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What Waabi’s launch means for the self-driving car industry

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It is not the best of times for self-driving car startups. The past year has seen large tech companies acquire startups that were running out of cash and ride-hailing companies shutter costly self-driving car projects with no prospect of becoming production-ready anytime soon.

Yet, in the midst of this downturn, Waabi, a Toronto-based self-driving car startup, has just come out of stealth with an insane amount of $83.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from Uber, 8VC, Radical Ventures, OMERS Ventures, BDC, and Aurora Innovation. The company’s financial backers also include Geoffrey Hinton, Fei-Fei Li, Peter Abbeel, and Sanja Fidler, artificial intelligence scientists with great influence in the academia and applied AI community.

What makes Waabi qualified for such support? According to the company’s press release, Waabi aims to solve the “scale” challenge of self-driving car research and “bring commercially viable self-driving technology to society.” Those are two key challenges of the self-driving car industry and are mentioned numerous times in the release.

What Waabi describes as its “next generation of self-driving technology” has yet to pass the test of time. But its execution plan provides hints at what directions the self-driving car industry could be headed.

Better machine learning algorithms and simulations

According to Waabi’s press release: “The traditional approach to engineering self-driving vehicles results in a software stack that does not take full advantage of the power of AI, and that requires complex and time-consuming manual tuning. This makes scaling costly and technically challenging, especially when it comes to solving for less frequent and more unpredictable driving scenarios.”

Leading self-driving car companies have driven their cars on real roads for millions of miles to train their deep learning models. Real-road training is costly both in terms of logistics and human resources. It is also fraught with legal challenges as the laws surrounding self-driving car tests vary in different jurisdictions. Yet despite all the training, self-driving car technology struggles to handle corner cases, rare situations that are not included in the training data. These mounting challenges speak to the limits of current self-driving car technology.

Here’s how Waabi claims to solve these challenges (emphasis mine): “The company’s breakthrough, AI-first approach, developed by a team of world leading technologists, leverages deep learning, probabilistic inference and complex optimization to create software that is end-to-end trainable, interpretable and capable of very complex reasoning. This, together with a revolutionary closed loop simulator that has an unprecedented level of fidelity, enables testing at scale of both common driving scenarios and safety-critical edge cases. This approach significantly reduces the need to drive testing miles in the real world and results in a safer, more affordable, solution.”

There’s a lot of jargon in there (a lot of which is probably marketing lingo) that needs to be clarified. I reached out to Waabi for more details and will update this post if I hear back from them.

By “AI-first approach,” I suppose they mean that they will put more emphasis on creating better machine learning models and less on complementary technology such as lidars, radars, and mapping data. The benefit of having a software-heavy stack is the very low costs of updating the technology. And there will be a lot of updating in the coming years as scientists continue to find ways to circumvent the limits of self-driving AI.

The combination of “deep learning, probabilistic reasoning, and complex optimization” is interesting, albeit not a breakthrough. Most deep learning systems use non-probabilistic inference. They provide an output, say a category or a predicted value, without giving the level of uncertainty on the result. Probabilistic deep learning, on the other hand, also provides the reliability of its inferences, which can be very useful in critical applications such as driving.

“End-to-end trainable” machine learning models require no manual-engineered features. This means once you have developed the architecture and determined the loss and optimization functions, all you need to do is provide the machine learning model with training examples. Most deep learning models are end-to-end trainable. Some of the more complicated architectures require a combination of hand-engineered features and knowledge along with trainable components.

Finally, “interpretability” and “reasoning” are two of the key challenges of deep learning. Deep neural networks are composed of millions and billions of parameters. This makes it hard to troubleshoot them when something goes wrong (or find problems before something bad happens), which can be a real challenge in critical scenarios such as driving cars. On the other hand, the lack of reasoning power and causal understanding makes it very difficult for deep learning models to handle situations they haven’t seen before.

According to TechCrunch’s coverage of Waabi’s launch, Raquel Urtasan, the company’s CEO, described the AI system the company uses as a “family of algorithms.”

“When combined, the developer can trace back the decision process of the AI system and incorporate prior knowledge so they don’t have to teach the AI system everything from scratch,” TechCrunch wrote.

self-driving car simulation carla

Above: Simulation is an important component of training deep learning models for self-driving cars. (credit: CARLA)

Image Credit: Frontier Developments

The closed-loop simulation environment is a replacement for sending real cars on real roads. In an interview with The Verge, Urtasan said that Waabi can “test the entire system” in simulation. “We can train an entire system to learn in simulation, and we can produce the simulations with an incredible level of fidelity, such that we can really correlate what happens in simulation with what is happening in the real world.”

