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Science has confirmed our greatest hope about autonomous vehicles

(TECH NEWS) New research confirms people’s greatest hope and desire for the use of autonomous automobiles.

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The bane of existence

There is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of commuters worldwide- a word so terrible, so vile, so incomprehensibly irritating that merely typing it makes my brow furrow and lips curl back into a vicious snarl. That word, my friends, is… traffic.

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A chill ran down my spine at the mere mention of it.

Let’s go!

But fear not, brothers and sisters! According to a research study led by Daniel B. Work, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, that foul beast that has terrorized commuters for, well, essentially as long as people have had to commute, may soon be stripped of much of its power. How, you ask? Have poorly designed roads begun to make sense? Have other drivers, aside from yourself, learned how to drive?

Alas, no. Instead, it will be fought tooth and nail by the (occasional) champion of justice known as Technology!

Remember those autonomous vehicles that seemingly every technology and automotive company seems to be working on? Well, according to Work, their “experiments show that with as few as 5 percent of vehicles being automated and carefully controlled, we can eliminate stop-and-go waves caused by human driving behavior.” The experiments, performed in Tucson, AZ, featured a single autonomous vehicle continuously circling a track while sharing the road with at least 20 other human-driven vehicles.

Interesting takeaways from the experiment?

According to Work and his research team, “human drivers naturally create stop-and-go traffic, even in the absence of bottlenecks, lane changes, merges or other disruptions”. Which I guess gives credence to the outraged epithets you may yell with your windows rolled up. This phenomenon even has a name, being called the “phantom traffic jam”. Work’s experiment was the first to be able to demonstrate, however, that a small percentage of autonomous vehicles (which in this case was one), can help to bust the nefarious “phantom.”

Not only would they help to eliminate waves of traffic, but they also could help to reduce fuel consumption by 40 percent.

The results of this experiment also seem to suggest that current automotive technology, such as adaptive cruise control, can also positively affect traffic conditions. This in turn suggests that the cruise control function is useful outside of road trips and extremely long drives. You learn something new every day!

Hypothetical until put into play

Though these results are very exciting, and bring with them hope for the relatively near future, it is important to note that the experiment was performed in a very controlled environment with only a small number of drivers. We will have to wait and see whether autonomous vehicles will have the same amount of success in terms of the chaos that is real-world driving. In the meantime, Work and his team suggest the next step in their research would be to study how the effects of autonomous vehicles in denser traffic, as well as with more freedoms granted to human drivers.

After all, this study did not even allow the human drivers to change lanes!

(Making the concept of a “phantom traffic jam” even more jarring. What could possibly cause a traffic jam if you can’t even change lanes?)

Let’s get autonomous cars goin

Still, as one from the San Francisco Bay Area, whose roads have been in traffic’s deadly stranglehold for quite some time, it is hard not to get overly excited about these results.

Plus, you know, they beat the alternatives. Robot apocalypse and all that.

#AutonomousAutomobiles

Andrew Clausen is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and when he's not deep diving into technology and business news for you, he is a poet, enjoys rock climbing, monster movies, and spending time with his notoriously naughty cat.

Tech News

Tinder creators launch Ripple, a professional networking app void of pros

(TECH NEWS) Ex-Tinder employees have come together, backed by Match.com, to create a swipe-based professional network, but we don’t plan on giving it a second date.

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In 2015, we discussed briefly the possibilities of taking the dating app’s and repurposing them for professional networking. What if finding professional connections was as easy as finding a date on Tinder? Tinder (executives) literally heard us because they have introduced a solution in their new mobile app called Ripple.

Not to be confused with Ripple the cryptocurrency, Ripple the app is a professional networking tool that literally feels like Tinder.

As it should, the former CTO, Director of Engineering, and Lead Designer of Tinder all make up the founders, along with Mike Presz from Match.com. People who make good dating platforms came together for a professional networking solution that they hope makes networking easier, more natural, and more modern. I took the liberty of signing up for a few days and experimented with the app and I have a few things to say about it…

The good?

Design. Design. Design. The app has a luxuriously simple UI, and is fabulously easy to use. If you even tried Tinder for six minutes, you’ll be able to use this app. The use of symbols, big images, and easy UI is great. The application navigates simply.

It’s fantastic. It’s minimal, it’s content oriented, the interest categories are so good (but they could be better – no interest in process improvements? Go learn about Six Sigma) LinkedIn should look it. The profile set up takes no time at all, about five minutes and you’re ready to go.

