Tesla updates Model S and Model X options, makes premium features standard and increases base price

While all the focus is currently on the Model 3, Tesla updated the Model S and Model X design studio by making the ‘Premium Upgrades Package’ standard on the non-performance versions of both vehicles.

The result is the base prices of the Model S and Model X have now increased, but both vehicles are getting the more premium features for less money.

The ‘Premium Upgrades Package’ used to be a $5,000 ($6,000 for Model X) package that includes features like the HEPA air filter with the ‘Bioweapon Defense Mode’ and a premium audio system specifically tuned for a Tesla featuring 11 speakers with neodymium magnets and 8″ subwoofer.

It also includes sub-zero features like heated seats for all passengers, heated steering wheels, and more.

The package was standard for the performance versions of the Model S and Model X, but now Tesla has also included it in the Model S and Model X 75D and 100D – making the package standard for all vehicles.

At the same time, Tesla increased the price of the vehicles by $2,500 for the Model S, which now start at $77,000 (Model S 75D), and $3,500 for Model X, which now starts at $83,000 (Model X 75D).

By absorbing the features into all models, Tesla made them less expensive by $2,500 as it streamlined the ordering process and production, but the base price is now more expensive and it is distancing itself more from the less expensive Model 3.

Over the last year, Tesla has made several similar changes to the Model S and Model X options and pricing to more clearly differentiate its more premium flagship vehicles versus the mid-luxury Model 3.

Electrek’s Take

The impact of this move is pretty simple. For those ordering the Model S and Model X who didn’t want those features, it’s bad because it just unnecessarily increased the price of your purchase.

As for buyers who would want those features, it’s actually good news because they are now less expensive as a standard package.

Even though some feared that Model 3 would cannibalize the base version of the Model S, the standard version of the larger sedan is now arguably the best value it has ever been at $77,000 since Tesla made a ton of features standard including the Premium Upgrades Package today, but also air suspension, dual motor, etc.


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IBM came up with a watermark for neural networks

IBM came up with a watermark for neural networks
  • The creation and development of a robust neural network is a labor-intensive and time consuming endeavor. That’s why a team of IBM researchers recently developed a way for AI developers to protect their intellectual property.

    Much like digital watermarking, it embeds information into a network than can then be triggered for identification purposes. If you’ve spent hundreds of hours developing and training AI models, and someone decides to exploit your hard work, IBM’s new technique will allow you to prove that the models are yours.

    IBM’s method involves embedding specific information within deep learning models and then detecting them by feeding the neural network an image that triggers an abnormal response. This allows the researchers to extract the watermark, thus proving the model’s ownership.

    According to a blog post from IBM, the watermark technique was designed so that a clever bad actor couldn’t just open up the code and delete the watermark:

    … the embedded watermarks in DNN models are robust and resilient to different counter-watermark mechanisms, such as fine-tuning, parameter pruning, and model inversion attacks.

    Interestingly, the watermark doesn’t add any code bloat, which is important because neural networks can be incredibly resource intensive. But according to Marc Ph. Stoecklin, Manager, Cognitive Cybersecurity Intelligence, IBM Research, and co-author of the project’s white paper, it’s not an issue.

    We asked Stoecklin if the watermarks could affect neural network performance, he told TNW:

    No, not during the classification process. We observe a negligible overhead during training (training time needed); moreover, we also observed a negligible effect on the model accuracy (non-watermarked model: 78.6%, watermarked model: 78.41% accuracy on a given image recognition task set, using the CIFAR10 data).

    The project is still in the early stages, but IBM eventually plans to use the technique internally, with an eye towards commercialization as development continues.

CRISPR-based tool maps gene function in human cells

July 20, 2018 by Nicholas Weiler, University of California, San Francisco
CRISPR-based tool maps gene function in human cells
Credit: University of California, San Francisco

UC San Francisco scientists have used a high-throughput CRISPR-based technique to rapidly map the functions of nearly 500 genes in human cells, many of them never before studied in detail.

