Amazon's self-driving race car


I had to check it wasn't April 1 today, but this is entirely serious: Amazon introduced a 1/18th scale radio-controlled self-driving race car yesterday, designed to be a part of a new service called "DeepRacer." There's even a league to go along with it, aptly named the "DeepRacer League" — but how did we get here?

This week is Amazon's yearly cloud event, AWS re:Invent, where the company unveils a slew of services designed for every possible thing you can imagine. There was AWS Ground Station for satellite operators, but there's many more including a blockchain-as-a-service platform, a new file server option for Windows users and a custom Amazon machine learning chip called Inferentia.

The toy race cars were just one of many announcements that got lost in the noise, but they're genuinely one of the cooler things I've seen as a way to drive adoption for machine learning. Those self-driving race cars will be available for order by anyone soon, and the idea is that they can be used to help developers learn about machine learning in the real world.

On top of the physical cars, there's a 3D racing simulator, so developers can train virtual cars before driving their real ones around, and when they get good enough, the AWS DeepRacer League will allow them to pit their own machine learning models against others on physical tracks around the world.

There aren't many opportunities to apply machine learning like this onto physical objects today, and while this idea seemed ludicrous to me on the surface — Amazon is making remote controlled toys — it's a genius way to make the entire field more approachable for new people.

If you want one, they'll start shipping in 2019 for a cool $249 on pre-order... on no other than

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