Silicon Valley startup Aeva aims to give driverless cars better vision

In January, with funding from Lux Capital and other venture capital firms, two former members of Apple’s Special Projects Group, Soroush Salehian and Mina Rezk, started Aeva.

The company aims to improve the ability of self-driving cars to see their surroundings, according to New York Times report. Salehian and Rezk are reimagining Lidar—that is, Light Detection and Ranging—technology, which today’s self-driving cars use along with cameras, radar, GPS antennas, and other implements to create a picture of the world around them.

Aeva’s lidar, the company says, measures distances more accurately than other such systems. And, unlike other lidar systems, Aeva’s judges velocity. It is also smaller and less expensive than today’s lidar technology.

Aeva aims to have it on the market by 2018.

Traditional lidar devices emit pulses of light and measure their wavelength and return times to determine how far away a given object is. Then, computers use the data to construct three-dimensional models of the surrounding world.

But, today’s lidar systems can only detect objects that are relatively close, and cannot always differentiate between one object and another, the Times notes. As a result, they do not perform well in bad weather or when moving at high speeds.

Radar, which uses electromagnetic waves rather than light waves to map the world, can detect objects at greater distances, making it more suitable when traveling at high speeds, and cameras can “read” street signs and differentiate between, say, a pedestrian and a crosswalk.

So, cameras, radar, lidar and other devices work together to “drive” today’s autonomous vehicles. Driverless cars will likely continue to employ this combination for the foreseeable future, as multiple detection systems represent multiple layers of security.

Lidar devices, along with the rest of the ensemble, are expensive. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to outfit a self-driving car with the necessary hardware. The prohibitive cost of production prevents companies from marketing self-driving cars to average consumers. So, the first self-driving cars are not privately owned; rather, they have debuted in the fleets of companies like Lyft and Uber.

But, the Times cites a report by the Boston Consulting Group that projects that the self-driving car market will be worth $42 billion by 2025. For that to happen, companies must find ways to produce the vehicles more affordably.

The Times equates Aeva’s system to a cross between lidar—which is ideal for judging distances—and radar, which is best at detecting speed. Rather than emitting a series of light pulses, the device sends out a constant wave of light. This approach, Rzek told the Times, allows Aeva lidar to produce a better resolution, work better in inclement weather, and handle reflective surfaces better than standard systems do.

“I don’t even think of this as a new kind of lidar,” Tarin Ziyaee, co-founder and chief technology officer at the self-driving taxi start-up Voyage, who has seen the Aeva prototype, told the Times. “It’s a whole different animal.”

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, developed a similar continuous-wave lidar system back in 2014, the Times notes. Other companies that develop lira technology, such as Velodyne and Oryx Vision, are exploring similar options, according to said publication.

Lidar’s applications go well beyond driverless cars. Law enforcement uses the technology to create automated speed traps. Lidar may one day track a user’s movements for virtual-reality environments.

Today, video game systems like the Xbox Kinect do not use Lidar, because Lidar devices are too expensive, too bulky, and too power-consumptive for the purpose. But, continuous-wave Lidar systems are cheaper and lighter than pulse-based ones.

Behnam Behroozpour of U.C. Berkeley told phys.org in 2014 that he envisions that Lidar can be used for “a host of new applications that have not even been invented yet.” For instance, cell phones could use the technology to recognize a user and detect his hand motions from across the room, allowing him to control the device with simple hand gestures.

BMW’s first level-5 self-driving offering, which the company plans to release by 2021, will allow human riders to use hand gestures to order Amazon packages, make a dinner reservation, and perform a range of other actions.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

Google to face lawsuit over gender pay gap

Google is once again making headlines this week due to a familiar issue in Silicon Valley—the gender pay gap. At least 70 current and former female employees are expected to file a class-action lawsuit against the tech giant with the help of a San Francisco employment law firm, Altshuler Berzon LLP.

James Finberg, the civil rights lawyer and Altshuler Berzon LLP partner spearheading the class action suit, told Forbes that several dozen women came forward in just “a matter of weeks” after the firm posted both Facebook and LinkedIn notices “seeking women currently or formerly employed at Google for possible inclusion in a planned class-action lawsuit alleging gender pay discrimination.”

