Elon Musk said what?

❝ In many ways, Tesla — Elon Musk’s lightning rod of a car company — is the perfect allegory for modern Silicon Valley. The ongoing psychodrama of personalities drowns out the amazing technical achievements that are happening all around us…

As usual, this has been a real “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” kind of week for Tesla. It had a disastrous earnings report card, and Elon keeps creating all the wrong sorts of headlines. But in the middle of this maelstrom, the company announced a new chip that is going to eventually become the brain for their electric car. This chip is not just any chip — it will be able to make sense of a growing number of sensors that allow the car to become better and better at assisted (if not fully automated) driving…

❝ Tesla’s module is based on two AI chips — each one made of a CPU, a GPU, and deep learning accelerators. The module can deliver 144-trillion operations per second, making it capable of processing data from numerous sensors and other sources and running deep neural network algorithms. Ian Riches, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, told EE Times that this is “effectively the most powerful computer yet fitted to a production vehicle.” And Tesla is going to make a next-generation module that will be more powerful and will consume a lot less power.

As usual, Om Malik provides more depth, analysis and understanding than most of his peers. Please, RTFA, gather in another chunk of insight into Elon Musk’s apparently endless journey to reinvent the automobile along with any other software and hardware he bumps into in his young life.

Driverless toaster delivers pizza

❝ In an abandoned lot on the outskirts of Sacramento, R1, a domed gray vehicle half the size of a Toyota Corolla, is practicing driving itself…as other self-driving vehicles do on test courses in Silicon Valley, Detroit, and China. But R1, made by a startup called Nuro, doesn’t need to be as good. It can make a jolting brake if it sees something on the road or cruise untroubled over a small bump — wrinkles that companies building autonomous taxis work tirelessly to remove. Nuro spent less time on this, because its robots aren’t designed to ferry people. “A lot of those problems can be solved when you remove the passenger,” says co-founder Dave Ferguson. “The pizza doesn’t care if you’re going a little slower.”

❝ Almost every company making self-driving cars, including Alphabet’s Waymo, General Motors, and Ford Motor, says the second move will be delivery vehicles. Nuro, whose co-founders spent years on Waymo LLC’s car project when it was still part of Google, is focused on delivery first…

❝ Without human labor costs, Nuro’s robot has a better chance to make on-demand delivery profitable than the string of failed startups that have littered Silicon Valley in recent years…but it will take a little getting used to…for consumers.

RTFA. Poisonally, I can hardly wait for my favorite pizza delivery spot to send one of these to our driveway.

GM intends to be first out the door with mass-produced autonomous cars


Click to enlargeAll-electric BOLT without autonomous guidance hardware

❝ General Motors will tap into Michigan’s new self-driving car law and Chevy Bolt production to become the first automaker to mass-produce autonomous vehicles.

GM CEO Mary Barra yesterday said the automaker will “immediately” begin testing self-driving Bolts on public roads near the GM Technical Center in the Detroit area. The company expects the first self-driving Bolts to begin rolling off its assembly line in January.

❝ While the automaker already began testing about 40 self-driving Bolts in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Ariz., the Michigan test runs will be much larger, according to Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of autonomous technology and vehicle execution.

GM will be utilizing Michigan’s broad and liberal autonomous vehicle policy – and its severe weather conditions…

A week ago, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that allows automakers and technology partners to develop, test, and sell autonomous vehicles in the state. That policy goes farther than what other states have enacted – allowing for steering wheels and brake pedals to be removed, permission for companies to offer ride-hailing services with autonomous vehicles, and sales to consumers of self-driving cars that have passed testing and certification.

❝ Autonomous Bolts will be assembled at GM’s plant in Orion Township, Mich. That’s where non-autonomous all-electric Bolts are already being built, along with the Chevy Sonic subcompact car. GM workers will be adding to some of the Bolts cameras, sensors, Lidar, and other autonomous technology that will be tested out…

The GM CEO declined to state when autonomous Bolts will be available for sale to the public. The company did say earlier this year that self-driving Bolts will be used for ride-hailing services through its partnership with Lyft within a few years.

❝ As for non-autonomous Bolts, Chevy dealers began selling them in California and Oregon this week. GM said it will be expanding the market to New York, Massachusetts, and Virginia in early 2017. The Bolt will be sold nationwide around the middle of the year.

This is coming at the American driving public faster than anyone might have imagined. Let’s hear it for fast, cheap CPUs and hotshot coders.