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Ride share issues leaving SXSW goers immobile

(TECH NEWS) Price gouging and lack of availability has left SXSW goers up creek without a paddle – or ride.

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Feeling the void

Uber and Lyft left Austin in 2016 and during regular times of the year, the ride share apps native to Austin, can probably handle the demand with ease but during festivals, the apps are failing, and failing miserably.

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With SXSW in full swing and an influx of 72,000+ people (stats from 2016), the void created when Uber and Lyft departed is being felt.

Not so fast, Fasten

On Saturday March 11th, the first day of the festival, Fasten, the most widely used app crashed. The CEO, Kirill Evdakov, stated that the app was poised to be able to handle a 5x increase but that the app had seen a 12x increase and couldn’t keep up with demand.

Evdakov said in his statement on Facebook that “Hopefully ~1 hour of intermittent service issues (out of the 240 total hours of SXSW) won’t ruin your (and that of local riders and SXSW visitors) experience.

What’s being over shadowed by the crash (the subsequent crashes), are the massive price surges that are taking place.

Crashing our wallets

In images and tweets shared on facebook and twitter by pissed off users such as Amanda Coolong (@acoolong), a 7 minute/2 mile ride was estimated at between $10 and $12 dollars, but when booked jumped to between $43 and $51 dollars.

Another user Roeland Pater (@roelnd) showed his 8 minute ride estimate at between $70 ad $83 dollars.

Fortunately for Evdakov and Fasten, since the normal users of Austin have no real choice in the matter, as Uber and Lyft opted to leave the city, Fasten and a few lesser used apps will be sticking around.

Bad press

Unfortunately for Evdakov, in a post written by Richard Bagdonas, posted in Austin Tech Alliance, Bogdonas states:

“This was posted today from a friend who came to Austin from SFO. He has 29K followers on Twitter and 4k on FB. Moreover he is a writer.Fasten, the local, popular ride service that has replaced Uber and Lyft, has essentially gone to surge pricing and seems to be screwing drivers. My driver saw that I was being charged $14 for my $2 ride but it was 25 on PayPal that is 12x the usual rate, worse than Uber ever overcharged me.”

“We need to get mainstream ride sharing back.”

And this isn’t the only influential person to complain.

Pedicabs be petty

For those festival goers staying downtown or simply those too tired to walk, there have always been the option of pedicabs – which typically run off of tips.

Now all pedicab providers seem to be charging a fee plus optional tips but the fee schedule isn’t posted anywhere and it’s leaving users feeling swindled.

Benn Rosales, CEO of The Real Daily/The American Genius was taken THREE BLOCKS and the driver demanded $10 per person, and another longer ride said it would be $5 per person with tips optional). After googling all the pedicab services in Austin, not one website states a fee schedule.

Car2Go is a no-go

Car2Go, which has a fairly decent footprint in the city is seeing an uptake in sign-ups and use as an alternative to cabs and ride shares for it’s relatively low cost. Their 2 person, smart car version is $.41 a minute with a 23-minute trip costing $11.92 including the $1.08 driver protection fee.

The company, owned by Mercedes Benz also has the option of using a Mercedes Benz 4 and 5 seater CLA or GLA at just $.47 a minute.

Car2Go has been great for locals who want to drive downtown but not pay the fees to park, especially during SXSW when parking rates can get as high as $100.

Back to the basics

As a last resort, many people are going back to cabs.

With Austin holding a number of world acclaimed festivals each year, something needs to happen and it needs to happen fast.Click To Tweet

Either Fasten and it’s cohorts need to step up or the city council need to reevaluate the regulatory decisions that led to Uber and Lyft opting out.

#WeWantOptions

Pam Garner is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas, currently pursuing her master's degree in graphic and web design. Pam is a multi-disciplined creative who hopes to one day actually finish her book on all of her crazy adventures.

Tech News

Google chrome: The anti-cookie monster in 2022

(TECH NEWS) If you are tired of third party cookies trying to grab every bit of data about you, google has heard and responded with their new updates.

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3rd party cookies

Google has announced the end of third-party tracking cookies on its Chrome browser within the next two years in an effort to grant users better means of security and privacy. With third-party cookies having been relied upon by advertising and social media networks, this move will undoubtedly have ramifications on the digital ad sector.

Google’s announcement was made in a blog post by Chrome engineering director, Justin Schuh. This follows Google’s Privacy Sandbox launch back in August, an initiative meant to brainstorm ideas concerning behavioral advertising online without using third-party cookies.

Chrome is currently the most popular browser, comprising of 64% of the global browser market. Additionally, Google has staked out its role as the world’s largest online ad company with countless partners and intermediaries. This change and any others made by Google will affect this army of partnerships.

