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Fujitsu encryption tech for biometric info provides safer authentication in open environments

Fujitsu encryption tech for biometric info provides safer authentication in open environments

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Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd has developed a technology that can compare biometric information while it is still encrypted, with the same accuracy and processing speed as conventional biometric authentication systems.

Conventional technologies have been developed that can authenticate encrypted biometric information, but there were issues with the comparison accuracy or in the processing speed. Now, Fujitsu Laboratories has developed a technology that uses palm vein authentication to prevent the degradation of comparison accuracy that occurs when encryption is applied, while increasing the speed of comparison processing.

Because this technology enables quick and accurate comparison of biometric information while it is constantly encrypted, it can create a payment system using safe and secure palm vein biometric authentication in environments such as a cloud environment via the internet.

Development background

In recent years, the use of biometric authentication has become more common as a safe and convenient method of identifying a person. Fujitsu Laboratories early on developed palm vein authentication to meet the need for an authentication system that could identify a person with just biometric information, without using information such as a password or a card. In 2018, Fujitsu Laboratories announced a biometric authentication technology that combined facial recognition with palm vein authentication.

Fujitsu said in a statement that it expects to see wider use of biometric authentication in a variety of situations, such as for payments when shopping, for logging in to websites and systems, and for accessing secure rooms.Conventional biometric authentication systems could only operate in closed environments using dedicated connections.

In the future, however, the implementation of biometric authentication systems operating in open environments via the internet is expected, as there will be more usage of cashless payment at large-scale chain stores


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://japantoday.com/category/tech/fujitsu-encryption-tech-for-biometric-info-provides-safer-authentication-in-open-environments

Author: Japan Today Staff

Image Credit: Fujitsu Laboratories

Toyota turns to AI startup to accelerate goal of robots for the home

Toyota turns to AI startup to accelerate goal of robots for the home

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Toyota’s HSR (Human Support Robot) delivers a basket to a woman in a wheelchair.

Toyota Motor Corp has designs on making robot helpers for your home, and has enlisted a Japanese startup that specializes in artificial intelligence to jump-start its plan.

Japan’s biggest automaker and Tokyo-based Preferred Networks Inc will carry out joint research to develop so-called service robots that are “capable of learning in typical living environments”, the companies said.

The two firms have already been collaborating on driverless vehicles since 2014.

Eighty-year-old manufacturing giant Toyota is trying to transform itself and adapt to technology, such as ride-hailing and automated driving, that is disrupting the auto industry.

Toyota sees robots as part of that effort, particularly in Japan, where it aims to have them in homes and hospitals to support one of the world’s fastest aging populations.

For the project announced, Toyota said it would provide a dozen units of its Human Support Robot, or HSR, to Preferred Networks.

The companies will cooperate on development over the next three years, including the sharing of intellectual property.

Preferred Networks is already using the robot as a platform for its advanced artificial intelligence software. At an exhibition in Tokyo last year the robot tidied a messy room, distinguishing between trash and dirty towels.

Toyota has been working on service robots since 2004, and has a number of models under development. But HSR is the one it sees as closest to being ready for commercial applications.

Basically a single arm on a wheeled base with a sensor-filled head on top, the robot will also be used at next year’s summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, to help with simple tasks such as fetching drinks for some spectators.


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://japantoday.com/category/tech/Toyota-turns-to-AI-startup-to-accelerate-goal-of-robots-for-the-home

Author: Kevin Buckland

Image Credit: Reuters File

Is Boeing too big to fail?

Is Boeing too big to fail?

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US politicians have not turned on Boeing, despite two deadly accidents tarnishing the aircraft manufacturer’s reputation

The grounding of the 737 MAX for more than four months after two deadly accidents has tarnished Boeing’s reputation, but it still has the confidence of US policymakers.

This is despite the fact that one of the MAX flight systems, the MCAS, has been cited in both accidents.

Is this an indication that the American aerospace giant is too big to fail?

President Donald Trump, whose mantra is “America first,” certainly criticized Boeing early in his administration over the presidential plane, Air Force One, but he has been largely silent about the recent woes.

The wave of negative press about the flaws that caused the deaths of 346 people did not prompt legislators to summon Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg before Congress to inflict on him the kind of humiliation Wall Street bankers were subject to following the global financial crisis.

“Boeing is one of the engines of the U.S. economy, it’s way too big and too important for the United States,” said Michel Merluzeau, an expert at Air Insight Research.

If American politicians were to attack the manufacturer, they would be shooting themselves in the foot, Merluzeau said, because “there are many jobs involved, a very, very numerous supply chain and it cannot be replaced with Facebook or Google that don’t produce anything tangible.”

Founded 103 years ago, Boeing employs more than 150,000 people around the world, the vast majority in the United States.

In addition to direct jobs, its subcontractors — like General Electric (GE), United Technologies and Spirit Aerosystems — are large U.S. industrial employers.

The location of Boeing plants resembles a political campaign map, with facilities in Republican strongholds like Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, and Democratic areas like California and Washington, as well as states that helped Trump win the election: Pennsylvania and Arizona.

And Muilenburg has shown political savvy in his picks for the company’s board of directors, naming Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, and Caroline Kennedy, ally of former President Barack Obama and daughter of former President John F Kennedy.

Boeing is a dominant player not just in civilian aircraft but in the defense and space industries, and is a major supplier to the Pentagon.

The company produced the famous B-17 and B-29 bombers of World War II and the B-52 used the Vietnam War. Today it produces a variety of aircraft including the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet, Apache attack helicopters, the B-1 bomber and combat drones.

It also is part of SpaceX, which will manage travel to the International Space Station.

And Boeing manufactures the presidential plane, the iconic Air Force One.

But Boeing also “can be used as a strategic tool,” said Arthur Wheaton, a professor at Cornell University in New York.

Chinese purchases of Boeing aircraft are part of trade negotiations with Beijing, according to a source, since that can be a fast way to reduce the US trade deficit.

U.S. civilian aircraft exports fell 12 percent to $20.4 billion in May, due to the MAX crisis, which affected the GDP, according to government data.


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://japantoday.com/category/business/is-boeing-too-big-to-fail

Author:Luc OLINGA

Image Credit: AFP/File

Uniqlo appoints first female CEO for its Japan business

Uniqlo appoints first female CEO for its Japan business

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Maki Akaida, a group senior vice president at Fast Retailing, assumed the role of CEO for Uniqlo’s Japanese business this month.

Casualwear retailer Uniqlo has promoted a former manager of a busy Tokyo store to take charge of operations in its home market of Japan, where population decline makes maintaining earnings a challenge.

Maki Akaida, a 40-year-old group senior vice president at parent company Fast Retailing, assumed the role of CEO for Uniqlo’s Japanese business this month.

After joining Uniqlo in 2001, Akaida worked at stores in areas ranging from Tokyo’s posh Ginza district and Shanghai to Niigata Prefecture. When managing a store in the capital’s desirable suburb of Kichijoji, she was known for successfully overseeing one of the most popular Uniqlo outlets in the country.

Akaida is the second person to hold the Japan CEO title after a long reign by Fast Retailing Chairman, President and CEO Tadashi Yanai. She replaces Takao Kuwahara, a group executive vice president at the parent who had succeeded Yanai as head of the Japan business last fall.Maki Akaida, a group senior vice president at Fast Retailing, assumed the role of CEO for Uniqlo’s Japanese business this month. (Photo by Hiroshi Kiyonaga/Nikkei BP)
Fast Retailing is putting more women into management and has moved the office for the effort from human resources to right under the president. Directing the office starting this month is Mari Kogiso, director of the Gender Investment and Innovation Department at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.

Ex-banker Kogiso specializes in environmental, social and governance investing and was responsible for the foundation’s 2017 establishment of a roughly $100 million Asia Women Impact Fund. She works to create opportunities for women and to address the gender gap.

Women held 36% of Fast Retailing’s managerial posts in fiscal 2018, exceeding the government’s 30% target for businesses to meet by 2020. But this remains a far cry from the “50% or more” Yanai wants to see for executive officers.


