Amazon unveils tiny autonomous racing car for new global tournament

30 Nov 2018

Still from ‘AWS re:Invent 2018 – Announcing AWS DeepRacer (Demo)’. Image: Amazon Web Services/YouTube

Amazon wants us to learn more about machine learning by developing tiny autonomous racing cars in a new competition.

In the weeks before Christmas, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has revealed a ‘toy’ racing car not designed for kids, but adults with a desire to better understand machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

The AWS DeepRacer, currently priced at $249, is a fully autonomous car built on the Amazon SageMaker reinforcement learning model. At one-eighteenth the scale of a typical racing car, any user is eligible to compete in a DeepRacer tournament taking place at 20 AWS Summits around the world.

Contestants can compete in as many events as they wish, and the winners of each stage, plus the top 10 point-scorers across the races, will qualify for the DeepRacer League Cup held at re:Invent 2019 in Las Vegas.

“Until now, developers interested in experimenting with reinforcement learning had to study academic papers and cobble together models with limited help,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, vice-president of Amazon Machine Learning.

“AWS DeepRacer and the DeepRacer League gives them the opportunity to discover reinforcement learning in a hands-on fashion and then proceed to build, train, and tune reinforcement learning models and deploy them into their autonomous model racing cars.”

AWS reveals four new IoT application tools

Staying with Amazon, its cloud division also announced four new internet of things (IoT) application building tools that it claims will make it easier to ingest data from edge devices.

The first is IoT SiteWise which collects, structures and searches IoT data from industrial facility devices and uses it to analyse equipment and process performance data.

The second is IoT Events, a managed IoT service that makes it easy to detect and respond to changes found by IoT sensors and applications, such as malfunctioning equipment or a stuck conveyor belt, and automatically trigger actions or alerts.

The third is IoT Things Graph, a service that builds IoT applications with little or no code by connecting different devices and cloud services, such as linking humidity sensors or sprinklers to weather data services to create an agricultural application.

The final tool is IoT Greengrass Connectors which gives developers the ability to connect third-party applications such as ServiceNow for service management or on-premises software such as Splunk for log analytics.

“We are giving customers tools that remove the cost and complexity of building applications at the edge with rich data sources to drive better business decision-making,” said Dirk Didascalou, vice-president of IoT at AWS. “This frees them up to spend time innovating in their core business, instead of writing code to connect devices and applications and to ingest actionable sensor data.”

Vodafone switches on NB-IoT and LTE-M networks in New Zealand

Two of the biggest low-power wide-area network standards have been switched on in New Zealand by the telecoms giant Vodafone, according to Mobile World Live.

Both narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M have now been launched on Vodafone’s 4G network, with coverage of 97.5pc of the country’s population and 48.2pc coverage of its land mass at launch.

Meanwhile, its LTE-M roll-out currently offers 60.1pc population coverage, that will increase to 96.6pc once additional sites have been installed. Currently, Vodafone says it has more than 1.6m cellular connection in the country.

“This is a world-first combined launch of NB-IoT and LTE-M IoT networks at the same time within the Vodafone Group,” said Vodafone New Zealand’s technology director, Tony Baird. “Vodafone New Zealand has already cemented itself as the largest provider of IoT in New Zealand, and these technologies are expected to drive the next wave of IoT innovation here in New Zealand and overseas.”

LG forms robotics and autonomous vehicle divisions

Not wanting to be left behind, South Korean tech giant LG has revealed plans to form two new divisions to develop robotics and autonomous cars, respectively.

According to ZDNet, LG has previously divided the two technologies into various groups under its home entertainment business as well as other small research groups. Earlier this year, the company showcased its early robots – including a smart trolley for supermarkets – and now the company said its autonomous vehicle division will focus on mid-to-long-term investment and research.

In October of last year, LG announced it had signed a deal with chip manufacturer Qualcomm to jointly develop the latest connected car solutions. The two companies also established a joint research centre in South Korea to develop 5G for vehicle and C-V2X (cellular vehicle to everything) technologies that will lead to next-generation autonomous vehicles.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic