Lyft boots up self-driving car program to take on Uber, Tesla… and everyone

HAL on a budget?

In the past, if you wanted to get into A-I research and neural network computing, it only took a truckload of cash, enough computer horsepower to run NASA and a few of those three-letter degrees. You know, to get started. But today? It takes a regular PC, $80 and a little USB stick computer. Because that’s just how technology rolls.

The Movidius Neural Compute Stick is actually an upgrade to a similar device that cost more and did less, of course. Intel scooped up Movidius last year, so this little AI tool is pretty much what would you would expect after just such a handshake. Performance parameters include 4gb of ram, 100 gigaflops of processing power, and it allows host devices – bigger PCs – to process deep neural networks natively, according to Movidius.

HAL, gimmie a Lyft

Self-driving cars seem to be so close to happening, we’re already trying to figure out what shows to watch while the robot does the driving. And now, Uber competitor Lyft is getting into the game with their own self-driving tech program. And not surprisingly, their efforts will be run out of a Palo Alto facility.

The New York times says Lyft will employ “several hundred” engineers to get the program up to speed as it were. Lyft’s CTO said the company will collaborate with other self-driving tech efforts, the most notable being Google/Alphabet’s leading-edge Waymo division, which had been connected to Uber before they had a serious legal falling out. GM and Jaguar/Land Rover will also be in the mix.

The times says Lyft isn’t going to be making any of their own cars, although they had also previously stated they weren’t interested in a self-driving car program either. Hey, we get it, things change. Lyft says they have 700,000 drivers on the rolls, and if their efforts pay off, that number will likely shrink as our cars finally learn to drive us around, rather than the other way around.

What 3D cinema was made for

Happy Friday and we know it’s movie night for a lot of you, and we also know a lot of people will be in line for the latest visual spectacle from French sci-fi auteur Luc Besson. Yep, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets opens tonight, and even if there wasn’t a line of dialog in the whole movie, we’d probably still be in line just to soak in the visuals. But of course, there is dialog, and colorful aliens, and space ships, and alien planets, and apparently lots of explosions.

Valerian is based on a French comic series that dates back to the 1960s. Besson has said that he has wanted to make this movie for decades, but the tech wasn’t up to speed until Avatar came along. The story centers around a pair of super-spies that can traverse both time and space in their Millenium-Falcon-esque space ship, and indeed, you can’t miss some Star Wars similarities, which isn’t surprising since George Lucas is also a fan of the comics.

If there was ever a movie where you should spring to see it in IMAX 3D, this is probably a solid choice. Have a great weekend.

We’ve got more news on our Facebook page and YouTube channel, and be sure to tune in to this week’s DT podcasts: Close to the Metal (computers and such) on Tuesday, Trends with Benefits (general tech shenanigans)  on Thursdays, and Between the Streams (movie and TV topics) every Friday.

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