How a man met a woman and they set off on an epic journey across six continents in one amazing unbreakable car


Another vehicle is coming towards Gunther Holtorf without slowing. It’s going to be a tight fit.
 He brakes and steers the Mercedes G-Wagen towards the verge. It’s soft and gravelly, and the thick vegetation conceals a steep slope. Slowly the car slips, then starts a slow-motion roll. Mid-roll, it stops for a second, then it turns again – but hits a spindly tree, just strong enough to peg it in position on its side.
 Remarkably, this is the first accident Holtorf and his car, Otto, have experienced in 26 years on the road. There have been minor incidents – a kangaroo flying into a side door, an Indian lorry reversing without looking – but in 177 countries and 884,000km (549,000 miles), nothing worse than a dent.
 Holtorf, 76, undoes his seat belt and lifts himself out of the open passenger window. He’s unharmed – not a scratch.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting an Apple Car

Christopher Mims:

On its face, a car seems like a disastrous thing for Apple Inc. to build. Cars are a brutally commodified, terrifically expensive, generally low-margin industry. Entering the car business is like getting into a land war.
 But the mounting evidence seems undeniable that Apple is forging ahead anyway, despite lack of confirmation from the company. Clearly, Apple thinks it has the chance to make a unique contribution to a category…

Google’s Prototype Self-Driving Cars Coming to Austin for Testing

Laura Lorek:

Google is bringing its autonomous vehicle prototype to Austin for testing.
 The compact two door, two-seater white cars, which Google has created in partnership with Roush Industries in Detroit, will be hitting the roads of Austin in the next week or so.
 The cute little electric cars kind of resemble a miniature Volkswagen beetle combined with the futuristic styling of a George Jetson Aerocar. The prototype cars don’t have a steering wheel, brake pedal or an accelerator because Google says the cars don’t need them. But that equipment will be onboard during testing for the ride-along drivers to take over, if needed. The cars rely on Google’s sensors and software and GPS to navigate the roads.

All models electric within a decade


The transition will see even the company’s top-selling 3 Series sport sedans turned into plug-in hybrids.
 The company is weary of the stringent European Union regulations that greatly reduce the average carbon emissions permitted from road vehicles. They are said to be tougher than either North American or Chinese emission levels.
 The current EU limits extend only to 2021, and is expected to be pulled down further lower through 2025. Under the pressure of regulation, BMWs of the future will be smooth, powerful-and largely electric.

Among the States, Self-Driving Cars Have Ignited a Gold Rush

Dino Grandoni:

The prize: a piece of the estimated $20 billion automakers and other companies will spend globally on development over the next five years, according to an analysis by Gartner.
 “The first thing is, don’t do anything to discourage,” said Richard M. Biter, assistant transportation secretary in Florida, which is among the states chasing the nascent industry. “It’s like the Hippocratic oath.”
 Virginia, for example, is trying to attract carmakers with its clogged highways.

Gap between new and used vehicle payments widens to reach an all-time high


Experian Automotive today announced that the difference between the average monthly payments for new and used vehicles reached its highest level on record. According to the latest State of the Automotive Finance Market report, the average monthly payment for a new vehicle in the second quarter of 2015 was $483, while the used was $361 — widening the gap between the two to $122, the largest margin since Experian began publicly reporting the data in 2008. Furthermore, the difference between the total loan amounts for new and used vehicles also increased significantly. On average, consumers financed $28,524 for a new vehicle and $18,671 for used — a difference of $9,853.

“As the price of new vehicles continues to rise, and the gap between monthly payments for new and used vehicles widens, we see more and more consumers looking for ways to keep their vehicle payments affordable,” said Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of automotive finance. “This could be especially true for consumers who have the financial ability to pursue a new vehicle but may have sticker shock at the rising prices and don’t want the accompanying high monthly payments.”

Findings from the report also show that consumers are continuing to extend their loan terms as a way to keep payments down, especially for used vehicles. The percentage of used vehicles financed for 73 to 84 months increased by 14.8 percent from Q2 2014 to reach 16.1 percent — the highest percentage on record. Additionally, new vehicles financed for the same term length climbed 19.7 percent from the previous year to reach 28.8 percent.

