousands. “We won’t need a humongous fleet because we can select the tasks for mapping,” says Alonso Patron, Mapper’s chief technology officer.

Once it creates the base map and keeps updating it—“like a living organism,” says Naikal—Mapper can license the product to customers such as automakers, transportation services like Uber, and even technology companies like Apple and Waymo. What all of those customers have in common is that they are currently paying to do their own mapping, and would have to spend a lot more money for complete coverage. And, Naikal says, they are reluctant to share data with each other—why would Toyota trust Ford’s data? If you had one map—and evolved it using contracted drivers and other data submitted by the customers themselves—it would be like the Intel Inside of 3D maps, the standard digital atlas for the autonomous vehicles that will be our future chauffeurs. If companies want to customize that map for their needs, Mapper will accommodate them. “We want to have one base map,” Naikal says. “We focus on building that core base layer ourselves, owning the data, making it available for all.” When customers have specific needs they can send their own data to Mapper, which can layer it on top of its base map.

After testing the system in Old Alexandria, Virginia, earlier in the year, Mapper is now busily doing a digital Mason-Dixon on San Francisco, hoping to finish a base map of the city by Thanksgiving. The mapping will move to other cities over the next 14 months and then expand to urban centers overseas. After that, the company will turn to rural areas, eventually hoping to capture everything, so that autonomous cars will have a data cushion wherever they roam.

Once Mapper develops its base map, it can make money not only from the autonomous car manufacturers but also from other customers who might make use of the world’s most detailed guide to roadways: utilities maintaining infrastructure, insurance companies looking for hazards, and, perhaps most intriguing of all, augmented reality ventures that might want to transform your road trip with a stream of personalized billboards. (As for privacy issues, Mapper says that it’s not going to collect information like license numbers or house addresses, though its customers may well do so on proprietary layers they develop on top of the Mapper base map.)

Mapper isn’t the only company with these ambitions. Like a sudden traffic jam on 101, a swarm of competitors has popped into the 3D mapping world, each with its own approach but all hoping to become Rand McNally for robots. “It’s a pretty crowded space,” says James Wu, CEO of DeepMap, which has raised $32 million in funding from primo VCs such as Andreessen Horowitz and Accel. (Mapper won’t reveal its funding, except to specify that none of it comes from potential customers.) Wu’s company also uses crowdsourcing as one of its data-collecting tactics.

A Y Combinator company from this year’s winter batch, Lvl5, also offers drivers some pocket change for mapping—in this case, simply attaching their phones to the dashboard and using the built-in cameras to capture data. Lvl5 CEO Andrew Kouri, who formerly worked for Tesla, says that if he sends enough drivers down a road, after 6 to 12 passes, Lvl5 will have good enough info to use its algorithms to add to the map. It pays drivers between one and five cents a mile, but doesn’t send them on pre-selected routes. “We use a lot of Uber drivers,” says Kouri.

Another company, Civil Maps, uses a relatively costly roof-mounted collection device so that developers in the field can contribute to its crowdsourced base map. (Ford is a funder.) Carmera, whose mission is to “democratize autonomous vehicle data,” partners with companies that operate fleets of cars or trucks. And one of the most formidable players is HERE, the spinoff from the broken pieces of Nokia. It has created a platform called Sensoris that accepts data from multiple partners.

Each of these companies hopes to land in a winner’s circle that might be big enough for only one. Mapper believes it has the unique combination of scale and quality to win. “Obviously it’s in everyone’s best interest to have one player who does this,” says Lvl5’s Kouri. Right now, it’s hard to gauge who’s got the inside track. All are scrambling to snare major customers, particularly automakers. I spoke to an executive at one major potential customer who is considering a pilot project with Mapper. “It’s hard to use cameras to do the work of lidar, but it comes down to expertise and history,” he says. “I don’t know if anyone else can do what the Mapper guys can do. Early results say they can do it.”

If a base map is adopted by Detroit, why wouldn’t the tech companies themselves sign on? For instance, Waymo says that for now its mapping is tied to development, but once its systems mature, it may well consider outsourcing the work.

But while it’s uncertain which company might emerge as the mapmaker who defines the world for machines, it does appear that we all might wind up contributing to it. Though Mapper’s founders don’t say it directly, those 10,000 part-timers who rack up a few bucks following the company’s exacting instructions will dwindle when Mapper starts making use of the built-in, road-facing cameras that will inevitably be standard equipment in the cars of the near future. Essentially, we will all have the technology to perform the functions of Mapper’s S1 windshield device—and these might be turned on by default, so we’ll do the work for free.

To fill in areas that aren’t reliably covered by camera-equipped cars, Mapper could still use contractors to follow its routes and ignore the impatient motorists who tailgate them. And when the era of autonomous cars does arrive, they can be dispatched to perfectly follow Mapper’s directions. No matter who is collecting the data, the robots will get their maps.