Since this week’s firing of Google employee James Damore, the suit has gained more fire and Finberg expects to go public “a lot earlier than [they’d] hoped or expected.”

This class-action lawsuit follows closely on the heels of a similar suit filed against Google earlier this year by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) citing evidence of an “extreme” gender pay gap within the tech company. Finberg told Forbes the current suit will draw evidence from the DOL analysis, whose evidence was taken from a collection of 21,000 employee salaries at Google’s headquarters.

Some of the concerns women are sharing, according to Finberg, are that women are being channeled into ‘softer’ jobs that are compensated less than, say, coding is and that women’s prior wages were used to create their Google salary.

If the latter were to be true, Finberg comments, “That’s institutionalizing gender discrimination, and it’s against California law.”

Although the year may be 2017, and you can’t seem to walk down a street without bumping into a feminist, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts in the workplace. Despite a certain Google employee’s claim that the gender pay gap is a myth, the data proves otherwise.

According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015, women earn an average of $0.80 for every $1 men do. The report broke this down by age as well, indicating that younger women have a narrower pay gap than older women do. This gap tends to be wider for older women, as they faced bigger gaps when starting their careers than younger women do, hurting their long-term earnings.

That $0.20 wage gap adds up at the end of the day, costing women a loss of around $10,470 each year, according to a report published by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) in March this year. For a white, 20 year-old-woman just starting her career today, that loss over a 40-year period adds up to a grand total of $418,800. If that same woman’s male counterpart were to retire at age 60, it would take her another 10 years (retiring at 70), to close that gap. The same NWLC report notes that this situation is compounded even more for women of color. Depending on the state she lives in, a woman of color might have to work past the age of 100 in order to bridge the gap to her white male counterpart.

Finberg and Altshuler Berzon LLP intend to move forward with the class-action suit “within the next few weeks.” It looks like stories about Google and the gender pay gap will be gracing headlines throughout all of 2017.

Moon Express to Mine the Moon for Riches This Year

Moon Express announced on Tuesday that it had raised another $20 million in private equity financing to fund its first lunar mission. The Silicon Valley startup is the first private company in history to be granted permission to explore past the Earth’s orbit.

Following consultations with the FAA, White House, State Department, and NASA, the government made the historic ruling last year to allow a peaceful lunar exploration.Since then, Moon Express has raised a total of $45 million from investors. Investors include Founders Fund, Collaborative Fund, and Autodesk.

Chairman and co-founder Naveen Jain confirmed on CNBC, “We’re going to land on the moon this year–and I’ve been waiting to say that for so long.”

According to Jain, “Moon Express now has all the capital it needs to land its small robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon in November or December of 2017.” The new MX-1 lunar lander from Moon Express, if successful, would win the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE.

Recent investments may have been spurred by President Donald Trump’s picks for the NASA transition team. The candidates, Charles Miller, Chris Shanks, and lead candidate for NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine all support commercial space ventures and manned exploration.

“It is going to be this year and the first mission is going to be a robotics mission and we’re going to be exploring the moon for natural resources,” Jain said on CNBC, “But our ultimate goal is to not only use the resources for the benefit of humanity–whether it’s bringing the Helium-3 or whether it’s bringing the platinum-grade materials–but also to use the resources to live on the moon.”

Helium-3 is a clean, non-radioactive energy source that has the capacity to power nuclear fusion reactors. The possibility of mining Helium-3 could have a huge impact on Earth and the environment. In theory, a relatively small amount could power entire industries. For this reason, the Chinese have announced their own plans to mine the moon for Helium-3.

Rare Apple I Computer Found

Recently, a rare Apple I computer has been found. Apparently, a woman was giving away a few boxes of her old electronics for recycling in South Bay. Little did she know, the electronic junk she needed to get rid of was actually priceless.

