GM’s Cruise gets permit to give driverless rides to passengers in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO – GM’s Cruise self-driving car subsidiary said on Thursday it has become the first company to receive a regulatory permit to offer driverless ride-hailing services in California.

Waymo also said it has obtained a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to deploy autonomous vehicles – with safety drivers behind the wheel.

They may give rides for free with the new permit, but they would need to obtain another permit from the California Public Utilities Commission to start charging passengers for rides.

Cruise and Waymo had earlier this year applied for approval from the California DMV to deploy their self-driving vehicles in San Francisco, setting the stage for the biggest tests yet of the technology in a dense urban environment.

The California DMV said in a separate release that Cruise driverless “vehicles are approved to operate on public roads between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at a maximum speed limit of 30 miles per hour.”

The Waymo vehicles which have safety drivers behind the wheel “are approved to operate on public roads within parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties with a speed limit of no more than 65 mph,” the DMV said.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Jane Lee in San Francisco/Additional reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif. Editing by Peter Henderson and Matthew Lewis)

via Autoblog

September 30, 2021 at 04:19PM

Honda is working on small rockets, electric aircraft and robots for the Moon

Honda builds a surprisingly diverse selection of products that includes cars, motorcycles, generators, lawn mowers and planes. It will branch out into even more sectors over the coming years by adding robots, small rockets, and a second plane.

The expansion is part of Honda’s 2030 Vision of serving people worldwide with what it calls “the joy of expanding their life’s potential” — even if that means putting down the snowblower (built by Honda, of course) and taking a quick jaunt to outer space. The firm explained that it wants to expand the potential of mobility in the third dimension before turning its attention to the fourth dimension, which we’re told defies the constraints of time and space, and ultimately head into space. 

Honda, which has made the HondaJet for years, will initially develop an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that won’t be as electric as its name suggests. Shown in the gallery above, it will be propelled by a hybrid powertrain built around a gas turbine, and it will have enough range to carry passengers from one city to the next. On paper, it sounds a lot like the flying taxis that several other carmakers are hoping to pelt into the sky at some point in the future. Like many of its rivals, Honda plans to create an ecosystem in which its aircraft can operate while connecting it to some of its land-bound products.

Profitably building and operating an eVTOL makes autonomous driving look easy; the technology isn’t ready, the regulations are murky, and the infrastructure is nearly non-existent beyond helipads and airports. And yet, Honda’s entry into this much-hyped segment is more credible than most. It operates a successful plane-building division that makes the HondaJet, which was recently updated with more range.

With its second plane in the air, Honda will resume its robot-building program. Here, the stated goal is to “expand the range of human ability virtually without the constraints of time, place, and space.” Described as an avatar robot, the machine will be equipped with a multi-fingered hand capable of using tools designed for humans and a remote control function powered by artificial intelligence. Executives predict the robot will begin making itself useful in the 2030s, but they’re hoping to begin testing it before the end of March 2024. Again, Honda isn’t starting from scratch: It experimented with the Asimo robot for well over a decade — engineers even taught it to pour a drink and kick a soccer ball to former President Barack Obama. Development work ended in 2018, though some of Asimo’s technology lived on.

Finally, Honda will turn its attention to space, notably by building a circulative renewable energy system on the lunar surface that will leverage the firm’s fuel cell and high differential pressure water electrolysis technologies. This is also where the robots come in: While this sounds straight out of a 1950s comic book, Honda envisions that remote-controlled robots will perform various tasks on the lunar surface.

The last bullet point in Honda’s manifest calls for building small, reusable rockets to use as a launch vehicle for small low-Earth-orbit satellites. Development work started in 2019, this is seemingly a serious project, but there’s no word yet on when they’ll first fly. However, if everything goes according to plan, Honda will shoot pocket rockets, direct a squadron of robotic astronauts, and rule your city’s skies in the 2030s. It stressed that its core businesses (including manufacturing cars and motorcycles) will remain at the center of its attention.

