Ghost raises $63.7 million to develop an aftermarket kit that gives cars self-driving capabilities

Self-driving cars have countless obstacles to contend with, chief among them drivers who don’t always act predictably — or responsibly. There’s also precipitation and wind to worry about, plus jaywalking pedestrians and zippy electric bikes and scooters. That’s not to mention alleyways and busy intersections that no amount of Google Maps data can elucidate.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Ghost Locomotion, a startup headed by former Yahoo CTO and Pure Storage cofounder John Hayes, isn’t tackling a full stack autonomous car platform just yet. Instead, it’s honing in on the task that constitutes two-thirds of all miles driven in the U.S.: highway driving.

“Many self-driving companies are attempting to solve the driving experience from end to end and have not yet perfected any element of as a result,” wrote the company in a press release. “Ghost is simplifying the problem by focusing on exit-to-exit driving, to start. As complexity of city driving pushes self-driving timelines further and further into the future, Ghost is laser-focused on building real self-driving for highways and providing a huge benefit to people sooner, and expanding from there.”

Ghost today emerged from stealth after spending two years and change developing an aftermarket self-driving kit to retrofit existing cars. It has raised $63.7 million in capital to date from Founders Fund’s Keith Rabois, Khosla Ventures’ Vinod Khosla, and Sutter Hill Ventures’ Mike Speiser, and it’s promising compatibility with 20 “popular” car models from 2012 onward when its product launches next year.

Ghost hardware _ side camera

Above: One of the side cameras included in the Ghost kit.Image Credit: Ghost Locomotion

According to Hayes and cofounder Dr. Volkmar Uhlig, a computer science PhD and a veteran of IBM Watson Research, Ghost’s differentiation lies in its approach to automation, which incorporates imitation learning. The pair are careful to draw a distinction between Ghost’s technology and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) like Nissan’s ProPilot Assist and Tesla’s current implementation of Autopilot. Unlike those systems, which rely heavily on rulesets, Ghost begins with human observation, recording what real-world drivers see and how they react to create a ground truth. The company’s AI uses this to model correct driving behaviors, creating a capable, dynamic autonomous control policy that can scale to almost any modern car.

Ghost holds onto a set of real-world data samples that aren’t used to train the model, which it uses for testing, and it says constantly adds more scenarios and retrains its model “in pursuit of perfection.” Already, the company’s kits are installed on the cars of “dozens” of commuters and Lyft and Uber drivers, and Ghost plans to have its kits in hundreds of cars by the end of the year and thousands of cars in 2020.

It’s an approach similar to that of Cambridge, U.K.-based Wayve, whose driverless cars self-improve by learning from safety driver interventions. (Every time Wayve’s system makes a mistake that causes a driver to take over, it learns from that interaction.) Wayve asserts that it’s far more scalable than the data-heavy techniques currently pursued by Waymo, Uber, Cruise, Zoox, and Aurora. To this end, it demonstrated that a car on its platfom could navigate roads using AI and satellite navigation alone. That’s in contrast to systems like Waymo’s, which partly lean on high-definition maps and heuristics.

Ghost’s forthcoming kit will pack a small computer that’s installed in the car’s trunk and connected to the controller area network (CAN), along with eight low-profile cameras that affix to a car’s windshield, side windows, and rear window. In this respect, it’s not unlike Openpilot, the open source semi-automated driving system developed by, which was founded by hacker icon George Hotz. Like Ghost’s system, Openpilot running atop the Eon DevKit and other third-party hardware imbues cars with increased compute, as well as enhanced sensors and driver assistance features like lane centering and adaptive cruise control.

Toronto-based X Matik similarly sells an aftermarket kit — LaneCruise, which starts at over $2,000 — that promises to imbue cars with limited autonomy. It includes a wheel controller, PC, and cameras, and it cedes control once a driver interacts with the steering wheel or pedals.

