Tesla Hit With Lawsuit Claiming They Willingly Sold Defective Vehicles

Tesla is being hit with a lawsuit put forward by a former employee, who claims the company sold defective vehicles and fired him because he knew about it.

The former employee, Adam Williams, stated in the lawsuit that he was hired by Tesla in 2011, and during his employment he discovered the company failed to “disclose to consumers high-dollar, pre-delivery damage repairs” before transactions were complete. Believing the practice to be illegal, Williams approached his superiors — his direct superior Matt Farrell, a company vice president Jerome Guillen, and Lenny Peake, Tesla’s East Coast Regional Manager — on several occasions, yet Tesla took no actions to adjust what they were doing.

Instead, according to Williams, he was demoted. In early 2017, Brian Applegate, a Tesla director, demoted Williams from a regional manager to a service manager at the company’s Springfield, New Jersey location. Then in July 2017, Williams claims he was demoted again to mobile manager before ultimately being fired two months later.

Williams was informed that his employment was terminated due to his work performance. Instead, he is arguing that his performance met Tesla’s standards, and he was fired because he reported Tesla’s alleged illegal practices. Williams believes his actions are under protection of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) — New Jersey’s “whistleblower act” that is meant to protect workers from their employer in the event that the employee chooses to report what they believe is illegal behavior.

In a statement circulated to outlets like The Verge and Business Insider, a Tesla representative stated Williams’s claims are “totally false,” and his termination and talk of selling of defective cars is “not how we do things at Tesla.” The representative went on to reiterate what Williams claims is untrue: that he was fired for performance reasons.

“It’s also at odds with the fact that we rank highest in customer satisfaction of any car brand, with more owners saying they’d buy a Tesla again than any other manufacturer,” said the Tesla representative.

While Tesla’s overall customer satisfaction seems to contradict part of Williams’ claims, it’s not yet clear what impact the lawsuit will have on the company’s future.

What’s more, this isn’t the first lawsuit Tesla’s been a part of. In 2016, Tesla settled with a Model X owner who sued the company over alleged design flaws; the company may attempt to similarly settle out of court with Williams, if only to quickly put the matter behind them before it becomes a bigger issue.

Dealing with Williams’s suit as soon as possible would allow Tesla to address its other challenges, including their continued financial losses. While it may come as a surprise to many, Tesla has seen more losses that profits since the company’s inception. In February 2018, Tesla reported that it ended 2017 with a $ 675 million loss.

Perhaps Tesla should be far more concerned with ending the next fiscal year in the black than bucking the claims of one New Jersey employee.

The post Tesla Hit With Lawsuit Claiming They Willingly Sold Defective Vehicles appeared first on Futurism.

Futurism

SEAT and Orange partner on development and use of connected vehicles

SEAT and Orange Spain have entered into a strategic partnership to promote the development and use of connect vehicles by focussing on several work areas.

As part of the deal, the companies will focus on three primary areas: formulation of innovations for connected vehicles to enhance user experience; turn the car into the user’s second digital home by bringing digital home or office experience to the vehicle and launch a cross-company loyalty and frequent use programme to promote use of the new connectivity and mobility solutions (related to connected cars) rolled out by them in the market.

The partnership is not just confined to the formulation of digital applications for cars but both SEAT and Orange will work together to generate initiatives that encourage using the fresh functions. The loyalty programme is a result of these initiatives.

Under their efforts to enhance entertainment and leisure services for drivers and passengers, initially music, audiovisual and learning content will be included – without any compromise to the safety of the vehicle occupants.

Luis Santos, Orange Director of Innovation and New Digital Services for Spain, expressed confidence that “this strategic agreement with SEAT is a great step for Orange in its strategy of connected objects and Big Data and opens the door to innovations and new developments surrounding cars of the future, which will contribute to helping us achieve our goal of connecting our customers with what truly matters most to them.”