The research generated a vast amount of novel genetic data, including identifying new genes involved in cellular energy production and explaining a long-standing mystery about why some cholesterol drugs can be used to treat osteoporosis while related drugs have no such effect. But the most important takeaway, the  say, is the novel framework the study demonstrates for comprehensively mapping the function of genes within , which they hope to eventually extend to the whole human genome.

“We have a good understanding of the functions of about 1,000 to 2,000 critical human genes that – deservedly – have been very well studied,” said UCSF cancer biologist Luke Gilbert, Ph.D., one of the new study’s two senior authors. “But that’s less than 10 percent of the 25,000 genes in the human genome. Of the rest, perhaps half have been studied at least a little by someone, and the other half we know next to nothing about.”

“This is not surprising, because the experiments needed to test gene function are expensive and time consuming, so you need to prioritize the genes you think are probably the most important,” added Max Horlbeck, Ph.D., who recently completed his doctoral work in the lab of UCSF cell biologist Jonathan Weissman, Ph.D., the study’s second senior author. “But there are mysteries hiding in the rest of the genome that could lead to brand new treatments for a wide variety of diseases, and now we have a technique that can quickly and comprehensively map out how these unstudied genes fit into our broader understanding of biology.”

In their new study, published July 19, 2018, in Cell, Horlbeck and colleagues used a technique called genetic interaction mapping, which has been perfected in the past decade to build comprehensive understanding of gene functions in yeast, but had never before been successfully applied at a large scale to human cells.

The approach involves systematically shutting down pairs of genes in individual cells and measuring how the cells respond, which teaches researchers about the relationship between the two genes. In some cases, scientists observe that shutting down either gene in a pair does as much damage to the cell as shutting down both, which suggests that the two genes are part of the same functional system – much as removing two different components of a car’s steering system would have a similar effect on the car’s ability to turn. This kind of data lets researchers quickly identify genes of unknown function as parts of larger functional systems.

In contrast, researchers can also identify pairs of genes that have independent but synergistic functions, when shutting down both genes has a dramatically larger effect on cells than shutting down either gene on its own. If your car’s main brakes aren’t working, the problem is much worse if your emergency brake is out, too. The strategy of targeting such synergistic relationships – known as synthetic lethality – is a major priority of drug companies seeking to target diseases such as prostate cancer because it allows them to design powerful combination therapies that target multiple cellular pathways at once to gain a more dramatic effect.

Genetic Links to Energy Metabolism, DNA Repair and Osteoporosis

In the new study, Horlbeck and colleagues performed interaction mapping on 472 genes that previous experiments had linked to cellular growth and survival. To do this, they used a tool called CRISPR inhibition (CRISPRi), a version of the CRISPR gene-editing system that turns down the volume on a gene’s activity without editing the DNA itself, which was developed for use in mammalian cells by the Weissman lab in 2013 (also see the lab’s 2016 study decoding the functions of non-coding RNA molecules).

Here the researchers used CRISPRi to systematically inactivate pairs of genes in two different leukemia cell lines – one representing acute lymphoblastic leukemia and the other chronic myeloid leukemia – while measuring the effect on cell growth. The resulting map of 111,628 unique two-gene interactions allowed the researchers to cluster the 472 genes according to their relationships with one another, and to assign these clusters functional meanings, such as specific biological pathways or locations within the cell.

“While our previous work establishing the CRISPRi screening technology allowed us to simply identify which genes are important in a given context, such as cancer cell proliferation, this extends that to allow us to ask what is the function of each gene that makes it so important,” Weissman said.

The researchers showed that their new gene interaction maps captured 80 percent of known functional relationships between the genes being studied, but that the majority of strong interactions revealed by the new data were novel – not catalogued in standard databases of gene function. These included many gene pairs which were not known to interact directly but had been independently associated with the formation of protein complexes or with cellular processes such as energy production. Other novel gene interactions revealed genes involved in protein synthesis and DNA repair, two other key cellular functions that play a role in numerous diseases.