Amongst the junk computers and electronics was a vintage Apple I. The computer in question was made in 1976 by developers Steve Wozniak, Ron Wayne and Steve Jobs. During that time, only 200 of those computers were manufactured, so finding one of the 200 computers almost four decades later is truly worth a fortune.

Clean Bay Area Vice President Victor Gichun confirmed that the computer was already sold to a private collector for $200,000. The mysterious woman stands to get at least half the amount.

When asked about the woman, Gichun said,“We are looking for her to give her $100,000. She said, ‘I want to get rid of this stuff and clean up my garage.’ I said, ‘Do you need a tax receipt?’ and she said, ‘No, I don’t need anything.’”

 

The recycling lab, known as Clean Bay Area, takes old electronic equipment to be recycled. Gichun said “I remember her. To prove who she is, I just need to look at her.”

Levi’s and Google Are Making Your Clothing Into Smart-Clothing

It is one thing for our accessories to go tech, but Levi Strauss & Co and Google Inc. are collaborating to make your clothing from jeans, shirts and underwear tech savvy as well.

The companies are calling it Project Jacquard and it is officially being introduced to Google developers at their Friday May 29 conference. Basically they will be introducing the idea of putting what they develop in their smartwatches and smartglasses to be put into the fabrics of Levi’s clothing.

Google already has the technology to make it happen. The company developed conductive fibers through a Japanese firm and it can be woven into any type of fabric, just as simple as sewing through fabric.

The only problem that may arise is the size in the yarn compared to the thread of Levi’s clothing.

“As far as yarn thickness goes, we’re not almost in the same ballpark. We are already in the same ballpark. Google has accepted the supply chain for what it is and there’s no modification for any of the looms as we’ve been working with this. Fundamentally, this is empowering the garment as a platform, not the garment as a device,” said Paul Dillinger, vice president of innovation for the Levi’s brand.

On the other side, Ivan Poupyrev, the technical program lead for Google’s Advanced Technology and Products group says,

“We’ve been looking at conductive garments for over 20 years. What we’ve done is build the interactive element into the textile. We join the yarns with a connector that enables you to connect to a mobile phone or tablet. It’s about the size of a regular Levi’s button and includes a power source and Bluetooth connection.”

But, how did two different companies from two spectrums of business come about this deal? Well Levi’s came to Google last year and after much talk and consideration, both parties thought it would be greatly beneficial on both sides and too great to pass up.

Of course there is the concern on how a fashion brand can still stay up to date and creative in design while having to suit a tech part into their clothing.

“To make high-tech scalable and profitable, you need large volumes, but it goes against the nature of fashion to make a lot of a single product,” Poupyrev of Levi’s says. “We’re not the military. Fashion means variety, and this technology can work with virtually any kind of textile and any kind of garment, even sheer silks or lingerie.”

With Project Jacquard clothing, we will have the same ability to do what we do on our phones and tablets with our clothing.

Dillinger also brings up the point that many criticize society for being glued their phones and not enjoying what is around us, he says this is “the opportunity to get our faces out of our phones, to be engaged in the real world again, to watch a concert instead of recording one.”

Poupyrev also cites on the issue by bringing up “people’s desires to get back to simplicity.” He believes this is the way.

“Up until now, it’s always been a question of adding another device to those you already have. It’s another purchase, another thing to buy and carry with you. Clothing? It’s something that’s always in the background, so basic. Why create something else to buy when we already have things to wear?”

Though the yarn they have developed is versatile there is still concern in yarn widths and colors. A Google executive says they are still “ugly, in one color, expensive and not conductive enough.”

Still with Project Jacquard still in development, Dillinger has hope that they will improve as the project moves along.

“What they engineered is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” he says.

Maybe that is the hope the Levi company grew on with their first ever founder and designer, Levi Strauss, who built his company based on the Gold Rush because gold mining was where the business was at. And now the company has moved from durable gold mining jeans to a fashion empire.

“That’s where the opportunity was then,”  Dillinger says. “Where is it today? Silicon Valley.”

Technology is booming and the possibilities seem to have no boundries. One can only guess what the next big development will be in 10 years.