While inking the deal, Arantxa Alonso, Head of Business Development at SEAT, comments: “This partnership opens up a large collaborative space for both companies that are pursuing a common goal – promote the use of the connected car and make the car user’s experience easier and more efficient.”

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Elon Musk Calls Out LIDAR Tech as “A Crutch” in Autonomous Vehicles

Vision of the Future

Elon Musk recently reiterated his stance that Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology is not a critical component of autonomous driving systems. On Wednesday, the Tesla CEO described it as a “crutch” during an earnings call on February 7, 2018.

LIDAR calculates how far away a given object is by measuring how long it takes for a pulse of infrared laser light to reach a car and bounce back. Some of Tesla’s biggest rivals rely on it — Waymo is currently in a legal battle with Uber, asserting that the ride-hailing service stole its LIDAR designs  — but Musk has been outspoken in his criticism.

Instead of LIDAR, Tesla’s self-driving system is based on cameras. The cost of cameras continues to go down, even as pixel resolution improves. This could mean that Tesla’s automated vehicles would be more cost-effective, making the technology more accessible to a broader socioeconomic user base in years to come.

“Once you solve cameras for vision, autonomy is solved; if you don’t solve vision, it’s not solved,” Musk said during a TED Talk in April 2017, as per a report from Electrek. “You can absolutely be superhuman with just cameras.”

Unfortunately, Tesla’s split with camera supplier Mobileye in 2016 threw something of a wrench into the works. After a fatal accident involving Tesla advanced driver assistance technology, or Autopilot, the supplier dissolved its partnership with Musk’s company.

While Tesla has since developed its own replacement for Mobileye’s computer vision technology — aptly named Autopilot 2.0 — experts say it’s missing key pieces of functionality, like being able to read speed limit signs and recognize different kinds of vehicles. These features were included in the original Autopilot, which likely required Mobileye’s computer vision technology to operate.

There have been doubts as to whether Musk will be able to upgrade Tesla vehicles that are currently on the road with enhanced self-driving capabilities. Thousands of owners have already paid for “Enhanced Autopilot” — which doesn’t quite exist yet — but competitors have called out Musk for overselling what Tesla’s hardware and software can accomplish. Musk is also quick to disparage his company’s rivals in the autonomous vehicle industry, but the Tesla CEO could soon find his company falling out of public favor if it can’t deliver on its promises.

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Futurism

Empathic AI: The Next Generation of Vehicles Will Understand Your Emotions

Empathic_Vehicle-Sensum-3144x2089

Transportation will never be the same once our machines know how we feel.

We are all entering a wholesale, global disruption of the way people move from one place to another.  More than any other change in this sector, the one that is likely to have the most significant impact on human society is the rise of autonomous (i.e., self-driving) vehicles.

The transportation industry, historically dominated by a handful of large vehicle-manufacturing brands, is evolving into an ecosystem of ‘mobility services,’ underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI). A major step in the development of AI is to give it ‘empathy,’ allowing our physiological and emotional states to be observed and understood. This connection will mostly be achieved by connecting to wearable or remote sensors, the same way that fitness bands allow our physical state to be monitored.

By feeding this sensor data into AI systems, we can train them to know how we feel and how to respond appropriately. This kind of empathy can also be enhanced by giving AI its own artificial emotions, imbuing it with simulations of feelings.

Empathic technology will have no small effect on the mobility sector. How might an empathic vehicle look?

Safe Travels

There is already a growing body of research from top-tier auto companies into what kind of empathic interactions will protect drivers, passengers and everyone around them from harm. To investigate this, biometric sensors, cameras, and microphones are being used to detect:

  • Fatigue & drowsiness: e.g., monitoring head or eye movements, posture or heart/breathing rate.
  • Distraction: e.g., gaze detection to ensure the driver is watching the road.
  • Intoxication: e.g., using infrared optics or analyzing voice or breath.
  • Medical incidents: e.g., detecting a potential cardiac event from a wearable heart-rate sensor.