Automakers hitch their wagons to ride-sharing

Melissa Burden:

Automakers increasingly are shifting gears from only selling vehicles to offering their own car-sharing rental businesses and ride-sharing services.

Car-sharing typically allows consumers to rent an automaker’s car for a short period of time, perhaps just a half hour. Ride-sharing matches people to available carpools or an Uber-like service that provides on-demand rides.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and others are exploring and expanding car-sharing and ride-sharing efforts, mindful of forecasts that the market for these services will grow.

GM’s European Opel brand recently launched the free car-sharing smartphone app CarUnity in Germany. It allows users — so far more than 5,000 — to offer their own cars for rent, even if it’s not an Opel. It also allows those without wheels to find a car.

Many car-sharing programs here and abroad require a membership fee and use of a smartphone app that allows users to locate and reserve a car. An ID card typically allows a member to unlock a car and start it with a code. Charges typically are by the minute, and insurance often is included. Daimler AG’s Car2Go subsidiary, for example, charges a $35 sign-up fee; rentals are 41 cents a minute, plus tax and fees.

The Bike-share Boom

Sarah Goodyear:

Inspired by its smaller neighbors, Paris launches the 6,000-bike Vélib’ system and the worldwide movement toward bike-share is off and running. By 2015, Paris will have a total of 18,000 bikes.
 In Spain, Barcelona’s Bicing is the first entry in what quickly becomes a nationwide boom in that country. By 2013, 132 Spanish cities will have bike-share, making Spain a global leader in the phenomenon.

“Driverless, lightweight uber system”


MIT’s Kent Larson is reimagining how we’ll live in denser cities of the future – getting more use out of less space with smarter vehicles and apartments that transform themselves throughout the day.

Uber Is Laying The Groundwork For Perpetual Rides In San Francisco

Johana Bhuiyan:

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick often talks about his dream of the perfect Uber trip. “It’s the perpetual trip, the trip that never ends,” he said at the Digital-Life-Design conference in Europe last October. “The driver picks one passenger up, picks another passenger up, drops off the first passenger, but then picks up passenger number three and drops off passenger number two.”
 This week in San Francisco, Uber took a first step toward realizing the vision that Kalanick described. The ride-hail company began experimenting with a new ride option called Smart Routes. The idea is drivers will be able to both pick up and drop off passengers along a specific route, which in turn allows them to quickly pick up their next passenger. For now the company is experimenting with only two routes: Fillmore Street between Haight and Bay, and Valencia Street between 15th and 26th.

Eisenhower and History’s Worst Cross-Country Road Trip

Sarah Laskow:

Dwight D. Eisenhower, contrary to popular belief, did not build the federal highway system for the sole purpose of evacuating cities in the event of an atomic war. But there was one key military endeavor that did influence Eisenhower’s support for giant, smoothly paved roads. In 1919 he traveled with the military in a motor convoy across the country, from D.C. to San Francisco, in “the largest aggregation of motor vehicles ever started on a trip of such length,” the New York Times reported.
 This was one of the first major cross-country road trips, and it planted the idea in the Eisenhower’s mind that the federal government could and should make improving U.S. highways a priority. Soon, driving from coast to coast would become mythologized as one of the key American experiences. But in 1919 it was a terrible, torturous endeavor.

Highway to hack: Why we’re just at the beginning of the auto-hacking e

Sean Gallagher:

Imagine it’s 1995, and you’re about to put your company’s office on the Internet. Your security has been solid in the past—you’ve banned people from bringing floppies to work with games, you’ve installed virus scanners, and you run file server backups every night. So, you set up the Internet router and give everyone TCP/IP addresses. It’s not like you’re NASA or the Pentagon or something, so what could go wrong?
 That, in essence, is the security posture of many modern automobiles—a network of sensors and controllers that have been tuned to perform flawlessly under normal use, with little more than a firewall (or in some cases, not even that) protecting it from attack once connected to the big, bad Internet world. This month at three separate security conferences, five sets of researchers presented proof-of-concept attacks on vehicles from multiple manufacturers plus an add-on device that spies on drivers for insurance companies, taking advantage of always-on cellular connectivity and other wireless vehicle communications to defeat security measures, gain access to vehicles, and—in three cases—gain access to the car’s internal network in a way that could take remote control of the vehicle in frightening ways.

Automobile insurance in the era of autonomous vehicles


The conversion to autonomous vehicles will change the amount, type, and purchase of automobile insurance. Building on the insights from KPMG’s automotive research team, our autonomous vehicle insurance task force asked: What do insurance companies think, and how prepared are they for the potential transformation precipitated by autonomous vehicles?
The following report summarizes the feedback from our survey of insurance senior executives, whose companies,
in aggregate, accounted for almost $85 billion in private and commercial auto premium. These will be the insurance leaders at the front line of change.
The survey found skepticism about the potential transformation. Few carriers have taken action—not due to doubts about the possible ramifications, but rather because most believe the change will happen far into the future, if at all. When the transformation starts to take hold, most survey respondents agreed that there will need to be major changes across all the core functions, from underwriting to claims. The executives surveyed also anticipated a shift in the insurance landscape, with traditional manufacturers and high- tech companies playing significantly bigger roles in the future. The core of this document provides an in-depth look at our full survey results.

Draft French decree seeks to ‘Uberize’ existing taxi industry


France plans to defend its traditional taxi drivers from the threat posed by Uber by creating a national “electronic availability register” for them that mimicks the car-sharing app’s geolocation software.
 The plan was outlined in a draft decree registered with the European Commission earlier this month.
 The decree would put flesh on the bones of a law that restricts UberPOP and other car sharing schemes. The law was put in place in October last year, and bans private car owners from “electronic cruising” – using the geolocation software that allows drivers and would-be passengers to find each other.
 “The purpose of implementing the taxi availability register is to modernize the taxi driver profession and optimize the monopoly over cruising, extended to electronic cruising, in order to improve the meeting of supply and demand for taxis,” the draft decree said.
 France is one of several countries where U.S.-based Uber and car sharing apps like it face hostility from traditional cab drivers, and where governments are grappling with legislation for a new era.

Trucks are killing us

Howard Abrahamson:

ACCIDENTS like the one that critically injured the comedian Tracy Morgan, killed his friend and fellow comedian James McNair, known as Jimmy Mack, and hurt eight others on the New Jersey Turnpike last year are going to continue to happen unless Congress stops coddling the trucking industry.
 More people will be killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks this year than have died in all of the domestic commercial airline crashes over the past 45 years, if past trends hold true. And still Congress continues to do the trucking industry’s bidding by frustrating the very regulators the government has empowered to oversee motor carriers.

Airbnb is Partnering with Tesla to Build a Free and Global Charging Network


Today, Airbnb and Tesla announced an ambitious plan to build a global network of electric car chargers, installing them at selected Airbnb places.
 The two companies will begin their partnership in the California Coast, offering a minimum of 100 installations and gradually expanding the coverage to pursue their vision of sustainable travel.

Porsche 911: 52 years of staying true to its roots

Jonathan Gitlin:

The Porsche 911 is a testament to perseverance. Even back in 1963, it was clear that putting the engine behind a car’s rear axle entailed compromises over front- or even mid-engined cars—clear to everyone outside of Porsche’s Stuttgart base, that is. That was the year the company unveiled its 901 at the Frankfurt auto show. (The name was changed to “911” after Peugeot asserted that its trademark extended to any three-digit number with a 0 in the middle.) The first Porsche 911 went on sale in 1964, and the car has been a cornerstone of the marque ever since. During those 51 years, Porsche engineers have mitigated the problems associated with a rear-engined layout, developing the 911 into one of motoring’s greatest living legends.

