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Transportation

Tesla's Autopilot Mode Reportedly Saves Pedestrian's Life (electrek.co) 219

An anonymous reader writes: Following reports of Tesla's Autopilot mode being linked to a fatal crash, one Tesla Model S owner is reporting that the Autopilot mode has likely saved a pedestrian's life. The driver sent an email to Elon Musk explaining the situation, which was confirmed by Tesla through the vehicle logs: "I wanted to let you know that I think my car probably saved the life of a pedestrian last night, 7/16 around 10:30pm when I was driving in Washington DC with my daughter." The driver says him and his daughter were trying to locate where sirens were coming from "when a pedestrian stepped out in front of [their] Model S in the dark with dark clothes and in the middle of the road." The car slammed on its breaks before he could and "stopped just inches from hitting the pedestrian." The driver said, "I am not sure if I would have been able to stop before hitting him but I am so glad the car did." The Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), which is standard on all Tesla vehicles and is part of Tesla's Autopilot mode, is what was at work here. It appears that many of the convenience features of Autopilot were not activated at the time of the incident. This is likely the first of many good press stories released by Elon Musk, who said he would consider releasing the stories of accidents prevented by the Autopilot mode with the authorization of the Tesla owners and by confirming the events through the vehicle logs. Elon Musk did also announce Tesla's 'Master Plan, Part Deux,' which includes new kinds of Tesla vehicles, expanded solar initiatives, updates on Tesla's 'autopilot' technology, and a ride-sharing program.
Businesses

Tesla's 'Master Plan, Part Deux' Includes Trucks, Buses and Ride-Sharing (latimes.com) 171

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Los Angeles Times: After teasing Part 2 of his "master product plan" for over a week, Elon Musk finally delivered. Los Angeles Times reports: "In a blog post published on the automaker's website, Musk introduced a multiyear, four-pronged strategy that includes new kinds of Tesla vehicles, expanded solar initiatives, updates on Tesla's 'autopilot' technology and a ride-sharing program. Commercial trucks, buses, a 'future compact SUV' and a 'new kind of pickup truck' will be added to Tesla's fleet of electric cars. A heavy-duty truck called the Tesla Semi and a shrunken bus that Musk called a 'high passenger density urban transport' vehicle are in early development stages 'and should be ready for unveiling next year,' he said. The smaller bus would be designed without a center aisle, with seats close to the entrances, and would be able to automatically pace themselves with traffic, the post said. The bus driver would become a 'fleet manager.' Musk also used the master plan to defend his bid for rooftop solar power provider SolarCity and said he aims to make Tesla's Autopilot robotic driver-assist system 10 times safer than cars that humans drive manually. Musk also plans to move Tesla into the popular ride-sharing business, not only with an Uber-like fleet but also with an app that lets Tesla owners rent out their vehicles when they're not using them, perhaps defraying a portion of their auto loans. This will happen, he said, 'when true self-driving is approved by regulators,' a turn of events that's at least several years away."
Space

SpaceX Successfully Lands Falcon 9 Rocket On Solid Ground For the Second Time (theverge.com) 101

SpaceX successfully landed another Falcon 9 rocket after launching the vehicle into space on Sunday evening from Florida. The Verge reports: Shortly after takeoff, the vehicle touched down at SpaceX's Landing Complex 1 -- a ground-based landing site that the company leases at the Cape. It marks the second time SpaceX has pulled off this type of ground landing, and the fifth time SpaceX has recovered one of its rockets post-launch. The feat was accomplished a few minutes before the rocket's second stage successfully put the company's Dragon spacecraft into orbit, where it will rendezvous with the International Space Station later this week. It's also the first time this year SpaceX has attempted to land one of its rockets on land. For the past six launches, each rocket has tried landing on an autonomous drone ship floating in the ocean. That's because drone ship landings require a lot less fuel to execute than ground landings.
Communications

Elon Musk: Autopilot Feature Was Disabled In Pennsylvania Crash (latimes.com) 166

An anonymous reader writes: In response to the third reported Autopilot crash, which was the first of three where there were no fatalities, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that the Model X's Autopilot feature was turned off. He tweeted Thursday afternoon that the onboard vehicle logs show that the semi-autonomous driving feature was turned off in the crash. "Moreover, crash would not have occurred if it was on," he added. The driver of the Model X told police he was using the Autopilot feature, according to the Detroit Free Press. The vehicle flipped over after hitting a freeway guardrail. U.S. auto-safety regulators have been investigating a prior crash that occurred while Tesla's Autopilot mode was activated. Late Thursday afternoon and into early Friday, Musk made some comments on the improvements made to its radar technology used to achieve full driving autonomy. "Working on using existing Tesla radar by itself (decoupled from camera) w temporal smoothing to create a coarse point cloud, like lidar," he tweeted. "Good thing about radar is that, unlike lidar (which is visible wavelength), it can see through rain, snow, fog and dust." Musk has rejected Lidar technology in the past, saying it's unnecessary to achieve full driving autonomy. Consumer Reports is calling on Tesla to "disable hands-free operation until its system can be made safer."
Businesses

Third Tesla Crashes Amid Report of SEC Investigation (usatoday.com) 297

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla hasn't had the best month so far as not one, not two, but a total of three crashes have been reported with the car's Autopilot self-driving system engaged at the time -- two of which resulted in fatalities. In addition, The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Tesla violated securities law by failing to disclose more quickly a fatal accident in Florida in May involving a Tesla Model S that was in self-driving mode. The SEC didn't comment on the report, and Tesla issued a statement saying it has "not received any communication from the SEC regarding this issue." As for the Autopilot crash that was reported today, the driver said he activated Autopilot mode at the beginning of his trip. Tesla is looking into the crash and has yet to confirm whether or not Autopilot was a factor. Tesla CEO Elon Musk teased a "Top Secret Tesla Masterplan, Part 2" via Twitter that he is "Hoping to publish later this week."
Software

Tesla Autopilot 2.0 Is Coming This Year, Source Confirms (technobuffalo.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechnoBuffalo: A source close to Tesla Motors confirmed to TechnoBuffalo that Tesla Autopilot 2.0 is coming soon. Other media outlets like Teslarati have reported on prototype Model S and Model X vehicles operating in the wild sporting two forward facing cameras, which may indicate part of the new hardware necessary to take advantage of Autopilot 2.0's additional features. "The dual camera system is capable of recognizing and reacting to stop signs and traffic lights with no driver input," said the source. The current Autopilot software cannot simply stop itself at a light or a stop sign on its own -- it needs a car in front of it in order to automatically slow down or stop. The added cameras should help Autopilot 2.0 read and react to traffic lights and stop signs, and thus bring Tesla's cars closer to autonomous driving. The source did mention that Tesla's current test vehicles with Autopilot 2.0 are running "very beta" software that was likely the precursor to v8.0. U.S. regulators are actively investigating 25,000 Tesla Model S cars after a fatal crash involving a vehicle using the "Autopilot" mode was reported. Despite the tragedy, Elon Musk recently said that Autopilot could save half a million lives every year if Tesla Autopilot was universally available.
Transportation

Elon Musk: Tesla's Autopilot Software Could Save Half a Million Lives Every Year (fortune.com) 265

An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of a deadly crash involving a Model S that was driving with its Autopilot software turned on, Tesla CEO Elon Musk issued a few interesting remarks on the technology to Fortune. Notably, the publication recently ran a piece attempting to portray Tesla in a bad light by noting that Musk sold more than $2 billion worth of Tesla stock just 11 days after the aforementioned May, 2016 accident. And all the while, shareholders were kept in the dark up until recently. "Indeed, if anyone bothered to do the math (obviously, you did not) they would realize that of the over 1M auto deaths per year worldwide, approximately half a million people would have been saved if the Tesla autopilot was universally available. Please, take 5 mins and do the bloody math before you write an article that misleads the public.
Transportation

Self-Driving Tesla Owners Share Videos of Reckless Driving (nytimes.com) 440

An anonymous reader writes: The driver killed in a Tesla car accident "celebrated the Autopilot feature that made it possible for him to cruise the highways, making YouTube videos of himself driving hands-free," reports the New York Times, adding that one of his videos of a near-miss went viral just 11 weeks before his death -- after it was shared on Twitter by Elon Musk. But USA Today reports that Tesla drivers have also filmed themselves playing Jenga and Checkers or sleeping while using the autopilot feature. "Even though Tesla tells drivers to 'keep your hands on the wheel at all times and stay alert,' the temptation to test a no-hands drive is just too much."

In April, a Volvo driver had criticized Tesla for releasing a dangerous "wannabe" Autopilot system. But when Tesla introduced the self-driving feature in October, Elon Musk argued that "Long term, it'll be way better than a person. It never gets tired, never has something to drink, never argues with someone in the car." He had also said that within three years Tesla cars should be able to drive a sleeping driver in to work -- but that that functionality is not currently supported.

Power

Tesla Owner Makes 'Solid Metal Snake' Self-Charging System That Elon Musk Promised (theverge.com) 70

An anonymous reader writes: Nearly two years ago, Elon Musk teased us with a robotic snake that would automatically plug-in and charge your Model S. Well, many months have passed and there has yet to be an official "solid metal snake" available for Tesla owners. So, one Tesla owner decided to make his own autonomous charging station, as spotted by Electrek, that will automatically guide the Model S's charging cable into the waiting receptacle with no human intervention required. The inventor Deepak Mital posted a video showing how it works, and while it's incredibly slow, it does work. Compared to the demo video of the system teased by Elon Musk last year, this version appears much less threatening. Mital calls it the "Evtron," which is controlled with a Raspberry Pi and swings from one side to another before sliding forward to make the connection with the car.
Businesses

Elon Musk's Tesla Plans To Acquire Elon Musk's SolarCity For $2.7B In Stock (techcrunch.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: Today, Elon Musk's electric car and battery company Tesla has announced its offer to buy solar panel installation company SolarCity. Now is a better time than ever to acquire SolarCity, as it recently had its value downgraded. If Tesla does acquire SolarCity, the companies could allow you to outfit your home with solar panels that power a giant battery for your various appliances, such as an electric vehicle. The deal, which has yet to be approved by SolarCity and its board, involves SolarCity's stock being exchanged for Tesla stock. TechCrunch reports that "the deal would pay a premium of 21% to 30% on top of SolarCity's value of $2.14 billion, so Tesla would be buying SolarCity for between $2.59 billion and $2.78 billion worth of its stock." The Tesla team writes, "It's now time to complete the picture. Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently, but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that's available: the sun." Elon Musk has also been in the news today through OpenAI, the artificial-intelligence non-profit backed by Elon Musk, Amazon Web Services and others. OpenAI announced it is working on creating a physical robot that performs household chores.
AI

Elon Musk's Open Source OpenAI: We're Working On a Robot For Your Household Chores (zdnet.com) 64

An anonymous reader writes from a report via ZDNet: OpenAI, the artificial-intelligence non-profit backed by Elon Musk, Amazon Web Services, and others, is working on creating a physical robot that performs household chores. In a blog post Monday, OpenAI leaders said they don't want to manufacture the robot itself, but "enable a physical robot [...] to perform basic housework." The company says it is "inspired" by DeepMind's work in the deep learning and reinforcement learning field of AI, as displayed by its AlphaGo victory over human Go masters. OpenAI says it wants to "train an agent capable enough to solve any game," noting that significant advances in AI will be required in order for that to happen. In May, the company released a public beta of a new Open Source gym for computer programmers working on AI. They also have plans to build an agent that can understand natural language and seek clarification when following instructions to complete a task. OpenAI plans to build new algorithms that can advance this field. Finally, OpenAI wants to measure its progress across games, robotics, and language-based tasks, which is where OpenAI's Gym Beta will come into play.
Transportation

