Lowell Wood broke Edison's patent record and helped bring down the Soviet Union ... He adds that he’s not terribly good with the ordinary aspects of life—paying bills, say, or car washing. He’s too consumed with inventing solutions to the world’s problems. Ideas—really big ideas—keep bombarding his mind. “It’s like the rain forest,” he says. “Every afternoon, the rains come.” ... He’s an astrophysicist, a self-trained paleontologist and computer scientist, and, as of a few months ago, the most prolific inventor in U.S. history. ... “Lowell is the definition of a polymath,” Gates says. “It’s not just how much he knows, it’s the way his brain works. He gives himself the freedom to look at problems in a different way from everyone else. To me, that is the mark of a great inventor.” ... Wood attributes his ability to hop from subject to subject, making associations that sometimes lead to inventions, to reading—a lot. He subscribes to three dozen academic journals. “I have a terrible deficiency of willpower once I open an electronic table of contents for Physical Review Letters or the New England Journal of Medicine,” he says. “It’s just terribly difficult to pull myself away from them. There will be these three articles that I absolutely have to read before I can turn loose of this thing. If I don’t read them, I’m doomed. I’ll never come back to them because there will be the next day’s journals and the ones after that.” ... As part of his mental regimen, Wood refuses to make to-do lists, even for grocery shopping. If he forgets something at the store, he says, “I will kick myself vigorously.” He gives himself the same treatment at work. “If you make a mistake, you should not only not make that mistake again but also don’t make that class of mistake again,” he says. “That’s an exceedingly important concept to improve human performance at the individual scale.”
He says it’s a self-driving car that he had built in about a month. The claim seems absurd. But when I turn up that morning, in his garage there’s a white 2016 Acura ILX outfitted with a laser-based radar (lidar) system on the roof and a camera mounted near the rearview mirror. A tangle of electronics is attached to a wooden board where the glove compartment used to be, a joystick protrudes where you’d usually find a gearshift, and a 21.5-inch screen is attached to the center of the dash. “Tesla only has a 17-inch screen,” Hotz says. ... Hotz was the first person to hack Apple’s iPhone, allowing anyone—well, anyone with a soldering iron and some software smarts—to use the phone on networks other than AT&T’s. He later became the first person to run through a gantlet of hard-core defense systems in the Sony PlayStation 3 and crack that open, too. ... The technology he’s building represents an end run on much more expensive systems being designed by Google, Uber, the major automakers, and, if persistent rumors and numerous news reports are true, Apple. More short term, he thinks he can challenge Mobileye, the Israeli company that supplies Tesla Motors, BMW, Ford Motor, General Motors, and others with their current driver-assist technology. ... Hotz plans to best the Mobileye technology with off-the-shelf electronics. He’s building a kit consisting of six cameras—similar to the $13 ones found in smartphones—that would be placed around the car. ... The goal is to sell the camera and software package for $1,000 a pop either to automakers or, if need be, directly to consumers who would buy customized vehicles at a showroom run by Hotz. ... There are two breakthroughs that make Hotz’s system possible. The first comes from the rise in computing power since the days of the Grand Challenge. He uses graphics chips that normally power video game consoles to process images pulled in by the car’s camera and speedy Intel chips to run his AI calculations. ... The second advance is deep learning, an AI technology that has taken off over the past few years. It allows researchers to assign a task to computers and then sit back as the machines in essence teach themselves how to accomplish and finally master the job. ... Instead of the hundreds of thousands of lines of code found in other self-driving vehicles, Hotz’s software is based on about 2,000 lines.
- Also: BuzzFeed - Google's Cute Cars And The Ugly End Of Driving < 5min
- Also: MIT Technology Review - A Car That Knows What the Driver Will Do Next < 5min
- Also: The Atlantic - How Many Lives Will Driverless Cars Save? < 5min
- Also: Bloomberg - Can Detroit Beat Google to the Self-Driving Car? 5-15min
- Also: Marginal Revolution - Three counterintuitive scenarios for driverless vehicles < 5min
- Also: The New York Times - The Dream Life of Driverless Cars 5-15min
- Also: The Verge - Inside Faraday Future, the secretive car company chasing Tesla 5-15min
- Also: The Atlantic - The High-Stakes Race to Rid the World of Human Drivers 5-15min
- Also: Wall Street Journal - Could Self-Driving Cars Spell the End of Ownership? < 5min
Seven years in, however, Stripe’s mission is less to send more books, vacuums, and grooming kits into the world than to “increase the GDP of the internet,” Patrick says. To do this, the company is beginning to move beyond payments by writing software that helps companies retool the way they incorporate, pay workers, and detect fraud. It’s part of an ambitious bid to revamp how online business has been conducted for 20 years and to give anyone with a bright idea a chance to compete. ... With Stripe, all a startup had to do was add seven lines of code to its site to handle payments: What once took weeks was now a cut-and-paste job. Silicon Valley coders spread word of this elegant new architecture. ... Although startups appreciated what Stripe was doing, most potential investors did not. How was a small group of young engineers going to alter the internet’s financial structure? Hadn’t they heard of PayPal?