Homepage / Technology / Two ex-Google engineers built an entirely different kind of self-driving car
Google and Facebook are watching our every move online. It's time to make them stop Daymond John tells shy airline passenger: You should have talked to me on the plane South Korea says it has no plans to shut down cryptocurrency trading AMD shares surge as Wall Street analysts say the chipmaker is ‘executing on all fronts’ James Altucher, the face of bitcoin, says he’s happy about Facebook’s cryptocurrency ad ban Pending home sales eke out 0.5 percent gain in December as supply shrinks to record low Uber is testing bike sharing in San Francisco The real source of the internet's problems might be the advertising business Game publisher EA's sales forecast tops estimates, sending shares higher GE will likely be dropped from the Dow, Deutsche Bank predicts Samsung surpasses Intel as world's biggest chipmaker for the first time Apple could be the best of the bunch in this tech earnings avalanche The 9-year stock rally still has 'years left,' says one of Wall Street's most bullish strategists Apple: We would never degrade the iPhone experience to get users to buy new phones Bitcoin headed for biggest monthly drop since January 2015 with nearly $60 billion of value wiped off ADP boosts forecast as new tax law spurs demand China 'will open even wider to the UK,' says Prime Minister Li Keqiang Big market swings are something you’re going to have to get used to, says Wells Fargo The dollar keeps weakening. Is that good news for the world? Apple downgraded by BMO, expects iPhone maker to slash revenue forecast this week SoftBank buys majority stake in Japanese messaging giant Line’s mobile division Rising interest rates cause a 2.6% pullback in weekly mortgage applications Trump's State of the Union address 'less hard' than first feared in Asia Trump vows to protect US intellectual property, without naming China Blockchain technology to boost Microsoft earnings, trader says Fujifilm to take over Xerox and combine it into the joint venture Fuji Xerox Samsung is making chips designed to mine cryptocurrencies like bitcoin There’s a risk of market turbulence, but it’s unlikely to hit until 2019, says Santander chairman We'll see up to a 15 percent correction in 2018, Swiss bank CEO says Japan's biggest messaging app Line is planning to launch a cryptocurrency exchange Quicksilver surfwear CEO missing at sea off the coast of France Venezuela says will pre-sell 'petro' cryptocurrency on Feb. 20 Nintendo ups its Switch sales expectations to 15 million units after profits rise 261% European markets seen mixed amid earnings and economic data The UK wants free trade with China. Beijing has its own goals Santander fourth-quarter net profit down 4 percent on US impairments The man who almost became ambassador to South Korea just warned about US plans for North Korea China's Leshi Internet flags $1.8 billion loss for 2017, citing conglomerate cash crunch South Korea says it uncovered about $600 million in cryptocurrency crimes Asia became less democratic in 2017 Al Gore's investment firm backs start-up created by Facebook co-founder Theresa May says she wants a free trade deal with China Chinese manufacturing weaker than expected in January Webpass is leaving Boston in latest sign of Google Fiber’s shrinking ambitions Samsung posts record fourth-quarter profit Asian shares look set for more declines as Wall Street sells off for a second day Don't count insurers out yet after Amazon-Berkshire-JP Morgan move Amazon's health care move could be a big win for consumer health start-ups Red Hat buys CoreOS, a start-up that sold tech developed by Google Here’s what Amazon told employees today about its landmark deal to deliver better health care Top official resigns after false missile alert in Hawaii Crazy odds: These online traders bet on the chaos of Washington and the Trump administration AMD falls despite beating Q4 estimates Facebook ban on bitcoin ads latest in very bad day for cryptocurrencies Indian man dies after being sucked into an MRI machine while carrying an oxygen cylinder Advice for Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon from a failed effort to control health costs Toys R Us poor holiday sales cast doubts on its future and could force renegotiation of loan terms The Apple sell-off is a buying opportunity into earnings, says trader Google partnership on mobile cloud services drives up MobileIron shares Facebook is banning all ads promoting cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin and ICOs Amazon's moves in health care over the last year are finally starting to make sense Buffett is getting a second chance to partner with Bezos after missing on Amazon as an investment How Pencils of Promise got a $1 million donation from an anonymous bitcoin multi-millionaire Amazon's home devices could be a key to cheaper health care, tech investor Roger McNamee says Two ex-Google engineers built an entirely different kind of self-driving car Cryptocurrencies join the global financial market sell-off as bitcoin drops 7% A travel agent is trying to charge fees for sunbeds Most of the tax cut windfall will boost buybacks and dividends, not workers' pockets, survey predicts The professor who wrote the book on making addictive technology is having second thoughts Trump's immigration policies are 'economic poison' that will cost taxpayers billions Airbnb trolls President Trump ahead of the State of the Union The iPhone X's $1,000 price tag scared everyone away Drop, a rewards app start-up, snags Airbnb's former head of engineering SEC halts one of the largest 'ICOs' ever as it wades deeper into the murky world of cryptocurrency offerings Passing on sanctions, Trump goes even softer on Russia than expected Buy insurers on dip as new initiative from Amazon, Berkshire and JP Morgan is ‘more bark than bite’: Analyst High schools stock up on Narcan to combat teen opioid crisis in US Apple will finally replace the fax machine in health care Apple is reportedly delaying new iOS features until next year because of quality problems Bond expert predicts a ‘wall of buying’ in Treasurys will protect the stock market Home prices surge to new high, up 6.2% in November Noted tech investor says the sector is not the best place to invest right now Sterling predicted to hit pre-Brexit vote level before the end of 2018 Stocks making the biggest moves premarket: AMZN, BRKB, JPM, AAPL, BX, TSLA & more Bitcoin boom to give AMD earnings a boost, says MKM Partners Apple shares fall again on another report of fading iPhone X demand Trump advisor Cohn: President to focus on $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan in State of the Union Why don't foreign investors take fright more often? The dollar is doing something it hasn’t done since 1987 UnitedHealth, CVS plunge on Bezos, Buffett and Dimon plan to improve U.S. health care Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan Chase to team in landmark new health care company Can earnings afford to slow down? 'Enemies of the USA': Russia slams America's list of oligarchs with ties to Putin The app that exposed the location of military bases with a heat map is reviewing its features For his next act, former Amex CEO Ken Chenault turns his focus on Silicon Valley Child experts: Just say ‘no’ to Facebook’s kids app Ryanair agrees to recognize British pilots union for first time Arab states are 'determined' to stick with reforms despite deepening 'frustration', IMF says The US 'oligarch list' is strikingly similar to Forbes’ richest Russians ranking Indian ride-hailing firm Ola expands to Australia to take on Uber