Cellular pathways regulating cholesterol metabolism, DNA damage repair

Among other findings, the researchers were surprised to note significant differences in mitochondrial energy production pathways between the two subtypes of leukemia they studied. “You would expect such essential gene pathways to be hard-wired – the same in skin cells or leukemia cells,” Gilbert said. “But discovering differences between these two cell lines suggests that you could come up with distinct ways to target  in these cancers therapeutically. That’s particularly exciting for T-cell , which doesn’t have a lot of great targeted drugs.”

Finally, the researchers discovered a novel synthetic lethal relationship between  regulating cholesterol metabolism and those regulating DNA damage repair. Specifically, the researchers noticed that when they inactivated a gene called FDPS, which is involved in producing cholesterol, cells became highly dependent on a DNA repair gene called HUS1 for their survival.

“Right away it didn’t make a whole lot of sense why interfering with cholesterol synthesis would make cells dependent on the DNA damage response,” Horlbeck said. “It made even less sense when we looked at another gene just a few steps away in the cholesterol synthesis pathway and found that it had no interaction with DNA repair genes at all.”

Further experiments suggested a possible solution to this puzzle – one that might also solve a long-standing pharmacological mystery. The FDPS gene is responsible for modifying a chemical called IPP on its way to producing cholesterol. When FDPS is suppressed, IPP builds up in the cell and – the researchers believe – causes damage to DNA that requires constant repair for the cell to survive.

Importantly, FDPS is the target of a class of anti-cholesterol drugs called bisphosphonates, which have the useful side effect of increasing bone density. This has made them one of the leading treatments for osteoporosis, which affects approximately 30 percent of postmenopausal women in the U.S. Why an anti-cholesterol drug should affect bone density has never been clear, and drug companies have tried and failed to produce similar therapeutic effects with other cholesterol drugs such as the blockbuster Lipitor.

The new data suggest why: bisphosphonates, but not other anti-cholesterol drugs, may trigger DNA damage via buildup of IPP in osteoclasts, the bone-destroying cells implicated in osteoporosis. By reducing the number of osteoclasts, the drug could help restore bone density in a way other anti-cholesterol drugs would not.

The researchers hope to soon increase the scale of their gene mapping experiments in human cells to focus on additional diseases such as lung cancer and prostate cancer and to focus on identifying genes responsible for drug response and drug resistance.

“Up until now science has produced a lot of data about specific mutations that drive human diseases, and we have a pretty good idea about which cells express what genes across human body, but we fundamentally don’t understand how  work together in human ,” Gilbert said. “With this new approach we are starting to build a portrait of how genetic interactions keep tissues healthy or to drive disease processes, but there is a whole lot more to learn.”

 Explore further: Mapping the genetic controllers in heart disease

More information: Max A. Horlbeck et al. Mapping the Genetic Landscape of Human Cells, Cell (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.06.010

These multicolor LED smart bulbs work with Alexa and only cost $13

Multicolor Smart LED Light Bulb

Multicolor Philips Hue bulbs are awesome but they’re just so expensive. Standard A19 multicolor bulbs from Philips Hue cost about $50. Fifty dollars! If you’re looking for a much less expensive option, check out the Maxcio WiFi Multicolored Smart Light Bulb. It supports app control like any other smart light bulb out there, and it also supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. All that for $13!

Here’s what you need to know from the product page:

  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Amazon Echo/Dot/Tap and Google Home for voice control: Turn on/off and turn the light red/green.(Alexa device sold separately). Support 802.11b/n/g 2.4GHz Wi-Fi only, not support 5.0GHz Wi-Fi. 【Tech support:】
  • Remote Group Control – – – Control your lights from anywhere with your tablet or smartphone using the free Smarttlife app. All light bulbs controlled in one App.
  • Multi colored & Scenes Mode – – – The brightness and color of light can be adjusted, various scene modes of light are available for party, date…Create a group, control more than one bulb at the same time!
  • Schedule & Sunrise – – – Schedule the light to turn on/off via the Smartlife App. Sync lights to sunrise, sunset, or pre-set times automatically.
  • Family Sharing – – – All the members in the family are available to share the access to all lights.


