Do you really understand autonomous cars? Our guide takes you through each level of a self-driving car.
Self-driving cars, frankly, have a long way to go. There’s been a ton of promise surrounding the technology, but the big disappointments fall on Level 4 autonomous technology. Don’t know what that is? You’ll want to read on.
I largely agree with former Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt’s view that “it’s a bug that cars were invented before computers.” In terms of sheer technical elegance, we never should have been at the controls in the first place.
Imagine we hadn’t yet invented automobiles. Suppose I Iaid out a vision for using 3,300 pound machines to typically transport just our 175-pound selves in a process requiring we pay rapt attention to the use of a steering wheel and pedals to navigate roads composed of asphalt, brightly colored suggestions and poorly guided machines like ours which, even after years of refinement, killed 36,000 Americans each year. You’d send me packing.
History aside, vehicles driven by us make sense in only a minority of the cases where it happens. And all of this is coming from a guy who loves driving cars, but knows he can’t ultimately justify it. Except that we’ve had no choice.
Which brings me to Level 4, which promises to offer such a choice. Of the six levels of vehicular autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, it’s the one that promises to substantially relieve humans of the need to drive in the foreseeable future. A Level 4 car may not have a steering wheel or pedals, though elimination of them isn’t part of its definition. And Level 4 is conditional, which is to say it works when it can work, as opposed to Level 5, which must work all the time for every trip and seems barely achievable in my lifetime.
One of the smartest carmakers out there, Toyota, has an interesting take on all this. It embraces both Level 3 and Level 4, rather than seeing the latter as a necessary graduation from the former. Toyota’s concept of “guardian” describes a Level 3 car that acts as an exoskeleton of driver assists, shaping our human driving behavior and saving us from most of the dumb things we do behind the wheel. Their “chauffeur” concept is essentially Level 4 autonomy. Both are valuable concepts that are offered as choices rather than assuming we all abandon manual driving as soon as technically possible. Level 3 “guardian” technology would have a long and vital role taking the venom and tedium out of driving, though Level 4 is the more technically admirable in a big picture sense.
Check out the video as I try to make clear distinctions about each level of self-driving and put them in context against the current state of technology. You might be surprised to learn how many of the building blocks of future “driving” you have in your current car.
A new Florida law could now pave the way for driverless delivery in the state.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed legislation (HB 1289) into law that sets a new framework around an aspect of autonomous vehicles.
The law, which goes into effect Thursday, authorizes the operation of low-speed autonomous delivery vehicles as defined by the federal government. The empty vehicles are limited to roads with speed limits of 45 mph or less, though the vehicles will only move at speeds of 35 mph or less.
“Florida has truly become a leader in this conversation,” said Sen. Jeffrey Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, during Session. “We’re seeing more and more of this conversation.”
The law also provides minimum insurance requirements — at least $1 million — the same as those currently in law for autonomous vehicles.
When presenting the legislation, Brandes cited cultural shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic for accelerating the idea of autonomous delivery.
“If we see one thing through COVID, it’s the acceleration of delivery,” Brandes said. “Many of these new vehicles that are being designed are never going to be designed with a human driver in mind, and specifically for the delivery model, you’re going to see groceries and your pharmacy orders, all of those things being delivered by self driving vehicles in the future.”
The law also changes other regulations that don’t make sense for driverless cars. The way Brandes described the statute, the driverless vehicles might not even look like regular cars.
“There are some challenges in Florida law as relates to that. For example, does the vehicle need to have a front windshield?” Does it need to have sideview mirrors? Do you have a rear view mirror?” Brandes said. “These things are contemplated today in vehicles and Florida law, and so that’s what this seeks to address.”
Sen. Ed Hooper, a Pinellas County Republican, expressed concern about the technology leading to accidents.
“I’m concerned that a little old driver like me may come over a hill and run into the back of one of these things, and cause not only damage, but injury or death,” Hooper said. “I know there’s insurance, but is this world ready to have unmanned, or unwomaned, whichever is the more appropriate, autonomous vehicles that, to me, from what I can gather, are roughly 500 pounds each.”
