DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×
Transportation

Apple, Tesla Ask California To Change Its Proposed Policies On Self-Driving Car Testing (reuters.com) 23

Tesla and Apple have asked the state of California to change its proposed policies on self-driving cars to allow companies to test vehicles without traditional steering wheels and controls or human back-up drivers, among other things. Reuters reports: In a letter made public Friday, Apple made a series of suggested changes to the policy that is under development and said it looks forward to working with California and others "so that rapid technology development may be realized while ensuring the safety of the traveling public." Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent company Alphabet Inc, Ford Motor Co, Uber Technologies Inc, Toyota Motor Corp, Tesla Motors Inc and others also filed comments suggesting changes. Apple said California should revise how companies report self-driving system "disengagements." California currently requires companies to report how many times the self-driving system was deactivated and control handed back to humans because of a system failure or a traffic, weather or road situation that required human intervention. Apple said California's rules for development vehicles used only in testing could "restrict both the design and equipment that can be used in test vehicles." Tesla said California should not bar testing of autonomous vehicles that are 10,000 pounds (4,535 kg) or more. Tesla also said California should not prohibit the sale of non-self-driving vehicles previously used for autonomous vehicle testing.
Transportation

Elon Musk Outlines His 'Boring' Vision For Traffic-Avoiding Tunnels (axios.com) 146

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed new details about his futuristic tunnel-boring project during his TED talk on Friday. Ina Fried, writing for Axios: In an appearance at the TED conference in Vancouver, Musk showed off a new video visualization of electric skates transporting cars in a narrow tunnel, then raising them back to street level in a space as small as two parking spaces. Inside the tunnels, Musk said cars could travel as fast as 200 kilometers per hour (roughly 130 MPH). "You should be able to go from say Westwood to LAX in 5-6 minutes," the Tesla and SpaceX founder said, adding he is spending only 2-3 percent on the tunnel effort. The Boring Company is currently building a demo tunnel in SpaceX's parking lot, but will need permits from the city of Los Angeles to extend beyond the property line. Musk added, "I'm not trying to be anyone's savior. I'm just trying to think about the future and not be sad." You can watch the video here.
Transportation

Tesla's German Automation Expert Klaus Grohmann Ousted After Clash With CEO Musk (reuters.com) 69

According to Reuters, "Tesla executive Klaus Grohmann was ousted last month after a clash with CEO Elon Musk over the strategy of Grohmann's firm, which Tesla had acquired in November." Grohmann Engineer's automation and engineering expertise is being relied upon by Tesla to help it increase production to 500,000 cars per year by 2018. From the report: Tesla planned to keep Grohmann on, and Grohmann wanted to stay, but the clash with Musk over how to treat existing clients resulted in his departure, the source said. Grohmann disagreed with Musk's demands to focus management attention on Tesla projects to the detriment of Grohmann Engineering's legacy clients, which included Tesla's direct German-based rivals Daimler and BMW, two sources familiar with the matter said. "I definitely did not depart because I had lost interest in working," Grohmann said, without elaborating. A Tesla spokesman, asked about Grohmann's departure, praised him for building an "incredible company" and said: "Part of Mr Grohmann's decision to work with Tesla was to prepare for his retirement and leave the company in capable hands for the future. Given the change in focus to Tesla projects, we mutually decided that it was the right time for the next generation of management to lead."
Power

In Preparation For Model 3, Tesla Plans To Double the Size of Its Supercharger Network This Year (fortune.com) 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Tesla says it will double the number of electric vehicle chargers in its network this year as the automaker prepares for the production of its mass-market vehicle the Model 3. The plan, announced Monday in a blog post on the company's website, will grow its global network of Superchargers from more than 5,400 today to more than 10,000 by the end of the year. Tesla, which had previously announced in its annual shareholder letter plans to double the network in North America, did not disclose the cost of such an ambitious expansion. Many sites will soon enter construction to open in advance of the summer travel season, according to Tesla. The company says it will add charging locations within city centers as well as highway sites this year. The goal is to make "charging ubiquitous in urban centers," Tesla says in its blog post. The company says it will build larger sites along busy travel routes to accommodate several dozen Teslas simultaneously. These larger sites will also have customer service centers.
Power