Reigning American Solar Challenge national champions, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team hopes to bring home its seventh consecutive win. But while works for college competitions, covering vehicles in solar panels isn’t the best way to roll around on sunshine.

IF YOU HAPPENED to be passing through central Idaho in what’s now the Snake River plain some 15,000 years ago, you might have spotted entire fields of lava, covering more than 600 square miles. And if you swung back through the area this past week, you might have spotted an equally alien phenomenon: a little yellow vehicle, 16 feet long, covered in solar panels, and rolling at a stately 30 mph past the long cooled land that’s now called the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.

For the University of Michigan student stuffed inside the Novum, the Craters of the Moon would have been just one more point of passing interest. The real focus would have been on the Sun overhead—the only source of fuel and the key to taking first place in the 2018 edition of the American Solar Challenge—a 1,700-mile race from Omaha, Nebraska to Bend, Oregon.

For nearly 30 years, races like the American and World Solar Challenge have been proving cars can use solar panels to generate all the power they need. In the sky and on the sea, other pioneers are making a similar point: With the right sort of engineering, the Sun’s rays are all you need to go from point A to B.

As the world’s automakers finally get serious about building electric cars, the question arises: What are the odds they’ll be able to generate their own electricity from solar panels built into the roof, body, and glass, without sacrificing creature comforts like air conditioning, legroom, and the ability to keep up with highway traffic?

The upshot is tantalizing. Cars would be freed not just from their reliance on planet-killing fossil fuels, but from the need for a charging infrastructure whose slow growth remains a major pain point. But the odds, if you must know, are slim. Researchers are working on making solar panels lighter, nicer looking, and more efficient. The next generation of solar materials will be applied like paint, turning a whole vehicle (or just about anything else) into a solar panel. But even such advances are unlikely to make enough power for the average driver’s commute—cars will always have small surface areas compared with their heavy-duty power needs. The good news is that there are other ways to integrate solar power and transportation to make driving greener.

State of Charge

The silicon-based solar cells you see on roofs of houses today are an elegant piece of engineering, the result of a century of experimentation and refinement. They have no moving parts, and silently, continuously, generate electricity whenever it’s light out. But they’re not very efficient, converting just 15 to 20 percent of the energy that falls on them.

That hasn’t stopped automakers from trying to integrate them into vehicles. Henrik Fisker built a solar roof into his ill-fated Karma electric-hybrid, an early rival to Tesla. The company bringing the design back as the Karma Revero has updated the solar setup, and says it can now make 200 watts of electricity per hour. Too bad modern EVs need battery packs with at least 60 kilowatt-hours. Give the Revero eight hours of sunshine, and it can make enough power to drive a mile and a half.

That’s why Toyota bills the optional solar roof on the plug-in Prius Prime as a way to top up the car’s battery. (It doesn’t offer the setup in the US, saying American buyers haven’t shown much interest.) And when WIRED crunched the numbers to see if an EV with more surface area—Tesla’s semi-truck—we found it would take at least 80 hours to fully top up the batteries.

Power Boost

So not much is gonna happen today or tomorrow. But let’s look at where solar’s going. The next step for the tech is multijunction (sometimes referred to as III-V) solar panels, usually based on gallium instead of silicon, which offer much better efficiency—as much as 45 percent more. That means fewer panels on a smaller surface area can do the work, but at a higher cost. “If you want to send a rover to Mars, this is totally what you use,” says Joseph Berry, senior research scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. They’re also great for satellites, where weight is a more important consideration than cost for designers.

Indeed, while the Mars Curiosity rover got an onboard nuclear generator, its predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity, pootled around Mars on solar power alone. That’s why Opportunity, which has driven 28 miles on the planet since arriving 15 years ago, is currently in hibernation. It’s waiting out a dust storm that has blotted out the Sun and left it unable to charge.

That works for NASA, but back on Earth, car buyers are a little more sensitive to price and prefer to be able to drive on cloudy days. They can look to researchers working on a solar solution that could be not only more efficient, but also cheap: perovskite solar cells, made from low-cost and easy to handle materials. After about a decade of development, the tech is still in the lab but has real potential.

