Tesla doubles down on camera-based Autopilot

Tesla doubles down on camera-based Autopilot
Tesla’s approach helped reduce costs but experts and other companies have raised safety concerns. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 26 May 2021

Tesla doubles down on camera-based Autopilot

Tesla doubles down on camera-based Autopilot
  • Tesla’s approach helped reduce costs and commercialize its driver assistant features

CALIFORNIA: Tesla Inc. said on Tuesday its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles will be equipped with cameras and no radar sensor for semi-automated driving in North America starting this month.

The move came amid growing scrutiny by regulators and media about the safety of what Tesla dubs “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving (FSD)” features, following a series of crashes.

“These will be the first Tesla vehicles to rely on camera vision and neural net processing to deliver Autopilot, Full-Self Driving and certain active safety features,” Tesla said in a statement.

While most companies like Waymo equip autonomous cars with cameras paired with sensors like lidars and radars, Tesla has focused on cameras to detect and analyze objects.

Tesla’s approach helped reduce costs and commercialize its driver assistant features, but experts and other companies have raised safety concerns.

Tesla said the transition to a camera-focused system may result in limitations of some of its driver-assistant features such as lane-centering and parking assistance.

All new Model S and Model X cars, as well as all vehicles built for markets outside North America, will still be equipped with radars, Tesla said.

Tesla’s driver assistance system, which enables cars to center in lanes and maintain distance between vehicles, consists of eight surround cameras, complemented by a front-facing radar and 12 ultrasonic sensors. A radar sensor uses radio sensors to detect distance from objects.

Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted in April that Tesla was working on an improved “FSD Beta” software with “pure vision, no radar.”

In October, Tesla rolled out a beta version of its FSD system to a limited number of people, enabling cars to navigate on city streets in semi-autonomous mode as well as highways. A wider launch has been delayed.

In March, Tesla told California regulators it might not achieve full self-driving technology by the end of 2021. Tesla is offering a driver assistant, level-2 technology that does not make its cars autonomous.

How Saudi Aramco is working to protect oceans

How Saudi Aramco is working to protect oceans
Updated 7 sec ago

How Saudi Aramco is working to protect oceans

How Saudi Aramco is working to protect oceans

The importance of the oceans to the future of our planet has never been as clear as it is today. The UN has declared 2021 the start of a “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development,” with the aim of sharing knowledge to protect and nurture this extraordinary natural resource for future generations. At Saudi Aramco, we believe that oceans are a shared inheritance: Covering 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, they connect every continent in a global ecosystem that is as complex as it is irreplaceable.

Long-term thinking

Aramco welcomes the UN drawing attention to the importance of marine environments and recognizes the need for action on multiple fronts to protect life and livelihoods. This is why we have long partnerships with scientists, researchers and other experts on a wide range of initiatives — including gathering a wealth of unique data, particularly on the waters of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

The projects Aramco has launched to protect marine ecosystems are global in scope — with a particular focus on coral-reef regeneration and mangrove restoration. Other projects include protecting endangered marine turtles and cultivating marine algae to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere to reduce the impact of climate change. We have also set up community outreach and education programs to share knowledge with students and children, so they grow up understanding the importance and value of the oceans too.

Gathering data

Behind Aramco’s environmental work lies a valuable resource that we are keen to share with the world: Scientific data. To protect any marine environment, you have first to find out what is there, and we have been monitoring the waters in parts of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf region for decades, frequently visiting the same reefs.

Our scientists and experts have been collecting valuable information regarding wave height, currents, dissolved oxygen, water temperature, clarity, salinity and the concentration of chlorophyll, the pigment that provides energy for photosynthesis. Aramco wants to help the global scientific community by giving free access to this data to support other environmental projects, and we are already partnering with several international organizations, such as the C4IR Ocean and its Ocean Data Platform, to further this aim.

Regenerating coral reefs

In terms of our projects, we have supported the regeneration of endangered coral reefs. Around the world, these precious and fragile ecosystems — which provide a habitat for hundreds of marine species while also forming a natural barrier against coastal erosion —have become degraded. This damage has multiple causes, including coastal and offshore development, illegal fishing practices, pollution, and the rise in sea temperatures caused by climate change.

Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, Aramco took action through a series of initiatives in the Arabian Gulf, Florida, Hawaii, American Samoa, and the Caribbean. In the Arabian Gulf, for example, most coral communities are in the vicinity of offshore islands, and we realized one of the factors preventing damaged reefs from regenerating was a lack of hard ground on which the coral could reform. We, therefore, designed and built a series of strong and stable artificial reef structures on the seabed, which the coral could then recolonize, providing a new habitat for a wide variety of marine organisms. Our scientists closely monitor these regenerated reefs, which have been a great success: fish are thriving and the variety of marine life has increased, while the reefs are more resilient.

Seeding mangroves

A second area in which Aramco is playing a prominent role is the planting of millions of mangrove trees in coastal regions. Restoring degraded mangrove forests in this way has great benefits for both biodiversity and carbon capture, through which trees and plants extract and store CO2 from the atmosphere. Research shows that mangrove trees are about five times more effective at sequestering CO2 than terrestrial rainforest trees, making them an effective nature-based solution for combatting climate change. We know these projects are having a significant impact and, building on this success, Aramco aims to plant more mangrove trees in Saudi Arabia and around the world, in partnership with global leaders, through projects in South East Asia, Australasia, South America, the Caribbean, East Africa, and South Asia. It is a truly global undertaking.

Commitment to environment

Aramco also recently developed a new corporate biodiversity protection policy, which requires that all new Aramco projects have a net positive impact on biodiversity and natural ecosystems. The great benefit of this approach is that the diversity of living things in any area in which Aramco is operating — whether terrestrial, coastal, or marine — is taken into consideration before any new project can begin. If a negative impact on biodiversity is identified, then it must be avoided, mitigated, or offset as a last resort. This environmental approach is now mandatory across all our projects and operations.

The company’s first environmental protection policy was introduced as long ago as 1964 and we recently published a book documenting The Ecosystem and Biodiversity of the Arabian Gulf, summarizing 50 years of scientific research between Aramco and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Our recently published Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf provides a baseline of marine ecosystems and their locations. Both books illustrate the beauty and biodiversity of the Arabian Gulf’s marine ecosystems, their sensitivities and vulnerabilities. Our environmental partners include global organizations, regional working groups and local universities, such as KFUPM and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Our commitment to the world’s oceans is clear: We intend to protect and support them with care, investment and expertise; always working to ensure that Aramco operations don’t adversely impact the marine environment, and enhancing it wherever we can.


  • *Dr Khaled Asfahani is head of Marine Environment Protection at Aramco & Dr Loughland is an environment consultant at Aramco.

Russia reiterates its offer to boost EU gas supplies

 Russia reiterates its offer to boost EU gas supplies
Updated 16 October 2021

Russia reiterates its offer to boost EU gas supplies

 Russia reiterates its offer to boost EU gas supplies

MOSCOW: Russian gas consumption is running at a record high but Moscow is still ready to increase supplies to Europe should it receive such requests, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Saturday.

European spot gas prices have surged by 800 percent this year as demand has recovered after the coronavirus pandemic. Prices eased earlier this month after Russia, Europe’s key gas supplier, said it could deliver more, but these supplies have yet to materialize.

“I want to underline that we in Russia have record high gas consumption figures this year, which is also due to active economic recovery,” Novak said in an interview with the Rossiya 1 TV channel broadcast, according to Russian news agencies.

Russia, whose gas production and exports to EU are already near record highs, has said it needs to finish filling its own gas storage reserves before it increases supplies to Europe’s spot market. It plans to complete this by the end of October.

Novak did not say how large Russia’s gas reserves were but estimated that European underground facilities were short of around 25 billion cubic meters of gas.

He insisted high domestic demand would not stop Russia offering more supplies to Europe if it received such requests.

China’s central bank says Evergrande risks ‘controllable’

China’s central bank says Evergrande risks ‘controllable’
Updated 16 October 2021

China’s central bank says Evergrande risks ‘controllable’

China’s central bank says Evergrande risks ‘controllable’

BEIJING: China's central bank said on Friday that financial risks from China Evergrande Group’s debt problems are “controllable” and unlikely to spill over, amid growing investor concerns that the crisis could ripple through other developers.
Evergrande is the world's most indebted developer, with over $300 billion in liabilities. The company missed a third round of interest payments on its offshore bonds this week, spooking investors globally and sparking concern that other companies in the sector may also default on payments.
“Of the total liabilities of Evergrande Group, financial liabilities are less than one-third. Creditors are also relatively dispersed, and individual financial institutions have little risk exposure,” People’s Bank of China official Zou Lan said at a news briefing on Friday.
“Overall, the risk of the spillover to the financial industry is controllable,” he added.
Evergrande came under pressure after Chinese authorities ordered property developers to reduce their debt levels. The authorities are trying to direct the industry toward a more sustainable pace of development after many years of stimulus-fueled growth.

