Beta version of Tesla’s ‘full self-driving’ software gets limited release

23 Oct 2020

Image: © jon11/

This week in future tech, a small number of Tesla customers have gained access to a software update that claims to allow ‘full self-driving’ capability.

A select group of customers signed up to Tesla’s early access programme are among the first to try out the electric vehicle manufacturer’s major software update. Founder and CEO Elon Musk posted a brief tweet earlier this week (20 October) to say the software update will be a beta version of its ‘full self-driving’ system.

This would add significant autonomy to a car, allowing drivers to use many Autopilot advanced driver-assisted features on city streets. In a call with investors after the company’s Q3 earnings report, Musk said that he hopes to have a wide release of this tech by the end of this year. However, he stressed that the software update will be rolled out with great caution.

“I think we’re starting very slow and very cautiously because the world is a complex and messy place,” he said. “The system is designed such that even if you have no connectivity whatsoever and you’re in a place that you have never been to before and no Tesla has ever been there, the car should still be able to drive, just like a person. That is the system that we are developing and aiming to release this year.”

Lab meat start-up aims to grow steaks in space

Israeli start-up Aleph Farms has announced the launch of its ‘Aleph Zero’ programme to find ways of producing meat in the most harsh and remote extraterrestrial environments, such as space.

This programme follows the company’s first experiment of producing meat on the International Space Station a year ago, in collaboration with 3D Bioprinting Solutions.

Instead of harvesting meat, the start-up grows beef steaks from non-genetically engineered cells isolated from a living cow. Aleph Farms now aims to secure strategic partnerships with technology companies and space agencies for collaborative research and development contracts.

“The constraints imposed by deep-space-exploration – the cold, thin environment and the circular approach – force us to tighten the efficiency of our meat production process to much higher sustainability standards,” said Didier Toubia, Aleph Farm’s CEO and co-founder.

“The programme reflects our mission of producing quality, delicious meat locally where people live and consume it, even in the most remote places on Earth like the Sahara desert or Antarctica, providing unconditional access to high-quality nutrition to anyone, any time, anywhere.”

Intel brings Solar for Schools project to Maynooth and Leixlip

Intel Ireland announced this week that it is expanding its Solar for Schools programme to three schools in the Maynooth area and one in Leixlip. The programme will see each school receive 12 monocrystalline solar modules along with a monitoring system and 40-inch TV to display a live output.

The four schools are Scoil Eoin Phóil in Leixlip, Gaelscoil Uí Fhíaich in Maynooth, Presentation Girls Maynooth and Maynooth Educate Together.

The schools also receive operation and management support of the system for three years and engagement with the students by way of a ‘green chat’ that helps them to learn more about the solar programme and energy conservation. Solar module technology has been installed in each of the participating schools, allowing them to generate their own energy.

“It presents a great opportunity for the youth of today to become immersed in such a proposal which will hopefully be the beginning of a lifetime interest for them as well as being involved in innovative technology,” said North Kildare TD Bernard Durkan.

Chilli-shaped device can tell how hot a pepper is

Researchers have published a paper to ACS Applied Nano Materials revealing a portable device shaped like a chilli pepper that can reveal on a smartphone how much capsaicin a pepper contains, before biting into it.

Warakorn Limbut and colleagues said they wanted to develop a simple, accurate and cheap method to quantify the capsaicin content of chilli peppers and food samples. They added that previous measurement devices have been found to be complicated, time-consuming or require expensive, bulky instrumentation.

The paper-based electrochemical sensor within the device consists of graphene nanoplatelets doped with nitrogen atoms to improve their electrical conductivity. When the researchers added a drop of diluted capsaicin on the sensor, an electrical current was detected in the device.

After optimising the sensor, the researchers used it to determine capsaicin concentrations in six dried chilli samples. This helped reveal that the chilli-shaped device was able to accurately tell how hot each of the samples were.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic