Pittsburgh, and first ride in a self driving car!

This week I visited Pittsburgh, PA to attend the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) career fair.  This was my 3rd or 4th time to this career fair.  These fairs are a great way to find amazing interns and fresh grads.  I’ve had great luck w/ CMU students, which is why I keep coming back!

I went with a few coworkers and we stayed in an Airbnb that had a pretty awesome view overlooking the city.

The buildings in Pittsburgh are very strange.  Everything looks rundown from the outside, and the siding on many houses is a strange mishmash of clapboard, brick, tile, and other materials.  Also, the houses are extremely close together:

We attended the fair all day Monday and Tuesday, which was pretty exhausting.  There was a line of students behind everyone in the booth, all day long.  The basic system is to meet as many students as possible at the fair and then pick the top ones to interview on campus on Wednesday.

We met w/ probably hundreds of kids and ended up interviewing around 20-30 on Wednesday.  From there we are planning on making offers to about 5-10 of the top ones.

We met some great candidates and I’d say overall the trip was a success!

At the end of the day on Wednesday we were heading out and grabbed an Uber.  Uber has been testing self driving cars in Pittsburgh for about a year now, and recently they have opened them up to anyone.  In the app you can’t select a self driving one, you just have to get lucky.

The trip started by our vehicle flying past us, so far not so good.  We grabbed a pic before the trip:

Inside the vehicle there are two displays, one in the front and one in the back.  There were two drivers in front, there to help out if the car got into a jam and couldn’t drive on its own.

In the back seat there was a display that showed a live shot of the lidar data and object recognition.

Currently the pickup and drop off process is done by the human driver.  Once they get going they put it into autonomous mode.

Overall the self driving mode was very cautious, probably too cautious, which resulted in a jerky ride.  If there was any pedestrian or bicycle traffic nearby it was hit the brakes pretty hard.

There were several intersections where the car went out of self driving mode.  I’d say less than half of our 20 min drive was autonomous.  My guess is they are several years away from being completely driverless, but it is inevitable that the tech challenges will be overcome.

Definitely a highlight and great way to end the trip.  Can’t wait to see these things all over.

 

 

Cape Canaveral, Florida Trip 2017

This week the whole family went down to Cape Canaveral, Florida to watch Michele’s rocket launch up into space.  Lots more info on the satellite that she worked on can be found here.

Michele headed down on Tuesday with all 3 boys.  I headed down on Thursday night so I could get some more days of work in.  Everyone headed back on Monday.  In addition, Michele’s dad and wife spent the weekend with us.  Less than a year ago they moved down to Florida, so it was good for everyone to catch up!

We spent Friday hanging out at the hotel pool.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn at Cape Canaveral.  The hotel had awesome amenities (arcade, indoor playground, pools, lazy river, water slide, etc.), but the room kinda sucked.  All five of us aren’t used to being crammed into a couple hundred square feet for a week!

Here’s some pics of the hotel pools:

After dinner, we then went to a gathering of people that worked on the mission.  They had presentations from various military personnel.  Eli was fascinated by these presentations.  The event was held in this very cool building that looked like a wave and was overlooking the launchpad.

The original launch time was scheduled for 11pm.  After the 9pm presentations we found out that the weather wasn’t cooperating and the launch was delayed until 2am!  This was definitely a concern w/ the 3 boys.  We ended up going back to the hotel room and hanging out until about 1:30am.

We then headed out to the beach and watched the rocket launch off from a pier.  It was so cool!  Overall I was super impressed by how well behaved the kids were!

On Saturday we slept in late.  We then spent more time at the pool.  In the evening Michele and I got to spend some alone time and go hang out with some of her coworkers, then went out to dinner.

On Sunday, we pretty much spent the entire day at Kennedy Space Center.  This place is like Disney for geeks.  We got to see an entire Saturn V rocket, visit launch pads, touch moon rocks, see the space shuttle Atlantis, meet an Astronaut, and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Some pics from the space museum:

On Monday we all headed back home!  Overall it was a great family trip.

 

Cabo, Mexico Trip

This past weekend I had my company (ClearMotion) work retreat in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  Each year we take the whole company (and spouses) on a getaway to an exotic location.  The purpose of the trip is twofold, one is as a reward/benefit to employees, and the other is team building.

Cabo is at the tip of Baja California, on the pacific coast in Mexico.  See below.  This was my first trip to Mexico and I was pretty excited!

My flight left @ 6am on Thursday, which meant I had to get up at 3am.  The flights themselves were uneventful.  I am happy to say that the Bose headphone purchase was totally worth it.  These things totally cancel out the engine noise on the plane, it’s almost eerily quiet and took some getting used to.  Also, the battery life is phenomenal.

Our plane landed around 1pm Cabo time (3pm EST).  Entering Mexico was a snap.  We got to deboard the plane via the rear, which was a first for me.  I love how the warmer climate airports have you exit the plane right onto the tarmac.

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CES 2017 – Trip Report!

I was super fortunate to be able to attend CES 2017 in Las Vegas this last weekend!  For those that have been hiding under a rock, CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is probably the largest tradeshow in the world, with close to 200,000 people gathering in Las Vegas for all things tech.

Most of my focus on the trip was around checking out the various automotive OEM’s and suppliers and meeting with various partners and vendors.

Overall the size of the automotive presence and, in particular, self driving cars and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) technologies, was staggering.  I walked around for 2 days and didn’t even get a chance to see all the vendors, never mind experience the various demos (e.g. taking a ride in various self driving cars, etc.).  Overall I probably got to experience about 25% of the show.

The signs are all very clear at the convention, self driving cars are actually here, it’s not hype.  Well, the tech is here, we’ll see about the regulatory and consumer acceptance side of things over the coming years.  The impact to the economy will be undoubtedly huge, as massive amounts of jobs are displaced (all taxi, uber, and truck drivers gone to start).  Those industries will become more efficient (24×7 trucking, no need for drivers to sleep, for example).

Consumers will shift to viewing driving as a service (already happening now with Uber in urban areas) and car ownership will become less prevalent, which will result in poorer auto sales.  Our time will be freed up from driving during our commute, which will no doubt be replaced by doing more work, checking emails, etc.  I’ve always found that the promise of more leisure time from increased advances in technologies never materializes, only to be quickly filled in by more work.

Regardless of what the future holds, damn the tech at CES is off the charts!  I got to see the brand new EV from Faraday Future (brand new OEM in California).  This vehicle is tricked out with everything including facial recognition and machine learning, full self driving tech, and a 60 degree reclining seat so you can relax while your car is driving you to your destination.  Check out their website at the link above for the complete specs.

Another company that really impressed me was HERE, a mapping company that is setup to be the mapping database for self driving cars.  Image processing, including object recognition, have come a long way and are now being productized by various suppliers.

Here are some pics of the show: