Elon Musk makes case for eschewing LIDAR as Tesla reports latest results

Elon Musk has said that LIDAR is a ‘crutch’ and affirmed that Tesla will not be planning to use the system going forward.

LIDAR, which stands for ‘light detection and ranging’, helps measure distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light, and measuring the reflected pulses. While other companies are using the technology – it is a part of the alleged claims in the current Uber versus Waymo court case, for instance – Tesla will continue to only use cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors to create autonomous vehicles.

Musk was responding to an analyst question on an earnings call, asking whether competitors are missing anything in their software stack that enabled Tesla to not use LIDAR, and whether regulation would come into place regarding use of the technology.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that the road system is geared towards passive optical [image recognition],” said Musk, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha. “We have to solve passive optical image recognition extremely well in order to be able to drive in any given environment and the changing environment.

“At the point at which you have solved it extremely well, what is the point in having optical – meaning LIDAR – which cannot read signs,” he added. “In my view, it is a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum that they will find very difficult to get out of.”

Regarding what the competition are doing, Musk added: “I find it quite puzzling that companies would choose to do an active proton system in the wrong wavelength. They’re going to have a whole bunch of expensive equipment, most of which makes the car expensive, ugly and unnecessary… and I think they will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”

The company issued its fourth quarter and full year update for 2017, with revenue of $ 11.8 billion (£8.5bn) for 2017, up 55% year over year from organic growth. Tesla added that it expected 2018 revenue growth to ‘significantly exceed’ 2017 growth.

The focus for a lot of the message was on the long-awaited Model 3 – in more ways than one. Tesla delivered 1,542 Model 3 vehicles in the final quarter of 2017, with a Business Insider article saying that ‘production is on track, but it’s still a complete mess.’

“The launch of Model 3 [the most recent model] is what Tesla had been building towards from day one,” the company said. “We incorporated all the learnings from the development and production of Roadster, Model S, and Model X to create the world’s first mass market electric vehicle that is priced on par with its gasoline-powered equivalents – even without incentives.

“Now we are ramping up production significantly, and as we look ahead in 2018, we are on the cusp of a step change in the world’s transition to sustainability.”

Not everyone believes in the work Tesla is doing, however. A recent study from Navigant Research assessed the better part of 20 companies developing automated driving systems and put Tesla at the bottom of the pile.

You can read the full Tesla financial report here.

Postscript: While the vast majority of the focus was on Tesla, analysts could not resist comment on Musk’s successful SpaceX launch earlier this week. One told Musk the launch was ‘probably the sickest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’

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Mozilla updates its Project Things open source IoT gateway

Mozilla has issued an update to its Project Things open source decentralised IoT gateway first announced back in July.

The main part of Project Things is the Linux-based ‘Things Gateway’ software which enables a Raspberry Pi to be set up as a home automation gateway. In the latest version (0.3) of the software — a new rules engine, improved voice support, and a tutorial has been added to help newbies get started.

Other major new features include:

  • Microphone support for issuing voice commands

  • Rules engine for setting ‘If this, then that’ logic for device interaction

  • Floor-plan view to lay out devices on a map of the home

  • Additional device type support, such as smart plugs, dimmable and colored lights, multi-level switches and sensors, and “virtual” devices

  • New add-on system for supporting protocols and devices

  • New system for safely authorizing third-party applications (using OAuth)

The floor-plan view is particularly interesting to allow users to see a layout of their devices around their home on a virtual map.

Today’s additions make it possible for a consumer to build their own smart hub with only basic knowledge instead of having to pay for expensive, pre-built hubs from major manufacturers.

While the Things Gateway is designed to be used with the Pi 3, other models are compatible. The stack can even run on pretty much any Linux-based desktop, laptop, or hacker board.

You can find out more about Project Things and how to get started here.

What are your thoughts on the latest Project Things update? Let us know in the comments.

