India Railways Debuts First Solar Train

India Railways is embracing new technology to help them save money and the environment. They recently debuted a train powered by solar panels fitted along its roof. It is the first train of its kind in India.

The solar panels will be used to power all of the train’s electrical needs. That includes the lighting, cooling system, and informational displays inside the passenger compartments of the train. It also features a battery bank to ensure there will be enough power even on cloudy days and during the nighttime.

This is part of a series of steps that India Railways is taking to become more environmentally friendly. Other methods they are using include water recycling, bio-toilets, and wind energy. They plan to continue increasing their use of alternative energy sources in order to cut back on the large amount of diesel typically used by their trains.

The locomotive that pulls the solar train will still be using diesel as its power source, but the other applications normally powered by diesel will instead be powered using the solar panels. The solar powered train is expected to save approximately 21,000 liters of diesel. That will amount to financial savings of ₹12 lakh each year.

That is still only a drop in the bucket for a company that uses around 2.6 billion liters of diesel in a year, but the reduction in diesel will increase as they continue to add more trains to their solar lineup. India Railways plans to generate 1,000 megawatts of solar power by 2020.

Apple Wants its Machine Learning Research Reaching Masses and Launches a Publishing Site

Apple recently launched a publishing site for its machine learning research to bring its findings on machine learning to the masses. As of now, the Apple Machine Learning Journal has only one paper published, but more posts are expected in the coming weeks. The move by the electronic giant is considered as a new step, as the firm was tight-lipped about its projects and researches until the date.

The blog and its initial post reveal some interesting facts. The reports confirm that the initial research paper was already published on arXiv, an online preprinting repository for publishing papers. It is also concluded that Apple is trying to attract the research talents through the blog as the initial post also contained a link to Apple jobs page at the bottom. Industry experts say that Apple is trying to grab the attention of machine learning through the initiative as most people think Google and Amazon are doing a better job in machine learning compared to the smartphone major.

The research paper published on the platform discusses the possibilities of improving the realism of various synthetic images. The blog discusses different methods applied to improve the accuracy on various machine learning tasks using the refined images. For illustrating the realism of images better, the blog added images, GIFs, and more. It also discusses a unique and inexpensive method developed by Apple to improve the realism of artificial images.

The paper says that the firm had to train its neural networks to identify the faces and other objects in various photos. The company made a collection of synthetic images to train the neural networks instead of going for any image data base of real images. Interestingly, the tech giant applied its unique method to make them more real and claims that the technique offers faster and cheaper option to train the neural network.

India Tests Solar-Powered Trains

Solar energy is being utilized in all sorts of innovative ways, but Indian Railways seems to be the first train service to try installing solar panels on their coach cars. To be clear, the trains themselves will still be pulled by the traditional diesel engines, but the railroad hopes that installing the solar panels will cut costs and help make their trains more energy efficient.

The first solar-powered coaches are already in use, with sixteen solar panels installed on the roof of each car. The power generated by the panels runs the coaches’ lights, fans and display monitors and six solar-powered coaches can save the railroad about 21,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.

Indian Railways did have to overcome some challenges to get the coaches into operation. Space had to be carved out of the passenger area in order to hold the batteries which store the power in event of darkness or bad weather. The panels themselves are also expensive, although the railroad expects the installation costs to be recovered in a bit over 18 months.

The real question is the reliability of the solar panels. Unlike panels that are installed on a traditional house or office space, these panels will be subjected to vibrations, weather and road hazards. It’s not clear how the panels will hold up to the stress, which is why Indian Railways is describing this idea as a “test” until they have some time to judge the durability of the installed panels.

Still, it’s an idea with a lot of potential and the minister of the railroad recently described solar-powered coaches as a “path-breaking leap” towards making its cars more green.

Are Robots Soon To Acquire An Ethical Infusion?

Robots are going to play a big part in people’s lives. The image of robots, as presented in classic science-fiction films, may be a massive fantasy dramatization but the integration of task-performing robots into people’s lives won’t be a pure fantasy for much longer. Researchers and developers realize robots can be utilized as mechanical helpers capable of making life easier. Robots may be programmed to perform certain tasks, but developers and designers cannot guarantee robots can perform their duties perfectly and without error.

Researchers want to install “ethical black boxes” in robots. This way, the robots can report facts associated with their decision making when an accident occurs. Doing so comes with more than a mere explanation about what went wrong. The information can assist with reprogramming a robot to prevent mistakes from happening again. Error reports could be uploaded to the manufacturer. The information might be used to improve future models of robots.

Robots cannot think for themselves nor can they make moral decisions. Robots are machines. They can only do what they are programmed to do. Their abilities are limited to their physical capabilities and programming-based artificial intelligence.

This does not mean, however, steps must be done to reduce the potential failures robots may cause. Again, robots cannot act in a perfect way. The main trait they may share with humans is imperfection. Reducing imperfections in robots also could reduce their potential to cause harm due to malfunctions and other issues.

Instilling actual moral ethics may be impossible. Improving performance likely is not.