Technology

Two ex-Google engineers built an entirely different kind of self-driving car

A new startup that proposes a different spin on autonomous transportation came out of stealth today. The company, called Nuro, was founded by two former lead Google engineers who worked on the famed self-driving car project. Unlike the plethora of self-driving startups out there, Nuro isn’t focused on reconfiguring robot taxis or autonomous trucks, but on designing a new type of vehicle altogether.

Nuro is focused on deliveries, specifically the kind that are low-speed, local, and last-mile: groceries, laundry, or your take-out order from Seamless. The startup thinks that automating these services could help shoulder the sharp increase in last-mile deliveries, while also reducing traffic accidents and boosting local businesses who are looking for ways to thrive and compete in the age of Amazon.

And their timing couldn’t be better. The converging trends of robotics, self-driving cars, and e-commerce are leading to an explosion of interest in the last-mile delivery challenge. Consumers are ordering more items online than ever before, and there is a growing expectation for shorter and shorter delivery windows. A recent study by McKinsey put the global price tag of last-mile delivery every year at around $86 billion, with staggering year-over-year growth rates.

While it works out the kinks in its drone delivery project, Amazon is also considering using self-driving robots, having just filed a patent for an autonomous ground vehicle. Toyota unveiled its bizarre “e-palette” concept at CES this year. Meanwhile, Starship Technologies has sidewalk-only delivery robots making trips in California, Washington, DC, Germany, and the UK. Last year, Ford Motor Company teamed up with Domino’s to deliver pizza via a self-driving car. And later today, a Northern Californian startup called Udelv is demonstratingwhat it calls “the world’s first public-road autonomous delivery test,” in which a self-driving van (with human safety driver) will deliver goods from the high-end Draeger’s Market chain in the Bay Area city of San Mateo.

Nuro is taking a different approach. Rather than dress up a Lexus crossover or a Ford Focus in self-driving hardware and throw some grocery sacks inside, their engineers have built something entirely new from the ground up. At first glance, Nuro’s R1 prototype (just an internal nickname and not the official name) looks like a giant lunchbox on wheels, or maybe even a mobile toaster. If anything, Nuro’s first vehicle looks more like the original “Firefly” prototypes that Google officially retired last summer than anything you’d see on the road today.