Ghost hardware _ front camera 2

Above: The front camera from the Ghost kit.Image Credit: Ghost Locomotion

But unlike Openpilot and X Matik’s LaneCruise and despite the fact that Ghost isn’t testing its tech on public roads, the company says it has taken pains to empirically verify its system using processes typically reserved for aerospace and defense industries. It compares its driving model “numerically” to the way real drivers safely navigate public roads. Presumably, this extra step will also help ensure Ghost doesn’t run afoul of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, as noncompliance landed in hot water three years ago.

In any case, Ghost has a founding team of over 75 employees (mostly data scientists and engineers) and a pedigreed C-suite that includes David Purdy, formerly senior manager for safety at Uber; Jay Gierak, previously a general manager at Uber; and Justin Erickson, who has held senior roles at both Cloudera and Microsoft. Ghost’s board of directors includes managing partners and founders at Sutter Hilland Khosla, as well as the Founders Fund, and Sila Nanotechnologies cofounder Gene Berdichevsky.

Ghost is chasing after a lucrative market, to be sure. According to marketing firm ABI, as many as 8 million driverless cars will be added to the road in 2025, and Research and Markets anticipates that there will be some 20 million autonomous cars in operation in the U.S. by 2030.


Electric crate motors; make turning your gas car into an EV easy

These two new conversion kits are plug-and-play – batteries not included – but take note, purists may disapprove

Not one, but two companies this month unveiled something electric car enthusiasts have been asking for for a long time — electric “crate motors” that can be pretty easily swapped into whatever gasoline-powered vehicle they’ll physically fit into. Batteries not included.

According to Autoblog, upstart Electric GT (EGT), led by Eric Hutchison, plans to soon offer both a single- and dual-motor EV conversion kit.

Both can be bolted onto manual transmissions, and many motor mounts and plate adapters for various gearboxes have already been developed; the company can custom-design adapters, too.

The company first gained popularity (or notoriety) for swapping an electric drivetrain into a Ferrari 308, swapping out the car’s old 2.9-litre V8 – which made 280 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque – for three AC51 HPEVS electric motors making a total 465 hp and 330 lb.-ft.

The new e-crate motor is shaped like a classic V8 motor, except it’s about 5 inches longer than most classic Chevy or Ford small-blocks. The single-motor kit makes 140 hp and 240 lb.-ft.; while dual-motors make 240 hp and 340 lb.-ft.

Swindon Powertrain in the U.K. is also throwing its hat into the e-crate ring, and will offer a smaller, more European-style motor.

Swindon’s motor is a more conventional transverse design for front-wheel-drive cars or small mid-engine cars. It weighs a more Chapman-esque 70 kg and makes a respectable 110 horsepower. Dimensions are 600 mm wide by 440 mm deep by as little as 280 mm tall, meaning it will fit almost anywhere, including under the hood of a Mini.

It’s worth noting if you convert your classic car to electric power, though, FIVA (Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens), the global organization dedicated to preserving older vehicles, recently announced it will consider your car – or any vintage EV-converted car – desecrated.

The group regularly lobbies governments around the world for classic car owners’ rights; but in their eyes, your EV-converted antique ain’t a “classic car” any more, so you’ll be on your own.


Tesla Patents Frickin’ Laser Beams That Clean a Car’s Glass

From Car and Driver

  • Tesla has filed a patent for the process of cleaning a vehicle’s glass surfaces using laser beams.
  • The laser cleaning process could clean dirt and other debris blocking the view of a camera used for advanced driver-assistance features.
  • Tesla also says the lasers could be used to clean the surfaces of solar panels.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is notoriously skeptical that automakers need laser scanners (also known as lidar sensors) to develop truly self-driving cars. “Anyone relying on lidar is doomed,” Musk declared at a Tesla event in April 2019. But a recent patent claim suggests Tesla may have found a use for lasers after all, although they won’t be looking down the road. Tesla has filed a patent for a system that uses lasers to clean glass, including the glass in front of cameras used for advanced driver-assistance systems such as Autopilot.

