Google Robotics Snags Tesla Engineer

1 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Poaches Self-Driving Car Specialist From Tesla.

With experience at Tesla and its Autopilot division, it would make sense that Rose might end up in Google’s self-driving car department. Google recently hired a Tesla engineer responsible for the electric car company’s autopilot technology, according to a report Monday by tech news website 9to5Google.Recently Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors, SpaceX and chairman of SolarCity, used Twitter to reach out to software engineers to ramp up Tesla’s Autopilot software team. “Should mention that I will be interviewing people personally and Autopilot reports directly to me. While the move suggests that Rose may be joining Google to advance its self-driving car efforts, Rose will actually be working on a separate robotics project, according to Business Insider’s Jillian D’Onfro.

And it’s a super high priority for a lot of executives in other companies too—in the legacy automobile makers, such as Audi, BMW and GM; those who are attacking the market from the side, such as Google and Uber; as well as tech and automobile companies that are joining hands, like Microsoft and Volvo. Musk pitched the technology last month as being different from what’s available from competing automobile makers. “The whole Tesla fleet operates as a network,” he said. “When one car learns something, they all learn it. That is beyond what other car companies are doing.” Google has been working on similar computer-based driving assistance technologies, so it makes sense that it would want someone with Rose’s pedigree.

Musk’s expedited efforts to bring the Autopilot system to full autonomy are not surprising considering how many other car makers and tech companies are working to bring the technology to market. Passengers can press the “GO” toggle to get started, then control the door locks, stereo volume, internal lights, windows, and seats with the push of a button. A report based on an unnamed source by news site Business Insider said that Rose would not work on Google’s car projects without saying what exactly he will do.

But for Tesla, developing a fully autonomous system is even more urgent because the people are already pushing Autopilot’s capabilities to the extreme. Mark Fields, CEO of Ford (which incidentally is using a fake city, a 32-acre faux town in Michigan, to get unlimited time to test-drive its cars), is probably one of the most optimistic about self-driving cars. While helpful, semi-autonomous driver assistance systems like Autopilot can be dangerous in some regards because people begin to trust the technology a little too much and sometimes forget that it has limited capabilities. After Autopilot was released, there were a number of videos posted to YouTube of Tesla owners completely taking their hands off the wheels to do other tasks.

Not unlike Nissan’s IDS Concept car, with lighting and displays that let folks know when it’s okay to cross the street, Google’s future model may include “safe to cross,” “stop,” and “do not cross” symbols. The exit of Rose comes as a big blow to Tesla, which is gradually implementing more advanced driver assist features to help develop its autonomous driving technology.

The company recently taught its self-driving cars to better recognize children—whether they’re simply crossing the street, or darting into the road to retrieve a stray ball. While Tesla specifically said the technology is not intended to be hands-free, people saw how well it worked an immediately entrusted their lives with it. Google a year ago unveiled the first complete build of its autonomous vehicle, with working headlights and a slick, shiny body that looks like a tiny Volkswagen Bug. This is a problem for Tesla because while there technology is constantly improving and has already helped save some lives, it’s still not foolproof.

Self-driving cars are yet to learn the hundreds of signals human beings—car drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, motor bikers—send, receive and interpret that make driving both safe and accepted. As Fumihiko Ike, chairman of Honda, told ‘The Japan Times’ recently: “Human intelligence has no equal for working out what is happening on the road, so I think fundamentally it won’t be easy to leave it to the machine except in very restricted conditions such as motorways or specific routes.” It’s worth remembering that in technology, advances happen in small steps and it might seem like nothing is happening before we find ourselves in a different world. Soon after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, there were reports of how terrorists might have used encryption—easy and cheap to access these days—to communicate.

Now, attention has turned to cryptocurrencies. ‘Reuters’ reported that European Union countries plan to go after virtual currencies and anonymous payments made online to curb the flow of funds to terrorist organizations. Almost at the same time when Google hired Rose from Tesla’s Autopilot team, the Autopilot team hired a software engineer from Google’s Maps Street View team.

They can be transacted anonymously; they are not restricted by national borders—a bitcoin is as valid in Europe as it is in America; they can be transferred as immediately as cash; and of course they are low-cost and easy to use. Ghost Security Group, an antiterrorism hacker group, says ISIS does have bitcoins, and that most of its funds come from “traditional” sources—oil sales, kidnapping, extortion. What it does highlight, however, is that there is always a trade-off between comfort that a new technology would bring to millions and the security issues it will open up because it will provide the same comforts to those with bad intentions. “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it, and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success.” So said physicist J. He was quoted in a long ‘New Yorker’ profile of Nick Bostrom, author of ‘Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies’, and the Oxford professor who runs the Future of Humanity Institute. Matthew Lai, a master’ student at Imperial College London, recently created an AI machine that has taught itself to play chess at the International Master level.

An AI program developed by Japan’s National Institute of Informatics has passed a college entrance exam, scoring above national average, but not high enough for its top institute, the University of Tokyo. These words from its website could well be out of science fiction: “We’re using artificial intelligence and nanotechnology to store data of conversational styles, behavioural patterns, thought processes and information about how your body functions from the inside-out. Using cloning technology, we will restore the brain as it matures.” Realistically speaking, what are the chances that AI will turn out to be all that its fans and critics say it would be? ‘The New Yorker’ profile quotes a survey by Richard Sutton, a Canadian computer scientist: “There is a ten-per-cent chance that A.I. will never be achieved, but a twenty-five-per-cent chance that it will arrive by 2030. The median response in Bostrom’s poll gives a fifty-fifty chance that human-level A.I. would be attained by 2050.” For many of us, within our lifetimes, that is.

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