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Only one in four organisations can protect themselves against IoT threats, says survey

A survey from UK-based firm Databarracks has found that only 27% of organisations polled feel able to protect themselves against IoT threats.

Based on the findings, its managing director Peter Groucutt has said that organisations must now factor IoT into their continuity planning.

“The IoT device market is still relatively immature and somewhat of a Wild West,” said Groucutt. “According to industry experts, by 2020 there will be over 50 billion connected devices. Understandably, manufacturers are racing to capitalise on the opportunity, but unfortunately, many are doing so at the expense of basic security measures.

“Organisations need to be aware of these risks, even if they do not use any IoT devices – the growing number of connected devices globally means there is an increased risk of DDoS attacks through IoT botnets – but our data suggests firms are ignoring these threats,” added Groucutt. “Research from our annual Data Health Check survey revealed that only 13% of businesses saw IoT threats as a major concern. Additionally, just over a quarter of organisations (27%) had set policies in place designed to protect against IoT threats.”

According to Groucutt, organisations incorporating IoT devices into their IT infrastructure should not rely on existing policies for evaluating the security of devices, instead develop new ones. Questions such as what protocol the device uses; can the IoT network be isolated from our other systems; is it connecting directly back to the data centre or to a hub – either in the cloud (hosted externally) or to an Edge server that you manage; how do we login and authenticate; can we integrate with our existing authentication products, and finally, what O/S is used and do we have competency; should be considered.

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China is narrowing the gap against the U.S. when it comes to AI research

The gap between AI researchers from China and the United States is narrowing, according to a new study.

Hundreds of researchers attend the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) to hear presentations on the latest developments in AI. It’s become something of the de facto conference for the elite in AI to mingle and show off.

The study, publiched by researchers from the University of Toronto, found that 23 percent of the papers presented at the 2017 AAAI Conference were Chinese. For comparison, just 10 percent were Chinese in 2012.

Perhaps more interesting, the share of U.S. authors publishing AI research fell from 41 percent to 34 percent over the seven-year period.

Last year, our sister publication AI News reported on Goldman Sachs’ belief that China is catching up to the U.S. in AI superiority — something which this latest study appears to support.

“China understandably generates (about) 13 percent of the digital information globally. By 2020, we expect this to grow to around 20 percent to 25 percent as China’s economy emerges as the world’s largest,” Goldman Sachs predicts.

Healthy competition is great, but it must be conducted ethically.

Do you think China will surpass the United States in AI research? Let us know in the comments.

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SAS creates new global Internet of Things division

SAS, a provider of data analytics software, has created a new global division dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT) to help organisations from manufacturing to retail and healthcare reap the benefits of IoT.

The company’s new IoT division will be led by Jason Mann, who takes up the role of VP IoT. SAS adds the division will ‘develop new partnerships and expand existing ones to bring together best in class technology and expertise’.

Companies in SAS’ remit include GE Transportation, Lockheed Martin and Octo Telematics. The former is enlisting SAS to uncover use patterns through the Internet of Things that keep its trains on track. GE Transportation’s vehicles are given edge devices, managing hundreds of data elements each second, to optimise locomotive operation.

“The IoT is set to transform the way businesses in all industries think, act and sell,” said Peter Pugh-Jones, head of technology at SAS UK & Ireland. “That progress will be founded on data. The value of the IoT is in the information it produces about the world around us.

“SAS’s new IoT division will provide companies with the tools and capabilities they need to analyse and understand that data. With SAS they’ll be able to use the IoT to help make more intelligent decisions, introduce stronger AI and add value everywhere from production to supply chain to marketing and beyond.”

Plenty of organisations are moving towards creating a specific IoT division. One, as sister publication Enterprise CIO previously explored, enterprise mobility management (EMM) software provider MobileIron created a VP IoT role this time last year, filled by Wind River alumnus Santhosh Nair. This move can also relate to revenues; as of this year, Software AG is reporting cloud and IoT revenues separately.

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