Monday, May 11, 2015

Tesla updates software to roll out driverless cars in three months

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Seeing a Tesla is about to get a lot more wild, as the company is preparing to install its self-driving software in the Model S fleet. The autopilot feature will only work on highways... as the technology may not yet be legal in the US.

 Tesla will roll out an auto-steering software update for the Model S in the next three or four months, and owners won’t even have to go into a Tesla store for the upgrade, founder Elon Musk said at a Thursday press conference.

 Read more ‘Personal roller coaster’: Tesla Motors unveils electric Model S that drives itself Drivers will only be able to engage the autonomous system while on highways, despite having the technical ability to do a lot more.

Reuters / Stephen Lam

 "It is technically capable of going from parking lot to parking lot," Musk said. "But we won't be enabling that for users with this hardware suite, because we don't think it's likely to be safe in suburban neighborhoods," he continued, noting that such streets often lack posted speed limit signs and pose obstacles like children playing in the street.

 “There’s certainly an expectation that when autopilot on the Model S is enabled, that you’re paying attention. But it should also take care of you if you have moments of distraction," the Tesla founder added.

 The company has been testing the software mainly between San Francisco and Seattle.

 “We’re pretty excited about the progress we’re making there,” Musk said. “We’re now almost able
to travel all the way from San Francisco to Seattle without the driver touching any controls at all.

” Engadget pointed out that the electric car’s new technology is not a huge leap from current automobile abilities. “We've already seen plenty of car companies offer things like assisted parallel parking ‒ an evolved form of cruise control seems like the next logical step,” the tech site wrote. But the update may be ahead of the law when it comes to self-driving cars, experts warn. Only four states (California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada) allow for driverless cars. Washington, DC announced new rules at the beginning of April 2014 that would make it the first jurisdiction to license self-driving car operators (rather than just testers). And the federal government has authorized only a handful of test locations for “connected cars,” where vehicles use technology to communicate with other similarly equipped vehicles that alert drivers to potentially dangerous situations. Read more Google’s self-drive cars to hit streets in 2015 “There’s a reason other automakers haven’t gone there,” Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book, told the New York Times. “Best case scenario, it’s unclear. If you’re an individual that starts doing it, you’d better hope nothing goes wrong.” “It’s not just a philosophical reason why automakers haven’t allowed their vehicles to drive themselves,” he added. “There’s a legal reason, too.” A spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told the Times in January that “any autonomous vehicle would need to meet applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards,” and that the agency “will have the appropriate policies and regulations in place to ensure the safety of these types of vehicles.” Alexis Georgeson, a spokesman for Tesla, told the Times that there was “nothing in our autopilot system that is in conflict with current regulations.” Georgeson said the system was designed to be used by an alert driver. “We’re not getting rid of the pilot. This is about releasing the driver from tedious tasks so they can focus and provide better input,” she said. The driverless car technology also raises the question of liability in an accident, which may need to be decided by the courts, rather than by legislation. “If it’s fully autonomous, who’s responsible if there’s a mistake? The driver or the company who made it?” Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told the Times. “I don’t see how Tesla’s going to clear the hurdles. They may have to go to each state legislative body and convince them, and that takes time.” Before the autopilot technology arrives, Tesla is pushing a software update in the next two weeks ‒ Version 6.2 ‒ that is designed to reduce “range anxiety,” or fear of running out of juice while on the road. (Image from Tesla Motors)(Image from Tesla Motors) The upcoming update, called Range Assurance, will connect the Model S with the network of Tesla Superchargers and destination chargers, discarding those that are in heavy use or are inactive. The technology will also warn drivers before they drive out of range, the company said in a blog post.

(Image from Tesla Motors)
 Version 7.0 ‒ with the autopilot mode ‒ will have a complete overhaul of its user interface, the Tesla founder told reporters. “It’ll kind of need one,” Musk noted, “because of the way the car will interact with you in the future.” People will be able to summon an unmanned Model S to their location, an ability that the billionaire said will be restricted to private property until the law catches up with the technology.

