From The Editors Technology

Ford Makes Inroads in the Autonomous Car Scramble – Invests $1 Billion in AI

Ford has taken on board Argo AI to jumpstart its self-driving car program with an invest announcement of $1 billion in the Artificial Intelligence startup run by roboticists and engineers from the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). “With Argo AI’s agility and Ford’s scale, we’re combining the benefits of a technology startup with the experience and discipline we have at Ford,” said Mark Fields, CEO Ford, in regards to the billion-dollar deal.

Argo AI is a less-than-a-year-old startup founded by former Google and Uber veterans Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander respectively. While CEO Salesky had been the head of hardware at Alphabet’s car division for three years, COO Rander was one of the top engineers in Uber before they got together to form the startup.

The company, based in Pittsburgh was established with the main purpose of addressing challenges facing self-driving cars such as robotics and artificial intelligence.

The Ford Motor Company, on the other hand, has been in the auto making business since 1903. The company was founded by Henry Ford and is headquartered in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb in the state of Michigan. It has the wherewithal and experience to back Argo AI to the hilt in order to deliver on its promise of putting the Ford brand of self-driving cars on the roads in 2021.

Salesky and Rander are going to head the Ford project in the area of virtual driver system capability and have plans of hiring 200 employees to meet the project requirements of the company’s engineering hubs in Pittsburgh, South Eastern Michigan and the Bay Area of California by the year end.

While the $1 billion investment will be released over a period of five years Ford is expected to become the highest shareholder in Argo AI with immediate effect. The company, however, has refrained from giving any information on its stake in the fledgling company.

Thus far, this is the highest Ford has invested in self-driving technology having acquired Chariot, an on-demand shuttle service for much less than $1 billion in 2016. Likewise, last year, General Motors bought off self-driving startup Cruise for$1 billion and Uber acquired Otto, a self-driving truck company for $680 million.

“Our view [is that], in the future, there will be a number of players that will have systems,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told Recode in an interview – as reported by Recode. “There won’t be just one winner. But at the same time, we can offer that to other companies where it doesn’t compromise our competitive advantages. We think that’s a great opportunity to get even more scale and create some value for the companies.”

According to Ford, Argo AI will have a good degree of independence in that it will remain headquartered in Pittsburgh and have a say in two board seats while Ford is reported to have nomination plans for Raj Nair, head of research and development, and Vice President John Casea, as its equal share of two representatives on the board while the fifth will be an independent seat.

The future of self-driving cars seems to be in good hands with Uber, Tesla, Google, Apple and now Ford in the race to perfect the autonomous car technology.

From The Editors Technology

Uber Plans to Develop Flying Cars – Hires NASA Engineer to Head the Ambitious Project

While Elon Musk is thinking in subterranean terms with his tunneling obsession to ease traffic woes, Uber Technologies is looking upwards by hiring NASA’s advanced aircraft engineer of 30 years to head its Uber Elevate project, an ambitious but plausible endeavor to get its taxi services airborne.

In short, Uber has hired the veteran engineer to help develop flying cars – the future of commuting. His appointment as Uber Elevate’s director of engineering for aviation was announced Monday by Uber Technologies.

“I can’t think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real,” Moore said in a statement to Bloomberg.

In 2010, Mark Moore, researched and published a white paper on the feasibility of electric aircraft with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities which inspired Larry Page of Google fame to secretly start and finance Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk, two Silicon Valley startups, to develop the technology as reported by Bloomberg Businessweek last year.

Uber is reported to have impressed Moore with its own white paper on VTOL technology, technical hurdles that needed overcoming, and its long-term vision of taking everyday commute to the air with the intention of providing noise-free and eco-friendly rapid commute to its customers.


“Uber continues to see its role as an accelerant-catalyst to the entire ecosystem, and we are excited to have Mark joining us to work with manufacturers and stakeholders as we continue to explore the use case described in our whitepaper,” Nikhil Goel, Uber’s head of advanced programs, said in a statement to TechCrunch.

A progressive company, known for revolutionizing the taxi industry by connecting self-employed drivers with commuters, Uber is now testing self-driving cars in Phoenix and Pittsburgh after it faced a setback when a similar test in San Francisco was judged illegal. And now it has its sight set on an eco-friendly airborne transportation service.

“It could change cities and how we work and live,” Uber’s product head, Jeff Holden, had said last year. “We want to offer our customers as many options as possible to move around.”

“On-demand aviation has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes. Uber is close to the commute pain that citizens in cities around the world feel. We view helping to solve this problem as core to our mission and our commitment to our rider base,” says Uber in its Uber Elevate white paper of October 27, 2016.

Uber’s plans to offer an on-demand airborne taxi service through a fleet of electric aircraft or, colloquially speaking, flying cars that will be VTOL capable and travel 100 miles per charge at a maximum air speed of 150 mph seems to have taken off vertically with the hiring of Mr. Moore.