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Uniqlo-appoints-first-female-CEO-for-its-Japan-business

Author: Yoshihiro Hara

Image Credit: Hiroshi Kiyonaga/Nikkei BP

Bank of Japan may enhance commitment to ultralow rates to prevent yen surge

Bank of Japan may enhance commitment to ultralow rates to prevent yen surge

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Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ), speaks during the Michel Camdessus Central Banking Lecture event at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, July 22, 2019. Kuroda said officials are keeping close tabs on mounting doubts over the outlook for global growth and pledged they would persistently continue with powerful monetary easing to lift inflation toward their 2% target.

The Bank of Japan began a two-day policy meeting Monday amid market expectations that it will strengthen its commitment to keeping interest rates ultralow to prevent a surge in the yen following a potential rate cut in the United States later this week.

But some officials at the central bank are concerned that a mere tweaking of its post-meeting statement may only add to the widespread view that the BOJ is running out of policy tools to provide additional monetary stimulus to the economy, which has been suffering from the uncertain global outlook.

Aiming to achieve its 2 percent inflation goal, the BOJ has already lowered the short-term interest rate to minus 0.1 percent and guided long-term rates around zero percent following six years of aggressive monetary easing under Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda.

In April, it pledged to keep interest rates “extremely low” at least until spring 2020 while expecting inflation to remain under the target over the coming years.

During the meeting through Tuesday, the BOJ Policy Board could make a minor adjustment to the forward guidance by committing to keeping rates ultralow for a longer period of time, such as through 2020, according to sources familiar with the bank’s thinking.

But some BOJ watchers doubt the effectiveness of such an announcement.

“Adjusting the guidance is an important option. But it means the BOJ is doing nothing (to underpin the economy),” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at the Norinchukin Research Institute.

The BOJ is under pressure to further ease monetary policy as its peers in the United States and Europe have increasingly signaled they would cut interest rates to safeguard growth.

While the European Central Bank said last week it will look into a range of stimulus options including rate cuts, the U.S. Federal Reserve is widely seen as ready to lower rates at the end of its two-day policy review on Wednesday.

If the BOJ stands pat the previous day, a possible rate cut by the Fed could trigger a yen spike against the U.S. dollar on narrower interest rate gaps between the two economies, which would hurt Japanese exporters.

Kuroda delivered a speech last week in Washington indicating the BOJ will consider additional monetary easing steps if rising uncertainties in the world economy affect Japan’s economy and prices.

He will meet the media Tuesday to explain the BOJ’s decision at the meeting.


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/07/29/business/economy-business/bank-japan-may-enhance-commitment-ultralow-rates-prevent-yen-surge/

Author: Kyodo

Image Credit: BLOOMBERG

SoftBank unveils investment fund to drive ‘AI revolution’

SoftBank unveils investment fund to drive ‘AI revolution’

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Japan’s SoftBank Group said Friday it would partner with tech firms including Apple and Microsoft in a new $108-billion investment fund to accelerate the “AI revolution”.

The new fund is the long-mooted successor to its mammoth Vision Fund, which has taken stakes in leading tech start-ups from Uber to WeWork.

SoftBank Group itself will plow $38 billion into the new fund, which will also include investments from Apple, Microsoft, Foxconn, a range of Japanese banks, Standard Chartered, and the National Bank of Kazakstan.

In a statement, SoftBank Group said Vision Fund 2 would “facilitate the continued acceleration of the AI (artificial intelligence) revolution through investment in market-leading, tech-enabled growth companies”.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that SoftBank executives brought on board Microsoft with promises to encourage the fund’s roughly 75 companies to shift to the tech firm’s cloud platform.

Originally a software giant, SoftBank has increasingly become an investment firm through its first Vision Fund, which was largely backed by Saudi Arabia.

The announcement of Vision Fund 2 made no mention of Saudi Arabia among the investors, though reports ahead of the announcement suggested Riyadh was in negotiations to put money into the fund.