 

Highest Paid Executive Woman is Apple’s Senior VP

Highest paid women in the U.S.  is Apple Inc.’s senior vice president of retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts.

According to Bloomberg, Ahrendts made $82.6 million in 2014 when she was working as the chief executive officer for London luxury fashion retailer Burberry Group Plc. At 54 years old she became the first women on the management team in May 2014.

All her pay came from a sign-on bonus and a make-whole grant for awards while at Burberry. This totaled to $105.5 million in value.

Spokesman for Apple, Josh Rosenstock would not comment on Ahrendts compensation.

The highest paid women CEO in the U.S. for 2014 is Marissa Mayer from Yahoo! Inc. At 39 years old she made $59.1 million but that still did not beat out the highest paid executives as she ranked number three on the Bloomberg Pay Index.

The number two on the list is chief financial officer, Safra Catz of Oracle Corporations being awarded a total of $71.2 million in 2014. Catz was soon named co-CEO of the company after the end of the 2014 fiscal year. This gained her 500,000 options and 125,000 performance stock units in the September filing.

As measured by Bloomberg pay ranking that calculates pay-for-performance, Ahrendts had the best rating among all the top executive women. The Apple company based in Cupertino, California had a $28.6 billion three-year average economic profit.

CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation, Marillyn Hewson won the third-best dollar-for-dollar performance. When she became CEO of the company its revenue had decreased by 16 percent and ever since her takeover in January 2013, the revenue has raised over 54 percent.

Hewson made $36.7 million by the end of 2014 which is 2.9 percents of the company’s three-year profit of $1.28 million.

Other women who appear on the ranking are Mylan NV CEO  Heather Bresch who has made $40 million, co-CEO and chairman of United Therapeutics Corporation, Martine Rothblatt making $33.3 million.

Facebook Inc. executive Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter Ince. General Counsel Vijaya Gadde who have recently been on the ranking, did not make it for the 2014 year. Sandberg made a total of $17.6 million and Vijaya $5.8 million which did not make the index.

 

Shhh…The Secret’s Out, of Business – Secret App Shuts Down

Shortly over a year after its launch, the Secret app is shutting down.

Secret is based in the Silicon Valley, and is an anonymous sharing app where users could share their secrets without being identified. The anonymity appealed to many tech-savy users, as have similar apps like Yikyak and Whisper.

According to Businesssinsider.com, the co-founders of the company had met up with Juicy Campus founder Matt Ivester in order to avoid having their app have the same downfall as Juicy Campus, but it ultimately did.

To the credit of the app developers, they had spoken at length with other apps and websites that had tried to do the same thing, calling the lessons “invaluable”.

“But the service was criticized for allowing people to defame others while remaining anonymous. It was banned in Brazil for promoting cyber-bullying, “said BBC.com.

In its prime, the app did farely well. The app launched in February 2014, and raised $35 million for funding. Also, just a month after it had launched, there were announcements being made that celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Joe Montana were making investments in the app.

Therealtimereport.com said that Secret had been amongst the top-20 social apps in the App store only one week into when it first launched. Their ranking dropped significantly only 10 months into its launch.

The app had a large range of features like being able to chat one-on-one with users, showing or hiding that you were a friend of another user, and the ability to see posts from different categories such as city or school.

From the beginning the goal with this app had been for people to share information with users in their area. Ultimately, this was not the case with the app, and cyberbullying has been attributed to one of the reasons the app is shutting down.

The app had hoped to create honest conversations on various topics, giving people the freedom to not feel judged by their peers.

On Medium.com, the blogging site for all things Secret, Co-Founders David Byttow and Chrys Bader made a post back in August 2014 expressing how they would not tolerate hateful speech, bullies, pornography or information that would be considered too person like contact information.

The problems faced by the app are similar to ones that many social media with anonymous qualities, people are going to be rude, as they are able to hide behind a screen with little to no repercussions. Yikyak has tried to prevent this with features like the down vote, but it is unavoidable with such a large forum with so many people having access to it.

In the past, the app tried to warn others about being cautious of what they post, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears.

The app even gave users the choice to

Byttow wrote, “Unfortunately, Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company, so I believe it’s the right decision for myself, our investors and our team.”

With so many anonymous sharing websites and apps have met the same downfall, can this type of thing successfully exist in the world we live in?

Byttow went on to say that he plans to discuss on the blog the ups and downs of the app. This may service useful for developers in the future.

“I believe in honest, open communication and creative expression, and anonymity is a great device to achieve it. But also it’s the ultimate double-edge sword, which must be wielded with great respect and care,” wrote Byttow.

The company plans to return money to all those who have made investments in the company.

 

Featured image Via Sunset blog

‘Six Californias’ Will Be on the 2016 Ballot

A proposal of splitting California into six states has gotten enough signatures to be put on the November 2016 ballot, according to the “Six Californias” campaign’s announcement on Monday, July 14.


According to USA Today, Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the group, said the plan has gained over the 808,000 required signatures to place the measure on the ballot.

USA Today reported in February when the plan was first proposed, the initiative, called “Six Californias,” was backed by Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Tim Draper to separate the big state into six parts for political reasons. Draper said he initiated this proposal because the state is too big and has too much population to represent the diverse opinion within it.

“If we have six Californias and we in effect dissolve the one we’ve got, those six allow us a new start,” Draper said in a video of the campaign’s Youtube channel. He also suggested that the “six states” would have their own capitals and legislatures, which would also allow them to write their own constitutions and have better representation of the citizens there.

Time reported that the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said if Draper’s proposal was implemented, it would create both America’s richest state, Silicon Valley, and poorest state, Central California, at the same time.

The plan proposed to divide California like this:

  1. Jefferson: northern part, including Humboldt and Mendocino counties
  2. North California: Sonoma, Napa and Sierra Nevada region
  3. Silicon Valley: San Francisco, San Jose and most of the Bay Area
  4. Central California: majority of central valley farm area, including Tulare and Fresno counties
  5. West California: Santa Barbara and Los Angeles
  6. South California: Inland Empire of San Bernardino and Riverside, as well as San Diego
Via Facebook/Six Californias
Via Facebook/Six Californias

 

She Started It: A Documentary About Young Female Founders

She Started It – a documentary co-directed by Insiyah Saeed and Nora Poggi – over the course of one year, details the journeys of four young women entrepreneurs who have recently created their own successful startup companies. The message behind the film is to inspire and empower young women to delve into the world of technology and business and to give rise to a new generation of female leaders.

In the Filmmaker’s Statement on their website, the directors quote: “The Kauffman Foundation estimates that women have formed only 3% of tech startups. Only 4% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. In Silicon Valley, women earn only 49 cents to a man’s dollar and get less than 10% of all VC funding. The numbers are indeed changing, but perhaps not enough.”

The filmmakers decided to profile young female entrepreneurs in the tech business in order to demonstrate just how possible it is for young women to run their own companies and make their ideas come to life. The featured women are 17-year old Brienne Ghafourifar, co-founder of universal messenger startup, Entefy; Stacey Ferreira, Co-Founder of username and password storage service MySocialCloud and Admoar; Agathe Molinar Founder and CEO of lingerie company Lemoncurve; and Thuy Truong, Co-Founder and CEO of the whiteboard application, GreenGar.

Ghafourifar, co-founder of Entefy, who works 14 to 15 hour days says that by being a part of this documentary, she feels she is able to reach out in some way to help young girls and women. She told CNN: “I want to help, mentor, inspire, and guide. I’m not even old enough to do all that. But if there’s anything I can do to help, I will.”

The film’s director-producer told CNN: “You don’t have to be Bill Gates to be the founder of a company. It’s more important to be resourceful, ambitious, and confident. There are girls who say they aren’t good at math so they won’t get into the STEM fields. Men who get C’s don’t second guess their ability. Men may not have the best ideas, but they are more likely to have the confident. We want to break that trend.”

The film is set to release in October on an educational tour throughout middle schools, high schools, and colleges throughout the U.S.