Elon Musk, easily one of the most audacious business entrepreneurs and tech mavens in modern times, has promised self-driving, autonomous cars for years now. Earlier this year he even went so far as to predict the commercial release of a beta fleet of autonomous vehicles by the end of 2020.
It turns out that prediction may have had a substantial foundation behind it because last week Musk stunned Tesla enthusiasts with a demo of the company’s forthcoming “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) beta. The presentation confirmed a major upgrade to Tesla’s self-driving suite and shocked viewers with a video demo of the beta car’s futuristic dashboard in action.
The test demo featured a specially selected trained driver but the most jaw-dropping aspect undoubtedly involves the dashboard that represents what the car’s neural network is “seeing” as it drives. Multiple glowing modules and real-time data monitors depict a full spectrum of the road ahead, highlighting pedestrian movements, parked cars, and unmarked lane dividers.
Musk himself calls the upgrade a “quantum leap” in the autonomous vehicles race and his Tesla ‘bros’ seem to be just as sold.
One driver featured in the video commented on the car’s first turn, “It paused to look, dude!”
Later in the demo, that driver expanded on the almost creepy, human-like impulses demonstrated by the vehicle: “I almost felt like I was still driving, because I still looked [before making a turn], and the car felt like it was looking, so that was amazing and truly mind-blowing how it was working.”
The neural net used in the new software allows drivers to engage the Autopilot advanced driver-assist mode on local and non-highway streets. The company released terse warnings about the use of the beta car, saying that it still requires constant human oversight because “it may do the wrong thing at the worse time.”
Experts note the risk of a haphazard release, which could result in drivers performing experimental stunts for YouTube videos. In this vein, The Verge described the whole spectacle with succinct criticism:
“Frankly, this looks terrifying — not because it seems erratic or malfunctioning, but because of the way it will inevitably be misused.”
Ed Niedermeyer, communications director for Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, issued the following statement:
“Public road testing is a serious responsibility and using untrained consumers to validate beta-level software on public roads is dangerous and inconsistent with existing guidance and industry norms. Moreover, it is extremely important to clarify the line between driver assistance and autonomy. Systems requiring human driver oversight are not self-driving and should not be called self-driving.”
In its publicly released warning, Tesla acknowledges these risks and the probability that dangerous rule-breaking and stunts are inevitable. There have already been fatal crashes involving autonomous vehicles and there will likely be more. As a result, the company says the Autopilot feature should only be engaged by attentive drivers who have both hands on the wheel.
Despite these dangers, Musk continues to aim for a 2020 wide release.
“Full Self-Driving is in early limited access Beta and must be used with additional caution,” the company writes. “It may do the wrong thing at the worst time, so you must always keep your hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road. Do not become complacent.“
Although many critics are expressing an abundance of caution with regard to Tesla’s beta rollout, it is widely believed by automotive and industry experts that autonomous vehicles will one day dramatically improve traffic, reduce car accident injuries, and could save millions of lives. The industrial automation and robot revolution will also shake up the job market and society as a whole.
So, what’s the verdict from The Mind Unleashed readers? Will you buy a self-driving beta car in the first year of its release or will you wait to see the fatality statistics?
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.
Get Castrated If You Want to Age Slower and Live Longer, Scientists Say
New research suggests that if men want to delay their aging in an effective way, all they have to do is – wait for it – get castrated.
A study by an international team of scientists from New Zealand’s University of Otago found that the castration of male sheep successfully delayed their aging compared to males whose genitalia was intact – and the same principle would hold for human males.
The study could give us some crucial insights into why women live longer than men.
“Both farmers and scientists have known for some time that castrated male sheep live on average much longer than their intact counterparts; however, this is the first time anyone has looked at DNA to see if it also ages slower,” said the lead author of the study, Victoria Sugrue.
The study also shows how cutting-edge technology has allowed us to gain surprising insights from DNA and the rate at which it ages, including the ability to estimate the age of humans based solely on analyzing their DNA.
“We developed a way to measure biological age in a broad range of mammals — we have looked at over 200 species so far and discovered surprising commonality in which animals age,” said study co-author Steve Horvath of UCLA. “But the sheep study was unique in that it specifically isolated the effects of male hormones on aging.”
Using an “epigenetic clock” invented by Horvath to measure age, researchers were able to find that male and female sheep had quite different aging patterns for their DNA.
“We found that males and females have very different patterns of DNA aging in sheep; and that despite being male, the castrates [wethers] had very feminine characteristics at specific DNA sites,” said research team co-leader Tim Hore.
These findings can also apply to humans.
“Interestingly, those sites most affected by castration also bind to receptors of male hormones in humans at a much greater rate than we would expect by chance,” Hore said. “This provides a clear link between castration, male hormones and sex-specific differences in DNA aging.”
Scientists Find Possible New Signs of Alien Life on Saturn’s Icy Moon
A new study suggests that Saturn moon Enceladus, which is covered in an icy crust, could be a great place for life to exist.
New evidence collected by NASA’s retired Cassini spacecraft offers tantalizing details on the chemical makeup of the water plumes erupting from Enceladus.
The heavy amount of methane – a gas associated with life on Earth – suggests that underneath the icy crust of Enceladus, there could be a huge ocean of briny water potentially teeming with life.
The new study by researchers from the University of Arizona and Paris Sciences & Lettres University also found that there was a relatively high concentration of molecules of dihydrogen and carbon dioxide.
“We wanted to know: Could Earthlike microbes that ‘eat’ the dihydrogen and produce methane explain the surprisingly large amount of methane detected by Cassini?” asked University of Arizona associate professor and lead author of the study Prof. Regis Ferriere.
Scientists have long speculated that conditions on Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and sources of warmth, could be conducive to the development of living creatures.
However, one possible explanation for the chemical composition of water on Enceladus could be the existence of microbes on the Saturn moon.
“In other words, we can’t discard the ‘life hypothesis’ as highly improbable,” Ferriere noted. “To reject the life hypothesis, we need more data from future missions.”
Confirmation of the “life hypothesis” will likely remain elusive for the foreseeable future.
“Searching for such microbes, known as methanogens, at Enceladus’ seafloor would require extremely challenging deep-dive missions that are not in sight for several decades,” Ferriere said.