The end of walking

Antonia Malchik:

In 2011, Raquel Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide following the death of her four-year-old son. Nelson, it’s crucial to note, was not driving. She didn’t even own a car. She and her three children were crossing a busy four-lane road from a bus stop to their apartment building in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. She’d stopped on the median halfway across when her son let go of her hand and stepped into the second half of the road. Nelson tried to catch him but wasn’t fast enough; she and her two-year-old daughter were also injured.
 The driver admitted to having alcohol and painkillers in his system (and to being legally blind in one eye) and pleaded guilty to the charge of hit-and-run. He served six months in prison. For the crime of walking three tired, hungry children home in the most efficient way possible, Nelson faced more jail time than the man who had killed her son.
 I am writing from a position of privilege. Not white or middle-class privilege – although I am both of those things and those facts play a role in my privilege – but rather, the privilege Americans don’t realise they’ve lost in a nearly Orwellian fashion: I can open the door of my home, take my kids by their hands, and meet almost any need by lifting my feet and moving forward. Food, schools, social centres, books, playgrounds, even doctors and dentists and ice cream – nearly everything our family uses daily is within about a mile’s walk of home and well-served by wide, uncrowded sidewalks.

Ways to think about cars

Benedict Evans

From a technology perspective, I think there are three parts to what’s happening here:
 A single autonomous car driving down the street and not hitting anything – this is what most of the attention is on now.
 Optimizing traffic flows when some or all cars on any given road are autonomous (two very different problems) – this is what we really see in the videos above.
 Optimizing a fleet of autonomous on-demand cars in a city on a real-time basis. Where are the cars now and where do you want them to be in 17 and 34 minutes to minimize traffic, trip times and wait times?
 Of these, the second and third feel much more like Google or Uber challenges than Apple or (perhaps) Tesla challenges. These are questions of algorithms and large scale computing systems, not design, experience or ease of use. They are also why maps have become so important – maps are PageRank for the real world. For car companies maps used to be an accessory no different in strategic terms to the CD player, but now they’re a site of existential worry.

The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport

David Levinson:

In this book we propose the welcome notion that traffic—as most people have come to know it—is ending and why. We depict a transport context in most communities where new opportunities are created by the collision of slow, medium, and fast moving technologies. We then unfold a framework to think more broadly about concepts of transport and accessibility. In this framework, transport systems are being augmented with a range of information technologies; it invokes fresh flows of goods and information. We discuss large scale trends that are revolutionizing the transport landscape: electrification, automation, the sharing economy, and big data. Based on all of this, the final chapters offer strategies to shape the future of infrastructure needs and priorities.

David Levinson (@trnsprttnst) appeared on Asymcar 7: The Transportationist.

Gordon Murray Inquisition: “Cars from non-established manufacturers excite me”

A few quotes from the September, 2015 issue of the UK’s CAR Magazine (iPad version):

“We’re in a position where we can offer start-ups a manufacturing system that leapfrogs stamped metal.”

“It’s exciting that you can get carbon in a more affordable car but it’s still very low volume. It’s the same with BMW; their use isn’t truly high volume. We’ve got some exciting news in October which will move the game on.”

Much more on Gordon Murray at

The Commoditization of Everything

Peter De Lorenzo:

Why? A pall of sameness and predictability is wafting over the “Car Thing.” There’s not only not much new under the sun, everything is so homogenized that even the so-called “sacred” touchstone events for enthusiasts have begun to take on a rote cadence, cloaked in a black cloud of inevitability.
 This was especially the case during the many auctions that occurred in and around Monterey. The True Believer car enthusiasts looking to connect with an interesting bit of automotive history have long been overrun and replaced by the hucksters, quick-buck charlatans and speculators, those looking to extract every last dollar out of the various machines they had brought with them in order to slaughter the bank accounts of the unenlightened.

What’s the future price of solar?

Ramez Naam

I’ll attempt to make some projections (tentatively) here.

tl;dr: If current rates of improvement hold, solar will be incredibly cheap by the time it’s a substantial fraction of the world’s electricity supply.
Background: The Exponential Decline in Solar Module Costs

It’s now fairly common knowledge that the cost of solar modules is dropping exponentially. I helped publicize that fact in a 2011 Scientific American blog post asking “Does Moore’s Law Apply to Solar Cells?” The answer is that something like Moore’s law, an exponential learning curve (albeit slower than in computing) applies. (For those that think Moore’s Law is a terrible analogy, here’s my post on why Moore’s Law is an excellent analogy for solar.)