A Comfortable Journey

After ensuring the safety of the humans in the system, empathic tech can be employed to optimize the ride experience. There is a universe of auto-suppliers you’ve probably never heard of, who build all the components and systems that end up in the well-known vehicle brands. They are leading the way to a more empathic ride, with innovations such as:

  • Environmental controls: e.g., lighting, heating, AC, sound and olfactory output, customized to suit your current mood.
  • Physical controls: seat position, engine configuration, etc.
  • Humanising AI feedback: the virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri that are invading our homes and phones are also reaching into our vehicles. With empathic AI we can tailor their feedback to suit our preferred style of interaction.

An Entertaining Ride

Now that our customer is safe and comfortable, they can benefit from AI that knows how to push the right emotional buttons at the moment. This is particularly likely to apply to the onboard music and infotainment systems. Other subtle ways in which a vehicle could be designed to optimize the thrill of the ride include offering to increase the engine’s power output when the driver is feeling confident and happy.

The New Norms of Autonomous Society

An autonomous vehicle doesn’t exist in a bubble. Much of its intelligence is based on sensing its environment and making rapid judgments about how to act. Each vehicle will also be integrated with a global network of systems, able to share information ranging from weather forecasts to road obstructions. By connecting each vehicle to its neighbors and the wider world, we will see the emergence of a new type of ‘social’ structure with its own norms of behavior.

This AI-driven ‘society’ will involve interactions not just between the vehicles and their drivers or passengers, but also with onboard devices, nearby pedestrians, other vehicles, and their occupants, as well as surrounding infrastructure. The etiquette and rules of what the market calls ‘vehicle-to-everything’ (V2X) communications will establish themselves as we gradually let go of the wheel and hand our mobility needs over to ‘the machines.’

This mobility ecosystem is also likely to share data and processes with the rest of the AI in our lives, such as in our smartphones and home-automation systems. If coordinated correctly, this unified data architecture would allow empathic vehicles to know us much better, behaving ever more like a trusted friend.

This is not just a technological problem; it’s a monumental user-experience challenge too. Gradually increasing the empathic capability of the system will support the evolution of the transport experience towards one that is not only safe and comfortable but also delightful.

The future of mobility is emotional.

Editor Note & Disclaimer: The author is a member of the Sensum team, which is an alumnus of our ReadWrite Labs accelerator program. 

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Apple’s growing self-driving car initiative now includes 30 test vehicles

Apple Car

A little more than a year ago, Apple decided to completely shift the focus of its car research initiative. After reaching the conclusion that developing and manufacturing an Apple branded car from scratch was either too challenging or expensive — or perhaps both — the company decided to streamline its research and focus exclusively on self-driving car technologies. Since then, scores of Apple engineers who previously worked on Project Titan were either let go or shifted to other areas within the company.

This past June, Apple for the first time confirmed its interest in the automotive space when Tim Cook said that Apple is, in fact, working “on autonomous systems” for cars. Calling the company’s research into self-driving cars the “mother of all AI projects,” Cook added that while the work is incredibly difficult, it’s nonetheless an incredibly strategic area for Apple.

Since then, we haven’t heard much at all about Apple’s ongoing research into self-driving cars. Earlier today, however, a new report from Bloomberg revealed that Apple’s foray into the world of self-driving cars has only expanded over he past few months.

The report specifically notes that Apple has now registered 27 vehicles for autonomous testing as the company reportedly remains focused on keeping pace with the work being done by companies like Waymo and Tesla.

Since receiving a permit to test three autonomous cars in California last April, the iPhone maker has registered 24 more Lexus RX450h sport-utility vehicles, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said in an emailed response to questions.

Indeed, there have been scattered sightings of the aforementioned Apple-operated Lexus vehicles in recent months. For instance, the following video highlights one such vehicle outfitted with an astounding number of sensors.

Apple – BGR