Similar concerns were shared at previous committee hearings.
Brandes did tack on two amendments, both of which were approved.
One such amendment allows the Department of Transportation to set the weight limit of personal delivery vehicles, as opposed to the current statute weight limit restricting such vehicles to 80 pounds.
The other amendment altered the language of the bill to be more inclusive to autonomous vehicles, changing the phrase “steering wheel” to “steering mechanism.”
Florida had already opened the door to driverless vehicles, starting in 2019 when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law (HB 311) removing obstacles to testing self-driving vehicles. The bill removed language allowing licensed drivers to operate such vehicles, saying instead that the autonomous driving system is considered the operator, with no person needed. That measure was aimed at luring self driving vehicle makers to the state.
FDOT is participating in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safety Testing Initiative. As part of that initiative, FDOT is constructing SunTrax, the nation’s first state-owned autonomous vehicle testing facility, estimated to be completed later this year.
Faceless vehicles could start driving on Florida roads as early as July, when the new law takes effect.
Source : https://floridapolitics.com/archives/438658-autonomous-vehicle-delivery-pulls-into-florida-statute-books/
What is the technology stack you need to create fully autonomous vehicles? Companies and researchers are divided on the answer to that question. Approaches to autonomous driving range from just cameras and computer vision to a combination of computer vision and advanced sensors.
Tesla has been a vocal champion for the pure vision-based approach to autonomous driving, and in this year’s Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), its chief AI scientist Andrej Karpathy explained why.
Speaking at CVPR 2021 Workshop on Autonomous Driving, Karpathy, who has been leading Tesla’s self-driving efforts in the past years, detailed how the company is developing deep learning systems that only need video input to make sense of the car’s surroundings. He also explained why Tesla is in the best position to make vision-based self-driving cars a reality.
A general computer vision system
Deep neural networks are one of the main components of the self-driving technology stack. Neural networks analyze on-car camera feeds for roads, signs, cars, obstacles, and people.
But deep learning can also make mistakes in detecting objects in images. This is why most self-driving car companies, including Alphabet subsidiary Waymo, use lidars, a device that creates 3D maps of the car’s surrounding by emitting laser beams in all directions. Lidars provided added information that can fill the gaps of the neural networks.
However, adding lidars to the self-driving stack comes with its own complications. “You have to pre-map the environment with the lidar, and then you have to create a high-definition map, and you have to insert all the lanes and how they connect and all the traffic lights,” Karpathy said. “And at test time, you are simply localizing to that map to drive around.”
It is extremely difficult to create a precise mapping of every location the self-driving car will be traveling. “It’s unscalable to collect, build, and maintain these high-definition lidar maps,” Karpathy said. “It would be extremely difficult to keep this infrastructure up to date.”
Tesla does not use lidars and high-definition maps in its self-driving stack. “Everything that happens, happens for the first time, in the car, based on the videos from the eight cameras that surround the car,” Karpathy said.
The self-driving technology must figure out where the lanes are, where the traffic lights are, what is their status, and which ones are relevant to the vehicle. And it must do all of this without having any predefined information about the roads it is navigating.
Karpathy acknowledged that vision-based autonomous driving is technically more difficult because it requires neural networks that function incredibly well based on the video feeds only. “But once you actually get it to work, it’s a general vision system, and can principally be deployed anywhere on earth,” he said.
With the general vision system, you will no longer need any complementary gear on your car. And Tesla is already moving in this direction, Karpathy says. Previously, the company’s cars used a combination of radar and cameras for self-driving. But it has recently started shipping cars without radars.
“We deleted the radar and are driving on vision alone in these cars,” Karpathy said, adding that the reason is that Tesla’s deep learning system has reached the point where it is a hundred times better than the radar, and now the radar is starting to hold things back and is “starting to contribute noise.”
The main argument against the pure computer vision approach is that there is uncertainty on whether neural networks can do range-finding and depth estimation without help from lidar depth maps.