I’m a bit on the fence on the simulation component. Most self-driving car companies are using simulations as part of the training regime of their deep learning models. But creating simulation environments that are exact replications of the real world is virtually impossible, which is why self-driving car companies continue to use heavy road testing.

Waymo has at least 20 billion miles of simulated driving to go with its 20 million miles of real-road testing, which is a record in the industry. And I’m not sure how a startup with $83.5 million in funding can outmatch the talent, data, compute, and financial resources of a self-driving company with more than a decade of history and the backing of Alphabet, one of the wealthiest companies in the world.

More hints of the system can be found in the work that Urtasan, who is also a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, does in academic research. Urtasan’s name appears on many papers about autonomous driving. But one in particular, uploaded on the arXiv preprint server in January, is interesting.

Titled “MP3: A Unified Model to Map, Perceive, Predict and Plan,” the paper discusses an approach to self-driving that is very close to the description in Waabi’s launch press release.

MP3 self-driving neural networks probablistic deep learning

Above: MP3 is a deep learning model that uses probabilistic inference to create scenic representations and perform motion planning for self-driving cars.

The researchers describe MP3 as “an end-to-end approach to mapless driving that is interpretable, does not incur any information loss, and reasons about uncertainty in the intermediate representations.” In the paper researchers also discuss the use of “probabilistic spatial layers to model the static and dynamic parts of the environment.”

MP3 is end-to-end trainable and uses lidar input to create scene representations, predict future states, and plan trajectories. The machine learning model obviates the need for finely detailed mapping data that companies like Waymo use in their self-driving vehicles.

Raquel posted a video on her YouTube that provides a brief explanation of how MP3 works. It’s fascinating work, though many researchers will point out that it not so much of a breakthrough as a clever combination of existing techniques.

There’s also a sizeable gap between academic AI research and applied AI. It remains to be seen if MP3 or a variation of it is the model that Waabi is using and how it will perform in practical settings.

A more conservative approach to commercialization

Waabi’s first application will not be passenger cars that you can order with your Lyft or Uber app.

“The team will initially focus on deploying Waabi’s software in logistics, specifically long-haul trucking, an industry where self-driving technology stands to make the biggest and swiftest impact due to a chronic driver shortage and pervasive safety issues,” Waabi’s press release states.

What the release doesn’t mention, however, is that highway settings are an easier problem to solve because they are much more predictable than urban areas. This makes them less prone to edge cases (such as a pedestrian running in front of the car) and easier to simulate. Self-driving trucks can transport cargo between cities, while human drivers take care of delivery inside cities.

With Lyft and Uber failing to launch their own robo-taxi services, and with Waymo still away from turning One, its fully driverless ride-hailing service, into a scalable and profitable business, Waabi’s approach seems to be well thought.

With more complex applications still being beyond reach, we can expect self-driving technology to make inroads into more specialized settings such as trucking and industrial complexes and factories.

Waabi also doesn’t make any mention of a timeline in the press release. This also seems to reflect the failures of the self-driving car industry in the past few years. Top executives of automotive and self-driving car companies have constantly made bold statements and given deadlines about the delivery of fully driverless technology. None of those deadlines have been met.

Whether Waabi becomes independently successful or ends up joining the acquisition portfolio of one of the tech giants, its plan seems to be a reality check on the self-driving car industry. The industry needs companies that can develop and test new technologies without much fanfare, embrace change as they learn from their mistakes, make incremental improvements, and save their cash for a long race.

Ben Dickson is a software engineer and the founder of TechTalks. He writes about technology, business, and politics.

This story originally appeared on Bdtechtalks.com. Copyright 2021

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/06/12/what-waabis-launch-means-for-the-self-driving-car-industry/

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Analysis: Bitcoin is Undervalued, 2021 Bull Run Hasn’t Topped Yet

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During the first half of 2021, the ETH volume surged by more than 1,400% totaling $1.4 trillion, while BTC’s increased by 489%, reaching a total of $2.1 trillion.

ETH Beats BTC for The First Time

Coinbase took data from 20 trading venues and released a report, where it informed that Ether’s trading volume spiked by 1,461% during the first six months of 2021. Its total climbed to $1.4 trillion compared to $92 billion in the first half of 2020. In the meantime, Bitcoin marked an increase of 489%, and its trading volume hit $2.1 trillion.

The Coinbase report noted:

“Many of our largest institutional clients, including hedge funds, endowments, and corporates, increased or added first-time exposure to ETH in H1, believing the asset has long-term staying power tantamount to BTC’s while playing a differentiated role in their portfolios.”

The research also revealed the total market capitalization numbers for the first half of 2021. At the beginning of the year, the market started at $769 billion and surged to $2.4 trillion in May. Subsequently, it declined to $1.4 trillion by the end of the period.