The Japanese firm’s strong ties with the kingdom came under scrutiny after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

But SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son made clear after the murder that he would continue working with Riyadh, saying he was “deeply saddened” by Khashoggi’s death but adding: “we cannot turn our backs on the Saudi people.”

Saudi Arabia is believed to have put around $45 billion into the first Vision Fund, which was announced in October 2016 and has gone on to invest in some of the tech world’s hottest firms, including Slack and Nvidia.

Reports suggest both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are considering investing in the new fund, though possibly with smaller stakes than last time.

In May, Son told a press conference that the fund was “the most important management engine” for his firm.

He said all the unicorns — venture-backed firms worth at least $1 billion — listed on Wall Street that his fund has invested in are “number-one firms in their own fields”.

“I don’t want to be number two… I have not been able to accept that ever since I was a child,” said the flamboyant tycoon.

Analysts said investing in artificial intelligence was a smart move.

“It’s an attractive growth sector as digitalization has been under way globally and rapidly,” Yosuke Nakamura, a researcher at NLI Research Institute, told AFP.

But he cautioned that headwinds for the global economy, particularly as a result on the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, could make it a risky time for new investments.

“Given the (new) fund is also quite big, the question is how and whether they will be able to find good ventures to invest in,” he added. “There is excessive money around… Even if they can find an investment, it could be at an overvalued price. That could be a risk for them once the economy goes downhill.”

Son has touted the success of the first fund, with the firm reporting gains of 1.26 trillion yen from its investment funds, including the Vision Fund, when it announced annual results in May.

The fund’s announcement comes as US regulators are reportedly poised to approve the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, a major move for SoftBank that carries billions in Sprint debt that would be shifted off its books if the deal goes through.


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://japantoday.com/category/tech/softbank-unveils-investment-fund-to-drive-ai-revolution

Author: Toshifumi Kitamura

Image Credit: Image Taken from Japan Today

Bosch, Daimler Obtain Approval For Driverless Parking Without Human Supervision

Bosch, Daimler Obtain Approval For Driverless Parking Without Human Supervision

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Bosch and Daimler have reached a milestone on the way to automated driving: the two companies have now obtained approval from the relevant authorities in Baden-Württemberg for their automated parking system in the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage in Stuttgart. The automated valet parking service is accessed via a smartphone app and requires no safety driver. This makes it the world’s first fully automated driverless SAE Level 4 1 parking function to be officially approved for everyday use.

“This decision by the authorities shows that innovations like automated valet parking are possible in Germany first,” said Dr. Markus Heyn, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH. “Driverless driving and parking are important building blocks for tomorrow’s mobility. The automated parking system shows just how far we have already progressed along this development path.”

“This approval from the Baden-Württemberg authorities sets a precedent for obtaining approval in the future for the parking service in parking garages around the world,” added Dr. Michael Hafner, the head of drive technologies and automated driving at Daimler AG. “As a pioneer in automated driving, our project paves the way for automated valet parking to go into mass production in the future.”

Playing It Safe: Two Partners With A Common Objective

From the very beginning, Bosch and Daimler’s top priority for the driverless parking service was safety. Since there is as yet no official approval process for automated driving functions that do not require a driver, the local authorities – the Stuttgart regional administrative authority and the state of Baden-Württemberg’s transportation ministry – oversaw the project along with experts from the German technical inspection service TÜV Rheinland from the outset. Their aim was to assess the operating safety of the automotive and parking-garage technology.

The result is a comprehensive safety concept with appropriate testing and approval criteria that can be applied beyond this pilot project. In the concept, the developers defined how the driverless vehicle detects pedestrians and other cars in its path and reliably comes to a halt when it encounters an obstacle. They also set up secure communications between all system components and took steps to ensure the reliable activation of the parking maneuver.

The Technology Behind Driverless Parking

Drive in to the parking garage, get out and send the car to a parking space just by tapping on a smartphone screen – automated valet parking has no need for a driver. Once the driver has left the parking garage to go about their business, the car drives itself to an assigned space and parks. Later, the car returns to the drop-off point in exactly the same way. This process relies on the interplay between the intelligent parking garage infrastructure supplied by Bosch and Mercedes-Benz automotive technology. Bosch sensors in the parking garage monitor the driving corridor and its surroundings and provide the information needed to guide the vehicle. The technology in the car converts the commands from the infrastructure into driving maneuvers. This way, cars can even drive themselves up and down ramps to move between stories in the parking garage. If the infrastructure sensors detect an obstacle, the vehicle stops immediately.

