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Autopilot mode in cars really isn’t as auto as everyone thinks #crash

(TECH NEWS) Another day, another car crash where a human thought it was a good idea to let an autopilot computer have the reigns.

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tesla autopilot

Uhhh, Jake from State Farm

Oops, crashed the new car. Don’t tell dad. Oh wait, I have a better plan. Let’s blame it on autopilot.

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Yesterday a driver posted a dash cam video of his Tesla Model S crashing into a barrier while in autopilot mode. Since the driver was unharmed, he was able to post the video and pictures for the whole internet to scrutinize.

No flex zone

Theoretically, autopilot shouldn’t let your car smash against anything. However, the video shows the car was in a construction zone.

Since Tesla’s autopilot system updated to rely more on radar sensors than cameras, the car was unable to recognize the barrier.

It tried to drive where the road normally would have been, but construction got in the way.

9 months left, @Elon

Clearly this is a problem, but maybe a construction zone isn’t the best place to rely on a car to drive itself?

Also, I don’t know if I can point out enough that autopilot and autonomous are not synonymous.

Not yet, at least. CEO Elon Musk said by 2017 Tesla will create a car that can travel from LA to New York “without the need for a single touch.” Oh look at that, it’s 2017 already. I’m excited for the lawsuits to roll in.

Same song, different day

This isn’t the first time Tesla has popped up in the news for an autopilot mishap.

Last year, Consumer Watchdog pushed for Tesla to be clearer about language used to describe autopilot features.

After a driver in China thought it meant self-driving and subsequently smashed up their vehicle, Tesla removed all wording surrounding “autopilot” from their Chinese marketing.

Just a big misunderstanding

However, as Tesla keeps saying, people are just misunderstanding the current capabilities of the cars. This probably doesn’t have anything to do with their semi-misleading videos and vocabulary suggesting higher levels of automation than are currently available.

Tesla suggests drivers keep both hands on the wheel in case anything pops up that needs their attention.

In other words, oh my god you’re still driving a car please pay attention.

Not a synonym for autonomous

Different levels of autonomy exist for cars, and autopilot is not very high up on that list. Tesla’s innovation may be amazing, but in the hands of doofuses who don’t read all the safety instructions, more advanced autopilot features could be disastrous.

Since robots haven’t completely taken over yet, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, even if you have on autopilot.Click To Tweet

Or in the case of Tesla, especially if you have autopilot.

#PleasePilotYourVehicle

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Tech News

HEY needs to fix its issues to be the Gmail killer it claims to be

(TECH NEWS) You would hope that HEY, the paid email service, would launch without issues but it has a few. Let’s hope some of that money goes to fixing them.

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Hey email

Last week, we covered HEY–a new email service that seemingly has a lot to offer–and while we largely praised the service despite it being a paid client awash in a sea of free email options, not everyone is fully on board with HEY’s inimitable charm–at least, not yet.

Adam Silver, an interaction designer focused on user experience, had some criticisms of HEY–many of which he identified as “pretty surprising oversights.” Though Silver does mention that his overall opinion of the service is good, these oversights are the focus of his review.

“HEY isn’t very accessible,” says Silver in his notes. His assessment, while self-admittedly not a holistic view, includes issues related to JavaScript (specifically when it isn’t enabled, which is something more and more companies are requiring) and lack of reasonable keyboard shortcuts for anyone using a screen reader. As Silver points out, these are fairly simple–and, thus, surprising–problems that probably should have been caught from the onset.

“All of these things are really easy to fix,” amends Silver.

Another issue Silver highlights is the inbox (imbox?) sorting. As we mentioned previously, there are three locations for email: the imbox, the feed, and the paper trail, each of which serves a different purpose. The problem with this system is that organizing emails by only three overarching categories affords little flexibility; furthermore, Silver notes that the menu for accessing each folder leaves a lot to be desired from a design standpoint.

The feed is also the subject of Silver’s criticism in that it doesn’t function enough like a traditional inbox to the point that it is actually difficult to use. Especially given the feed’s purpose–to store newsletters and such in a free-scrolling manner–this is a hold-up for sure; coupled with the feed’s lack of notifications, you can see how this problem cripples the user experience without active attention to the ancillary feed inbox.

Lastly, Silver mentions that the name “imbox” is, well, stupid. “This is not a typo but it’s not good,” he says. “You need a really good reason not to keep things simple.”

This is actually a point that we initially glossed over in our overview, but it’s another instance of a company doing a little too much to stand out–and, in doing so, potentially disrupting the user experience. “Keeping it simple” by calling the delivery place for your email the “inbox” won’t sink your brand, and the name “imbox” is sure to, at best, annoy.