All-Electric 'Flying Car' Takes Its First Test Flight In Germany (theverge.com) 178

Today, Munich-based Lilium Aviation conducted the first test flight of its all-electric, two-seater, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) prototype. "In a video provided by the Munich-based startup, the aircraft can be seen taking off vertically like a helicopter, and then accelerating into forward flight using wing-borne lift," reports The Verge. From the report: The craft is powered by 36 separate jet engines mounted on its 10-meter long wings via 12 movable flaps. At take-off, the flaps are pointed downwards to provide vertical lift. And once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt into a horizontal position, providing forward thrust. During the tests, the jet was piloted remotely, but its operators say their first manned flight is close-at-hand. And Lilium claims that its electric battery "consumes around 90 percent less energy than drone-style aircraft," enabling the aircraft to achieve a range of 300 kilometers (183 miles) with a maximum cruising speed of 300 kph (183 mph). "It's the same battery that you can find in any Tesla," Nathen told The Verge. "The concept is that we are lifting with our wings as soon as we progress into the air with velocity, which makes our airplane very efficient. Compared to other flights, we have extremely low power consumption." The plan is to eventually build a 5-passenger version of the jet.
Transportation

Tesla Recalls 53,000 Model S, Model X Cars For Stuck Parking Brakes (cnet.com) 106

Tesla has issued a voluntary recall for approximately 53,000 Model S and Model X cars, which may be susceptible to having stuck parking brakes. The company hasn't received any reports of the parking brake system failing, but decided to issue a recall for precautionary reasons. According to CNET, the recall affects 31,000 Model S and Model X cars in the U.S., "and all affected vehicles carry build dates between February and October 2016." From the report: The problem lies with the electric parking brakes that help secure the vehicles when placed in Park. The parking brakes contain a small gear that might fracture, which would prevent the parking brake from releasing. Thus, a car that enters Park may not be able to move again. This has no bearing on the vehicles' regular brakes, and Tesla has received no reports of the parking brake system failing to hold a car in place. Tesla estimates that about 2 percent of the vehicles recalled contain the improperly manufactured gear. It should be noted that the parking brake assembly is from a third-party supplier, as well.
The Courts

Tesla Settles Lawsuit Against Former Autopilot Program Director Accused of Stealing Info, Engineers (electrek.co) 40

Earlier this year, Tesla filed a lawsuit against its former director of Autopilot Programs, Sterling Anderson, for stealing proprietary information about the Autopilot program and recruiting fellow Tesla engineers to work with him at Aurora Innovation, another autonomous driving company. According to Electrek, "the lawsuit was settled today with Tesla withdrawing their allegations without damages and Aurora agreeing to make itself available for an audit by a third-party to make sure they don't have proprietary information from Tesla's Autopilot program." From the report: Aurora also agreed to cover the cost of the audit for up to $100,000. The startup claims that it had already ordered its own audit, which found âoeno material Tesla confidential information." As for the allegations of poaching employees, Aurora has agreed not to reach out to Tesla employees for a year and to release the names of former Tesla employees who have joined the startup already. You can read Auroraâ(TM)s statement about the settlement in full here and Teslaâ(TM)s further down below: âoeSelf-driving vehicles will save lives, preserve resources, and make transportation more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. Aurora was founded on the premise that experience, innovative thinking, hard work, and a commitment to doing the right thing can accelerate this future..."
Transportation

Cadillac's Hands-Free Driving Option Also Nags Inattentive Drivers (theverge.com) 68

Using LIDAR sensors, Cadillac mapped 160,000 miles of U.S. highways "within five centimeters of accuracy" to give its hands-free-on-the-highway cars the ability to better anticipate the roads ahead -- and to know when a human driver should take over. An anonymous reader writes: "The car can see farther than the sensors on the car with the map..." says the chief engineer for Cadillac's new "Super Cruise" hands-free driving option for highways, "so if we have a sharp curve, we can anticipate that." The system also gives Cadillac's vehicles a safety check not available to Tesla, which can't stop drivers from using Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot even when they're not on a highway. "We know where the car is because of the LIDAR map and the other data in the car," says a product communications manager at Cadillac. "Therefore we have the ability to geofence it."