Project Milestones

Bosch and Daimler started developing fully automated driverless parking in 2015, and in the summer of 2017, their pilot solution in the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage in Stuttgart reached an important milestone: automated valet parking in real conditions, with and without drivers at the wheel, was presented to the public for the first time. This premiere was followed by an intensive testing and start-up phase.

Starting in 2018, museum visitors were able to use the parking service live, accompanied by trained safety personnel, and share their experiences. One aspect of the pilot project involved testing lighting concepts on the vehicles. Turquoise lighting indicates that a vehicle is in automated driving mode and informs passers-by and other road users that the vehicle is driving itself. The insights from these tests are reflected in the recently issued SAE standard 3134. Obtaining final approval from the authorities is a future major milestone for Bosch and Daimler: soon, interested parties will be able to experience the innovative valet parking service live in daily operation in the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage without additional supervision from a safety driver.


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://www.aftermarketnews.com/bosch-daimler-obtain-approval-for-driverless-parking-without-human-supervision/

Author: After Market News Staff

Image Credit: Image taken from After Market News

Toyota fetches new way to use AI, self-drive tech in Tokyo Games

Toyota fetches new way to use AI, self-drive tech in Tokyo Games

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Miniature remote controlled cars have proved to be a crowd pleaser at track and field throwing events, but for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Toyota Motor Corp. is upping the game with a hi-tech way to fetch javelins and hammers: pint-sized, self-driving AI robot cars.

The automaker Monday unveiled a prototype of its next-generation field support robot, a miniature shuttle bus-shaped contraption based on its “e-Palette” ride-sharing vehicle under development, to be used at the Tokyo Games.

The vehicle, roughly the size of a toddler’s ride-on toy car, can travel at a maximum speed of 20 kilometers per hour and sports three cameras and one lidar sensor which enable it to “see” its surroundings.

Draped around the top of its body is a band of LED lights that illuminate when the vehicle uses artificial intelligence to follow event officials toward the equipment hurled by athletes onto the pitch during shot put, discus throw, hammer throw and javelin events.

After the equipment, which can weigh as much as eight kilograms for hammers, is loaded into the vehicle by the official, a press of a button located toward its front sends the car zipping back to athletes for later use.

“Humans are better suited to picking up heavy equipment from the field, but for quickly transporting them to their respective return depots, that’s a job that’s best performed by robots,” Takeshi Kuwabara, a project planning manager who oversaw the robot’s development, told reporters.

“Our aim was to leverage the strengths of both humans and robots.”

The trend of using miniature cars to fetch equipment at Olympics throwing events goes back to the 2008 Beijing Games, where fire-red, rocket-shaped cars scurried along the green to collect hammers, javelins and discuses.

At the 2012 Games in London, BMW developed and operated a fleet of blue and orange miniature Mini Coopers to collect the discarded equipment, while pint-sized green pickup trucks performed the task at the Rio Games in 2016.

A major sponsor of the Tokyo Games, Toyota also plans to dispatch virtual reality-enabled humanoid robots and mobile “telepresence” robots which will enable spectators who cannot attend the games in person to experience events and meet athletes remotely.

A fleet of robots on wheels developed by the automaker that can perform household tasks for elderly people and hospital patients will also guide guests to wheelchair seats and serve refreshments at events.

Toyota plans to use the games to showcase its new vehicle technologies ranging from fuel-cell buses to on-demand, self-driving taxis, as it competes with industry rivals and tech firms to develop affordable autonomous cars and electric vehicles, along with on-demand transportation services.


