Author: Darrell Etherington

BMW’s self-driving car will aim for full Level 5 autonomy by 2021

BMW says that the car it intends to field with self-driving tech by 2021 will have Level 3, Level 4 and Level 5 capabilities, according to the automaker’s SVP of Autonomous Driving Elmar Frickenstein, who shared the info during a panel in Berlin on Thursday, Reuters reports. Level 5 autonomy would mean that the vehicle requires zero input from a driver to navigate city and highway roads, at least on par in terms of performance with ahem driver. Level 3 and 4 are considered much more achievable in the near-term: Level 3 cars still require drivers, but their intervention is only required in certain situations and they aren’t obliged to be watching things constantly and ready to take control immediately as with lower levels. Level 4 is the first level of “full autonomy,” which means it can handle a whole trip – just not in all possible conditions and environments. Most automakers talking about autonomous vehicle deployment plans in the next few years are discussing Level 3 and 4 vehicles – Ford’s goal of putting a fleet of self-driving cars into service in 2021 specifically involves Level 4 autonomy, for instance. BMW’s decision to leapfrog to the most advanced level is ambitious, but it’s working with Intel and that chipmaker’s newly acquired self-driving hardware and systems subsidiary Mobileye on its autonomous tech, so it’s definitely not starting from a...

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Nvidia partners with PACCAR on self-driving truck tech

Nvidia’s already going deeper down the self-driving vehicle rabbit hole in partnership with Bosch, but it’s also moving further into autonomous trucking with a new partnership with PACCAR, one of the world’s largest makers of transport trucks. The PACCAR arrangement has already resulted in the production of one proof-of-concept vehicle, a Level 4 autonomous truck that uses Nvidia’s Drive PX 2 platform with neural network training fed by data of humans driving semis-tractors. The partnership’s announcement included a showcase of this initial vehicle managing a closed road course, with no one behind the wheel. [embedded content] PACCAR is an industry leader that already produces many of the trucks that make up global logistics fleets, but other startups including Uber-owned Otto and Embark are also racing to address this market. There’s a lot of interest in pushing autonomous driving tech forward in this industry because it has tremendous cost-saving potential in terms of increasing the amount of time trucks can spend on the road, and reducing fatalities related to human-caused accidents. In aggregate, all of the deals Nvidia is securing to provide the computing horsepower needed to make autonomous vehicles a reality represent a significant strengthening of its long-term position, as demand for self-driving is likely to only grow over the next couple of decades at...

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The Lucid Air electric car starts at just $60,000 – before tax credit

Lucid’s first electric vehicle doesn’t cost what you think it does – the company revealed basic pricing information for the Air on its blog, basically just to mute speculation that its price tag would begin north of $100,000. The Lucid Air’s actual price will start at $60,000, hitting $52,500 once you apply the federal tax credit for EV buyers. That’s for the base model, of course, but the base model sounds relatively well-equipped, with a 240-mile range on a single charge, 400 horsepower from its rear-wheel drive motor and all the sensor and computer hardware on board for a future update to provide autonomous driving. Lucid’s other base model features include trunks at both front and rear, power front seats, four displays (three of which are touch-sensitive) and a 10 speaker audio system. The upgrades available on higher trim models include 315 and 400 mile batteries, a boost in horsepower up to a max of 1,000 HP, a glass canopy roof and more. Top line models will run north of $100,000, Lucid says, but it’s not revealing exactly how much more. The first 255 Lucid Air vehicles off the line will be special Launch Edition cars with unique trim, including 315 miles of range, 1,00 horsepower and better in-car audio – these will also be priced above $100,000, but it sounds like they may differ from the general production top...