As for the S2000’s long-awaited successor … well, maybe the robots will help build it.

via Autoblog

September 30, 2021 at 07:20AM

Chinese commercial satellite has been spotting meteors and aurora

A small Chinese commercial satellite has been detecting meteors impacting the atmosphere and even filming the aurora.

The Yangwang 1 (“Look Up 1”) satellite, belonging to Beijing-based space resources company Origin Space, launched in June along with three other satellites. With its small optical space telescope, Yangwang 1 has been using visible and ultraviolet observations to detect near-Earth asteroids

But the satellite is spotting much more than space rocks. On Aug. 29, the satellite captured footage of the aurora australis, or the southern lights, over the South Pacific. The observation was made in expectation of charged particles reaching Earth following a solar flare that occurred on Aug. 27.

Related: The latest news about China’s space program

During its three months in orbit, Yangwang 1 has also detected and imaged meteors as they strike Earth’s atmosphere, triggering streaks and flashes visible to the telescope. In addition, the satellite has spotted objects such as China’s space station core module moving through the satellite’s field of view.

The satellite was developed by Shenzhen Aerospace Dongfanghong Satellite Co., Ltd., an arm of China’s main state-owned satellite maker, the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). Origin Space says it plans to use Yangwang-1 to create a “treasure map” of potential space resources as part of grander plans for space resource utilization.

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(Image credit: Origin Space)

A GIF showing aurora viewed by Yangwang 1 over the South Pacific, Aug. 29, 2021.

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(Image credit: Origin Space)

A still image of aurora captured by Yangwang 1 over the South Pacific, Aug. 29, 2021.

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(Image credit: Origin Space)

A still image of aurora captured by Yangwang 1 over the South Pacific, Aug. 29, 2021.

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(Image credit: Origin Space)

A meteor disintegrating in the atmosphere over the western Pacific on Aug. 8, 2021.

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(Image credit: Origin Space)

A meteor seen entering the atmosphere over Central Africa on Aug. 10, 2021.

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(Image credit: Origin Space)

A meteor seen entering the atmosphere over Central Africa on Aug. 10, 2021.

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(Image credit: Origin Space)

A meteor seen entering the atmosphere over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau on Aug. 10, 2021.

In April, the company launched NEO-1, a satellite designed to release and collect a small target to simulate capturing small chunks of asteroid. 

The next step is a planned moon mission named NEO-2, which is expected to launch in 2022. When the mission was first announced, plans were for the satellite to be launched into a geocentric orbit, then gradually raise its orbit before eventually reaching and slamming into the moon. (India’s Chandrayaan-2 moon mission similarly first entered a geosynchronous transfer orbit before reaching lunar orbit.)

Origin Space aims to eventually mine space resources for utilization here on Earth. According to the company’s timeline, around 2025 the NEO-X mission would attempt to capture a small near-Earth asteroid using a net.

Japanese company ispace is also working on the exploitation of lunar resources. However, the technology required and market realities mean such companies face tough challenges in realizing their goals. Earlier U.S. ventures Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries have both been acquired in recent years and pivoted away from their previous, highly ambitious goals of asteroid mining.

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September 28, 2021 at 12:16PM

Adobe adds AI-powered masking tools to Lightroom

Adobe has revealed some new masking upgrades that are coming to Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and Adobe Camera Raw (or ACR, Photoshop’s raw photo processing tool). The company calls it the "biggest change to providing control over selectively enhancing photos" since it released Lightroom 2 in 2008.

The Adobe Research team wanted to bring AI-powered selection tools such as Select Subject and Sky Replacement from Photoshop into Lightroom and ACR, but the image processing engine used in the latter two was incompatible. The team had to make some big changes under the hood, which gave it a chance to change how selections are handled in Lightroom.

Until now, ACR, Lightroom and Lightroom Classic have only supported vector-based selections (which are recorded as mathematical expressions), but the AI-powered masks need bitmap (or image-based) support. So, to bring the AI-based tools to those apps, Adobe had to make both approaches work together. It’s still able to use vector-based selections for brush, gradients, and range masks to minimize the storage space needed, while the select subject and select sky tools (which can create a mask for a subject or sky with a single click) use bitmaps.