But that’s about it.

Everything that’s not good? Everything else.

This is probably because the app is new, but there is nothing going on for the US market. I saw a lot of European professionals and professional groups, but zero people in my area, a major US metropolitan area also called Dallas-Fort Worth. The lack of content and the lack of professionals means the app has nothing.

I can’t rate group experience or say I met the mentor of my professional dreams because no one is on it. Which leads me to ask: What’s next?

The branding, marketing, and advertising for this app are going to have to take off. This is a beautiful product, but the lack of content makes it a pretty dull use. I had to actively remind myself to use it, and I’m in a serial relationship with LinkedIn.

Basically, no second date for me with Ripple until they get… something to happen.

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The cutest part of CES was Sony’s AI robot doggo, Aibo

(TECH NEWS) The Consumer Electronics Show revealed the technologies that are dominating and will dominate the market, with Sony’s AI puppers stealing the show.

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One of the most endearing items to emerge from CES this year was Sony’s revamped robot dog, Aibo.

Aibo’s first unveiling in 1999 featured a blend of emergent Sony technology, such as their Memory Stick and companion operating system. By the time of its demise in 2006, the Aibo was equipped with a large vocabulary (it could speak 1,000 words) and could interact with an owner’s commands and motion. The computerized canine wasn’t limited to just the realm of their traditional counterparts, however – the 2006 model of the Aibo could take pictures from the eye-embedded camera system, play music, and write blogs.

Equipped with more personality and a better interactive capability with its environment, the 2018 Aibo looks more like a real dog as well.

Composed of 4,000 parts and OLED-screen eyes to more authentically mimic movements, Sony says it relies on sensor systems and embedded cameras akin to those in self-driving cars to provide as close to an authentic experience as they can. The cameras, located in nose and tail, allow the robot to learn its way around the house and to deliver it back to its charging station once the two-hour charge runs out.

Reviewers at CES noted that the updated version of the Aibo was very “puppy-likem” barking and scampering with unlimited energy.

The current model is also touch responsive on its head, back and under its chin, allowing the user to give “puppy love” in a way that mimics that of what real dogs like.

Perhaps proving that Aibo is capable of acting more and more like a real dog, the robot canine was unresponsive to commands from Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai on stage at its unveiling, prompting Hirai to return Aibo to Sony staff quickly.

Slated to go on sale in Japan later this year, the dog isn’t cheap, priced at nearly $1,800, but does find itself selling into a dedicated Aibo fanbase from its earlier issue and a consumer market which is hungrier and more accepting for interactive experiences of this type of poo-free pet ownership.

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Lyft offers test rides in their autonomous cars – how’d it go?

(TECH NEWS) Lyft let passengers roll around Vegas in their self-driving cars, and surprisingly, no shocking viral videos resulted.

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If you haven’t been paying attention to the progress of self-driving cars, you’re in for a shock – they’re closer to a daily reality than you might think. As part of this year’s CES conference, Lyft offered test rides in a handful of their autonomous cars, and the results were reportedly decent.

Unlike other companies’ public tests in the past, Lyft’s demonstrations consisted of normal passengers taking normal routes in Las Vegas; there was little in the way of preemptive route control, meaning that the tests were as authentic as possible. Passengers were able to board autonomous Lyfts from the Las Vegas convention center, with some testers traveling well over three miles with minimal operator interference.

The cars themselves are designed by Aptiv, which is a technology company heretofore unaffiliated with Lyft.

While both companies are aware of the potential for flaws and the need to iron them out before production begins en masse, test riders reported that the cars were able to anticipate and respond to a myriad of traffic conditions (for example, slowing down to allow a faster vehicle to merge); this bodes well for the 2020 goal that many autonomous car companies have set.

Naturally, there were a few kinks in the cars’ respective operations, including yellow light confusion and some other finessing issues, wherein the cars’ human operators had to intervene.

The technology behind self-driving cars is only part of the equation, however. As autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, cities will have to adapt to accommodate them.

This process will most likely include things like redefining road architecture, legislation regarding car use (at the moment, autonomous cars must always have a driver in them), and implementation of smart technology.

There’s also the matter of public perception. While most of the reports from the Lyft demo in Las Vegas were positive, the fact remains that plenty of people will be skeptical of new technology – as well they should be, since any emerging technology is bound to make a few bad headlines before it evens out.

How Lyft counters this perception will be key in determining the future of its autonomous fleet, and perhaps even the future of autonomous cars as a whole.

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