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Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot review

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Tesla Nav on AutopilotNot quite fully autonomous, but getting there.Matthew DeBord/BI
  • “Navigate on Autopilot” enables a properly equipped Tesla vehicle to follow a GPS navigation route on a highway.
  • The system can also merge onto highways, exit, and pass slower-moving traffic.
  • The system requires a relatively high level of driver engagement.

Tesla has rolled out a software update for its “Autopilot,” a semi-self-driving technology. Called “Navigate on Autopilot,” it enables a Tesla vehicle that’s equipped with the requisite set of sensors, cameras, and radars — and that’s had “Enhanced Autopilot” activated for $5,000 — to drive the car through a greater range of situations than before and to follow a route in the GPS navigation system.

About a month ago, I met up with several Tesla representatives and their brand-new Model 3 sedan in New Jersey to sample the upgrade. 

I’ll cut to the chase. For years now, I’ve argued that Tesla Autopilot should be a hands-on-the-wheel-at-all-times technology, and that Tesla shouldn’t let a new owner or lessee leave the store without an “Autopilot 101” tutorial. In practice, Autopilot does prompt drivers to periodically engage in steering-wheel inputs when Autopilot is active. But drivers can release the wheel for brief stretches.

Read more: I drove a $57,500 Tesla Model 3 for a week to see if it’s practical for everyday driving — here’s the verdict

I’ll get into how Navigate on Autopilot works in a second. For now, the best thing about the new technology is that it raises the level of engagement required of the driver. The biggest risk of Autopilot and other semi-self-driving systems is that they reduce situational awareness, quickly removing drivers from the act of fully controlling their vehicles. Navigate on Autopilot brings situational awareness back.

So how does it work?

Tesla Nav on AutopilotTouch the blue button.Tesla

Well, for starters, it has to be enabled (by the way, I sampled the tech in New Jersey, but these images are from a drive in California and were provided by Tesla).

That’s achieved via (in my case) the Model 3’s central touchscreen. Once you give it the OK and input a route through the navigation system, Navigate on Autopilot will become active when Autopilot itself is in operation, and it’s only available for highway operation. You have to touch the blue “Navigate on Autopilot” button on the turn-by-turn directions to make it work.

At a basic level, Navigate on Autopilot can drive a Tesla up a highway on-ramp, suggest lane changes and passing maneuvers while it follows a plotted route, and it can exit a highway prior to returning control to the driver. This makes Autopilot somewhat more “point-to-point” than it was before, and as CEO Elon Musk has noted, is a needed step toward full self-driving capability. 

Tesla Nav on AutopilotLane changes are suggested by a gray line.Tesla

NOAP, as I’ll refer to it, benefits from a high level of fleet learning, and, as with anything a Tesla with the right sensor set has encountered, can be used to manage merging speeds and take a more intelligent approach to things like pre-exit lane changes.

NOAP will also suggest or deny passing maneuvers, and the boldness with which it approaches those moves can be set anywhere from Mild to “Mad Max,” for impatient drivers (Average is in between.)

A double-pull-down of the transmission stalk on the right side of the Model 3’s steering wheel brings Autopilot online, and we’re off. Pretty quickly, the systems take over steering for an on-ramp, modulating speed to keep everything safe. I then have to increase the preset adaptive cruise-control speed to a highway velocity — and respond to the Autopilot prompts when it’s time to provide a bit of steering-wheel engagement. 

Tesla Nav on AutopilotThe red line means no-go for a lane change.Tesla

The Autopilot screen, on the far-left side of the central touchscreen, draws a blue line in front of the vehicle, mimicking the route guidance on the navigation system. When a slow-moving truck appears in front of us, NOAP suggest a passing maneuver and draws it in gray. It’s then up to me to confirm that it’s safe to pass and use the turn signal to execute.

If an obstacle shows up on the Tesla’s sensor range — such as another vehicle off our starboard side — NOAP creates a red line that prohibits the pass.

Then, when it’s time to line up in a lane for exiting, NOAP also offers that indication. When it hits the exit, it slows for the curve, then returns control for slower driving (it gives the driver a distance countdown).

Tesla Nav on AutopilotNav on Autopilot gives you a distance countdown before its deactivates.Tesla

On balance, I can do all of this more seamlessly myself, but it’s early days for this type of semi-autonomous technology. For now, NOAP is fairly impressive for what it can do, and more importantly, for how much safety it brings to the process.

What it can’t do

What it can’t do is mainly apply old-fashioned driving habits, learned by me decades ago — such as changing lanes to the left around on-ramp merges to allow new traffic onto the highway. Or to shift to the left when stopped cars or emergency vehicles are on the shoulder. Those are very, very human situations, however. I wouldn’t expect a self-driving car with far more advanced aspirations that a Tesla using NOAP to be able to handle them.

A human situation that NOAP goes a long way toward improving is simply dealing with following a route. Even with modern GPS, it’s easy to screw up, miss a turn, and become frustrated. NOAP alleviates some of that stress. Add this to Autopilot’s already noted ability to deal with slow, stop-and-go traffic and you have a helpful, stress-reducing technology that will likely alleviate mishaps.

I’m not really a heavy-duty Autopilot user, mainly because I like actually driving Teslas too much (to be fair, I don’t make much use of old-school cruise control unless I’m on long highway jaunts). For Autopilot enthusiasts, I can easily see how NOAP will initially demand a learning curve, but over the long term will prevent the temptation to let the system take over too much of the driving act. 

That’s a big deal. NOAP definitely improved Autopilot, but also fixes what I think is the technology’s main drawback.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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