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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Navigant Research assesses autonomous vehicles vendors – with Tesla bottom of the pile

The verdict is in from Navigant Research on the vendors in the automated driving systems space – and it’s bad news for Tesla.

A total of eight companies made the leaders segment in the analyst firm’s latest offering, with General Motors at the front – but Tesla was ranked dead last for execution, and not much better for strategy.

Alongside GM in the winners’ enclosure were, in alphabetical order, Aptiv, BMW-Intel-FCA, Daimler-Bosch, Ford, Volkswagen and Waymo, with the alliance between Renault and Nissan on the border between leader and contender. Among the list of challengers, alongside Tesla, were Apple, Honda, and Uber.

The report details a fascinating mix between the technology firms and the automotive vendors, each trying to grab their slice of the market, a fact Navigant acknowledges. “The cost and complexity of developing and deploying automated driving technologies have driven numerous new partnerships and acquisitions to help achieve scale more rapidly,” the company notes.

“OEMs and suppliers have recognised the threats to their traditional business models and are working aggressively to leverage the strengths they have to develop new revenue streams,” Navigant adds. “New entrants into the field are recognising the challenges of establishing manufacturing and distribution infrastructure and are increasingly forming partnerships with incumbents to leverage the strengths that each bring to the challenge.”

The partnerships between BMW, Intel, Mobileye – the latter bought by Intel last year – and Fiat Chrysler – have evidently borne fruit. Intel said in May that the company had “unwavering confidence” in the success of its driverless initiative, with SVP Doug Davis saying he postponed his retirement to take on the challenge.

You can find out more about the report here.

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Tesla Powerpack begins work on powering South Australia

Tesla Powerpack forms world’s largest lithium ion battery to help power South Australia

The 100MW Tesla Powerpack, built by industry pioneers Tesla, has now been activated – allowing it to store energy produced by a nearby windfarm and stabilize South Australia’s electrical grid.

In September 2016, a massive storm caused an unprecedented state-wide blackout in South Australia, with 1.7 million people spending the night without power and questions raised about the stability of the region’s renewable energy supply.

The event led to the coupling of the Hornsdale Wind Farm with the world’s largest lithium ion battery. The set-up can power 30,000 homes for an hour (approximately the number of properties that lost power during the blackout) and otherwise support the region’s electricity supply.

The historic deal was formed between electric car makers Tesla and French energy company Neoen, with the help of government backing. Tesla boss Elon Musk famously promised that his company would get the Tesla Powerpacks system installed and working within 100 days – or he would do it for free.

Read more: Business Secretary Greg Clark MP announces new national battery facility for UK

Building the world’s largest lithium ion battery

Musk went on to quote $ 250 per kilowatt hour for 100 megawatt hour systems, saying that Tesla was moving to fixed and open pricing across the board. The project moved surprisingly quickly in the storm’s aftermath, with the South Australian government proving its reputation as a serious advocate of renewable energy.

Tesla completed the project in around 60 days from the contract being signed, though the company reportedly got a head start on construction.

For all their environmental benefits, wind and solar energy are less predictable sources of power than fossil fuel or nuclear alternatives. The coupling of renewable technology with batteries is seen as a key way to prevent the kinds of widespread blackouts that South Australia experienced.

You can see the current composition of each Australian state’s energy production here, including live supply and demand.

Read more: Battery tech will power global smart grid ambitions

Tesla Powerpack: Unlocking the potential of renewables

“Tesla Powerpack will charge using renewable energy from the Hornsdale Wind Farm and then deliver electricity during peak hours to help maintain the reliable operation of South Australia’s electrical infrastructure,” announced Tesla. “The Tesla Powerpack system will further transform the state’s movement towards renewable energy and see an advancement of a resilient and modern grid.”

Musk claims that the 100MW battery is three times as powerful as the next largest in the world. As Australia grows more reliant on renewables, the project should help to pacify the political opponents that the aggressive move to wind and solar energy, and the resultant blackouts, cultivated.

“While others are just talking, we are delivering our energy plan, making South Australia more self-sufficient, and providing back up power and more affordable energy for South Australians,” said State Premier Jay Weatherill, who flicked the switch to activate the Tesla Powerpacks.

Rechargeable lithium batteries have been used since the 1970s, but recent large-scale deployments in electric vehicles and the energy sector has seen demand escalate, threatening a shortfall of available materials with which to make them by 2020.