PIF to use oil platforms to attract tourists through ‘THE RIG.’ project

PIF to use oil platforms to attract tourists through ‘THE RIG.’ project
Updated 56 min 18 sec ago

PIF to use oil platforms to attract tourists through ‘THE RIG.’ project

PIF to use oil platforms to attract tourists through ‘THE RIG.’ project

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund on Saturday launched “THE RIG.”, first-of-its-kind tourism destination inspired by offshore oil platforms.

Located in the Arabian Gulf, the project will span a combined area of more than 150,000 square meters, said a statement issued by the sovereign wealth fund.

“THE RIG.” will feature a number of touristic attractions, including three hotels, world-class restaurants, helipads, and a range of adventurous activities, including extreme sports, the PIF said.

The PIF said to ensure sustainable preservation of the environment, the project will follow global standards and best practices in line with the Kingdom’s efforts to ensure preservation of environment.

The project is in line with PIF’s strategy 2021-2025 to modernize Saudi Arabia’s tourism and entertainment sectors and introduce innovative ideas to boost the number of local, regional and international tourists in the Kingdom.

El Salvador explores bitcoin mining powered by volcanoes

 El Salvador explores bitcoin mining powered by volcanoes
Updated 16 October 2021

El Salvador explores bitcoin mining powered by volcanoes

 El Salvador explores bitcoin mining powered by volcanoes
  • Geothermal power accounts for about a quarter of the country’s total energy mix

BERLIN, EL SALVADOR: At a geothermal power plant near El Salvador’s Tecapa volcano, 300 computers whir inside a trailer as they make complex mathematical calculations day and night verifying transactions for the cryptocurrency bitcoin.
The pilot project has inspired a rash of volcano emojis from President Nayib Bukele, who made bitcoin legal tender in September, and promises of cheap, renewable energy for so-called bitcoin “mining.” Bukele and others say El Salvador’s geothermal resources — generating electricity from high-pressure steam produced by the volcano’s subterranean heat — could be a solution. But the picture in the tiny Central American country is more complicated.
“We don’t spend resources that contaminate the environment, we don’t depend on oil, we don’t depend on natural gas, on any resource that isn’t renewable,” Daniel Alvarez, president of the Rio Lempa Hydroelectric Executive Commission, which oversees the plant, said during a tour on Friday.
Cheap power and a supportive government are the two critical factors for attracting bitcoin mining operations, said Brandon Arvanaghi, a bitcoin mining consultant.
Two years ago, China provided about three-quarters of all the electricity used for crypto mining, with operations flocking to take advantage of its cheap hydroelectric power. But the government began restricting mining and in September declared all transactions involving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies illegal.
That has led to a scramble to set up mining operations in other countries.
It would appear to be fortuitous for Bukele, who shocked the nation and many around the world with his announcement last summer that bitcoin would become legal tender beside the US dollar in El Salvador. The president sold the plan in part as a way for Salvadorans living overseas — mostly in the US — to send money home to their families more cheaply. It also made him a darling of the bitcoin world.
Bitcoin mining in El Salvador would appear to have a supportive government in Bukele, but cheap electricity is so far just a promise.
El Salvador imports about one-fifth to one-quarter of its electricity. The rest of production is divided among hydroelectric, geothermal and plants fired by fossil fuels.
Geothermal accounts for about a quarter of the country’s energy. El Salvador has 23 volcanoes.
“When you add these renewable sources like these vast abundant areas, a ton of renewable sources and a friendly regime it can be very attractive and El Salvador may very well fit that model,” Arvanaghi said.
Right now, El Salvador’s electricity is not considered particularly cheap.
The website GlobalPetrolPrices.com, which publishes retail energy prices around the world, puts electric costs to households and businesses in El Salvador well above the global average.
Arvanaghi said that bitcoin mining incentivizes the expansion of renewable energy production by providing high demand for cheap power and that miners have shown themselves to be willing to pause a portion of their machines at times when there is less power available from the grid.
Bukele’s promise of cheap power for bitcoin mining then would have to involve a subsidy, at least until renewable capacity expanded and rates declined.