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From: kidl10/15/2017 8:55:34 PM
   of 1841
A first in Canada: Drone collides with passenger plane above Quebec City airport
Skyjet plane was struck as it approached Jean Lesage airport Thursday but landed safely
CBC News Posted: Oct 15, 2017 12:11 PM ET

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From: Glenn Petersen10/17/2017 6:07:08 AM
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Google is testing drone deliveries in Australia:

Testing in the Australian skies

Project Wing is collaborating with communities and partners in southeastern Australia to trial our delivery drones

James Ryan Burgess (Co-Lead of Project Wing. Developing an unmanned aerial delivery system to transform the transportation of goods)
Via Medium
Oct 16

Wing delivery drone flying over Queanbeyan, Australia

Over the past few years, Project Wing has conducted thousands of flights to get our drone delivery technology ready for everyday use. In early 2016, we successfully completed our first drone deliveries to members of the public in an open field at Virginia Tech University. This fall we’ve been testing in a rural community on the border of the ACT and NSW and tackling an entirely different level of operational complexity: making deliveries directly to people’s yards.

Our testers—alpaca farmers, math professors, equestrians, and artists (not to mention a few curious kangaroos)—have been helping us fine-tune how our drones move goods from where they’re located to where they’re needed. And today we’re announcing that two Australian merchants are joining our tests, as they’re eager to understand how drone delivery could help them serve their customers better. Guzman y Gomez, a Mexican food chain, and Chemist Warehouse, a chain of pharmacies, will receive orders from our testers who’ve purchased items using the Project Wing app on their smartphones. We’ll dispatch our drones to pick up the order from our partners’ loading sites and then transport and deliver the goods to testers at their residences.

Here’s a bit of an update on what we’ve been learning over the last several weeks and what we’re going to be focusing on in the weeks ahead.

Our testers in the ACT and Queanbeyan regions of Australia

Alleviating day-to-day inconvenience

Residents near our testing area on the outskirts of the ACT live an idyllic country lifestyle on 10-acre blocks of rolling land spotted with gum trees and horses. But they face a 40-minute round trip in the car for almost anything, whether it’s a carton of milk, veggies for dinner, or a cup of coffee. Our testers, including young families, busy professionals and retirees, had many suggestions for how our technology could address this fundamental inconvenience. They wanted fresh meals delivered at dinner time. Some who run small businesses at home wanted to be able to send customer orders from their doorstep. A few with farms wanted supplies to arrive at their paddocks, or spare parts delivered to the ailing vehicle on their property. Almost all said that they’d value having medicine delivered to their door, especially when they’re unwell.

They also had ideas about delivery drones being used to transport drinking water, food, medical supplies, and mechanical parts to emergency service workers operating in rural areas or places cut off due to floods and fires. As part of our upcoming tests, we’ll help the Australian Capital Territory Rural Fire Service assess how our technology could aid their efforts.

Identifying safe and convenient delivery locations

Last year at Virginia Tech, our first deliveries with members of the public were in an open field, not to a specific address or location. Now, with each delivery, we encounter a new yard space with its own layout of trees, sheds, fences, and power lines. That means that in addition to learning what people want delivered, we also have to learn how to best deliver items to people.

Our drones are able to deliver items almost anywhere—backyards, public parks, farmlands or even fire-breaks. But we need to train our systems to reliably identify safe and convenient delivery locations. This is more complicated than it looks. We have to incorporate customer preferences—e.g. many of our testers would like packages delivered to backyards so they’re not visible from the road, or near kitchens so food items can be unpacked quickly. And we have to be ready to accommodate changing conditions at the delivery location. While our unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform lets us pre-plan a flight route, the sensors on our aircraft are responsible for identifying obstacles that might appear during a flight or delivery, like a car parked in an unexpected spot, or outdoor furniture that’s been moved. The more test deliveries we do, exposing the sensors on our aircraft to new delivery locations, the smarter our aircraft’s algorithms will one day become at picking a safe spot for deliveries.

Many of our testers wanted their packages delivered to the backyard

Loading and delivering packages smoothly and quickly

To operate an effective drone delivery system, Project Wing must be able to pick up packages from anyone, in almost any location. This presents an interesting design challenge: our technology must be intuitive and easy to use, so packages can be loaded and received without any specialized infrastructure and by people without specialized experience.

A Guzman y Gomez employee walks outside the kitchen to load a package containing a burrito onto a hook that is winched up by the Wing delivery drone

Our partners Guzman y Gomez and Chemist Warehouse will teach us what we need to do to ensure that orders are channeled to their staff smoothly and that they can easily load goods onto our delivery drones. In the case of Guzman y Gomez, who is our first delivery partner for this trial, we’ll need to make sure our technology fits in smoothly into their kitchen operations, as their staff have to juggle many orders at once to ensure that every customer is served fresh, hot food in a timely fashion. We want to learn how much notice to give them for a drone’s arrival so that they can cook, pack, and load it in one well-timed workflow.

Guzman y Gomez employee putting a burrito into the Wing package

Through our partnership with Chemist Warehouse, we want to ensure our system is able to support merchants with a wide variety of products. As part of this test, they’re offering nearly 100 products across categories like vitamins, dental care, sun care, and over-the-counter medicines. By practicing how we pack items of very different shapes and sizes into our fixed-sized package, we’ll learn how to optimize how many items we’re able to deliver per flight.

The information we gather from both of these test partners will help us build a system so that merchants of all kinds can focus on what they’re good at—like making food or helping people feel healthier—rather than being distracted by complex delivery logistics.

We know the weeks and months ahead will be filled with unexpected challenges as we undertake these new tests. We’re grateful to the communities in the ACT and Queanbeyan regions who’ve let us into their yards, so we can learn even more about building a delivery network ready to fly in the open skies.

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