But a closer inspection reveals that the “handle” on the roof is actually a platform for the vehicle’s sensor array, which includes LIDAR, cameras, and radars. And a peek through the windshield will also reveal the complete absence of traditional controls like steering wheels, foot pedals, and gear shifts. There’s no driver seat because humans were not meant to operate this vehicle.

That said, Nuro is designing its vehicles for remote operation, placing it alongside startups such as Phantom Auto and others that are working on remotely operated driverless vehicles. But real-time teleoperation has its challenges, such as signal latency and other issues. To gain enough confidence for public deployment, Nuro is using a fleet of six self-driving cars to collect data and optimize routes, which then gets fed into its prototype vehicles. Nuro has received a permit from the California DMV and plans to start testing on public roads later this year. But the company will need sign-off from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before it can operate in states where regulation prohibits completely human-free driving.

“We’ve built the full software stack from scratch. There are a lot of components that are shared with general self-driving, and some things that are a bit different,” said Dave Ferguson who, along with Jiajun Zhu, co-founded Nuro. “We’ve been able to architecture this thing from scratch, geared toward this passenger-less, goods-only transportation.”

Read more from The Verge:
These six-wheeled robots are about to start delivering food in the US
Waymo retires its cute self-driving car in favor of minivans
Plastic pollution is making corals sick

Ferguson said they considered building the R1 to drive on sidewalks but ultimately decided to make it road-worthy instead. The vehicle is about as tall as a Toyota Highlander but only about half the width, which Ferguson said is one of its standout features. This skinniness translates into a 3 to 4-foot “buffer” around the R1 so other vehicles and pedestrians can maneuver safely around it.

“Even if you have the perfect self-driving vehicle, if someone pops out between two parked cars and it’s within your stopping distance, you can’t prevent that accident,” he said. “Whereas if you have a vehicle that’s half the width, and you’ve got an extra three or four feet of clearance, you can avoid it… and you have room to maneuver around them. You can better design the vehicle to mitigate the severity of any accident.”

There are some challenges to Nuro’s business model, specifically how customers will receive their deliveries from the self-driving delivery pod. No driver means no one to ring your doorbell or trudge up four flights of stairs to hand over your pad thai. Ferguson says he envisions customers using — what else? — an app to inform them when the vehicle has arrived in front of their building or in their driveway. They would then be given a code that pops open the vehicle’s side hatches so they can retrieve their items. They are also considering using facial recognition technology. But what’s to prevent people from stealing someone else’s deliveries? There are still a lot of details that need to be worked out, Ferguson acknowledged.

Ferguson and Zhu are two guys who know more than a little about autonomous driving. Zhu was one of the founding engineers of Google’s self-driving team, while Ferguson was a leading software engineer on the team. Both left Google at the same time as its chief technology officer Chris Urmson, who has since gone on to start his own self-driving company, Aurora.

Aside from a brief internship at Intel, Zhu had spent much of his career at Google and was the self-driving team’s principal software engineer from 2008-2016. Ferguson came to Google in 2011 after a stint at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, which has been at the forefront of the autonomous driving revolution. He served as the principal computer-vision and machine-learning engineer at Google before leaving with Zhu in late 2016 to start Nuro. Since then, they’ve attracted talent from the likes of Google, Apple, Tesla, Waymo, and GM to build out their team.

Nuro has already raised $92 million in two rounds of fundraising and is in talks with a number of retailers and delivery providers about possible partnerships. A likelier outcome is Nuro gets quickly bought up by a company like Amazon. The race to develop self-driving technology has sparked a furious round of mergers and acquisitions over the past few years, the rate of which has yet to subside.

Ferguson said that he hopes Nuro’s fresh approach to self-driving — focusing on delivering goods rather than people — hopefully means that Nuro will stand out from the pack.

“Almost all of the big players in self-driving passenger transportation are really, really focused on that application because for many of them it’s an existential threat,” Ferguson said. “And most of them feel that goods transportation is going to be a follow-on application. For us, we felt, in and of its own right, it was an important enough problem and one that we could make real headway on earlier than passenger transportation.”

He added, “That makes us sound smarter or more cunning than we are … It makes sense for them to be focused on that, but it also leaves open a pretty big opportunity to go after this other area.”

Source: Tech CNBC
Two ex-Google engineers built an entirely different kind of self-driving car

Comments are closed.