This comes in the wake of rising popularity for anti-tracking features on web browsers across the board. Safari and Firefox have both launched updates (Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari and the Enhanced Tracking Prevention for Firefox) with Microsoft having recently released the new Edge browser which automatically utilizes tracking prevention. These changes have rocked share prices for ad tech companies since last year.

The two-year grace period before Chrome goes cookie-less has given the ad and media industries time to absorb the shock and develop plans of action. The transition has soften the blow, demonstrating Google’s willingness to keep positive working relations with ad partnerships. Although users can look forward to better privacy protection and choice over how their data is used, Google has made it clear it’s trying to keep balance in the web ecosystems which will likely mean compromises for everyone involved.

Chrome’s SameSite cookie update will launch in February, requiring publishers and ad tech vendors to label third-party cookies that can be used elsewhere on the web.

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Tech News

Computer vision helps AI create a recipe from just a photo

(TECH NEWS) It’s so hard to find the right recipe for that beautiful meal you saw on tv or online. Well computer vision helps AI recreate it from a picture!

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computer vision recreates recipe

Ever seen at a photo of a delicious looking meal on Instagram and wondered how the heck to make that? Now there’s an AI for that, kind of.

Facebook’s AI research lab has been developing a system that can analyze a photo of food and then create a recipe. So, is Facebook trying to take on all the food bloggers of the world now too?

Well, not exactly, the AI is part of an ongoing effort to teach AI how to see and then understand the visual world. Food is just a fun and challenging training exercise. They have been referring to it as “inverse cooking.”

According to Facebook, “The “inverse cooking” system uses computer vision, technology that extracts information from digital images and videos to give computers a high level of understanding of the visual world,”

The concept of computer vision isn’t new. Computer vision is the guiding force behind mobile apps that can identify something just by snapping a picture. If you’ve ever taken a photo of your credit card on an app instead of typing out all the numbers, then you’ve seen computer vision in action.

Facebook researchers insist that this is no ordinary computer vision because their system uses two networks to arrive at the solution, therefore increasing accuracy. According to Facebook research scientist Michal Drozdzal, the system works by dividing the problem into two parts. A neutral network works to identify ingredients that are visible in the image, while the second network pulls a recipe from a kind of database.

These two networks have been the key to researcher’s success with more complicated dishes where you can’t necessarily see every ingredient. Of course, the tech team hasn’t stepped foot in the kitchen yet, so the jury is still out.

This sounds neat and all, but why should you care if the computer is learning how to cook?

Research projects like this one carry AI technology a long way. As the AI gets smarter and expands its limits, researchers are able to conceptualize new ways to put the technology to use in our everyday lives. For now, AI like this is saving you the trouble of typing out your entire credit card number, but someday it could analyze images on a much grander scale.

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Tech News

Xiaomi accidentally sent security video from one home to another

(TECH NEWS) Xiaomi finds out that while modern smart and security devices have helped us all, but there are still plenty of flaws and openings for security breeches.

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Xiaomi home device

The reason for setting up security cameras around your home is so the photos can get streamed to your neighbor’s device, right?

Okay, that’s obviously not why most (if any) of us get security cameras, but unfortunately, that scenario of the leaked images isn’t a hypothetical. Xiaomi cameras have been streaming photos to the wrong Google Home devices. This was first reported on Reddit, with user Dio-V posting a video of it happening on their device.

Xiaomi is a Chinese electronics company that has only recently started to gain traction in the U.S. markets. While their smartphones still remain abroad, two of Xiaomi’s security cameras are sold through mainstream companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon for as low as $40. Their affordable prices have made the products even more popular and Xiaomi’s presence has grown, both nationally and abroad.

To be fair, when the leaked photos surfaced, both Google and Xiaomi responded quickly. Google cut off access to Xiaomi devices until the problem was resolved to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Meanwhile, Xiaomi worked to identify and fix the issue, which was caused by a cache update, and has since been fixed.

But the incident still raises questions about smart security devices in the first place.

Any smart device is going to be inherently vulnerable due to the internet connection. Whether it’s hackers, governments, or the tech companies themselves, there are plenty of people who can fairly easily gain access to the very things that are supposed to keep your home secure.

Of course, unlike these risks, which involve people actively trying to access your data, this most recent incident with Xiaomi and Google shows that your intimate details might even be shared to strangers who aren’t even trying to break into your system. Unfortunately, bugs are inevitable when it comes to keeping technology up to date, so it’s fairly likely something like this could happen again in the future.

That’s right, your child’s room might be streamed to a total stranger by complete accident.

Granted, Xiaomi’s integration mistake only affected a fraction of their users and many risks are likely to decrease as time goes on. Still, as it stands now, your smart security devices might provide a facade of safety, but there are plenty of risks involved.

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