Self-driving cars could soon be cheaper and easier to build

Roberto Baldwin

There’s no shortage of companies working on artificial intelligence for cars. If anything there’s a glut. Every automaker and startup seems to be building a nearly sentient system designed to operate cars and avoid objects (especially humans). AImotive (pronounced “AI Motive” — yeah, it’s confusing) is doing the same thing, except it’s also designing the accompanying hardware. What’s more, it’ll play nice with rival software platforms too. The ultimate goal is to create a suite that simplifies the way we connect different hardware configurations.

The company is creating a lower-cost self-driving system that forgoes the pricey LiDAR sensors in exchange for multiple low-cost cameras. Instead of using LiDAR-building juggernaut Velodyne’s $75,000 top-of-the-line sensor on its cars, it’s outfitted them with eight to 12 off-the-shelf $12 cameras.

Meanwhile in the trunk of AImotive’s Prius test vehicle, the company is sticking with industry darling NVIDIA to help make sense of all that camera data. But even those GPUs are on the way out in favor of a lower-power solution. The four NVIDIA cards currently used in the company’s car computer suck up 1,000 watts of power. That’s not exactly efficient, especially when you consider how the cars of the future will be powered. Self-driving cars are more than likely going to electric vehicles, so a supercomputer in the trunk sucking up enough wattage to power a small home isn’t ideal. So AImotive decided to design its own chip to replace each of those GPUs.

It’s not going to be easy. NVIDIA’s hardware is entrenched in the automotive space. AImotive says it will license the design to third parties and that its ASIC-based chip will reduce the power consumption of a four-processor system from 1,000 watts to 100. “What we found is that there are serious bottlenecks in the current chips, and we basically designed a new chip architecture,” said CEO László Kishonti. The new chips are expected to be 20 times better at efficiently crunching AI algorithms than the NVIDIA GPUs.


While the company hopes to change the processors in the cars, AImotive also understands that the backend of these systems requires high-end processors from NVIDIA, Intel and others. To streamline the process of working with multiple chip architectures in a single system, it’s created an open-standard translation tool for AI algorithms to increase the efficiency of file sharing between chip types.

All of this is based around the company’s premise that self-driving cars should act more like people. That it should be a vision-based system with Radar (or LiDAR, if the price ever drops substantially) as a backup. And more important, that it should be inexpensive and relatively easy to implement.


AImotive is taking on some huge competition. It’ll take a lot to unseat NVIDIA’s dominance in autonomous cars, and the company built a driving simulator because there’s no way its five cars can come close to real-world miles that Tesla and Google have accumulated. But the software company is looking beyond just building software for its potential customers. By taking a wider view and adding hardware to the mix, it’s working like an established automaker instead of dozens of other AI startups.



Ransomware infections reported worldwide

BBC News

A massive ransomware campaign appears to have infected a number of organisations around the world.

Screenshots of a well known program that locks computers and demands a payment in Bitcoin have been shared online by parties claiming to be affected.

There have been reports of infections in the UK, US, China, Russia, Spain, Italy, Vietnam, Taiwan and others.

Security researchers are linking the incidents together.

One cyber-security researcher tweeted that he had detected 36,000 instances of the ransomware, called WannaCry and variants of that name.

“This is huge,” he said.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) was also hit by a ransomware outbreak and screenshots of the WannaCry program were shared by NHS staff.

A number of Spanish firms were among the apparent victims elsewhere in Europe.

Telecoms giant Telefonica said in a statement that it was aware of a “cybersecurity incident” but that clients and services had not been affected.

Power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural were also reported to have suffered from the outbreak.

There were reports that staff at the firms were told to turn off their computers.

Screenshots of WannaCry with text in Spanish were also shared online.

In Italy, one user shared images appearing to show a university computer lab with machines locked by the same program.

Bitcoin wallets seemingly associated with the ransomware were reported to have already started filling up with cash.

“This is a major cyber attack, impacting organisations across Europe at a scale I’ve never seen before,” said security architect Kevin Beaumont.

According to security firm Check Point, the version of the ransomware that appeared today is a new variant.

“Even so, it’s spreading fast,” said Aatish Pattni, head of threat prevention for northern Europe.

Several experts monitoring the situation have linked the infections to vulnerabilities released by a group known as The Shadow Brokers, which recently claimed to have dumped hacking tools stolen from the NSA.

A patch for the vulnerability was released by Microsoft in March, but many systems may not have had the update installed.

Android apps secretly tracking users by listening to inaudible sound hidden in adverts

The Independent

An increasing number of Android applications are attempting to track users without their knowledge, according to a new report.

Over recent years, companies have started hiding “beacons”, ultrasonic audio signals inaudible to humans, in their adverts, in order to track devices and learn more about their owners.

Electronic devices equipped with microphones can register these sounds, allowing advertisers to uncover their location and work out what kind of ads their owners watch on TV and which other devices they own. Continue reading

More Robots, Fewer Jobs

Mira Rojanasakul & Peter Coy

Are you about to be replaced by a robot? The question has broad implications for the U.S. economy, especially the manufacturing sector. Industries that robotize tend to increase output. But robots can have dire consequences for workers.