Tesla Model S Floats Well Enough To Act As a Boat, According To Elon Musk 238

It appears a Tesla Model S car can float and effectively drive on water. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted a video of a Model S car which was able to float well through a flooded tunnel in Kazakhstan. Musk also noted that the company "definitely" doesn't recommend trying this -- but still vouched for the availability of this feature. The Guardian reports: The car appears to power through the water using the thrust of the wheels turning in the water, as the bow wave laps over the car's bonnet. Most internal combustion engine cars are sunk in water when the exhaust becomes flooded, which is why serious off-roaders have big exhaust scoops leading to the roof. Electric cars don't suffer from that particular issue, but how the rest of the car will react is unknown.
Space

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Crashes Into Droneship (cbsnews.com) 130

SpaceX failed to successfully land its Falcon 9 on a drone ship at sea on Wednesday. Prior to today's crash, the company was able to conduct three successful experimental landing of its used rocket in a row. SpaceX founder Elon Musk noted that the booster rocket had a RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly, he explained) on droneship. From a CBS News report: It was the California rocket company's fifth unsuccessful drone-ship landing after three straight successes, one in April and two in May. Including a successful landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last December, SpaceX's recovery record now stands at four successes in nine attempts. But the landing attempt was a strictly secondary objective. The mission's primary goal, the launch of two powerful all-electric communications satellites, was a complete success and regardless of the loss of the first stage, company engineers expected to collect valuable data as they continue their push to make such landings routine.
Mars

First SpaceX Missions To Mars: 'Dangerous and Probably People Will Die' (arstechnica.com) 412

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: As we get close to the end of September, when Elon Musk has promised to lay bare his plans for colonizing Mars at an international space conference, it seems like the ambitious founder of SpaceX can hardly contain his excitement. In an interview with The Washington Post, Musk gushed, "I'm so tempted to talk more about the details of it. But I have to restrain myself." SpaceX fandom has speculated for years about details of Musk's ideas, which include the Mars Colonial Transporter concept. The Transporter likely consists of a large first stage rocket and an upper stage spacecraft meant to deliver hundreds of people to the surface of Mars during the late 2020s and 2030s. Unlike NASA, which relies on public money and is therefore risk averse when it comes to "loss of crew" requirements for human missions into space, SpaceX appears to be willing to take some risks with the unprecedented exploration to Mars. Those first explorers would understand the perils, just as the pioneers who explored the New World or the poles of Earth did. "Hopefully there's enough people who are like that who are willing to go build the foundation, at great risk, for a Martian city," Musk told Washington Post. "It's dangerous and probably people will die -- and they'll know that." Eventually it will be safe to go to Mars, Musk said, and living there will be comfortable. But this is many years into the future, he acknowledged.
EU

Norway Agrees On Banning New Sales Of Gas-Powered Cars By 2025: Report (electrek.co) 249

If you live in Norway, an all-electric future is likely closer than you think. The country's four leading political parties have agreed to a plan to stop selling gas-powered cars by 2025, according to a report. Electrek reports: The four main political parties, both from the right and the left, have agreed on a new energy policy that will include a ban on new gasoline-powered car sales as soon as 2025 -- making it one of the most aggressive timeline of its kind for such a policy. What's probably most remarkable here is that Norway is currently one of the world's largest Oil exporters.Tesla CEO Elon Musk was rather pleased with the announcement. He said, "Just heard that Norway will ban new sales of fuel cars in 2025. What an amazingly awesome country. You guys rock!!"
AI