If autonomous vehicles rule the world

The Economist:

SHORTLY after Thomas Müller eases his Audi A7 into the flow of highway traffic heading towards Shanghai, a message on the dashboard indicates that “piloted driving” is now available. Mr Müller, an Audi engineer, presses a button on the steering wheel and raises his hands. The car begins to drive itself, the steering wheel eerily moving on its own as the traffic creeps over a bridge towards the city centre.
 This is, admittedly, a limited form of autonomy: the car stays on the same road, using cameras and a “LiDAR” scanner to follow the lane markings and maintain a constant distance from the vehicle in front. But this is how the world’s carmakers see the future of self-driving technology: as driver-assistance features that gradually trickle down from luxury vehicles to mass-market cars, just as electric windows and power steering did before them. Autonomous driving will, in this view, make motoring less stressful—drivers “arrive more relaxed”, says Mr Müller—but people will still buy and own cars just as they do today.

Documents confirm Apple is building self-driving car

Mark Harris:

Apple is building a self-driving car in Silicon Valley, and is scouting for secure locations in the San Francisco Bay area to test it, the Guardian has learned. Documents show the oft-rumoured Apple car project appears to be further along than many suspected.
 In May, engineers from Apple’s secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles.
 In correspondence obtained by the Guardian under a public records act request, Apple engineer Frank Fearon wrote: “We would … like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].”
 Apple declined to comment.
 GoMentum Station is on the old Concord naval weapons station, a disused second world war-era facility with 20 miles of paved highways and city streets. The base is closed to the public and guarded by the military, making it, officials claim, “the largest secure test facility in the world” for the “testing validation and commercialization of connected vehicle (CV) applications and autonomous vehicles (AV) technologies to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure.” Mercedes-Benz and Honda have already carried out experiments with self-driving cars behind its barbed-wire fences.

SF Bay Area commuters make big shift away from cars

Dan Walters:

Workers in the San Francisco Bay Area made the nation’s most dramatic shift from commuting via automobile to using alternative transportation between 2006 and 2013, according to a new Census Bureau report.
 Commuting by private car in the densely populated region, including carpooling, dropped from 73.6 percent of workers in 2006 to 69.8 percent seven years later, giving it the nation’s third highest level of alternative commuting.
 Commuters in the New York City-centered metropolitan area were least likely to use private cars to get to their jobs in 2013, but even so, a majority – 56.9 percent – still did. Ithaca, NY, had the second lowest use of cars, 68.7 percent, followed by the San Francisco Bay.

Total U.S. Auto Lending Surpasses $1 Trillion for First Time

Josh Zumbrun:

was just a matter of time before zipping past a new mile marker: $1 trillion in auto loans outstanding.

Tesla to Raise $500 Million From Stock Sale

Mike Ramsey:

Tesla Motors Inc. will sell $500 million worth of shares in a new round of fundraising that suggests the cost of disrupting the global auto industry with its pricey electric vehicles is more expensive than Chief Executive Elon Musk initially thought.
 The proposed sale comes on top of more than $4 billion Tesla has raised since the beginning of 2013. The auto maker has sold convertible notes and obtained lines of credit during that period to fund its ambitious bid to move from niche luxury-vehicle maker to a sizable force in the car business.

Why Roboticists Should Join the Trillion-Dollar Driverless Race

Shahin Farshchi:

There’s certainly a lot of questions about autonomous vehicles and how to regulate, insure, and make them safe as we start putting them on the street. But for me what is certain is that we’ll be able to sort through those issues, and a future of robotic cars cruising through our neighborhoods is ultimately inevitable. The fact is, removing the driver is as revolutionary today as removing the horse at the turn of the last century. The industrial revolution made affordable automobiles a reality. Now, technologies like cheap 3D sensing, ubiquitous connectivity, and novel AI algorithms will put self-driving cars on the road within the next decade.
 To get to that future, however, I believe we’ll need an incredible amount of innovation—the kind of inventiveness and persistence we usually see in small, fast, nimble startups. These are the companies, I think, that will build the technologies needed for our future robot cars. So if you work in robotics and you’re not paying attention to autonomous vehicles, you’re ignoring a huge opportunity; in fact, you might be snubbing a trillion-dollar market.

