For self-driving-car developers, like many iPhone and Google Photos users, the growing cost of storing files on the cloud has become a nagging headache, resulting in a data diet.
From Ars Technica by Dave Paresh.
Early on, robocar companies pursued a brute-force approach to maximize miles and data. “We could take all the data the cars have seen over time, the hundreds of thousands of pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles, [and] take from that a model of how we expect them to move,” said Chris Urmson, an early leader of Google’s self-driving project, in a 2015 TED Talk.
Urmson spoke at a time when autonomous vehicle prototypes were relatively few and the handful of companies testing them could afford to keep almost every data point they scooped up from the road. But nearly a decade later, Google’s project and many others have fallen far behind their own predictions of the timeline for success. Growing fleets, fancier sensors, and tighter budgets are forcing companies working on robotaxi and robofreight services to get pickier about what stays on their servers.
The newfound restraint is a sign of maturity for an industry that has begun moving people and goods without drivers in a few cities when the weather’s good and streets are relatively clear, but is yet to generate profits. Figuring out which data to keep and which to discard could be key to expanding service to more locations as companies train their technology on the nuances of new areas.
“Having tons and tons more data is valuable to some extent,” says Andrew Chatham, who oversees the computing infrastructure at the Google driverless tech spinout Waymo. “But at some point, having more interesting data is important.” Rivals including Aurora, Cruise, Motional, and TuSimple are also keeping closer watch on their data stores.
The trend could spread at a time that driverless projects are facing pressure to control spending after years of losses. Companies ranging from General Motors, which owns robotaxi service Cruise, to Waymo-owner Alphabet are in the midst of wide-ranging cost-cutting this year—including mass layoffs—as sales in core businesses slow due to a shaky economy. Meanwhile, cheap and easy funding is drying up for autonomous vehicle startups.
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