Tech CEOs Declare This the Era of Artificial Intelligence (fortune.com) 178

You will be hearing a lot about AI and machine learning in the coming years. At Recode's iconic conference this week, a number of top executives revealed -- and reiterated -- their increasingly growing efforts to capture the nascent technology category. From a Reuters report (condensed): Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet's Google, said he sees a "huge opportunity" in AI. Google first started applying the technology through "deep neural networks" to voice recognition software about three to four years ago and is ahead of rivals such as Amazon.com, Apple, and Microsoft in machine learning, Pichai said.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos predicted a profound impact on society over the next 20 years. "It's really early but I think we're on the edge of a golden era. It's going to be so exciting to see what happens," he said.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said the company has been working on artificial technology, which she calls a cognitive system, since 2005 when it started developing its Watson supercomputer.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will create computers so sophisticated and godlike that humans will need to implant "neural laces" in their brains to keep up, Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told a crowd of tech leaders this week.
Microsoft, which was absent from the event, is also working on bots and AI technologies. One company that is seemingly off the picture is Apple.
Media

Elon Musk: 'One In Billions' Chance We're Not Living In A Computer Simulation (vox.com) 951

An anonymous reader writes: At Recode's annual Code Conference, Elon Musk explained how we are almost certainly living in a more advanced civilization's video game. He said: "The strongest argument for us being in a simulation probably is the following. Forty years ago we had pong. Like, two rectangles and a dot. That was what games were. Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it's getting better every year. Soon we'll have virtual reality, augmented reality. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let's imagine it's 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale. So given that we're clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we're in base reality is one in billions. Tell me what's wrong with that argument. Is there a flaw in that argument?" You can watch Elon Musk's full interview on YouTube.
Earth

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Predicts People On Mars In 9 Years (cnn.com) 224

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says his company should be able to land humans on Mars in nine years from now. "If things go according to plan, we should be able to -- we should be able to -- launch people in 2024, with arrival in 2025," Musk said. "That's the game plan," he added. CNN Money reports: Musk said he's planning to share an architectural plan for the colonization of Mars at a conference in September. The tech conference audience was enthralled by Musk's comments. He told interviewers Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg that plotting travel throughout the Solar System, and "ultimately other star systems," provides the kind of inspiration that makes life worth living.
Power

Elon Musk Suggests Tesla Model 3 Won't Get Free Supercharger Use (theverge.com) 228

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: In response to a question about how the company would handle an influx of Model 3s to its Supercharging stations, which are currently offered as a free service to Tesla customers, Elon Musk said at Tesla's annual shareholder's conference in Mountain View, California, "it will not be free long distance for life unless you purchase that package." He did not specify what the "package" contained, nor did he say how much it would cost as an add-on with the purchase of a Model 3. His full quote reads: "Obviously, [free Supercharging] fundamentally has a cost. [...] The obvious thing to do is decouple that from the cost of the Model 3. So it will still be very cheap, and far cheaper than gasoline, to drive long-distance with the Model 3, but it will not be free long distance for life unless you purchase that package. I wish we could, but in order to achieve the economics, it has to be something like that." Tesla did recently announce their Gigafactory Grand Opening will be held on July 29, even if it isn't scheduled to begin production on lithium ion cells until next year.
Earth

SpaceX Successfully Lands A Falcon 9 Rocket At Sea For The Third Time (theverge.com) 107

An anonymous reader writes: SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean for the third time in a row. The Verge reports: "It was the third time in a row the company has landed a rocket booster at sea, and the fourth time overall. The landing occurred a few minutes before the second stage of the Falcon 9 delivered the THAICOM-8 satellite to space, where it will make its way to geostationary geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). GTO is a high-elliptical orbit that is popular for satellites, sitting more than 20,000 miles above the Earth. The 3,100-kilogram satellite will spend 15 years improving television and data signals across Southeast Asia." The company landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship for the second time earlier this month. UPDATE 5/27/15: Frank249 writes in a comment: "Elon Musk just tweeted: 'Rocket landing speed was close to design max and used up contingency crush core, hence back and forth motion. Prob ok, but some risk of tipping.'" He went on to tweet: "Crush core is aluminum honeycomb for energy absorption in the telescoping actuator. Easy to replace (if Falcon makes it back to port)."

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