Two economists recently concluded that both jobs and wages fall in parts of the U.S. where more robots are installed. The March 2017 study by Daron Acemoglu of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University shows the commuting zones—i.e., local labor markets—where robot installations have grown the most.


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FCC website hit by attacks after ‘net neutrality’ proposal

David Shepardson

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said Monday that its website was hit by deliberate denial of service attacks after the telecommunications regulator was criticized by comedian John Oliver for its plan to reverse “net neutrality” rules.

The attacks came soon after Oliver on Sunday urged viewers to file electronic comments with the FCC opposing the plan unveiled by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to reverse rules implemented under President Barack Obama that boosted government regulatory powers over internet service providers.

Pai’s plan faces an initial vote on May 18.

Oliver in his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” owned by Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) urged viewers to use a website purchased by the show that takes visitors directly to an FCC page to file comments.

The proposal has received more than 100,000 comments since Sunday, a sign of intense interest in a proposal that could reshape the future of the internet.

The FCC said it “was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks. These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host.”

The FCC added the attacks “made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC.”

The net neutrality rules, which the FCC put in place in 2015, prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a “fast lane,” to certain internet services over others. Pai wants comment on whether the FCC should retain rules governing provider conduct.

The rules reclassified providers much like utilities. They were favored by websites who said they guarantee equal internet access but opposed by internet providers, who said they could eventually result in rate regulation, inhibit innovation and make it harder to manage traffic. Pai said he believed the rules depressed investment by providers and cost jobs.

Oliver in 2014 helped galvanize support for net neutrality. The FCC then received more than 4 million comments, most in favor of the rules.

On Sunday, Oliver harshly criticized Pai, saying he “plays dumb” about why internet providers do not want net neutrality rules and called him “deeply disingenuous.”

An FCC spokesman did not comment on Oliver’s remarks.

One internet provider, AT&T Inc (T.N), which opposed the Obama rules, in October agreed to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


The Military is Using Human Brain Waves to Teach Robots How to Shoot

Patrick Tucker

Modern sensors can see farther than humans. Electronic circuits can shoot faster than nerves and muscles can pull a trigger. Humans still outperform armed robots in knowing what to shoot at — but new research funded in part by the Army may soon narrow that gap.

Researchers from DCS Corp and the Army Research Lab fed datasets of human brain waves into a neural network — a type of artificial intelligence — which learned to recognize when a human is making a targeting decision. They presented their paper on it at the annual Intelligent User Interface conference in Cyprus in March.

Why is this a big deal? Machine learning relies on highly structured data, numbers in rows that software can read. But identifying a target in the chaotic real world is incredibly difficult for computers. The human brain does it easily, structuring data in the form of memories, but not in a language machines can understand. It’s a problem that the military has been grappling with for years. Continue reading

Potential for Ultrasonic Beacons to Trigger Smartphone Apps


Apparently, you have to open some app for the this to happen:

The situation isn’t that worrisome, as users have to open an app with the Shopkick SDK for the beacon to be picked up.

Even so, here’s another one for your already herniating Mobile Phones Are Creepy as Hell file folder.

Via: Bleeping Computer:

A team of researchers from the Brunswick Technical University in Germany has discovered an alarming number of Android applications that employ ultrasonic tracking beacons to track users and their nearby environment.

Their research paper focused on the technology of ultrasound cross-device tracking (uXDT) that became very popular in the last three years.

uXDT is the practice of advertisers hiding ultrasounds in their ads. When the ad plays on a TV or radio, or some ad code runs on a mobile or computer, it emits ultrasounds that are picked up by the microphone of nearby laptops, desktops, tablets or smartphones.

SDKs embedded in apps installed on those devices relay the beacon back to the online advertiser, who then knows that the user of TV “x” is also the owner of smartphone “Y” and links their two previous advertising profiles together, creating a broader picture of the user’s interests, device portfolio, home, and even family members.

The robotic brain surgeon will see you now: drill can perform complex procedures 50 times faster

Henry Bodkin
The Telegraph

Scientists have revealed a robotic drill that can cut the most sensitive brain surgery down from two hours to two and a half minutes.

The machine, developed at the University of Utah, is being hailed as a potential breakthrough in survival for brain patients as the reduced time they spend in surgery will drastically cut the chances of infection. Continue reading

International Workers’ Day: Profitable Work Will Be Automated, The Rest Will Be Left to Us

Charles Smith
Of Two Minds

Everyone wants an abundance of “good paying” jobs, but employers can only afford to pay employees if the work being done is profitable.

What’s abundant and what’s scarce? The question matters because as economist Michael Spence (among others) has noted, value and profits flow to what’s scarce.What’s in over-supply has little to no scarcity value and hence little to no profitability.

Continue reading

Mind hacking: Scientists want new laws to stop our thoughts from being stolen


Researchers have called for radical new legislation protecting people’s thoughts from being stolen and maybe even deleted.

Biomedical ethicists Marcello Ienca and Roberto Andorno believe that while rapid advances in neurotechnology have created opportunities in modern medicine, they also present new challenges for human privacy. Continue reading