“Obviously humans drive around with vision, so our neural net is able to process visual input to understand the depth and velocity of objects around us,” Karpathy said. “But the big question is can the synthetic neural networks do the same. And I think the answer to us internally, in the last few months that we’ve worked on this, is an unequivocal yes.”
Tesla’s engineers wanted to create a deep learning system that could perform object detection along with depth, velocity, and acceleration. They decided to treat the challenge as a supervised learning problem, in which a neural network learns to detect objects and their associated properties after training on annotated data.
To train their deep learning architecture, the Tesla team needed a massive dataset of millions of videos, carefully annotated with the objects they contain and their properties. Creating datasets for self-driving cars is especially tricky, and the engineers must make sure to include a diverse set of road settings and edge cases that don’t happen very often.
“When you have a large, clean, diverse datasets, and you train a large neural network on it, what I’ve seen in practice is… success is guaranteed,” Karpathy said.
With millions of camera-equipped cars sold across the world, Tesla is in a great position to collect the data required to train the car vision deep learning model. The Tesla self-driving team accumulated 1.5 petabytes of data consisting of one million 10-second videos and 6 billion objects annotated with bounding boxes, depth, and velocity.
Source : https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/volvos-south-carolina-factory-will-exclusively-build-electric-cars/
KINGSPORT — The idea of electric cars may sound like a far away, futuristic narrative. But it’s much closer than you think.
Dave Hrivnak is a Kingsport native and electric vehicle owner. If you ask him, it’s clearly an industry that is growing — even here in the Tri-Cities.
“We have north of 100 EV owners now in the Tri-Cities that I know of,” Hrivnak said. “And there are probably hundreds more I don’t know of. Virtually every week people ask me about electric cars. There’s an interest.”
Electric vehicles and their charging stations have also been popping up throughout the Tri-Cities.
Recently, East Tennessee State University announced the addition of eight new charging stations in Johnson City. Last month, Washington County Schools unveiled Tennessee’s first electric school bus. And the Pinnacle in Bristol offers a Tesla supercharging station while places like the downtown Kingsport parking garage, Wallace Nissan in Kingsport, MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center and even Rush Street offer public charging stations as well.
But why go electric?
For Hrivnak, he first became interested in electric vehicles when gas prices were on the rise.
“We had a Chevy Avalanche,” Hrivnak recalled. “I was trying to figure out how to make it more energy efficient. I added an electric motor and batteries. I realized new lithium batteries had great opportunities and promise and electric motors had crazy torque and extra power. I guess that was the first thing that really hooked me into it.”
The biggest reason for most centers around the environment and the reduction of emissions, which can be harmful to the environment.
Hybrid and all-electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions. However, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, electric car emissions can be produced by the source of electrical power, such as at a power plant. So the amount of emissions produced by the car as a whole depends on the types of fuels used for charging. There remains a benefit, however.
A report from the International Council of Clean Transportation said electric vehicles typically have much lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than a typical car, despite possible emissions created at power plants. The report also said various trends — such as battery recycling and an overall increase in renewable energy — could further decrease greenhouse gas emissions in electric cars in the future.
The U.S. has also pushed for the move toward electric vehicles.
The president proposed a $174 billion investment in America’s electric vehicle industry. That proposal also calls for 500,000 new charging stations. Meantime, car companies have also committed to the move toward electric vehicles. Ford and GM have increased their electric vehicle spending. Jaguar has vowed to go all electric by 2025 and Honda is aiming to implement zero-emission electric vehicles in North America by 2040.
There’s also been an interest at the state level.
The Drive Electric Tennessee program aims to see 200,000 electric vehicles on state roads by 2028. Earlier this year, The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Valley Authority also signed an agreement to add fast-charging stations every 50 miles along Tennessee’s interstates and major highways. The total anticipated cost of the project is about $20 million.
TDEC Deputy Communications Director Kim Schofinski said in an email the state currently has 976 publicly accessible Level 2 plugs at 515 locations, 72 CCS fast-charging plugs at 31 locations and 49 CHAdeMO DC fast-charging plugs at 44 locations.