It’s important to reaffirm that HEY’s driving principle–accessible email that prioritizes your privacy and charges you a relatively nominal fee for doing so–is good, and that’s the tough part of any app’s development; should they choose to follow Silver’s lowkey advice and make a few tweaks, they’ll have a winning product.

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Tech News

Live captioning via AI is now available for Zoom, if a little limited

(TECH NEWS) In order to be more inclusive, and improve the share of information with your team, live captioning is a great option for your next Zoom call.

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Zoom live captioning

The ubiquitous all-father Zoom continues to prompt innovation–and in a time during which most companies are still using some form of remote communication, who can blame them? It’s only fitting that someone would come along and try to flesh out Zoom’s accessibility features at some point, which is exactly what Zoom Live Captioning sets out to accomplish.

Zoom Live Captioning is a Zoom add-on service that promises, for a flat fee, to caption up to 80 hours per month of users’ meetings via an easy-to-implement plugin. The allure is clear: a virtual communication environment that is more time-efficient, more accessible, and more flexible for a variety of usage contexts.

Unfortunately, what’s less clear is how Zoom Live Captioning proposes to achieve this goal.

The live-captioning service boasts, among other things, “limited lag” and “the most accurate [speech-to-text AI] in the world”–a service that, despite its sensational description, is still only available in English. Furthermore, anyone who has experienced auto-captioning on YouTube videos–courtesy of one of the largest technology initiatives in the world–knows that, even with crystal-clear audio, caption accuracy is questionable at best.

Try applying that level of moving-target captioning to your last Zoom call, and you’ll see what the overarching problem here is.

Even if your Zoom call has virtually no latency, everyone speaks clearly and enunciates perfectly, your entire team speaks conversational English at a proficient degree across the board, and no one ever interrupts or experiences microphone feedback, it seems reasonable to expect that captions would still be finicky. Especially if you’re deaf or hard of hearing–a selling point Zoom Live Captioning drives home–this is a problematic flaw in a good idea.

Now, it’s completely fair to postulate that any subtitles are better than no subtitles at all. If that’s the decision you’d like to make for your team, Zoom Live Captioning starts at $20 per person per month; larger teams are encouraged to contact the company to discuss more reasonable rates if they want to incorporate live captioning across an enterprise.

Nothing would be better for speech-to-text innovation than being wrong about Zoom Live Captioning’s potential for inaccuracy, but for now, it’s safe to be a little skeptical.

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Tech News

Practicum: Boot camp and career coaching that won’t break your bank

(TECH NEWS) Practicum is a fully supportive remote boot camp to bridge tech workforce needs and job seekers. If you need a new career, this program is for you.

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Practicum classes

Back in 2018, there was rapid growth in emerging technologies and the job market was evolving. Yandex, a Russian multinational corporation specializing in Internet-related products and services (most known for their search engine) conducted internal research to find out what kind of professionals the market needed. The company then launched Practicum in response to the research findings to fill the skill gaps in the workforce.

Today there are similar shifts as more traditional jobs disappear either temporarily or indefinitely in response to COVID-19 and all things 2020. Meanwhile, the tech sector is still having trouble finding skilled professionals to fill vacancies. The ed-tech sector is evolving to meet the moment and Practicum by Yandex hopes to be a strong example of how to bridge the workforce and demand.

According to Anton Eremin, Head of Product at Practicum by Yandex, this program promises students 24/7 support from tutors, code reviewers, and peers, the soft skills that will get them hired, and the chance to create up to 15 real-life projects. The program is a fully supportive remote tech boot camp designed to help students prepare for, and land a job in a high-demand area of tech via a 20-hour intro course with practice-oriented learning on an interactive platform.

Students work in teams to improve soft skills, and get career coaching through the job hunting process. A career acceleration track is included in the price of the program, and teaches CV writing, portfolio design, and industry networking. The cost of the programs ranges from $600 to $1000 with free intro courses available before buying.

Practicum utilizes a fully remote team, and approximately 50% of the learning process is conducted on their interactive platform. Tutors have at minimum 3 years of experience in the field, work as full-time developers, and receive training in how to help students learn more efficiently. Students can choose from three tracks: Web Developer, Data Analyst, or Data Scientist.

A design track is reportedly being launched next month as well. There are no admission interviews, and the programs take from 6-10 months to completion. Though this is not the only online ed-tech program addressing these skills, according to Ermin what really sets them apart is the affordability, support, and a model that combines the best of an interactive simulator and boot camp; culminating building real-life projects.

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