​Tesla’s Powerwall battery beats expectations, likely to outpace e-cars

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Tesla Motors has so far taken 38,000 reservations for its zero-carbon Powerwall home battery. Such high demand signals that revenue from the company’s new battery could soon outstrip that from its electric cars sales.
Attendees take pictures of the new Tesla Energy Powerwall Home Battery during an event at Tesla Motors in Hawthorne, California April 30, 2015. (Reuters/Patrick T. Fallon)

“There’s no way that we can possibly satisfy the demand this year,” Musk told Wall Street analysts Thursday during a conference at which he reviewed Tesla’s first-quarter earnings.
“We’re basically sold out through the middle of next year — in a week! We can’t even respond to them. We have to triage our response to those who want to be a distributor. It’s crazy off the hook. It seems to have gone super viral.”

Tesla’s first quarter revenue rose 51 percent to $939 million, while the company’s net loss widened to $154 million as a result of new investments and the effect of the strong dollar. The loss was estimated at $45 million, better than analysts’ expectations.
A series of two battery backup products for home and industrial use was presented on May 1. The lithium-ion battery modules can accumulate electricity from solar panels, charging up during non-peak hours of energy use, and then provide energy to a home or facility for up to 3-5 hours. The newly developed systems come under a product line called Tesla Energy.
Homeowners will be able to get a Powerwall battery in 7 and 10 kilowatt-hour modules for $3,000 and $3,500 respectively. Tesla will also offer 100-kilowatt-hour modules for industrial applications at $25,000 each.

Tesla is known as a car producer famous for its electric-powered vehicles such as the Model S sedan, which also operates on lithium-ion batteries.
The company has made a substantial contribution in changing the car business, forcing other major car producers to develop their own e-vehicles. Tesla's Powerwall battery could trigger a similar trend in the home-charging business.
Tesla hopes to reveal a prototype of its next vehicle, the Model 3 sedan, in March 2016. It will cost about half the price of a Model S and is expected to go on sale at the end of 2017.

‘Start slow, then go faster’: Norway debuts explicit sex ed show for 8-year-olds (PHOTOS)

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Puberty, a new program on the Norwegian state-funded channel NRK, in which the presenter penetrates a latex vagina with a plastic penis, draws diagrams on naked people, and shows children how to French-kiss, has provoked a mixed reaction.
“We would have betrayed our series on puberty if we had not touched on topics such as sex and masturbation,” Line Jansrud, the presenter, who is pregnant, and plans to be filmed giving birth as part of the program, told NRK.
Jansrud illustrates how hickies work (Still from Youtube video.)
Jansrud illustrates how hickies work (Still from Youtube video.)

As the weekly episodes of the educational program, named Newton, chronicle the changes of the human anatomy through the teenage years, the hands-on presented never misses a chance to illustrate her point. The light-hearted, low-budget feel of the show is reminiscent of old-fashioned children’s television, and is based on The Body, a Norwegian series broadcast in the early 1980s, which explored similar themes – without quite going this far.
Explaining intercourse (Still from Youtube video.)
Explaining intercourse (Still from Youtube video.)

In the episode on the penis, Janstrud holds one as she talks about pubic hair and foreskin, before studying a sperm sample. In the one on the vagina, she pulls back the labia of a filmed participant in a close-up shot, to illustrate the location of the clitoris, before describing the pleasurable sensations that can result from stimulating it.
Illuminating the properties of condoms (Still from Youtube video.)
Illuminating the properties of condoms (Still from Youtube video.)

“We have tried to show the natural body and body parts as far it has been possible,” said Erling Normann, the show’s producer. “This was obviously excluded when we came to the program about sex.”
In that episode 29-year-old Jansrud, who has become a household name, lubricates a rubber vagina, before enthusiastically stabbing it with a model of an erect penis, saying “It’s quite slow to start, but after a while, it get a bit quicker. But, for this to be good, it’s very important that the vagina is wet inside. And for the girl, it is also very important that the clitoris is rubbed.”
While the Norwegian establishment, which prides itself on being able to talk openly about sex to children who are likely to have access to much more explicit images on the internet, has been sanguine in the face of the pioneering show, awarding it positive reviews, not everyone has been onside.
Read more
‘Porn is not real life’: Danish schools should show blue movies to students, professor says

Parents at one school complained when their second-grade children were shown one of the episodes in class, despite the program being aimed at eight to 12 year-olds, and wrote complaints to the school.
Facebook has also removed one of the episodes from the NRK page, after its cover photo featured a naked body, for violating its nudity policy.
But on the whole, Norway has avoided the outcry which accompanied the far less explicit Swedish Willie and Twinkle cartoon, which went viral after being broadcast in another children’s program last year.

“I’m passionate about showing children how the body works,” summed up Jansrud when asked about Newton.


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