Though the industry is growing nationally and locally, Hrivnak said he believes there are still misconceptions regarding electric cars. The biggest misconception is power, which he said his Tesla Model 3 helps him combat.
“At Bristol, I lined up against a Mustang and other cars and none of them can beat you off the line or catch you at a quarter mile,” Hrivnak said. “People say, ‘What kind of car is that?’ All of the sudden that golf cart image disappears.”
Hrivnak and his wife just traveled from Colorado to Ohio stopping at various national parks by way of his wife’s Toyota Rav4 Prime, which is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The car offers about 31 miles per gallon while pulling their camper.
The car typically offers 42 miles on its electric charge, which Hrivnak said reduces emissions while still offering the option of using the car’s backup fuel after that. That also helps when considering where you might find a suitable charging station.
According to the U.S. Department of energy, 80% of electric car owners “fill up” at home, which is usually the case for Hrivnak. While that works for those who can charge overnight for eight or 10 hours, finding a charge on the road without taking too long can be an issue for some.
For a 2021 Nissan Leaf, it takes about 20 hours to fully charge on a level one charger, which is the slowest option. On a level two charger, it takes four to eight hours, and on a level three it takes about 30 minutes.
For those with cars like Hrivnak’s Tesla, charging doesn’t take as long as others. The car also routes you through any necessary charging stations when you enter the destination. But charging time for electric vehicles varies according to the vehicle and the charging station.
That’s an issue the state hopes to tackle in adding fast-charging stations to Tennessee roads.
“A network of public fast-charging stations will promote EV growth by giving drivers more confidence that they’ll have easy access to refueling while they’re away from home,” Schofinski said, “eliminating so-called ‘range anxiety’ that keeps many consumers from considering EVs a viable option.”
On road trips, Hrivnak and his wife typically stop for lunch or dinner with their charging station needs in mind.
“When we go on a trip, we try to figure out if we want to eat in Knoxville or Chattanooga, for example,” Hrivnak said. “We try to pair our eating with charging. The reality is it’s about 40 minutes in a Tesla for full charge. By the time you order and eat, you’re usually talking 45 minutes.”
The downside to electric cars, Hrivnak said, is if you’re at a campsite or a place with no electricity, you’re out of charging options — which is when a hybrid vehicle comes in handy.
Hrivnac is also part of Drive Electric Tennessee’s local chapter. He often leads driving events to introduce locals to electric cars. Mostly, he said, folks are impressed by the speed and walk away with a new idea on electric cars
“They’re fun and fast,” Hrivnak said. “I usually get a big grin and a ‘Wow.’ They say, ‘I had no idea it could drive like this.’”
And not just luxury cars. Subaru, Hyundai, and Kia are all releasing EVs. Also coming soon: the first generation of electric pickup trucks.
And that doesn’t even cover everything. Here are the biggest EV unveilings of 2021.
Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla went for speed with the first major redesign to the Model S. The $129,990 Plaid version goes from 0 to 60 mph in under two seconds with a top speed of 200 mph, and has nearly 400 miles of range. The Model X will also get the Plaid treatment, but not until next year.
Ford F-150 Lightning
Ford is releasing an electric version of its popular F-150 pick-up truck. The F-150 Lightning will start at under $40,000 and has a range of 230 miles. While announced in May, the first electric truck from Ford will reach customers in 2022.
Chevy Silverado EV
This is GM’s response to Ford’s Lightning. The company hasn’t shared many details since its announcement in April, but we do know it will use GM’s modular battery platform, Ultium, that provides 400 miles of range.
The iNext concept car was the inspiration for BMW’s next big EV release. Now known as the iX, the dual-motor luxury EV features fast charging and 300 miles of range. The car won’t arrive until 2022, and will start at $83,200.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
A compact SUV, the Ioniq 5 has a 300-mile range. It’ll come with free fast charging for two years on the Electrify America network once the car arrives later this year.
This is Kia’s first EV that doesn’t have a gas-powered counterpart. It’ll offer 315 miles of range. The price hasn’t been revealed yet, but more details are expected ahead of its 2022 arrival.
