Two years ago, FCA said it would produce about 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans integrated with Waymo’s suite of self-driving hardware and software. Waymo uses these self-driving minivans for testing as well as for its Waymo One autonomous ride-hailing business in the Phoenix area. The autonomous vehicles used in the Waymo One service still have a human safety driver behind the wheel.
FCA and Waymo expanded on their relationship in 2018 with FCA announcing it would supply Waymo with up to 62,000 more Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
Unlike Waymo, Aurora has never indicated plans publicly to launch a robotaxi service. Instead, it’s focused on supplying and then integrating its full self-driving stack to companies hoping to deploy autonomous vehicles or services.
Aurora, founded in early 2017 by Sterling Anderson, Drew Bagnell and Chris Urmson, has integrated its technology into six vehicle platforms, including sedans, SUVs, minivans, a large commercial vehicle and a Class 8 truck.
Aurora is just a few months removed from announcing its hefty $530 million Series B round that was led by Sequoia Capital and included “significant investment” from Amazon and T. Rowe Price Associates. The round pushed Aurora’s valuation to more than $2.5 billion. Aurora announced a $90 million Series A round last February from Greylock Partners and Index Ventures, bringing its total raised to date to more than $620 million.
The company has offices in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Pittsburgh and previously announced partnerships with Volkswagen Group, Hyundai and Chinese electric vehicle startup Byton.
Google Assistant adds scheduling for a smarter smart home
Google has quietly added support for scheduling actions with the Google Assistant, with the new feature allowing for smart home tech like lights to be switched on and off according to what time it is or for the duration you want them active. It builds on the existing smart home integration, which lets the Assistant remotely control registered lights, smart plugs, and other devices by voice command.
Until now, though, those commands would be followed instantly. You could say “turn on the lights,” for example, or set up complex actions including a series of different connected devices – like opening motorized blinds, turning on a coffee pot, and raising the thermostat’s temperature, all with one “good morning” style routine – but they’d activate straight away.
With the new scheduling feature, spotted by Reddit users, however, you can now use time as a moderating factor. For example, you can ask the Assistant to “turn off the lights in 30 minutes” to set a countdown timer, or “turn on the coffee pot in ten minutes.” Alternatively, you can specify an exact time, such as asking the Assistant to switch off all the lights at 11pm.
There’s also support for durations of activity. For instance, you could ask the Assistant to turn on the lights for fifteen minutes, after which point they’d turn off again. Or, you can use sunset and sunrise as a smart trigger, such as saying “Hey Google, turn on the coffee pot at sunrise.”
It’s a welcome change, because while having central control over things like lighting, the HVAC system, WiFi plugs, and other connected devices can be useful, over time many people discover they really just want their smart home to handle itself. Being able to issue quick commands so that something happens automatically later on can be far more flexible than doing it in the moment.
According to user reports on Reddit, those trying out the new scheduling features are running into a few bugs. That could imply Google is still tweaking things on the back-end, and that the implementation as a whole is still something of a work-in-progress.
Lamborghini and Master & Dynamic team for new audio gear
Lamborghini has partnered with Master & Dynamic to create new premium headphones and earphones. The collection includes the MW65 Active Noise-Canceling Wireless Headphones and the MW07 PLUS True Wireless Earphones. Both incorporate design elements inspired by the Lamborghini supercars.
The initial launch collection includes headphones in silver metal, light gray, and yellow Alcantara. Headphones are also available in black metal with black and yellow Alcantara and black metal with black and gray Alcantara. The collection also features MW07 PLUS acetate earphones with the charging case tying in with the Lamborghini matte paint colors.
The earphones are available in polished white with matte silver, polished black with a matte black case, and matte black with a matte black case. All models feature the Lamborghini “Y” motif. Other than the special Lamborghini style, the headphones are the same functionally as other models already available.
The MW65 Active Noise-canceling Wireless Over-Year Headphones feature two modes of active noise cancellation to tailor their use to the sound environment. They feature up to 24 hours of battery life and Bluetooth 5.0 supporting connectivity from up to 100 feet away from the source device. The MW07 PLUS True Wireless Earphone has 10mm Beryllium drivers for improved sound quality and a stainless steel charging case offering 40 hours of battery life.
The collection launched on November 20 and are available directly from Master & Dynamic or the Lamborghini Store online. MW65 Automobili Lamborghini headphones are $549. MW07 PLUS Automobili Lamborghini True Wireless Earphones are available for $349. Both are available to purchase now. Having personally used Master & Dynamic headphones, they offer excellent sound quality and style.
Google’s Project Guideline allows a blind man to run alone
Thomas Panek was born with vision, but his sight began to fade until he was declared legally blind in his younger years. He’s an avid runner and has run with human guides and often runs with his guide dog. Panek said that he enjoyed both forms of running but wanted more independence.
In the fall of 2019, he asked a group of designers and technologists at a Google hackathon if it was possible to guide a blind runner independently. Panek says he only expected a conversation, but by the end of the day, the group had built a rough demo that allowed a phone to recognize a line taped to the ground and provide audio cues while walking with Blaze (his dog).
The group wanted to see if they could turn the rough demo into something more. For the concept, Panek would wear a phone on a waistband along with bone-conducting headphones. The camera inside the phone would look for a physical guideline on the ground and send audio signals depending on his position.
The system would create an audio tone if he drifted to the left of the line. In that instance, the sound will get louder in his left ear. If he drifted to the right, the sound would get louder in his right ear. After a few months of testing, Panek and the team were ready to test it on an indoor oval track. He says after a few adjustments, he was able to run eight laps on the track solo. He noted that he did have Google teammates nearby, but it was the first unguided mile he had run in decades.
He says that the next step was to see if the tech would work outdoors in the park, his preferred running location. Running in the park brings lots more challenges with variables and weather and lighting conditions and the need for new data to train the model. The team spent months working on an on-device machine learning model that could detect the guideline in different environments. The system functioned as expected, allowing him to run without a guide of any kind. In the future, he plans to run at the NYRR Virtual Run for Thanks 5K using a line temporarily painted in Central Park in New York City.
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