Commuting Kills


Every year we lose up to 10% of our electricity purely due to resistance during transmission. If you’ve ever wondered why a room-temperature superconductor is sought after, this is why. Thinking about superconductivity reminded me of the problem I have with companies who don’t allow telecommuting. The way I see it, remote-workers are like work-place superconductivity: Brain power and productivity arrive instantly where they’re needed with zero transmission cost.
 I decided to do the math on what the health and environmental costs are related to commuting to work every year.
 Moving people from home to work is surprisingly expensive in many ways. The average commute time by car in the United States is about 25 minutes each way. The average commute time by other means is also just over 25 minutes each way. [Source: US Census Bureau and data from] The average number of work days per year is 261. [Source:]

Auto Analyst: The Remainder of My Career Will Be Focused on This One Chart

Julie Verhage:

Morgan Stanley Analyst Adam Jonas says this chart is so important that you need to put it on your wall.
 “Telling the story of this chart will occupy the remainder my professional life. It’s sort of sad that my life can be boiled down to one chart… but it’s so true.”
 Jonas says that the auto industry is being eyed by outside players that want in on the “$10tn mobility market (10tn miles traveled x $1/mile)” and that the future of the industry is going to revolve around two fairly recent phenomenons: (1) the shared economy and (2) autonomous driving.
 He breaks it down into four quadrants: the status quo of today, the shared mobility market with the likes of Uber, “owned autonomy” where we are giving up control of cars to a computer, and “shared autonomy” where fleets of completely autonomous vehicles are operating 24 hours a day.

Via Angel Lamuño.

Get Electric Car → Cut Electric Bill (… Wait, What?)

EV Obsession:

The common assumption is that getting an electric car will jack up your electricity usage and thus electricity bill, and that is probably the norm to one extent or another, but that’s not always the case. In fact, some people end up having a lower electricity bill after getting an electric car. I wrote about this back in January 2014, but it’s time for another article on the topic.

Via Steve Crandall.

Android Auto secrets hint at vehicle diagnostic app, expanded car integration

Ron Amadeo:

We just got to spend a week with an Android Auto car (our huge review is right here), and as part of our research to figure out how it works, we ran into quite a few things that are in the app but don’t work yet. Android Auto houses non-functional interface mock ups for several new features, along with a whole host of sensor code that Google hasn’t talked about.
 What Google really intends to do with these is anyone’s guess, but it’s rare that Google ships non-functional code that doesn’t someday become functional. So while we’re personally not guaranteeing anything, this could be a peek into the future of Android Auto.

Mapmaker’s team of rival automakers may expand Here’s buyers hope to share costs, benefits with others

Gabe Nelson:

Audi, BMW and Daimler were bound to raise eyebrows around the auto industry by teaming up to buy Here, the dominant supplier of digital maps for in-car navigation.
 So the Germans are sending a message to their competitors: Don’t fear us. Join us.
 The $3.1 billion acquisition of the Nokia subsidiary, announced Monday, Aug. 3, was mainly a defensive move. Audi, BMW and Daimler sought to keep Here from falling into the hands of a Silicon Valley company such as Apple or Uber that wouldn’t share their vision.
 Yet other automakers might have had reason to worry that the new owners could use their control of Here’s maps to freeze out their competitors.

Via Juan Manuel.

