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Tesla Working Towards 90 Percent Autonomous Car Within Three Years

From the sound of things, Elon Musk is trying to change the automotive world (again)

2 min read
Tesla Working Towards 90 Percent Autonomous Car Within Three Years

Tesla Motors has somehow managed to make a car that's miles ahead of anything else by virtue of its innovative technology. Instead of being content with that, Elon Musk has decided that the next step is to go autonomous. Or at least, mostly autonomous.

As with most of Elon Musk's awesomely crazy ideas, most of what we have at this point is a big idea. From the Financial Times:

“We should be able to do 90 percent of miles driven within three years,” [Musk] said. Mr Musk would not reveal further details of Tesla’s autonomy project, but said it was “internal development” rather than technology being supplied by another company. “It’s not speculation,” he said.

Musk went on to say that he doesn't believe that fully autonomous cars are quite feasible yet: "It’s incredibly hard to get the last few percent." In other words, getting to 90 percent autonomy takes some level of effort, and getting to 95 percent autonomy might take the same amount of effort as getting to 90 percent. Ditto for 97 percent from 95 percent, and as for complete autonomy, well... That's a Google-sized challenge that even Google and traditional car manufacturers together might not be up for quite yet, according to Reuters:

"One person familiar with Google’s efforts said carmakers had been hesitant about adopting the Google technology because of the potential liabilities from accidents involving robot cars. Google would not comment."

Whether or not Google comments, liability is a huge issue with autonomous cars, and nobody wants to be the first company to put one in the hands of a consumer only to shortly thereafter be the first company to be sued if the car has an accident in autonomous mode. The fact is that robot cars could be much better drivers than most humans are, but even if we all accept that, the robot cars (and their makers) will inevitably be blamed whenever something goes wrong. Even if autonomous cars (say) halve the total number of traffic accidents, the headlines (not our headlines) will just as inevitably be about robots getting in lots of accidents.

What we could really use is some company to say something like, "damn the torpedos, full speed ahead" and just go for it. And that's why we're excited about this announcement from Tesla, even if "we want to do this" is a rather long way from "we've done this, and here it is."

We'll keep you updated.

[ Financial Times ] via [ Reuters ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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