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Tesla gears up for fully self-driving cars

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SAN FRANCISCO, USA (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears poised to transform the company’s electric cars into driverless vehicles in a risky bid to realise a bold vision that he has been floating for years.

The technology required to make that quantum leap was scheduled to be shown off to Tesla investors yesterday at the company’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters.

Musk, known for his swagger as well as his smarts, is so certain that Tesla will win the race toward full autonomy that he indicated in an interview earlier this month that his company’s cars should be able to navigate congested highways and city streets without a human behind the wheel by no later than next year.

“I could be wrong, but it appears to be the case that Tesla is vastly ahead of everyone,” Musk told Lex Fridman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research scientist specialising in autonomous vehicles.

But experts say they’re sceptical whether Tesla’s technology has advanced anywhere close to the point where its cars will be capable of being driven solely by a robot, without a human in position to take control if something goes awry.

“It’s all hype,” said Steven E Shladover, a retired research engineer at the University of California, Berkeley who has been involved in efforts to create autonomous driving for 45 years. “The technology does not exist to do what he is claiming. He doesn’t have it and neither does anybody else.”

More than 60 companies in the US alone are developing autonomous vehicles. Some are aiming to have their fully autonomous cars begin carrying passengers in small geographic areas as early as this year. Many experts don’t believe they’ll be in widespread use for a decade or more.

Musk’s description of Tesla’s controls as “Full Self-Driving” has alarmed some observers who think it will give owners a false sense of security and create potentially lethal situations in conditions that the autonomous cars can’t handle. They also say they’re waiting for Musk to define self-driving and show just under what conditions and places the vehicles can travel without human intervention.

Some Tesla critics say Musk is making the full self-driving announcement to distract from poor earnings expected tomorrow. Analysts polled by FactSet predict a $305.5 million first quarter net loss, based on disappointing deliveries. Even bullish analysts expect bad news.

Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives, who expects Tesla shares to outperform its peers, wrote in a note Monday that while positive news is expected, he foresees “a train wreck quarter”.

Meanwhile, Musk continues to use both his Twitter account and Tesla’s website to pump up a new computer now in production for full self-driving vehicles. Once the self-driving software is ready, those with new computers will get an update via the Internet, Musk has said. Currently the self-driving computer costs $5,000, but the price rises to $7,000 if it’s installed after delivery.

Tesla vehicles equipped for full autonomy will rely on eight cameras that cover 360 degrees, front-facing radar and short-range ultrasonic sensors. It’s not known how many will have the full self-driving technology. There are about 400,000 Teslas on the road worldwide.

That’s different from the self-driving systems being built by nearly every other company in the industry, including Google spinoff Waymo, General Motors’ Cruise Automation, and Ford-affiliated Argo AI. They all use cameras and radar covering 360 degrees, and also have light beam sensors called Lidar to the mix as a third redundant sensor, as well as detailed three-dimensional mapping.

“Vehicles that don’t have Lidar, that don’t have advanced radar, that haven’t captured a 3-D map are not self-driving vehicles,” Ken Washington, Ford’s chief technical officer, said during a recent interview with Recode. “They are great consumer vehicles with really good driver-assist technology.”

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Photo: Advancing science education

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Photo: Advancing science education

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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Jamaican American Connection (JAC) New Haven President Karaine Holness (left) presents equipment, including SMART whiteboards, books, lab equipment such as lab glassware, stationery supplies and various labspecific consumables, to the principal of Convent of Mercy Academy “Alpha”, Kali McMorris (second left), and Arthens Smith (second right) of Holy Trinity High School while JAC member Janice Hart looks on, at Alpha in Kingston on Tuesday. As part of the initiative to advance science education, equipment was also handed over to Kingston College.
(Photo: Garfield Robinson)


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Gov’t gets support from Church to fight challenge to buggery laws

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Gov’t gets support from Church to fight challenge to buggery laws

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — High Court Judge Justice Esco Henry yesterday ruled to allow 10 churches, calling themselves the Christian Coalition, to join the Ralph Gonsalves Government in responding to the constitutional challenge to the buggery and gross indecency laws in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Justice Henry handed down the ruling one week after hearing arguments from the Christian Coalition and lawyers for the claimants, gay Vincentians Sean MacLeish and Javin Johnson.

Shirlan “Zita” Barnwell, one of the two lawyers representing the claimants, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the judge agreed to allow the churches to join the lawsuit as an interested party.

He said they will be allowed to file written submissions and make oral arguments to the court.

However, in terms of evidence, the churches are restricted to filing two affidavits, Barnwell said.

Justice Henry is expected to issue her written ruling today.

Barnwell and Jomo Thomas are representing the claimants, who say the country’s anti-buggery and gross indecency laws contravene their constitutional rights.

Under the Criminal Code, any person who commits buggery with any other person, commits buggery with an animal, or permits any person to commit buggery with him or her is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

The Criminal Code also says that any person who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another person of the same sex, or procures or attempts to procure another person of the same sex to commit an act of gross indecency with him or her, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for five years.

The men are asking the court to declare the laws unconstitutional, void and of no effect.

Ten churches had asked to join the attorney general in responding to the challenge to these laws. They include the Seventh-day Adventist Church; Evangelical Church of the West Indies; New Testament Church of God; Spiritual Baptist Church; Church of God St  Vincent; New Life Ministries; Light of Truth Church of God; Kingstown Baptist Church; Living Water Ministries International; and Hope Evangelism Outreach Ministries.

Last week Wednesday, hundreds of Vincentians took to the streets in support of the present legislation and urged the authorities not to amend the legislation to suit the claimants.

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Nine Caribbean countries to participate in new UN project

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Nine Caribbean countries to participate in new UN project

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is launching a multi million-dollar project in nine Caribbean countries that will enable gender responsive disaster recovery, climate and environmental resilience (EnGenDER) in the Caribbean.

The US$15 million project will ensure equal access to sustainable solutions for the improved resilience of women and men in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.

It is being funded by Canada and the United Kingdom Department for International Development.

UNDP said that its prior support to the development of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) will now be scaled up as a result of the new project.

The NAP process was created by the United Nations as an opportunity for countries to plan for sustainable development in the face of climate stress while NAMAs, on the other hand, focus on mitigation – reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

EnGenDER will support the implementation of priority areas, as identified by partner governments, within these policy documents, ensuring that plans are gender-responsive – considering the vulnerabilities, strengths and needs of different groups of women and men. This work will be undertaken through consultative and participatory approaches, with key stakeholders identifying and leading priority actions.

UNDP resident representative for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Magdy Martinez Soliman, said “Canada and the United Kingdom have been working collaboratively in the region for many years and this project provides a new opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to increasing resilience in the Caribbean.

“It is anticipated that the partnerships built at the regional and national levels will produce important results as the region faces the increasing impacts of climate change.”

The UNDP said that it is coordinating the collaborative project that includes UN Women, partnering to build capacity in developing gender-responsive plans, and conducting behavioural analysis of gender-responsiveness in risk governance among decision makers as well as the World Food Programme (WFP), which is working to enhance social protection systems to make them more shock-responsive.

EnGenDER will integrate a gender equality and human rights-based approach into disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and environmental actions.

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