In addition, The Verge reports that if drivers look away for more than 30 seconds, "the car will know thanks to an infrared camera attached to the top of the steering column. Eyes closed? The car will know and start a sequence of alerts to get the driver's focus back on the road. It can even see through UV-blocking sunglasses." While the camera doesn't record or store data, it will flash a strip of red LED lights embedded in the top of the steering wheel "if the driver is caught not paying attention."

Cadillac plans to create and transmit an updated map every year, and will also regularly update its map by "constantly" checking the database from the Transportation Department, and deploying own trucks to draw new maps of construction areas.
Businesses

It's Official: Apple is Testing Self-Driving Cars 76

Apple has been granted a license for testing autonomous vehicles in California, marking the formal launch of its race with the likes of Uber, Alphabet and Tesla to define the future of driverless transportation. The permit was revealed with Apple's appearance on the list of approved companies on the California automotive regulator's website on Friday morning. From a report: This suggests Apple's ambitions in the auto industry are alive, despite some reported upheaval in the project, code-named "Project Titan." Reports last year centered on changing leadership and shifting focus within the project, which is under the command of veteran Apple executive Bob Mansfield. Still, as Apple looks for its next major growth driver after the iPhone -- and as cars increasingly become computers -- it's easy to see why the company would be interested.
Transportation

Used Tesla Model S Sedans Sell Faster Than Any Other High-End Used Vehicle (marketwatch.com) 50

According to a survey conducted by Autolist, "used Tesla Model S sedans sell faster than luxury-car competitors do, and faster than other top-selling used vehicles from Motor Co. and General Motors Co.," reports MarketWatch. From the report: Used Model S sedans had the briefest time on the market of all vehicles included in the survey, taking, on average, 87 days to sell. That was about 5% quicker than the average for vehicles in the model's peer group, which included the Audi A7, the Porsche Panamera, the BMW 6 Series, the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Lexus LS 460. The listing prices of used Tesla Model S sedans were between 3% and 5% above their peer-group average for the past year, after controlling for price differences among the models, Autolist.com said. "We would expect top-performing vehicles in a peer group to have prices [about] 2% above our adjusted expectations for the segment. But 3% to 5% above, and maintaining that level of performance over the past year? That's surprising," Alex Klein, Autolist.com's vice president of data science, said in emailed comments.
Transportation

Tesla Will Reveal Its Electric Semi Truck in September (techcrunch.com) 273

From a report: Elon Musk just let us know when we'll get a look at the electric semi truck that he's teased in the past: The Tesla transport vehicle will be revealed in September, the CEO said on Twitter on Thursday, noting that the team has "done an amazing job" and that the vehicle is "seriously next level." Plans at Tesla for an electric semi truck have been in the works for a while now: The vehicle was first mentioned back in July of 2016, when Musk revealed part 2 of his fabled "master plan" for his electric vehicle company. The Tesla Semi, as Musk called it, is designed to help reduce the cost of cargo transportation, and improve safety for drivers, according to the CEO at the time.
Businesses

Neuroscientists Weigh In On Elon Musk's Mysterious 'Neural Lace' Company (ieee.org) 103

the_newsbeagle writes: Elon Musk has set out to change the world with SpaceX's reusable rockets and Tesla's electric cars, and now he plans to change your brain. His new company, Neuralink, will reportedly build delicate brain implants called "neural lace" to help people with neuropsychiatric disorders and to give healthy people strange new mental abilities. But the news announcements about the company contained scant details about what kind of hardware Neuralink might actually build, and what engineering challenges the company will have to overcome in pursuit of miniaturized and safe brain implants. Here, five neuroscience experts describe those challenges, and give hints on what to expect from Musk's neural dust. One of the neuroscientists is Mary Lou Jepsen, founder of the Openwater startup, which is looking for ways to develop a noninvasive BCI for imaging and telepathy. Jepsen was also "an engineering executive at Facebook working on its Oculus virtual reality gear; before that she spent three years at Google X, running advanced projects on display technology," reports IEEE Spectrum. She says that Neuralink will likely face many medical hurdles, even if their process doesn't require splitting open patients' skulls. "The approach as I understand it (not much is published) involves implanting silicon particles (so called "neural lace") into the bloodstream. One concern is that implanting anything in the body can cause unintended consequences," says Jepsen. "For example, even red blood cells can clog capillaries in the brain when the red blood cells are made more stiff by diseases like malaria. This clogging can reduce or even cut off the flow of oxygen to the parts of the brain. Indeed, clogging of cerebral capillaries has been shown to be a major cause of Alzheimer's progression. Back to neural lace: One concern I would have is whether the silicon particles could lead to any clogging."
AI