Tesla’s Powerwall residential battery is being installed across homes in Australia, too. The same technology used to stabilize the South Australian grid is allowing homeowners to collect energy during the day, via photovoltaic panels, and supply it at night, even if the grid goes down.

Read more: Future Grid aims to power up the Internet of Energy with Hazelcast

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ICYMI from F2 Capital: Tesla gets some blame, Apple goes AR, Dimon slams Bitcoin

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It’s been a busy week in emerging tech, with a lot of big news. Here’s a quick recap of what you might have missed.

Apple debuts ARKit

This past week, Apple introduced ARKit, a new framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad. 

Some believe this (along with Google’s release of its similar ARCore) is going to bring massive adoption to mobile AR while others don’t; including Ori Inbar, fellow Tribe member & Founder of Ogmento (which became FlyBy Media), which was acquired by Apple in 2012 and became the foundation for ARKit.

Instead, he argues, [massive adoption] will happen with The AR Cloud (the real-time 3D map of the world) — when AR experiences persist in the real world across space, time, and devices. Ori believes this won’t happen until the iPhone has a “…back facing depth camera that will put in the hands of tens of millions a camera that senses the shapes of your surroundings and can create a rich accurate 3D map of the world to be shared by users and for users.”

AR researchers and industry insiders believe the AR Cloud will be the single most important software infrastructure in computing, far more valuable than Facebook’s Social graph or Google’s page rank index.

IKEA has already released an AR app that lets customers see furniture as it would appear in their home.

Bankers hating on cryptos? No way.

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan says “Bitcoin is a fraud, and will eventually blow up.” This, despite JPMorgan starting a trial project using blockchain.

Other reasons why his comments are perplexing. Especially weird considering just yesterday JP Morgan bought 19,102 bitcoin shares in the Swedish Nasdaq traded bitcoin ETN, translating to around 95 bitcoins, worth some half a million dollars. 

Tesla takes some blame

First, on AI: Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI

And after investigating the first documented crash involving the use of driver assist autopilot technology, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded Tesla bears some of the blame. This could have some interesting implications in the insurance space, especially as these “Auto-Pilot” modes become more ubiquitous.

Adobe wants to bring digital marketing to your smart car using analytics on the data captured from web-enabled autos. 

You’ve been Equif***ed

Finally, Equifax, a consumer credit reporting company which collects and aggregates information on over 800 million individual consumers and more than 88 million businesses worldwide, was hacked, exposing 143 million Americans and their social security numbers. Hackers had access from mid-May through July. Equifax had known about the hack since late-July and took over a month to tell everyone. 

The author is program associate at The Junction by F2 Capital. F2 Capital is a seed-stage VC fund launched in October 2016 to back Israeli frontier technology companies at the cross-section of Big Data, AI and Connectivity. We are a specialized seed-stage fund aligned with the emerging realities of startup financing to support exceptional founders before traditional VCs are ready to invest.  The Junction, owned and operated by F2 Capital, was established in January 2011 as the first commercial accelerator for startups in Israel. 

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Tesla starts Australian “tiny house” tour to show off energy products

tesla-tiny-house-solar-energy

Tesla’s fully renewable ‘tiny house’ has started its tour of Australia, aiming “to educate the public on how to generate, store, and use renewable energy for their home.”

The tiny house is fitted with Tesla’s solar panels and a Powerwall, the company’s energy storage solution. A Model X will tow the house on its tour of Australia, starting in Melbourne before heading to multiple locations in Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide.

See Also: How Helsinki is bringing smart city innovation to its core

Inside the house, customers can run their home through a mobile design studio, to see how much energy their home could generate, store, and save. Tesla is hoping to sell the full solution to customers, as adding the Powerwall can potentially take customers off the electrical grid.

Tesla already has a major investment in Australia, in the form of a lithium-ion battery. Elon Musk agreed to build the largest lithium-ion plant – three times larger than the current record holder – for South Australia in under 100 days.

The solar panel and Powerwall solution would also help Australians that are struggling to receive solid power from the grid, by using energy taken from solar panels during the day and, if necessary, using and storing energy from the grid at off peak times.

Australia is the ninth largest country by solar capacity, but environmentalists believe the country could be much higher if it invested more into solar solutions.

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