“The notion with the perovskites is we do have a path to 30 percent, but at a much, much, lower price point,” says Berry, who specializes in their development. Perovskite materials can be applied as a liquid, and painted on to surfaces, with metallic ink printed electrodes. “We can print this stuff like you print a newspaper.”

That could provide a new way to coat an entire car with solar generating material. But making the materials stable is still a challenge, according to Berry, and there are plenty of practical questions as well. What happens when a car with an electrically charged surface crashes? Would customers buy a car if they couldn’t choose the paint job? Could manufacturers integrate their application into the factory process?

Maybe then the answer isn’t to put the power generation on the cars themselves, with their limited surface area and hearty power demands. Perovskite materials give researchers the opportunity to cover not just vehicles, but also the garage they sit in, the house that’s attached to, and just about anything else you can think of, like street lights and factory roofs. “We talk about the notion of photovoltaics everywhere,” says Berry.

How about those miles and miles of blacktop on which cars drive? Idaho-based Solar Roadways is among those hoping to put some of that area to work making electricity, using heavy-duty solar panels that could self-defrost and contain lights for road markings. China claims to have opened the world’s first solar road in Jinan, at 1.25 miles long. The complexities may outweigh the advantages. The scale of solar roadways would help with the business case, but engineers have yet to figure out how to replace failed panels without disrupting traffic, or how to easily dig up the roads for pipe work underneath, for example.

With the advent of perovskite solar cells, large generation plants at the grid scale, with panels on factory roofs or in the middle of the desert, will become cheaper to build and operate, making it easier to supply everyone with green (yellow?) power. That’s where the bulk of Berry’s work is focused, and he believes a step change is coming. “That’s certainly what wakes me up in the morning,” he says.

So even if you leave the solar car to crafty college kids trundling across the country, you can be driving on sunshine.

Bug-Sized Robot Competitors to Swarm DARPA’s ‘Robot Olympics

Robots that measure just a fraction of an inch in length could be used in search-and-rescue operations after national disasters, or to inspect hazardous environments.

Credit: DARPA

Picture the Olympic Games — except instead of human athletes, the competitors are all insect-sized robots.

That’s the scenario proposed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), representatives said in a statement. The group is seeking innovative designs for robots that measure just a fraction of an inch, and the tiny bots will compete against each other in a series of contests of strength, speed and agility — similar to those that try the limits of human achievement in the Olympics.

The robots would be developed for a new DARPA program called Short-Range Independent Microrobotic Platforms (SHRIMP). Under SHRIMP, the bug-sized bots will be tested for deploying in locations that are difficult for people to navigate, or are dangerous or inaccessible to humans, according to the statement. [Humanoid Robots to Flying Cars: 10 Coolest DARPA Projects]

SHRIMP will research and develop novel solutions for powering small robots, and will investigate new materials that could improve the robots’ performance without significantly increasing their size or heft. And to test how well the robots can perform, SHRIMP will put them through their paces in “an Olympic-style evaluation,” with performances demonstrating their maneuverability, dexterity and mobility, according to the statement.

One of the “sports” categories for the bots will test untethered actuator-power systems, showing how high and how far the robot can jump, how much weight they can lift, how far they can throw objects and how they perform in a tug of war.

The other category is for complete robot designs: The tiny bots will be evaluated on rock piling, climbing a vertical surface, navigating an obstacle course, and performing in a biathlon.

Robots competing in DARPA’s robo-lympics may be small, but their minuscule size will allow them to perform important tasks that are off-limits to larger robots. And discoveries    that make the tiny robots more powerful and agile could be applied to other areas where the use of robotics is currently constrained by their size or bulkiness — “from prosthetics to optical steering,” Ronald Polcawich, a DARPA program manager in the Microsystems Technology Office, said in the statement.

Robot proposals are due Sept. 26, and the testing period is estimated to kick off in March 2019, according to the project website.

Original article on Live Science.