Would you like to do the dull, painstaking work of advancing AI?

Annotating data from an intersection. Photo credit: Screen shot.

Weekly analysis, news and randomness from the future of transportation.

Have you ever wanted to know how hard it is to teach computers to see the world as humans do? Now you have the chance.

Microsoft has teamed with a host of public partners to crowdsource video annotation. Annotating videos is labor intensive but crucial to improving artificial intelligence because the tags and information entered by humans teach computers what they are seeing. The program is called Video Analytics towards Vision Zero, and is part of a global program targeting zero road fatalities.

The annotation program is simple enough. You watch a short video taken from a road camera of an intersection and draw boxes around pedestrians, cars, motorcycles and buses moving through the field of vision. Thinking I could whip one out in 20 minutes or so, I started doing one this morning. Forty-five minutes later, I’d tagged only 10 objects: one car, one motorcycle and eight pedestrians. I have at least six more pedestrians to go, one more moving car and about a dozen stationary cars.

“Data annotation is super labor-intensive,” Sameep Tandon, CEO of self-driving startup, told Automotive News’ Katie Burke for an article we published this week on the difficulties in training artificial intelligence systems.

It is easy to collect the raw data by slapping cameras on cars and in intersections, but someone needs to interpret those images for computers. Without annotation, images on the back of a commercial van might look like some bikes riding on the road to a computer.

To better understand the challenge, annotate a video on the Vision Zero site. Given the group’s goal of saving lives, you can also consider it charitable work that you can do from your desk. And maybe in the process you can invent a better solution than the methods now in use.

 Sharon Silke Carty

Ford’s self-driving pizza delivery car. Photo credit: Ford

What you need to know

New beginnings at Uber​ Reports from Uber’s first all-hands meeting Wednesday with new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi set the tone for a course correction after a bumpy first half in 2017. Ousted CEO Travis Kalanick (who remains on the board) was in tears and received a standing ovation after speaking to the difficulties the company had faced that led to his departure. Kalanick introduced Khosrowshahi, the former head of Expedia who has been labeled the anti-Kalanick in temperament and management style.

The new Uber chief commented on the company’s fractious board, said he will focus on bolstering the core business and committed to fixing a damaged culture. “This company has to change,” Khosrowshahi said. “What got us here is not what’s going to get us to the next level.”

Extra cheesy Ford Motor Co.’s collaboration with Domino’s on autonomous pizza delivery drew headlines for its blend of the futuristic and the banefully ordinary. But the future isn’t quite here yet. The Ford Fusions delivering pizzas in Ann Arbor, Mich., will still have a driver operating them; the research is targeted at understanding how consumers will retrieve pizzas from the vehicle.

But this news could be looked at as part of Ford’s wider efforts to reboot its mobility strategy under CEO Jim Hackett and Vice President Sherif Marakby, fresh from his days at Uber. Marakby points to delivery services in general as prime territory for Ford’s introduction of autonomous technology.

Greener pastures Apple’s decision to scale back Project Titan, its self-driving vehicle initiative, may have led to an exodus of automotive engineers. Bloomberg reports that 17 engineers who felt “increasingly sidelined and surplus” were gradually hired away by Zoox, a self-driving fleet startup. They’ll be in good company. Zoox this year hired Mark Rosekind, former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Fisker EMotion. Photo credit: Fisker

New metal Henrik Fisker plans to debut his $ 129,000 Fisker EMotion at the 2018 CES convention in Las Vegas. Mercedes-Benz’s Smart EQ ForTwo autonomous concept looks like a believable future for city driving and BMW will show a Mini EV concept at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show.


Uber’s data visualization. Photo credit: Uber


Radio stations and billboard makers want a slice of the new mobility future.

A peek into Uber’s self-driving car operations through data visualization.

Amazon and Microsoft have been working together to enable their digital personal assistants, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, to communicate with each other.

The devil’s advocate take on self-driving cars.

Consulting firm EY is launching a program to manage partial and shared ownership schemes using blockchain technology, the same emerging tech that underlies digital currency Bitcoin. 

Photo credit: Stock photo

Delivering pizzas is easy, delivering babies is hard. A midwife in Texas rode an avian-inspired, aquatic mobility device to get to work amid flooding from Harvey.

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