As it figured out how to make those two kinds of selections work together, Adobe developed new features for ACR, Lightroom and Lightroom Classic across desktops, mobile devices, tablets and the web. One such upgrade is mask groups, which will let you combine any mask tools. For instance, you’ll be able to use a gradient vector-based tool in concert with an AI-powered feature such as select sky. It’ll be possible to separate a mask from another masking tool as well. You’ll be able to invert selections and there’ll be more options for range masks, such as targeting the entire image.

Mask features in Adobe Lightroom

A new masking panel should help you keep these masks organized. If you’re using one of the desktop apps, you can move the panel around. In addition, you can name each mask to help keep track of what you’re doing. You’ll be able to preview masks in a variety of different ways with the help of overlay visualizations Adobe brought over from Photoshop.

Elsewhere, Adobe wanted to ensure the tools were available across apps and devices. It says the AI-powered tools work just as well on mobile devices as they do on desktop, while it’s bringing range masks from ACR and Lightroom Classic to Lightroom’s desktop and mobile apps. The company’s also promising better in-app support to help you get the most out of all these tools, such as a step-by-step tutorial in Lightroom.

The feature parity means that no matter which device or app you prefer for image editing, you should have access to the same tools. These masking upgrades will be available in ACR, Lightroom and Lightroom Classic starting on October 26th. Adobe says its Research and Design Research teams are working on more AI-powered tools and other improvements it plans to announce in the near future.

via Engadget

September 28, 2021 at 11:09AM

Can you solve the rogue submarine riddle? (Difficulty level: Master)

Smuggling yourself aboard the rogue submarine was the easy part. Hacking into the nuclear missile launch override — a little harder. And you’ve got a problem: you don’t have the override code. You know you need the same numbers that were used to authorize the launch, but one wrong answer will lock you out. Can you figure out what numbers to enter to stop nuclear war?

A very special thank you to Jon Schneider and Brian Chen, who wrote the original version of this puzzle for the 2021 MIT Mystery Hunt and were inestimably helpful in adapting it to this format.

[TED Ed]

Click This Link for the Full Post > Can you solve the rogue submarine riddle? (Difficulty level: Master)

via [Geeks Are Sexy] Technology News

September 27, 2021 at 02:15PM

NASA’s AR graphic novel is meant to recruit a new wave of astronauts

NASA clearly needs more astronauts if programs like Artemis are to be successful, and it thinks it has a clever sales pitch: a tech-savvy comic. The space agency has released an augmented reality graphic novel, First Woman, that tells the tale of the fictional Callie Rodriguez as she becomes (what else?) the first woman to land on the Moon. You can read the 40-page first issue as-is, but NASA really wants you to download a companion mobile app (for Android and iOS) or scan codes to experience environments and objects in a more engaging way.

Point your phone at special "XR" codes (through the app) or QR codes (if you prefer the web) and you can tour the Orion spacecraft, the Moon and other objects. You can also play games, watch videos and earn badges.

You can also listen to an audio version. NASA is also promising a Spanish-language version of the novel sometime in the future. The administration isn’t shy about treating First Woman as a recruiting drive, but it may well be worth a download if you want to foster your kids’ interests in space and science — and possibly learn a thing or two about NASA’s long-term plans.

via Engadget

September 25, 2021 at 03:57PM

Man Turns Broken Sandal Into Fully Functional Cardboard “Thousand-Ball” Blaster

Youtuber “The S” broke one of his sandals during the summer, so he decided to use it to create a fully-functional “Thousand-Ball” cardboard blaster. I don’t think this thing can hold 1000 balls like Adam Savage’s 1000-Shot NERF Blaster, but it’s still extremely cool nonetheness! Plus, making the blaster out of cardboard along with a custom firing mechanism is much more complex than simply “upgrading” an already existing Nerf Rival Nemesis MXVII-10K.

[The S]

Click This Link for the Full Post > Man Turns Broken Sandal Into Fully Functional Cardboard “Thousand-Ball” Blaster

via [Geeks Are Sexy] Technology News

September 24, 2021 at 10:03AM