The largest chunk of Bitcoin’s profits came during the first months of 2021 until April, when its price escalated towards an ATH. On the contrary, Ether saw the most of its earnings in May 2021, when it was worth more than $4,000.


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Can ETH Become The Largest Cryptocurrency?

The debate whether Ether can surpass Bitcoin and become the leading digital asset has been a hot topic in the last few years.

At the beginning of May, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks – Mark Cuban – joined the argument and gave his three reasons why ETH will eventually outperform BTC: Ethereum’s network is capable of processing more transactions per second, and it is the platform where “the future of finance” is built. It also boasts a higher utilization compared to Bitcoin.

The prominent investor Mike Novogratz also gave his two cents on the matter. The renowned crypto bull hinted that such a scenario where Ether surpasses Bitcoin is possible as the network behind the second-largest cryptocurrency is rapidly expanding. However, he outlined the characteristics of the two digital assets expecting BTC to be the digital version of gold while ETH will have different purposes:

“I think Ethereum may even become the biggest cryptocurrency one day but it will have a very different use case than BTC.”

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Source: https://coingenius.news/analysis-bitcoin-is-undervalued-2021-bull-run-hasnt-topped-yet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-bitcoin-is-undervalued-2021-bull-run-hasnt-topped-yet

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Analysis: Bitcoin is Undervalued, 2021 Bull Run Hasn’t Topped Yet

Published

on

During the first half of 2021, the ETH volume surged by more than 1,400% totaling $1.4 trillion, while BTC’s increased by 489%, reaching a total of $2.1 trillion.

ETH Beats BTC for The First Time

Coinbase took data from 20 trading venues and released a report, where it informed that Ether’s trading volume spiked by 1,461% during the first six months of 2021. Its total climbed to $1.4 trillion compared to $92 billion in the first half of 2020. In the meantime, Bitcoin marked an increase of 489%, and its trading volume hit $2.1 trillion.

The Coinbase report noted:

“Many of our largest institutional clients, including hedge funds, endowments, and corporates, increased or added first-time exposure to ETH in H1, believing the asset has long-term staying power tantamount to BTC’s while playing a differentiated role in their portfolios.”

The research also revealed the total market capitalization numbers for the first half of 2021. At the beginning of the year, the market started at $769 billion and surged to $2.4 trillion in May. Subsequently, it declined to $1.4 trillion by the end of the period.

The largest chunk of Bitcoin’s profits came during the first months of 2021 until April, when its price escalated towards an ATH. On the contrary, Ether saw the most of its earnings in May 2021, when it was worth more than $4,000.


ADVERTISEMENT

Can ETH Become The Largest Cryptocurrency?

The debate whether Ether can surpass Bitcoin and become the leading digital asset has been a hot topic in the last few years.

At the beginning of May, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks – Mark Cuban – joined the argument and gave his three reasons why ETH will eventually outperform BTC: Ethereum’s network is capable of processing more transactions per second, and it is the platform where “the future of finance” is built. It also boasts a higher utilization compared to Bitcoin.

The prominent investor Mike Novogratz also gave his two cents on the matter. The renowned crypto bull hinted that such a scenario where Ether surpasses Bitcoin is possible as the network behind the second-largest cryptocurrency is rapidly expanding. However, he outlined the characteristics of the two digital assets expecting BTC to be the digital version of gold while ETH will have different purposes:

“I think Ethereum may even become the biggest cryptocurrency one day but it will have a very different use case than BTC.”

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Source: https://coingenius.news/analysis-bitcoin-is-undervalued-2021-bull-run-hasnt-topped-yet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-bitcoin-is-undervalued-2021-bull-run-hasnt-topped-yet

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AI

Analysis: Bitcoin is Undervalued, 2021 Bull Run Hasn’t Topped Yet

Published

on

During the first half of 2021, the ETH volume surged by more than 1,400% totaling $1.4 trillion, while BTC’s increased by 489%, reaching a total of $2.1 trillion.

ETH Beats BTC for The First Time

Coinbase took data from 20 trading venues and released a report, where it informed that Ether’s trading volume spiked by 1,461% during the first six months of 2021. Its total climbed to $1.4 trillion compared to $92 billion in the first half of 2020. In the meantime, Bitcoin marked an increase of 489%, and its trading volume hit $2.1 trillion.

The Coinbase report noted:

“Many of our largest institutional clients, including hedge funds, endowments, and corporates, increased or added first-time exposure to ETH in H1, believing the asset has long-term staying power tantamount to BTC’s while playing a differentiated role in their portfolios.”

The research also revealed the total market capitalization numbers for the first half of 2021. At the beginning of the year, the market started at $769 billion and surged to $2.4 trillion in May. Subsequently, it declined to $1.4 trillion by the end of the period.