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SpaceX successfully launches and deploys EchoStar XXIII satellite

SpaceX launches an EchoStar communications satellite into orbit on Wednesday, completing a mission for its client on a second try, after the original launch on Tuesday was scrubbed due to weather conditions on the ground. The SpaceX mission put EchoStar’s XXIIII satellite into orbit 22,000 miles up, after a launch that occurred at 2 AM ET on Thursday. The EchoStar XXIII payload was a remarkably heavy satellite compared to many of SpaceX’s cargo passengers for a Falcon 9 rocket, and that means that SpaceX did not attempt to recover the first stage of its rocket for this particular launch, as it has done with its previous two since returning to flight earlier this year following last September’s pre-flight rocket explosion mishap. SpaceX launched the EchoStar mission from its LC 39A site at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the second launch at the site since SpaceX began operations there, its first being the ISS resupply mission from last month. EchoStar is the first commercial client SpaceX has serviced at LC 39A, which has a storied history at NASA, having previously been used for the Apollo 11 launch which was the first that brought astronauts to the...

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Nvidia and Bosch team up on self-driving car AI supercomputer

Nvidia’s new partner in bringing AI-powered self-driving tech to the masses definitely has the experience needed to go truly mass-market – it’s Bosch, leading tier one auto industry supplier. Bosch will build an AI supercomputer designed for use in vehicles using Nvidia tech, which means Nvidia now has a partner that works as a tier one supplier to all major car maker in the world. It’s only the latest partner for Nvidia’s AI-powered self-driving car tech, which also include automakers like Audi and Mercedes-Benz, but it’s the one that could potentially have the most impact in terms of giving Nvidia reach and influence across the industry. Bosch, the german company whose product portfolio ranges from home appliance, to infotainment solutions, to virtually everything in between. This is the kind of strategic tie-up that lets both partners do what they do best – Nvidia can focus on developing the core AI supercomputing tech, and Bosch can provide relationships and sales operations that offer true scale and reach. Nvidia’s deep learning model does not depend on specific rules being coded for each individual situation; instead, it provides the systems with a number of examples from human behavior, and then the AI can determine on its own what to do in specific scenarios. The mid-step implementation of this tech is Nvidia’s AI co-pilot, which will allow the vehicle to work with a...

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Tesla to raise over $1 billion to help offset risk for Model 3 production

Tesla is looking to raise a total of around $1.15 billion from stock and convertible senior notes as a way to help “further reduce any risks” that it’ll incur as it scales its business to handle its aggressive Model 3 production schedule, the company said on Wednesday. Tesla’s decision to pad out its balance sheet with more capital was anticipated by many analysts, and a fair number of Wall Street watchers actually thought Tesla would seek more to help it grow based on recent comments made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The Model 3 is set to begin full production this year, with pre-production begun in February with a temporary production line pause to help get processes ready at its Fremont factory ready for the new vehicle. The split of the new funding efforts will see Tesla pursue $250 million in common stock offering, with $750 million raised via convertible notes due in 2022. Elon Musk himself will personally contribute by buying $25 million in Tesla stock, Reuters reports. Tesla last raised cash via stock offering in May 2016, selling $1.4 billion worth of shares to help it expand its production capacity. Musk said on the company’s earnings results conference call in February that while Tesla could finish its production preparations for Model 3 without bringing in new funds, that would put the company “close to the edge” in terms...

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Uber’s new in-app navigation is designed specifically for Uber drivers

Uber’s driver-facing app is getting big changes to its navigation experience, something Uber is doing to try to help make it easier for drivers to do their job without having to worry too much about switching apps or trusting navigations software designed primarily for consumer use. The new Uber navigation experience is an upgrade from what was available in the iOS driver app previously, and a completely new addition to the Android version of their mobile software. Uber previously relied exclusively on external routing apps including Google Maps and Waze on Android, offering a “Navigate” button that would pop drivers out directly into their third-party app of choice. Uber’s Maps product team lead Manik Gupta and driver app senior product manager Maya Choksi told me in an interview that the whole project is designed to help improve service in general, offering better routing from point A to point B during a trip, but also improved pickups, drop-offs, and, perhaps most importantly, improved driver experience. “The goal for the new navigation experience is to provide drivers with the optimal driving experience for Uber specifically,” Choksi explained. “Previously we had a hacked together experience, using a combination of APIs to provide in-app navigation.” That meant no control over crucial elements of the in-app navigation experience; Uber didn’t have control over the size of labels on display for things like street names and...

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