A Big Problem With AI: Even Its Creators Can't Explain How It Works (technologyreview.com) 389

Last year an experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors. The car didn't follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it. Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it's also a bit unsettling, since it isn't completely clear how the car makes its decisions, argues an article on MIT Technology Review. From the article: The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car's underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries. But this won't happen -- or shouldn't happen -- unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur -- and it's inevitable they will. That's one reason Nvidia's car is still experimental.
The Almighty Buck

Tesla Tops GM by Market Value as Investors See Musk as Future (bloomberg.com) 289

Tesla became the largest U.S. auto maker by market value on Monday, overtaking General Motors -- a feat that would have seemed highly improbable 13 years ago when the electric-car maker first began tinkering with the idea of making a sports car. From a report: Tesla climbed as much as 3.4 percent in early Monday trading, boosting its market capitalization to about $51 billion. The company was valued at about $1.7 billion more than GM as of 9:35 a.m. in New York. The turnabout shows the extent to which investors have bought into Musk's vision that electric vehicles will eventually rule the road. While GM has beat Tesla to market with a plug-in Chevrolet Bolt with a price and range similar to what Musk has promised for his Model 3 sedan coming later this year, the more than century-old company has failed to match the enthusiasm drummed up by its much smaller and rarely profitable U.S. peer. No matter, say investors who like the stock. Tesla is a technology player with the ability to dominate a market for electric cars and energy storage. To those same investors, GM and Ford are headed for a slowdown in car sales that will erode profits. "Is it fair? No, it isn't fair," Maryann Keller, an auto-industry consultant in Stamford, Connecticut, said of GM ceding the market-cap crown. "Even if Tesla turns a profit, they will eventually have to make enough to justify this valuation."
AI

The Dark Secret At the Heart of AI (technologyreview.com) 19

schwit1 shares an excerpt from a report via MIT Technology Review: No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem. Last year, a strange self-driving car was released onto the quiet roads of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia, didn't look different from other autonomous cars, but it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn't follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it. Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it's also a bit unsettling, since it isn't completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle's sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you'd expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected -- crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can't ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did. The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car's underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries. But this won't happen -- or shouldn't happen -- unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur -- and it's inevitable they will. That's one reason Nvidia's car is still experimental.

schwit1 adds: "To be fair, we don't really understand how natural intelligence works, either."

Power

Electric Car Ferries Enter Service In Norway (bbc.co.uk) 99

AmiMoJo writes from a report via BBC: Following two years of trials of the world's first electric car ferry, named Ampere, Norwegian ferry operators are busy making the transition from diesel. It is thought that 84 ferries are ripe for conversion to electric power, and 43 ferries on longer routes would benefit from conversion to hybrids that use diesel engines to charge their batteries. If this were done, nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions would be cut by 8,000 tons per year and CO2 emissions by 300,000 tons per year, equivalent to the annual emissions from 150,000 cars. The Ampere uses an 800kWh battery, equivalent to 8 high end Tesla cars. According to a report from Siemens and environmental campaign group Bellona, long-distance ferries are not well suited to electrification, but about 70% of Norway's ferries cover relatively short crossings, so switching to electric power would pay for itself in a few years. The BBC report also mentions some of the challenges associated with converting the diesel ferries to electric ferries. For example, "during initial trials, the fast charging placed excessive strain on the local grid, designed as it was to service a relatively small population," reports BBC. "To lighten the load, high-capacity batteries were put on constant charge on either side of the fjord, ready to transfer the electricity quickly to the ferry's batteries whilst docked."
Businesses

Utah Supreme Court Ruling Bars Direct Sales of Teslas Through a Subsidiary (arstechnica.com) 202