According to the patent, such a system could use cameras to detect debris on windshields, side or rear glass, or camera lenses. A laser would then irradiate the debris, burning it off of the windshield. An illustration accompanying the patent filing shows a Tesla Model S with lasers mounted on the hood, fender, and B-pillar to clean forward- and side-facing cameras. A patent doesn’t mean that this technology is guaranteed to reach the road, of course. The technology will first have to prove that it’s reliable, affordable, and an improvement over existing technology. We assume any laser-based system would have more success than windshield-washer fluid at removing bug guts and other stubborn dirt.

That patent describes pulsing the laser at a calibrated rate or coating the glass with an indium tin oxide coating to ensure that the beam doesn’t pass through the glass and damage materials or components on the other side of the glass. That protection would presumably also benefit any human occupants inside the vehicle as well. Tesla also mentions using the technology to clean debris from the glass and glasslike coatings used on photovoltaic solar panels. Anything that blocks sunlight from reaching a solar panel reduces the amount of power the panel produces.

LG U+, in Collaboration with Nreal, is preparing to launch Augmented Reality Glasses in Early 2020

On Thursday LG U+ announced that it has signed an exclusive deal with Beijing’s mixed reality display developer Nreal to launch augmented reality glasses in South Korea in early 2020.


The Korean telecom operator unveiled Nreal Light AR glasses to show off its AR applications on LG Electronics’ 5G smartphone V50 ThinQ.


AR overlays digital content on top of the real world and is primarily experienced via a wearable glass device, a head-mounted display or through smartphone applications.


LG U+ said it will run a test service available on Nreal Light in its 35 outlets as well as pop-up stores over the next few months before commercializing it in the first half of next year.


Nreal Light AR glasses have been in the spotlight with their lightweight design and aggressive pricing since debuting at the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas in January (see the video below).


Nreal Light is priced at $499 and weighs 88 grams, making it more sellable than Microsoft’s HoloLens, which cost $3,500 and weigh 566 grams, and Magic Leap’s AR glasses, which are priced at $2,295 and weigh 345 grams.



While their new AR glasses won’t be a mainstream accessory anytime soon, techies may be willing to pay $500 for the accessory if LG U+ can introduce applications that deliver some punch, some value – be it a new way to watch movies and TV programming while on the go or some kind of music experience that compliments their smartphones.


While Apple has many patents on this next-gen category of devices and rumors abound as to when they’ll arrive, Apple fans will have to be patient. Apple won’t deliver these devices until they can deliver a punch that will truly compliment their iPhones. Apple will no doubt want their smartglasses to drive premium iPhone sales.


Only time will tell which technology company will get smartglasses right and finally make them a mainstream product. While most will beat Apple to market, including LG U+ in 2020, I think that this is a key device category that Apple could once again take leadership in as they’ve done with the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods. It’s just a matter of time.


For Apple it’s not about rushing a single device to market that’s flashy, short lived and immersed in super hype. If you look at the sheer depth and variety of patents that Apple has filed, you can see that they’re looking at a family of mixed reality headsets and glasses.


Secondly, they’re also working on complementary accessories like finger rings and smart gloves that could deliver next-gen haptic experiences to make the visuals in a mixed reality headset pop to life.


It’s Apple’s holistic approach to new products that have set them apart over time and smartglasses is just one of those future product lines that demands attention to detail that only Apple could deliver.


Amazon’s electric-van deal with Michigan startup Rivian is biggest EV order ever

Plymouth-based electric vehicle startup company Rivian Automotive has an agreement to fill the largest order of fully electric vehicles in automotive history.

The startup is to build 100,000 electric vans for e-commerce giant Inc. over the next decade, Rivian said Thursday. The first batch of vans is expected to hit U.S. roadways by 2021, with 10,000 on the road by late 2022, said Rivian spokeswoman Amy Mast. All 100,000 are to be operating in Amazon’s fleet by 2030.

That’s a big step for a company that last fall didn’t even have signs identifying its Plymouth headquarters when it surprised the Los Angeles Auto Show with sleek prototypes of the electric seven-passenger RS1 SUV and four-passenger RT1 pickup with a claimed 400-mile-plus range. And it could prove a smarter way to do business than Tesla Inc., the company to which Rivian will inevitably be compared.

