Need a Ride?
Welcome back to The Stack, a monthly newsletter featuring the best content about the field we’re all so passionate about: self-driving cars.
This month’s edition covers our major announcement to deploy Ford self-driving cars for ride-hailing on the Lyft network in Miami and Austin, beginning later this year.
Also: Alex Roy’s latest column that won’t put you to sleep and notes from a professor on a unique approach to teaching autonomous vehicles.
Ready to ride? Your chariot awaits…
All The Pieces of the Puzzle
To launch a self-driving ride-hailing service that can scale, you need three key pieces: self-driving technology, vehicle production capability, and riders, according to Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky.
Last week, in a first for this nascent industry, three different companies — Argo AI, Ford, and Lyft — came together with their respective pieces to build such an offering.
Riders in areas of Miami and Austin will be able to pull open their Lyft app like usual, select their pickup and drop off point, and then they’ll be offered the chance to select a Ford Escape Hybrid Self-Driving vehicle from among the various vehicle types on Lyft’s network. The car itself will be driven autonomously by Argo AI’s self-driving system, and two human safety drivers will be present in the front seats to monitor the system’s performance.
So when can we ride in an Argo AI self-driving car? Later this year! Miami will be the first city where riders will be able to use their Lyft app to hail Ford cars equipped with the Argo AI self-driving system, followed by Austin in early 2022, and other yet-to-be-named locations — a total fleet of at least 1,000 vehicles coming within 5 years. We can’t wait!
When the Moon Hits Your AI
On social media, the auto commentariat were sent buzzing this week when a Tesla driver posted a video showing his car’s Autopilot driver assist feature mistaking the moon up in the night sky as a yellow traffic light, and slowing down accordingly!
Carnegie Mellon scientist Deva Ramanan, who works with Argo AI, shared some of the current attributes of effective self-driving systems to Ground Truth, including 3D maps, lidar, radar and cameras for the spatial, temporal, and prior knowledge that delivers the context needed to interpret the scene correctly. Sounds like a bright idea to us!
A Unique Technological Moment
There are many college courses relevant to understanding self-driving cars: computer science, artificial intelligence, mechatronics, automotive design, to name a few.
But Patrick McGinty, who teaches at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, came at it from a completely different angle: The English Department. As McGinty describes his course on autonomous vehicles:
“I felt that [autonomous vehicles] were at a unique technological moment—observable but not yet usable, increasingly ubiquitous but under-discussed…Roughly 40% of my students are first-generation college attendees, mainly hailing from blue-collar Western Pennsylvania. I saw the seminar as a chance for them to finally discuss a technology before it became a dominant presence in their lives.”
After getting his students to reflect on how the introduction of self-driving cars compared to other innovations like the washing machine, he asked them to create fictional stories with autonomous vehicles, and was surprised to see that their concerns were less about the technology itself, and more about who would have access to it and where it would be available.
Catch Up On Your ZZZooms
Can you sleep in the back of your car while it drives you around?
If not, it’s not really self-driving, argues Ground Truth columnist Alex Roy (despite what other auto companies might say).
It makes for a simple but effective test for autonomous driving. The industry has Alex’s mom to thank for the idea!
We know what Alex wants to do in the back of a self-driving car. How about you? Let us know your ideas at Stack@argo.ai, and we may use them in a future newsletter. Some options below:
3.Check social media
5.Text or FaceTime
Speaking of Innovation…
Robots have been part of the global economy for generations. Now, they’re finally getting their due in the annals of history.
The Robotics Project, a new effort from Carnegie Mellon University Libraries and the School of Computer Science at CMU, launched this month to identify, catalog, and preserve media and artifacts, both digital and physical, that trace the development of mechanical beings.
The first exhibit, the Robotics Archive, is live and features a giant robotic cockroach recognized as the first computer-controlled passenger vehicle. We’re sure it was pretty buggy!
On Our Radar (and Lidar)
Electric vehicle maker Rivian raised $2.5 billion in funding from Ford and Amazon, among others. Talk about going green!
In other EV news: Rimac, the eponymous company founded out of a garage by CEO Mate Rimac in 2009, formed a new joint-venture that will see it taking over the storied luxury supercar brand Bugatti!
- New research reveals that ridesharing companies have contributed to a 6% decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities and 4% decline in overall traffic fatalities in the U.S.
See some other cool/important/strange/noteworthy autonomy links you want to share? We’ll take them at Stack@argo.ai! We may just include your recommendations in a future edition of this newsletter.
Check out some of our many openings across the U.S. and Germany — plus remote offerings, too.
- Autonomous Vehicle System Test Specialist
Don’t see the right fit? The full list is here.
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