- Toyota Plans Years of Building Cars Largely Controlled by Humans
Toyota Motor Corp. plans to spend years designing cars in which humans retain a large measure of control, since the goal of turning all driving decisions over to computers seems too dangerous for now.
The problem, Toyota said Wednesday, is that society has come to accept 39,000 traffic fatalities a year in the U.S., mostly due to human error, but would never tolerate similar carnage involving cars controlled by computers.
Toyota is casting skepticism on the anticipation stoked by Tesla Motors Inc. and technology companies led by Alphabet Inc.’s Google on the imminent arrival of fully autonomous cars.
“None of us in the automobile or IT industries are close to achieving true Level 5 autonomy,” said Gill Pratt, chief executive officer of the Toyota Research Institute, referring to the ability of a car to drive itself without any human intervention.
“It will take many years of machine learning and many more miles than anyone has logged of both simulated and real-world testing to achieve the perfection required,’’ Pratt said in a speech at CES, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.
The automaker established the Toyota Research Institute in 2015 with a $1 billion investment aimed at recruiting the top U.S. brains in artificial intelligence, robotics and materials science. Pratt formerly served as the top robotics engineer for the U.S. military.
“It was a surprisingly sober and realistic view of the challenges that autonomous vehicles face,’’ said Mike Dovorany, an analyst at The Carlab, a vehicle development consultancy in Orange, California. “I give them kudos.’’
Tesla said in October it would begin to build each of its vehicles with hardware needed for full self-driving capability. Alphabet spun off its Google car project, renamed it Waymo, and unveiled a fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan last month.
Pratt said that for now, Toyota and most other automakers will focus on what the SAE International, a global engineering society, calls Level 2 autonomy.
At this level, computers have some control over steering, braking and acceleration, with humans remaining in overall command.
The percentage of driving decisions that computers make will grow over time, and by Level 3, the job of humans would be to remain poised to reassert control during an emergency. That’s a difficult task, Pratt said, since their attention will tend to wander during miles of apparently safe operation.
Pratt said he doesn’t know for sure or when, but that Toyota and other automakers may skip directly to so-called Level 4 autonomy. At this level, computers retain control of all driving decisions, but only on roadways specifically designed and approved for this purpose.
The best way for automakers to make money on Level 4 autonomy, Pratt said, may be to sell them to ride-sharing fleets that can control how they’re used.
At CES, Pratt helped introduce a design called Concept-i, a possible future vehicle that would use artificial intelligence to monitor the operator’s emotions and driving decisions, and then try to anticipate their future needs.
Gold Gained Ahead of Joe Biden Inauguration 2021
Gold price rose from one and a half month low on Tuesday ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
The precious metal, largely regarded as a haven asset by investors, edged up by 0.2 percent to $1,844.52 per ounce on Tuesday, up from $1,802.61 on Monday.
He said, “The key factor appears to be the (U.S.) currency.”
As expected, a change in administration comes with the change in economic policies, especially taking into consideration the peculiarities of the present situation. In fact, even though Biden, Janet Yellen and the rest of the new cabinet are expected to go all out on additional stimulus with the support of Democrats controlled Houses, economic uncertainties with rising COVID-19 cases and slow vaccine distribution remained a huge concern.
Also, the effectiveness of the vaccines can not be ascertained until wider rollout.
Still, which policy would be halted or sustained by the incoming administration remained a concern that has forced many investors to once again flee other assets for Gold ahead of tomorrow’s inauguration.
Crude Oil Holds Steady Above $55 Per Barrel on Tuesday
Brent Crude oil, against which Nigerian crude oil is priced, rose from $54.46 per barrel on Monday to $55.27 per barrel as of 9:03 am Nigerian time on Tuesday.
Last week, Brent crude oil rose to 11 months high of $57.38 per barrel before pulling back on rising COVID-19 cases and lockdowns in key global economies like the United Kingdom, Euro-Area, China, etc.
While OPEC has left 2021 oil demand unchanged and President-elect Joe Biden has announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, experts are saying the rising number of new cases of COVID-19 amid poor vaccine distribution could drag on growth and demand for oil in 2021.
On Friday, Dan Yergin, vice-chairman at IHS Markit, said in addition to the stimulus package “There are two other things that are going with it … one is of course, vaccinations — in the sense that eventually this crisis is going to end, and maybe by the spring, lockdowns will be over.”
“The other thing is what Saudi Arabia did. This is the third time Saudi Arabia has made a sudden change in policy in less than a year, and this one was to announce (the) 1 million barrel a day cut — partly because they are worried about the impact of the surge in virus that’s occurring,” he said.
Also, the stimulus being injected into the United States economy could spur huge Shale production and disrupt OPEC and allies’ efforts at balancing the global oil market in 2021.
Crude Oil Pulled Back Despite Joe Biden Stimulus
Crude oil pulled back on Friday despite the $1.9 trillion stimulus package announced by U.S President-elect, Joe Biden.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigeria’s oil is priced, pulled back from $57.38 per barrel on Wednesday to $55.52 per barrel on Friday in spite of the huge stimulus package announced on Thursday.
On Thursday, OPEC, in its latest outlook for the year, said uncertainties remain high in 2021 with the number of COVID-19 new cases on the rise.
OPEC said, “Uncertainties remain high going forward with the main downside risks being issues related to COVID-19 containment measures and the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior.”
“These will also include how many countries are adapting lockdown measures, and for how long. At the same time, quicker vaccination plans and a recovery in consumer confidence provide some upside optimism.”
Governments across Europe have announced tighter and longer coronavirus lockdowns, with vaccinations not expected to have a significant impact for the next few months.
“The complex remains in pause mode, a development that should not be surprising given the magnitude of the oil price gains that have been developing for some 2-1/2 months,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said.
Still, OPEC left its crude oil projections unchanged for the year. The oil cartel expected global oil demand to increase by 5.9 million barrels per day year on year to an average of 95.9 million per day in 2020.
But also OPEC expects a recent rally and stimulus to boost U.S. Shale crude oil production in the year, a projection Investors King experts expect to hurt OPEC strategy in 2021.
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