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/07/22/business/toyota-fetches-new-way-use-ai-self-drive-tech-tokyo-games/

Author: Reuters

Image Credit: Image taken from Japan Times

Frustrated Musk Shakes Up Autopilot Team

Frustrated Musk Shakes Up Autopilot Team

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Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., speaks to members of the media while departing from federal court in New York, U.S., on Thursday, April 4, 2019. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan telegraphed her initial thoughts as the SEC and Elon Musk’s lawyers presented their arguments over whether the Tesla Inc. CEO should be held in contempt for tweets the agency says violated an earlier agreement. Photographer: Natan Dvir/Bloomberg

Several key Tesla engineering managers working on its Autopilot semi-automated driving feature left the company after CEO Elon Musk told some employees he was unhappy with the progress in developing fully automated driving capabilities, according to one current and one former Tesla employee who have been involved in the effort. He is also upset that some team members have told him they can’t meet the timelines he has set for developing the technology, they said.

At least 11 members of the software team, or close to 10% of the total group, including some longtime members, departed in the past few months, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation. Several of the remaining managers are now working directly with Mr. Musk. These departures follow Mr. Musk’s removal of the Autopilot group’s leader Stuart Bowers around the start of May, a move first reported by website Electrek, which also reported on some of the other exits. Mr. Musk also elevated other people within the Autopilot team as part of a broader shake-up.

• Autopilot team trying to adapt tech for city streets
• 13-year Tesla vet takes over Autopilot path-planning team
• Shake-up follows investor demonstration seen as a success

A Tesla spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

The departures mirror the churn atop Tesla, which has been a constant for several years. The company’s vice president of manufacturing production left recently, as did the heads of legal, security, finance, communications and several other VPs and senior managers in recent months. Tesla’s stock is down 25% this year amid various difficulties, including apparent weaker demand for electric vehicles in the U.S., though the company recently said it set a record for the number of cars it delivered in a quarter.

Mr. Musk’s unhappiness with the Autopilot group appears to stem from difficulties it has had in adapting the software, which was designed to automatically steer Tesla vehicles on highways, to work with city driving, according to the current and former Tesla employees. The Autopilot team for some time has been trying to get the software to work in cities as part of the broader goal of achieving “full” self driving. Mr. Musk has promised that Tesla will have “fully” self-driving capabilities by next year on city streets and highways.

Mr. Musk “has sold people on full autonomy” capabilities for Tesla vehicles within a year or so and he wants to deliver on that, the employee said.

Yet achieving full autonomy is complicated by the work Tesla has to do just to improve the automated steering features of Autopilot for Tesla cars now on the road, whose software the company updates regularly. “Supporting [Autopilot for] 500,000 cars on the road and trying to do new stuff is a challenging task,” said a person with direct knowledge of the recent shake-up.

The changes on the Autopilot team surprised some members because it occurred after Tesla successfully demonstrated some full self-driving capabilities for investors in April near the company’s headquarters. The significance of the demonstration was limited, according to one employee, because it was generally confined to specific routes.

Among the people who left the Autopilot group are Frank Havlak, who led controls and path planning—basically, figuring out where the Tesla should drive—and one of his deputies, Nenad Uzunovic; Drew Steedly, who led perception; Ben Goldstein, who led the simulation team and has already landed at another self-driving vehicle developer, GM’s Cruise. Those four individuals along with seven other recently departed members of the team either did not comment for this article or could not be reached for comment.

Among those who were elevated after the shake-up are Ashok Elluswamy, who now leads the “perception” and computer vision teams; Milan Kovac, who works on firmware and embedded systems engineering; and CJ Moore, the head of quality control, who took over the simulation team previously run by Mr. Goldstein, according to a former employee. (An in-depth look at the Autopilot group’s managers and rank-and-file employees can be found here.) Drew Baglino, a 13-year veteran of Tesla who had been overseeing engineering for battery cells and other components, took over Mr. Havlak’s group.

Safety Questions

Meanwhile, questions remain about the safety of the existing automated steering functions of Autopilot, which are the centerpiece of Mr. Musk’s plan to leapfrog other developers of self-driving car technology such as Alphabet’s Waymo. The currently available highway steering features, which promise to handle on- and off-ramps and change lanes without the aid of the human driver, are themselves imperfect.