L.A. maps out sweeping transportation overhaul

David Zahnhiser:

Now the Los Angeles City Council is embarking on a new and controversial exercise in behavior modification: Getting more Angelenos to give up, or at least reduce their reliance on, the automobile.
 Council members are on the verge of approving a sweeping new transportation policy, one that calls for hundreds of miles of new bus-only lanes, bicycle lanes and “traffic calming” measures over the next 20 years. The initiative, dubbed Mobility Plan 2035, has sparked a debate over the ramifications of redesigning major corridors such as Van Nuys Boulevard, Sherman Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Machine Learning: 2014-2015


 Lecture 1: Introduction slides Video
 Lecture 2: Linear prediction slides Video
 Lecture 3: Maximum likelihood slides.pdf Video
 Lectures 4 & 5: Regularizers, basis functions and cross-validation slides.pdf Video 1 Video 2
 Lecture 6: Optimisation slides.pdf Video
 Lecture 7: Logistic regression slides.pdf Video
 Lecture 8: Back-propagation and layer-wise design of neural nets slides.pdf Video
 Lecture 9: Neural networks and deep learning with Torch slides.pdf Video
 Lecture 10: Convolutional neural networks slides.pdf Video
 Lecture 11: Max-margin learning and siamese networks slides.pdf Video
 Lecture 12: Recurrent neural networks and LSTMs slides.pdf Video
 Lecture 13: Hand-writing with recurrent neural networks (Guest speaker: Alex Graves from Google Deepmind)
 Lecture 14: Variational autoencoders and image generation (Guest speaker: Karol Gregor from Google Deepmind)
 Lecture 15: Reinforcement learning with direct policy search slides.pdf
 Lecture 16: Reinforcement learning with action-value functions slides.pdf

Police urges citizens to report Uber drivers in Finland

The Finnish Police has guided all finnish citizens to report drivers working for Uber to the officials. Uber is a company with software platform that allows consumers to submit requests which are relayed to Uber drivers, who use their own car.
 The company is under investigation in Finland for particing business without a valid license and hiring drivers without appropriate competence. US based Uber is facing similar investigations in various countries. Citizens are instructed to call the national emergency number and report drivers offering Uber rides. According to the police, the Emergency Operator will decide on the required actions based on the call.

Does too much technology make a car artificial?

Jonathan M. Gitlin:

Two trends are interacting in the car world right now, and I’m fascinated by the questions being raised as a result. First, people are keeping their cars longer. At the same time, new cars are more like mobile computers than the purely mechanical machines most people are familiar with—Ars boss Ken Fisher told me once that cars would be the first properly successful wearable device, and I think he’s being proved right. This often results in a degree of culture shock when people used to the old way of doing things get exposed to a new car, particularly if they didn’t see anything wrong with the status quo.

Computers are in control of everything, modulating our control inputs and interpreting our intent. For example, between your foot and the pedals of a hybrid are complex software routines that decide how to juggle internal combustion engines and conventional brakes with electric motor-generator units when it comes to stopping and going. Cheap, rugged, and powerful electronics can let an engineer solve a suspension or engine problem with some code instead of mechanical fix. Is that a good thing, or is the solution an artificial one?

Americans are spending more time away from car showrooms than in the past. I’m one of them; my newest car is a 2005 Saab 9-2x Aero (one of the finest examples of badge engineering out there), which shares a garage—or would if I had one—with a 19-year old Mazda Miata. I doubt there’s a single defining reason for this trend, more like an interplay between better reliability, less cheap credit, some degree of economic uncertainty, and probably a few other factors I haven’t thought of.

– via Steve Crandall.

“Walk car”

Cocoa Motors:

 “WalkCar” is the world smallest electric vehicle, which can be brought in a bag.
 Just bend your body toward destination you like, you can operate WalkCar at will.
 As small as laptop PC, the device can be brought readily, and help you move anytime and anywhere.
 Now you can choose “Walk” or “WalkCar”.

Lexus may change how it sells cars — because it finds millennials hate to haggle

Sarah Halzack:

Set foot in a car dealership, and you know how your afternoon is going to go: You and the salesperson will engage in an hours-long ritualistic showdown over the price. Maybe you’ll theatrically stage a walkout; maybe the salesperson says he’ll check with a manager to see if they can get the price just a little bit lower.
 Haggling seems as much a part of car shopping as the test drive. But now, a giant of the auto industry is piloting a sales model that would get rid of it.
 Lexus said this week that it will be testing a no-negotiation price program in a dozen of its dealerships in 2016. The move is a bid to appeal to millennials and Generation Xers who Lexus says simply aren’t willing to haggle like their parents did.