“It’s a real vote of confidence from Amazon,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Ann Arbor-based Navigant Research, who focuses on mobility. “Buying early vehicles would be an indicator for other companies who are considering electrifying their fleet that Rivian is a company they need to take a look at if they’re going to do this. Amazon doesn’t make decisions like this lightly.”

The vans are to be built at Rivian’s plant in Normal, Illinois, alongside the SUVs and pickups Rivian plans to build in a former Mitsubishi plant.

“This provides an opportunity for mega-tech, through the sheer size and capital available, to invest in electric vehicle and accelerate EV penetration,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a Thursday note to investors.

When Mitsubishi ran the Illinois plant, it churned out around 250,000 vehicles annually, Abuelsamid said. Between the pickup, SUV and Amazon van, Rivian would likely be approaching 100,000 vehicles per year in the early years of the plant, which should be fully operating by the end of next year. There’s also an as-yet-unnamed vehicle that Rivian and Ford Motor Co. plan to partner on that might run on the line.

Approaching 100,000 units annually so early on could be a boon for the startup, and help it avoid pitfalls that Tesla CEO Elon Musk encountered with his first three Tesla models. Tesla models don’t share many common parts. Rivian’s vehicles will share the most expensive and important components, including the battery and powertrain.

The scale offered by opening a plant that would be manufacturing multiple models in its first couple years will offer the capital Rivian needs to grow its business, Abuelsamid said. He and others have said it would be difficult for Rivian to sell enough of its consumer-targeted SUV and pickup to sustain the business.

The Amazon order is the largest order of a fully electric fleet to date. Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo has contracts to buy up to 62,000 Pacifica Hybrid minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, as well as 20,000 fully electric Jaguar I-Pace SUVs. The city of Sacramento has a fleet of 80 electric Chevrolet Bolts. United Parcel Service joined several companies in late 2017 to reserve Tesla semi-truck tractors, which have yet to be built.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the Rivian deal at an event Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., with a speech focused on addressing climate change. Rivian’s Mast told The Detroit News the vans would eliminate 4 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions when the fleet is fully operational.

Even though Amazon led a $700 million round of funding for Rivian earlier this year, the vans were negotiated outside that partnership, Mast said. Rivian and Amazon did not disclose a price for the fleet. The vans will not be sold to other customers.

Though they share underpinnings such as battery assembly, powertrain, electrical components and connectivity, with Rivian’s forthcoming pickup and SUV, the interior and other pieces of the “top hat” of the vehicle were designed specifically for Amazon, Mast said.

The Amazon vans are the latest in a growing string of partnerships and investments in Rivian. The automaker, which has yet to build a production vehicle, netted a $350 million investment from Atlanta-based Cox Automotive earlier this month.

That announcement followed a $500 million investment from Ford Motor Co. and’s $700 million earlier this year. The automaker has grabbed the attention of big-name investors and the public for its vision of rugged, longer-range electric vehicles that can go off-road, haul cargo and stand up to wear-and-tear.

The automaker has poached engineers and others from the Detroit Three, including a designer who worked on Ford’s forthcoming Bronco SUV. 


Tesla Cybertruck Could Be Perfect For Police, Fire, Water, Military

While some people may assert that the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Ram 1500 are okay to look at, we argue that they’re not incredibly attractive in any sense. This is especially true when they’re compared to sporty passenger cars. Perhaps small trucks like the Chevy Colorado, Toyota Tacoma, and Honda Ridgeline are a bit more “sporty” and easy to look at? We don’t really “see” that either, but clearly, some people disagree.

In the end, however, all of these trucks are very expensive if you load them up and work to get the most performance, utility, and luxury for your hard-earned money. When it comes to government spending, we can all but guarantee that the dollar spent per utility is at the utmost. So, the Cybertruck should become top dog for police, fire, and military spending in the near future.