The Utah Supreme court has ruled on Monday that the state's regulators could prohibit an auto manufacturer from having ownership interest in a dealer. "In what the court called 'a narrow, legal decision,' it said that it wouldn't weigh in on whether allowing the state's Tax Commission to prohibit direct sales from Tesla's wholly owned subsidiary was the best policy for residents of Utah," reports Ars Technica. "Instead, the court said its job was simply to determine whether the commission could legally make that prohibition." From the report: Tesla created its subsidiary, Tesla UT, to be able to sell new cars in Utah, but the State Tax Commission ruled that the subsidiary needed a franchise agreement. Tesla UT entered into a partnership with its parent company, but the commission said Tesla couldn't have a financial interest in Tesla UT's franchise. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, "Attempts were made in 2015 and 2016 to change Utah law to accommodate Tesla, but the car dealers and other automakers rebuffed the efforts." A Tesla spokesperson told Ars, "The Utah ruling is disappointing for Tesla and all Utah consumers interested in consumer choice, free markets, and sustainable energy. We will pursue all options to ensure that Tesla can operate in Utah without restriction. In the meantime, we will continue to provide service and limited sales activities (through our used car license) at our location in South Salt Lake City."
Transportation

Musk Trolls Shorts as Tesla's Value Hits Record, Passes Ford (bloomberg.com) 251

Tesla's Elon Musk poked fun at short sellers as his electric-car maker's stock surged to a record, vaulting its market value past century-old rival Ford. From a report on Bloomberg: "Stormy weather in Shortville..." the chief executive officer tweeted Monday, as Tesla shares climbed as much as 5.8 percent. The maker of Model S sedans and Model X crossovers saw its capitalization surge to about $48.2 billion, $3.1 billion more than Ford, the No. 2 automaker in the U.S. after General Motors Co. Tesla has long been a popular target by short sellers such as Jim Chanos, who famously bet early on energy company Enron's failure -- and was proved right. Short interest in Tesla has risen to 29 percent of its free float from a 52-week low of 20 percent in mid-October, according to Markit data. Tesla's move past Ford came one day after Musk's company reported worldwide shipments of 25,000 cars and SUVs in the first quarter, exceeding analysts' estimates. While Ford delivered about nine times as many vehicles in just the U.S. last month, its sales missed projections and the shares fell.
China

Tesla Deal Boosts Chinese Presence in US Auto Tech (reuters.com) 80

From a Reuters report:China's Tencent has bought a 5 percent stake in U.S. electric car maker Tesla for $1.78 billion, the latest investment by a Chinese internet company in the potentially lucrative market for self-driving vehicles and related services. Tencent's investment, revealed in a U.S. regulatory filing, provides Tesla with an additional cash cushion as it prepares to launch its mass-market Model 3. Tesla's shares were up 2.9 percent at $277.03 in midday trading on Tuesday, enabling it to rival Ford as the second-most-valuable U.S. auto company behind General Motors. The deal expands Tencent's presence in an emerging investment sector that includes self-driving electric cars, which could enable such new modes of transportation as automated ride-sharing and delivery services, as well as ancillary services ranging from infotainment to e-commerce.
Science

Elon Musk Launches Neuralink To Connect Brains With Computers (businessinsider.com) 120

At Recode's conference last year, Elon Musk said he would love to see someone do something about linking human brains with computers. With no other human being volunteering, Mr. Musk -- who founded PayPal and OpenAI, thought of Hyperloop, is working on a boring company, and runs SpaceX, TeslaX, SolarCity -- is now working on it. From a report on WSJ: Internal sources tell the WSJ that the company, called Neuralink, is developing "neural lace" technology that would allow people to communicate directly with machines without going through a physical interface. Neural lace involves implanting electrodes in the brain so people could upload or download their thoughts to or from a computer, according to the WSJ report. The product could allow humans to achieve higher levels of cognitive function. From WSJ's report (paywalled): The founder and chief executive of Tesla and Space Exploration Technologies Corp.has launched another company called Neuralink Corp., according to people familiar with the matter. Neuralink is pursuing what Mr. Musk calls "neural lace" technology, implanting tiny brain electrodes that may one day upload and download thoughts. Mr. Musk didn't respond to a request for comment. Max Hodak, who said he is a "member of the founding team," confirmed the company's existence and Mr. Musk's involvement.

Slashdot Top Deals