Subaru is going electric. Through a partnership with Toyota (of hybrid Prius fame), the Solterra will be an all-electric SUV available at some point in 2022. This will be the Japanese company’s first EV.
GMC Hummer SUV
Last year was all about the revived Hummer “supertruck.” Now there’s a luxury SUV version of the off-roading vehicle. The base version won’t arrive until 2024 for $79,995, but an already sold-out first edition version will get here in 2023. It’ll start at $105,595 with a removable glass roof and crab mode for diagonal driving.
Audi Q4 e-tron
This is the next iteration of Audi’s first EV, the e-tron. The newest version is sportier, with a sloped back windshield. It’s launching in Europe and will make it to the U.S. by the end of the year for $45,000. That’s cheaper than the original e-tron, which sells for nearly $66,000. The smaller Q4 e-tron can get up to 323 miles on a single charge.
Honda announced Monday that it will introduce an electric SUV called the Prologue, marking the automaker’s first attempt to sell an EV in high volume as it pivots away from gasoline-powered cars.
The launch is part of Honda’s recently announced plan to switch to all zero-emission vehicles in North America by 2040, including battery-electric cars and hydrogen vehicles.
“Our zero-emission focus has begun,” Dave Gardner, executive vice president of American Honda, said on a conference call.
When the Prologue arrives in 2024, the company expects U.S. sales of the new vehicle to reach the levels of two of its most popular SUVs, the Passport and Pilot.
Gardner said the 2024 Prologue is being developed in partnership with General Motors, whose battery system will be used on the vehicle. The two automakers have been closely collaborating on several projects.
The automaker declined to reveal any details about the vehicle’s price, technical specifications or appearance.
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Honda’s move away from gas-powered cars and trucks is part of a larger industry shift. After years of sluggish adoption, electric vehicles are poised for a sharp increase in sales, new products and investments that could eventually make the gasoline engine a thing of the past. Recently, other established automakers like GM, Volvo and Jaguar have announced commitments to phase out gas-powered vehicles. And Tesla’s lineup has always been fully electric.
Plus, the arrival of the Biden administration and a Senate controlled by Democrats are giving electric car proponents hope for a new round of tax incentives to encourage electric car buying.
Honda said Monday that it will debut an electric SUV for its luxury Acura lineup in 2024. That vehicle will also be based on GM’s battery platform, but in the succeeding years, Honda plans to produce EVs based on its own system.
It won’t be the first time Honda has sold EVs in the U.S. The automaker sold an electric version of its Clarity sedan but recently decided to discontinue that model, which was never intended to sell in high quantities.
GM has said that vehicles made through its partnership with Honda will be assembled in North America.
Bruce Wayne reportedly tools around in the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet concept car in “The Flash.”
Michael Keaton is set to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne (and presumably Batman) in the upcoming film The Flash. Whether the Caped Crusader’s famous Batmobile from the 1989 and 1992 movies Batman and Batman Returns makes a cameo in the forthcoming superhero flick remains under wraps.
That said, it seems as though Keaton’s Bruce Wayne will tool about in an extraordinary vehicle of his own: the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet concept car the German automaker revealed during Monterey Car Week in 2017. At least that’s what film buff Grace Randolph claims. Randolph tweeted out images of Keaton filming on The Flash set, including an image of the massive Mercedes convertible (presumably wearing a detachable hardtop). “This is [Keaton’s] car”, she tweeted.
Does the appearance of the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet in The Flash imply the three-pointed star has plans to mass-produce this big beast (mass being a relative term given the potential production car’s surely six-figure price tag will result in limited sales)? We don’t know, but we hope so. We presume a production version of the 6 will at least offer an electric powertrain as an option. Mercedes previewed such a powertrain on the concept, which purportedly produced 750 hp and offered a driving range of more than 200 miles on a full charge of the battery pack.
That said, we’re not going to get too worked up over the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet’s appearance in The Flash. After all, Acura placed an NSX convertible-like concept car in the 2012 superhero film, The Avengers, and nearly a decade later, the brand’s yet to introduce a drop-top model, let alone an open-roofed NSX.