Automakers Trying to Prevent Hackers From Commandeering Cars

Associated Press:

When researchers at two West Coast universities took control of a General Motors car through cellular and Bluetooth connections in 2010, they startled the auto industry by exposing a glaring security gap.
 Five years later, two friendly hackers sitting on a living room couch used a laptop computer to commandeer a Jeep from afar over the Internet, demonstrating an even scarier vulnerability.
 “Cars don’t seem to be any more secure than when the university guys did it,” says Charlie Miller, a security expert at Twitter who, along with well-known hacker and security consultant Chris Valasek, engineered the attack on the Jeep Cherokee.

Autonomous, Connected Cars Fuel Next-Gen Cartography Race

Matt O’brien:

Somewhere lies a mythical city where the cars drive themselves, and the people walk around with wearable guides that know what they want and where to find it. To make this city work requires the most detailed map ever created.
 Google wants that map. So do Apple and Uber. And a consortium of German luxury carmakers just bought their way into Silicon Valley’s simmering map-making race, announcing Monday they will spend $3.1 billion to acquire Nokia’s mapping division, dubbed HERE.
 “They know this is going to be the brains of our cars,” said Eric Gundersen, CEO of San Francisco startup Mapbox, one of many Bay Area firms riding a wave of market interest in next-generation cartography. “Mapping is core to everything mobile and everything about being able to move around a city.”

Hacker shows he can locate, unlock and remote start GM vehicles

Lucas Mearian:

A security researcher has posted a video on YouTube demonstrating how a device he made can intercept wireless communications to locate, unlock and remotely start GM vehicles that use the OnStar RemoteLink mobile app.
 Samy Kamkar, who refers to himself as a hacker and whistleblower, posted the video today showing him using a device he calls OwnStar. The device, he said, intercepts communications between GM’s OnStar RemoteLink mobile app and the OnStar cloud service.

What the Auto Industry Can Learn from Cloud Computing

Maxwell Wessel:

Transportation is one of the world’s largest industries. The five largest automotive companies in the world generate more than 750 billion euro in annual revenue. The names in the industry are global brands – BMW, Ford, Daimler. Yet despite its size and stature, it’s also an industry in the midst of transformation. Today, new transportation vendors like Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, and Grabtaxi are changing our relationship with cars.
 Few other industries with such a pervasive and tangible impact on each of our lives have gone through recent periods of similar upheaval. Information technology, however, is one of those industries. We all interact with computers on a near daily basis, and like cars today, the IT industry has been undergoing its own transformation over the past 15 years.

California Has a Plan to End the Auto Industry as We Know It

John Lippert:

Sergio Marchionne had a funny thing to say about the $32,500 battery-powered Fiat 500e that his company markets in California as “eco-chic.” “I hope you don’t buy it,” he told his audience at a think tank in Washington in May 2014. He said he loses $14,000 on every 500e he sells and only produces the cars because state rules re­quire it. Marchionne, who took over the bailed-out Chrysler in 2009 to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, warned that if all he could sell were electric vehicles, he would be right back looking for another govern­ment rescue.
 So who’s forcing Marchionne and all the other major automakers to sell mostly money-losing electric vehicles? More than any other person, it’s Mary Nichols. She’s run the California Air Resources Board since 2007, championing the state’s zero-emission-vehicle quotas and backing Pres­ident Barack Obama’s national mandate to double average fuel economy to 55 miles per gallon by 2025. She was chairman of the state air regulator once before, a generation ago, and cleaning up the famously smoggy Los Angeles skies is just one accomplish­ment in a four-decade career.

Detroit Should Put Hackers Behind the Wheel

Edward Niedermeyer:

While the self-driving car has been touted as the inevitable future of the automobile industry, the idea of giving up the wheel to a software program still makes plenty of people anxious. Yet a couple of recent incidents demonstrate that these fears of lost control are already being realized, well before robots actually start taking the wheel. Instead of living in fear of a hacked planet, this new challenge should be seen as an opportunity to improve safety regulation for today as well as tomorrow.