And fixing them is akin to a game of Whac-A-Mole in which ordinary Tesla owners who signed up to give feedback to Autopilot developers identify bugs and relay them to the team to fix. (Mr. Musk himself is an important tester of the newest versions of the software.)

Some of the highway-driving problems Autopilot regularly faces involve failures to properly change lanes automatically. In some cases, the cars don’t recognize vehicles that are likely to be in the Tesla’s path, forcing the driver to take control to avoid a collision, the employee said. Or the cars believe there is a vehicle in its path even if there is not, and thus the car won’t change lanes on its own even if the driver wants it to.

Despite the struggles, members of the team believe Tesla and its existing fleet on the roads have some advantages compared to other developers of self-driving car prototypes.

Now, as Mr. Musk tries to position Autopilot as a solution for automated driving on city streets, the technical difficulty level is higher—as is the risk of collision compared to highways. On city streets, lane lines are sometimes absent or ill-defined compared to highways, posing problems for Autopilot engineers working on upcoming versions of the software, said the current employee. And the system often doesn’t know how to recognize parked cars because it is not a common feature of highway driving, this person said.


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://www.theinformation.com/articles/frustrated-musk-shakes-up-autopilot-team?utm_content=article-3697&utm_campaign=article_email&utm_source=sg&utm_medium=email

Author: Amir Efrati

Image Credit: Bloomberg

NEDO, Sharp, and Toyota to Begin Public Road Trials of Electrified Vehicles Equipped with High-efficiency Solar Batteries

NEDO, Sharp, and Toyota to Begin Public Road Trials of Electrified Vehicles Equipped with High-efficiency Solar Batteries

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Tokyo, Japan, July 4, 2019―NEDO, Sharp Corporation (Sharp), and Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) announce today a plan to commence public road trials from late July 2019. The trials aim to assess the effectiveness of improvements in cruising range and fuel efficiency of electrified vehicles equipped with high-efficiency solar batteries.

To facilitate the execution of this trial, Sharp modularized its world-class, high-efficiency solar battery cells*1 (conversion efficiency of 34 percent-plus*2), previously developed for a NEDO-led project*3, to create an onboard solar battery panel. Toyota installed this panel on the roof, hood, rear hatch door, and other parts of its “Prius PHV” and produced a demo car for public road trials. By enhancing the solar battery panel’s efficiency and expanding its onboard area, Toyota was able to achieve a rated power generation output of around 860 W*4, which is approximately 4.8-times higher in comparison with the commercial model Prius PHV (equipped with a solar charging system). In addition to substantially boosting its power generation output, the demo car employs a system that charges the driving battery while the vehicle is parked and also while it’s being driven, a development that is expected to lead to considerable improvements in electric-powered cruising range and fuel efficiency.

Toyota plans to conduct the trials under various driving conditions in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Tokyo, and other areas. Various data, including the power generation output of the solar battery panel and the amount the drive battery is charged, will be obtained and verified, and then used in the development of an onboard solar recharging system. Toyota plans to share a selection of trial data results with NEDO and Sharp. The PV-powered Vehicle Strategy Committee*5 (PV: photovoltaic), sponsored by NEDO and other entities will evaluate the benefits based on improvements in CO2 emissions reductions and convenience, such as the number of times a vehicle requires recharging. The goal is to contribute to the creation of a new solar battery panel market, including the transport sector, and find solutions for energy and environmental issues.

Prius PHV demo model equipped with solar battery panel

Performance comparison of the commercial and demo model Prius PHV

Performance items Vehicle
Prius PHV
(Solar charging system)
Demo car
Solar battery cell conversion efficiency 22.5% 34%-plus
Rated power generation output 180 W Approx. 860 W
Maximum charge to the driving battery while the vehicle is parked (per day)* BEV-mode cruising range equivalent to 6.1 km BEV-mode cruising range equivalent to 44.5 km
Maximum charge and power supply to the drivng and auxiliary battery while the vehicle is being driven (per day)* Supplies power only to auxiliary battery, which powers the car navigation system, etc. BEV-mode cruising range equivalent to 56.3 km
* Maximum amount of charge generated by the solar charging system while the vehicle is parked or being driven, converted into travelling distance according to the JC08 Japan test cycle. Calculated based on the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association Labeling Guidelines (FY2016), taking into account the various losses incurred in onboard systems. Solar radiation amount calculated based on the daily data of the average year between 1990 and 2009 in the Nagoya district (source: NEDO).


In April 2016, NEDO, a national research and development organization, set up the PV-powered Vehicle Strategy Committee, which is comprised of members from industry and academia. With the goal of finding solutions to energy and environmental issues in the transport sector, the committee’s research focuses on solar power systems. Sharp and Toyota are also active committee participants. The achievements the committee has made thus far include estimates*6 on the potential to achieve an output of 1 kW in vehicles, despite the limited space for installing power systems, by using a solar battery module with a conversion efficiency of 30 percent-plus, zero annual recharging depending on usage patterns, and estimated benefits from a reduction in CO2 emissions.

Profile of demo car

The demo car is equipped with a solar battery panel that utilizes several solar battery cells with a conversion efficiency of 34 percent-plus. The shape of the module, environmental durability, surface materials, and other factors are based on specifications for driving trials implemented by Toyota. The solar battery cell is a thin film about 0.03 mm in thickness. This makes it possible to efficiently install the film to fit the curves of parts with limited space, including the vehicle roof, hood, and rear hatch door. The rated power generation output of the demo car is approximately 860 W.

Previously, the Prius PHV charged the driving battery only while the vehicle was parked. However, with improvements in power generation output, the demo car employs a system that charges while the vehicle is being driven. This is expected to boost the BEV-mode cruising range and fuel efficiency significantly.

Table 2: Overview of the solar battery panel

Structure Triple-junction compound solar cell module*7
Conversion efficiency 34%-plus (solar battery cell unit)
Panel locations Roof, hood, rear hatch door, rear hatch door garnish


Trial Timeline
Toyota plans to share a selection of trial data results with NEDO and Sharp. The PV-powered Vehicle Strategy Committee and other entities will evaluate the benefits from improvement in the reduction of CO2 emissions and the improvement in convenience, including the number of times a vehicle requires charging. The goal is to further contribute to the creation of a new solar battery panel market, including the transport sector, and find solutions for energy and environmental issues.


Featured Article: Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Source: https://global.toyota/en/newsroom/corporate/28787347.html

Author: Toyota Press Release

Image Credit: TOYOTA

*1 High-efficiency solar battery cellDevelopment of the above cell was carried out by a NEDO-led project. Applications were envisaged for the power generation business to achieve a cost of ¥7/kWh. The project aims to focus on the high conversion efficiency rate and verification of its potential for use in vehicles.https://www.nedo.go.jp/english/news/AA5en_100070.html
*2 Conversion efficiency of 34percent-plusCalculated based on cell output (as measured by Sharp) under AM1.5 G standard solar battery test conditions as stipulated by international standards.
*3 NEDO projectProject Development of high performance and reliable PV modules to reduce levelized cost of energy; research and development of innovative new structure solar cells; research and development of ultra-high efficiency and low-cost III-V compound semiconductor solar cell modules Period FY 2016 to 2020
*4 Approximately 860 WTotal module output based on calculation of cell output (as measured by Sharp).
*5 PV-powered Vehicle Strategy CommitteeEstablished by NEDO in April 2016 to conduct research and investigate automotive photovoltaic systems with the goal of further contributing to finding solutions for energy and environmental issues and to create new markets.
*6 Estimates Examined the (1) benefits of CO2 emissions reduction, (2) user convenience (number of times the vehicle requires charging), and (3) benefits of CO2 emissions reduction to society at large when the use of PV-powered vehicles is wide spread. The results were published in an interim report released in January 2018.
*7 Triple-junction compound solar cell moduleThe joining together of compounds, including indium gallium phosphide (InGaP), gallium arsenide (GaAs), and indium galdlium arsenide (InGaAs).