From The Editors Technology

Apple’s Foray into Autonomous Self-Driving Cars

After having delved into a vast range of ground-breaking computing and technology products over the years, most of them phenomenally successful, Apple has now made public its intention of getting into the autonomous car race with technology giants like Tesla, Google, Uber, Ford, China’s Baidu, General Motors, and perhaps other companies which may join the race to capitalise on the response that this idea is attracting- it’s but inevitable that this would be the “future of transportation.”

Although Apple has long been secretive about its autonomous car plans, however, it’s recent letters to the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made public by VentureBeat is not that well-kept-a-secret anymore.

Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, in his letter, has explained the company’s integration of machine learning in a variety of different aspects to make its products and services smarter, more perceptive and personalized, including its transport ventures.

Apple in its letter has spoken on the safety features of autonomous vehicles emphasizing that, both, established players and potential or new entrants should enjoy parity in treatment in order to ensure maximization of the safety benefits of the technology.

The insinuation, one can speculate, is that being new in the car business Apple shouldn’t experience any discrimination in terms of testing or timelines because it’s not an established automaker like, for instance, Ford or General Motors, or even Tesla.

While the letter can be considered a bit vague, a separate statement issued to the Financial Times by an Apple spokesperson is relatively more precise, in that, the company wants to make certain that NHTSA has a clear and definitive policy with regards to “machine learning and autonomous systems.”

“We’ve provided comments to NHTSA because Apple is investing heavily in the areas of machine learning and autonomous systems,” the apple spokesperson added. “There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for this industry.”

However, the timeline of Apple’s venture into the autonomous car business is somewhat ambiguous, whereas most of the competition is looking at 2020-2021 for the launch of their self-driving endeavors. Among the major players in the autonomous cars field, Tesla seems to be more proactive in so far as the timeline is concerned, and are pushing aggressively towards achieving it.

So, what is the federal plan to pick up the pace in this imminent transportation revolution? The U.S. government has released an 116 page document, basically a framework or guidelines for automakers involved in making this technology a reality.

The basic purpose of the new guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is to expedite the process by not suffocating it with complicated regulations without compromising on the safety of what they call “highly automated vehicles” (HAVs).

Safety is of prime importance for DOT as far as the so-called “highly automated vehicles” (HAVs) are concerned. The reason for this lies in the statistics for roadway fatalities – In 2015 alone 35,092 people died as a result of roadways accidents, 94 percent of which were the result of human error or oversight.

The most important and exciting promise of HAVs is to mitigate the overwhelming numbers of roadway fatalities.

From The Editors Technology

Tesla’s Self-Driving Demo of Cars of the Future

Tech guru Elon Musk, one of the most talked about CEOs in the world, the man behind companies like SpaceX and Tesla, made an amazing announcement last month that took the tech world by surprise. Tesla plans to equip all their future cars with the hardware and software needed for total autonomous control – no human intervention whatsoever.

Although, the concept and technology of self-driving electric cars is nothing new, and there are quite a few competitors out there, names like Google, Uber, GM, working on the same lines, the seemingly unlikely deadline he gave was the surprise factor.

In the self-driving-electric-car competition, Ford is aiming to launch in 2021, China’s Baidu is expected in 2019; Google is yet to make an announcement on a date and likewise for GM.

Tesla envisions a time in the very near future when there would be laws against human-driven cars. If he were to be believed, looking ahead, thousands of lives can be saved by putting more faith in technology and the onboard computer rather than on humans.

His claims seem to be based on the fact that most deaths happen as result of human error rather than mechanical failure, and the stats back that humans are susceptible to falling asleep, to smartphone distractions, to bad decisions to excessive alcohol consumption, and to so many other factors that cause such mishaps in the thousands, every year.

Some economists feel that the car would be somewhat expensive with the kind of investment and resources involved. However, with the amount of advance orders already secured by Tesla, the question that is being asked now is whether they would be able to deliver as promised.

Tesla’s video shows an autonomous, self-driving and self-parking car, with The Benny Hill Show theme song playing in the background. It takes the viewer on a drive, apparently, through real-world roads and situations. A rear camera shows a man sitting with his feet not touching the accelerator or the brake pedals, his hands on his lap, not touching the steering wheel.

The speeded up video goes on to show the car stopping, the man leaving the car and the car parking itself in a vacant spot. Tesla had to put a man in the car because of legal issues.

The video is designed to display the capability of the car to handle real-world road situations including sudden vehicular movements, stop signs, pedestrians, sharp bends, sudden braking and more.

The car is projected to have 8 cameras providing a 360-degree view, with a supercomputer onboard, capable of making an estimated 40 trillion decisions per second or more.

Prof. Raghunathan “Raj” Rajkumar who heads the Autonomous Driving collaborative research Lab. at Carnegie Mellon University said, “An unedited sequence of the vehicle driving itself in downtown San Francisco would be more meaningful to see what the vehicle is capable of doing,”

Despite the distracters and the naysayers, the idea of self-driving cars, promising safer roads and far lesser driving related deaths, makes one look forward to the automobile revolution that seems more and more imminent now.

Also, constructive and valuable Insight into Tesla’s present and future;