The largest chunk of Bitcoin’s profits came during the first months of 2021 until April, when its price escalated towards an ATH. On the contrary, Ether saw the most of its earnings in May 2021, when it was worth more than $4,000.


ADVERTISEMENT

Can ETH Become The Largest Cryptocurrency?

The debate whether Ether can surpass Bitcoin and become the leading digital asset has been a hot topic in the last few years.

At the beginning of May, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks – Mark Cuban – joined the argument and gave his three reasons why ETH will eventually outperform BTC: Ethereum’s network is capable of processing more transactions per second, and it is the platform where “the future of finance” is built. It also boasts a higher utilization compared to Bitcoin.

The prominent investor Mike Novogratz also gave his two cents on the matter. The renowned crypto bull hinted that such a scenario where Ether surpasses Bitcoin is possible as the network behind the second-largest cryptocurrency is rapidly expanding. However, he outlined the characteristics of the two digital assets expecting BTC to be the digital version of gold while ETH will have different purposes:

“I think Ethereum may even become the biggest cryptocurrency one day but it will have a very different use case than BTC.”

SPECIAL OFFER (Sponsored)

Binance Futures 50 USDT FREE Voucher: Use this link to register & get 10% off fees and 50 USDT when trading 500 USDT (limited offer).

PrimeXBT Special Offer: Use this link to register & enter POTATO50 code to get 50% free bonus on any deposit up to 1 BTC.

You Might Also Like:

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Source: https://coingenius.news/analysis-bitcoin-is-undervalued-2021-bull-run-hasnt-topped-yet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-bitcoin-is-undervalued-2021-bull-run-hasnt-topped-yet

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Coinbase Report: ETH Trading Volume Increased More Than Bitcoin’s in First Half of 2021

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Bitcoin exchange reserve has fallen off a cliff, on-chain analysis shows. This behavior is usually a bullish indicator for the BTC market.

Bitcoin All Exchanges Reserve Is Down

As pointed out by a CryptoQuant post, the BTC all exchanges reserve indicator has surged downhill over the past couple of days.

The Bitcoin all exchanges reserve is an indicator that shows the amount of BTC stored in wallets of all exchanges. When the metric’s value goes up, it means more investors are sending their crypto to exchanges.

More BTC in exchanges implies a selling pressure. On the other hand, when its value goes down, it means investors are sending their coins from exchange wallets to personal ones.

Related Reading | Bitcoin To Reach New All-Time Highs, Market Strategist

Here is a chart showing the trend in the value of the BTC all exchanges reserve over the last two months:

Bitcoin All Exchanges Reserve

The BTC all exchanges reserve seems to have steeply declined | Source: CryptoQuant

As the above graph shows, the metric has fallen down with quite the steep slope. Just over the past two days, the indicator has dropped more than 100K Bitcoin in value!

Since the value of the indicator going down means more BTC moving out of exchanges, it might mean that there is a buying pressure in the market. The price should be affected positively by this.

Related Reading | Survey Says! Institutional Investors Are Still Bullish On Bitcoin

A look at outflow charts of popular exchanges shows massive movement. Coinbase Pro saw 30k BTC exiting the platform on Wednesday, while Binance, the largest exchange by trading volume, saw around 29k BTC moving out of its wallets.

A couple of days back, Binance observed huge netflows. The price moved positively afterwards so that it’s possible that the all exchanges reserve plummeting will make the price go up this time too.

Bitcoin Price

At the time of writing, Bitcoin’s price is floating around $39.8k, up 24% in the last 7 days. Over the last month, the crypto has gained almost 15% in value.

Here is a chart that shows the trend in the price of BTC over the last 3 months:

Bitcoin Price Chart

BTC catches a sharp upwards trend | Source: BTCUSD on TradingView

After struggling in a range bound market for quite the while, Bitcoin has finally gained some of the volatility back. The rapid price swing of $34.5k to $39.5k was accompanied by the biggest short squeeze in the history of the coin as short sellers hurried to cut their loses.

The crypto is now testing the $40k resistance level, and if it can keep the rally up and push through, it’s likely that the » Read more

” href=”https://www.newsbtc.com/dictionary/coin/” data-wpel-link=”internal”>coin will reach the $45k mark. However, if the level can’t be surpassed, BTC could fall back to a range bound market.

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Source: https://www.newsbtc.com/news/bitcoin/bitcoin-bullish-btc-exchange-reserve/

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Source: https://coingenius.news/coinbase-report-eth-trading-volume-increased-more-than-bitcoins-in-first-half-of-2021-4/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coinbase-report-eth-trading-volume-increased-more-than-bitcoins-in-first-half-of-2021-4

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