While Tesla didn’t even mention such a situation, we agree with the above video in forecasting that the Cybertruck could make massive bank in that industry, on top of already securing some 200,000 reservations among Tesla fans and others. What do you think?


10 Best Reasons Organizations Turn To a Managed Service Provider

Over the last several years, organizations have become more familiar with managed services and are turning to them for management of certain IT functions, particularly email hosting, storage, backup and recovery, and network monitoring.

Picture this: an organization’s IT department is overwhelmed with requests, and has a hard time solving the issues in a timely manner. On top of that, they’re experiencing quite a bit of network slowness, but the IT staff is so bogged down with other problems, that it takes them a while to get everything running efficiently.

Managed Service Provider 

The organization starts to look for help, so they can minimize downtime. They discuss the possibility of leveraging a managed service provider (MSP) to supplement their day to day needs and free up their internal resources to focus on more strategic projects.

This scenario is a common situation. Organizations are increasingly turning to MSP‘s to handle elements of their IT needs, as part of a collaborative arrangement with the internal IT department, according to research from IT industry trade association CompTIA. A lot of the times organizations don’t want to be the expert in certain technology services, but they’re willing to hire experts to provide a high-quality service level.

According to CompTIA’s 2016 Buying Guide for Managed Services, 64 percent of organizations are using some form of managed services.

The study went on to say that the managed services market is expected to grow to $193 billion by 2020, which is a growth rate of 12.5 percent.

64% of organization are using some form of managed services

What Makes Organizations Switch?

Over the last several years, organizations have become more familiar with managed services and are turning to them for management of certain IT functions, particularly email hosting, storage, backup and recovery, and network monitoring.

Whereas in the past, cost savings were seen as the primary benefit of MSPs, now clients are looking for additional benefits.

Here are the top 10 reasons from CompTIA

  1. Improve security.
  2. Proactive approach to IT problems.
  3. Better uptime.
  4. Gain access to newer technologies.
  5. Cost savings over in-house IT.
  6. Peace of mind.
  7. Free internal staff for strategic work.
  8. Tap into cloud solutions.
  9. Lack of internal IT.
  10. Handle remote office IT.

With cyberattacks on the rise, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see security at the top of the list of MPS benefits.

From 2014 to 2015, there was a 38 percent rise in cyberattacks, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, and 43 percent of cyberattacks target small businesses, according to Symantec.

From 2014 to 2015, there was a 38% rise in cyberattacks

Because cyberattacks are a growing threat to organizations, looking for a way to boost security is very important for every organization, and MSPs can provide that extra level of security.

What About my Existing IT Department?

One of the main concerns organizations have with managed services is that it would replace the existing IT team that they currently employ.

CompITA found that 53 percent of organizations that use managed services have kept their internal IT department the same, 15 percent had no internal IT department to begin with, and only 6 percent got rid of their internal IT employees.

53 percent of organizations that use managed services have kept their internal IT department

Instead, what happens is that the MSPs allow the organization’s IT department to focus on more important projects that drive growth and revenue, and can keep the department running efficiently.

An article from CIO, elaborates on the benefit of a MSP to an existing IT staff:

“Bringing an MSP into the mix frees up existing IT staff to focus on more strategic projects.

“It elevates the IT staff and brings them out of the shadows within the organizations,” says Carolyn April, senior director, Industry Analysis, at CompTIA. “It allows them to focus on a custom app dev project or cloud initiative – something highly strategic. I think that’s a win-win for your IT staff.”

Is it Cost-Effective?

Yes! Managed IT services allow organizations to focus on core projects and strategic initiatives, instead of the day-to-day operations. This saves money in the long run, and additionally, many managed services cost less than other traditional services and staff. Organizations that use MSPs have access to 30 to 40 IT employees that are experts in multiple areas of the IT industry, including networking, storage, virtualization, compliance, security, software, etc. 

What Happens Next?

So, what happened to that organization’s IT department that was struggling to get by? Well, because they chose to partner with an MSP, they don’t have to worry about the things that were dragging them down anymore.

Has your organization considered the benefits of managed services?

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