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Tesla extends FSD access to “anyone in North America who requests it” • TechCrunch

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Tesla is extending its “full self-driving” (FSD) beta software “to anyone in North America who requests it from the car screen,” according to CEO Elon Musk who tweeted out the news late Wednesday evening. The rollout of FSD across the continent comes as Tesla is potentially facing a criminal investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice over false claims relating to the company’s advanced driver assistance system Autopilot.

Autopilot comes standard on Tesla vehicles and performs automated driving functions such as steering, accelerating and automatic braking. FSD, which costs North American drivers $15,000, is an extension of Autopilot that includes features like assisted steering on highways and city streets, smart vehicle summoning, automatic parking and recognizing and reacting to traffic lights and stop signs.

Autopilot, and by extension FSD, have come under regulator scrutiny in recent years following a series of Tesla crashes, many of which were fatal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened special investigations into 36 Tesla crashes involving Autopilot since 2016, five of which happened this year. Tesla has also come under fire from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles and drivers who claim the company falsely advertised the self-driving capabilities of Autopilot and FSD.

Some Tesla owners and enthusiasts predicted the company might allow FSD into all cars after Tesla appears to have dropped the requirement for 100 Autopilot miles and a safety score of at least 80 to receive the FSD update. This is a concerning lack of scrutiny considering fears that drivers using ADAS are less likely to watch the road and be alert in case the system malfunctions. Tesla’s website does encourage drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

Despite concerns, any driver who has already paid the steep price for Tesla’s FSD will be able to access the software in North America. Tesla had previously extended FSD access to 160,000 owners in the U.S. and Canada in September, and today’s widespread rollout makes good on previous promises from Musk to get FSD in every Tesla by the end of 2022.

Musk has claimed that Tesla could achieve full-self driving by the end of the year, but during the company’s third quarter earnings admitted that FSD wouldn’t gain regulatory approval to be driven without someone behind the wheel in 2022. The move to expand the number of users and possibly give Tesla’s supercomputer Dojo more data to work with might be one of the reasons Tesla has chosen now to expand.

It might also be a move to ease investor worries and accrue some more revenue. Tesla’s stock is at a two-year low and its market cap slashed from $1.2 trillion last November to $574 billion today following Musk’s buyout of Twitter and the ensuing dramas of the company overhaul.

The FSD scaling also follows news from Tesla engineers Romi Phadte and Gabe Gheorghian who spoke at BazelCon this week and shared that Tesla has increased the number of FSD simulations per week from around 250,000 in 2020 to 2 million today.

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Elon Musk vicariously publishes internal emails from Twitter’s Hunter Biden laptop drama • TechCrunch

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Elon Musk reminded his followers on Friday that owning Twitter now means he controls every aspect of the company — including what its employees said behind closed doors before he took over.

Earlier this week, Musk teased the release of what he called “The Twitter Files,” declaring that the public “deserves to know what really happened” behind the scenes during Twitter’s decision to stifle a story about Hunter Biden back in 2020.

On Friday evening, Musk delivered, sort of. Twitter’s new owner shared a thread from author and Substack writer Matt Taibbi who is apparently now in possession of the trove of internal documents, which he opted to painstakingly share one tweet at a time, in narrative form.

Taibbi noted on his Substack that he had to “agree to certain conditions” in order to land the story, though he declined to elaborate about what the conditions were. (We’d suspect that sharing the documents in tweet form to boost the platform’s engagement must have been on the list.)

Taibbi’s decision to reveal a selection of the documents one tweet at a time was apparently not painstaking enough. One screenshot, now deleted, published Jack Dorsey’s private personal email address. Another shared an unredacted personal email belonging to Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who expressed concerns about Twitter’s action at the time. Both incidents appear to run afoul of Twitter’s anti-doxing policy.

The documents, which are mostly internal Twitter emails, depict the chaotic situation that led Twitter to censor a New York Post story about Hunter Biden two years ago. In October 2020, The New York Post published a story that cited materials purportedly obtained from a laptop that the younger Biden left at a repair shop. With a presidential election around the corner and 2016’s hacked DNC emails and other Russian election meddling fresh in mind, Twitter decided to limit the story’s reach.

In conversation with members of Twitter’s comms and policy teams, Twitter’s former Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth cited the company’s rules about hacked materials and noted the “severe risks and lessons of 2016” that influenced the decision making.

One member of Twitter’s legal team wrote that it was “reasonable” for Twitter to assume that the documents came from a hack, adding that “caution is warranted.” “We simply need more information,” he wrote.

In his Twitter thread, Taibbi characterized the situation to make such a consequential enforcement decision without consulting the company’s CEO as unusual. In reality, then-CEO Jack Dorsey was well known for being hands-off at the company, at times working remotely from a private island in the South Pacific and delegating even high profile decisions to his policy team.

After Twitter acted, the response from outside the company was swift — and included one Democrat, apparently. “… In the heat of a Presidential campaign, restricting dissemination of newspaper articles (even if NY Post is far right) seems like it will invite more backlash than it will do good,” Khanna wrote to a member of Twitter’s policy team.

At the time, Facebook took similar measures. But Twitter was alone in its unprecedented decision to block links to the story, ultimately inciting a firestorm of criticism that the website was putting a thumb on the scale for Democrats. The company, its former CEO and some policy executives have since described the incident as a mistake made out of an over-abundance of caution — a story that checks out in light of the newly published emails.

Musk hyped the release of the emails as a smoking gun, but they mostly tell us what we already knew: that Twitter, fearful of a repeat of 2016, took an unusual moderation step when it probably should have provided context and let the story circulate. Musk has apparently stewed over the issue since at least April when he called the decision to suspend the Post’s account “incredibly inappropriate.”

Files from the laptop would later be verified by other news outlets, but in the story’s early days no one was able to corroborate that the documents were real and not manipulated, including social platforms. “Most of the data obtained by The Post lacks cryptographic features that would help experts make a reliable determination of authenticity, especially in a case where the original computer and its hard drive are not available for forensic examination,” the Washington Post wrote in its own story verifying the emails. The decision inspired Twitter to change its rules around sharing hacked materials.

Twitter’s former Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth shared more insight about the decision in an interview earlier this week, noting that the story set off “alarm bells” signaling that it might be a hack and leak campaign by Russian group APT28, also known as Fancy Bear. “Ultimately for me, it didn’t reach a place where I was comfortable removing this content from Twitter,” Roth said.

Dorsey admitted fault at the time in a roundabout way. “Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix,” Dorsey tweeted. “Our goal is to attempt to add context,” he said, adding that now the company could do that by labeling hacked materials.

Musk has been preoccupied with a handful of specific content moderation decisions since before deciding to buy the company. His frustration that Twitter suspended the conservative satire site The Babylon Bee over a transphobic tweet appears to be the reason he even decided to buy Twitter to begin with.

Now two years after it happened, the Hunter Biden social media controversy is still a sore spot for conservatives, right wing media and Twitter’s new ownership. The platform’s past policy controversies are mostly irrelevant now with Musk at the wheel, but he apparently still has an axe to grind with the Twitter of yore — and we’re seeing that unfold in real(ish) time.

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REPORT: Rep. Ro Khanna Was The Only Democrat To Raise Issue With Twitter Nuking Biden Laptop Story

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Rep. Ro Khanna of California was the only Democrat concerned that Twitter was violating the First Amendment when the social media platform suppressed the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, Matt Taibbi reported Friday.

Taibbi, a Rolling Stone contributing editor, released what Elon Musk called “The Twitter Files,” Friday afternoon. In the Twitter thread, Taibbi shared an email showing that Khanna reportedly contacted Vijaya Gadde, former general counsel and head of legal, policy, and trust at Twitter.

“Democratic congressman Ro Khanna reaches out to Gadde to gently suggest she hop on the phone to talk about the ‘backlash re speech,’” Taibbi tweeted. “Khanna was the only Democratic official I could find in the files who expressed concern.”

The documents Taibbi posted show that Gadde apparently replied to Khanna, explaining that Twitter released a clarifying thread of tweets previously that day that explained the policy around posting private information on “hacked materials.” The document further showed that Trump Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s account was not permanently suspended but she would need to delete “the tweet containing material that is in violation” of Twitter’s rules.

Khanna then explained that he is more concerned about First Amendment principles, even as a “Biden partisan,” according to the documents posted by Taibbi.

“If there is a hack of classified information or other information that could expose a serious war crime and the NYT was to publish it, I think the NYT should have that right,” he reportedly told Gadde, according to Taibbi’s tweet. (RELATED: ‘Absolutely Shocking’: Fox News Contributor Reacts To ‘Coordinated Effort’ By Former Twitter Execs)

Carl Szabo from NetChoice, a research company, reportedly let Twitter know a “blood bath” was awaiting them in upcoming Capitol Hill hearings, according to Taibbi’s Twitter thread. Szabo allegedly explained that Democrats agreed that “social media needs to moderate more.”

“Ro Khanna is great,” current CEO of Twitter Elon Musk replied to Taibbi.

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The era of constant innovation at Amazon could be over • TechCrunch

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There was a time when AWS re:Invent, the yearly customer extravaganza put on by Amazon’s cloud arm, was chock full of announcements. The innovation coming out of the company was so mind-boggling that it was hard to keep up with the onslaught of news.

But this year felt different. If last year was incremental, this year was downright slow when it came to meaningful news.

To give you a sense of our coverage here at TechCrunch, last year, we wrote 28 stories about the event. This year, it’s down to 18, including this one. It’s not that we wanted to write less — we just simply found there was less relevant news to write about.

The day two AI and machine learning keynote was all incremental improvements to existing products. There were so few meaningful announcements that my colleague Frederic Lardinois wrote a post in pictures mocking the lack of news.

It’s gotten to the point, it seems, where the ecosystem has grown so enormous, and there are so many products, that the company has decided to focus on making it easier to work with and between those products (or with external partner products) than creating stuff from scratch.

From a news perspective, that means that there’s really less to write about. Eight new SageMaker capabilities or five new database and analytics capabilities, which I’m sure are important to the folks who needed those features, feel like piling on to an already feature-rich set of products.

It’s not unlike Microsoft Word over the years: It’s a perfectly fine word processor, so the only way to really improve it was to lob on new feature after new feature to make it relevant to an ever wider or more granular audience.

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