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Uber unleashed their autonomous cars with dangerous flaws

(TECH NEWS) Uber’s unauthorized auto-driving vehicles have some serious flaws. Cyclists might enjoy living, so this is a huge problem.

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Safety not-quite-first

For Uber, it’s an issue of principle. For the people of San Francisco, it’s an issue of safety. Uber recently launched their autonomous vehicles in the city and found quite a dangerous flaw in their system.

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Share the road

The cars have been crossing bike lanes at the last minute to make a right turn, which is a major collision causing violation. Though Uber moved forward without the permission of the state, they felt it was a necessary step to take to test out their self-driving vehicles.

However, not everyone shares their enthusiasm to get this underway.

After the first day, locals caught the autonomous Uber cars breaking at least four out of the top five causes of collision.

These include: running through red lights and stop signs, unsafe turns, and failing to yield to pedestrians. The last one is a major issue as these cars roll out in densely populated areas like San Francisco.

“Reckless disregard for safety”

“The fact that they know there’s a dangerous flaw in the technology and persisted […] shows reckless disregard for safety,” shares Chris Cassidy of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

A spokeswoman from Uber assures the public that Uber engineers are working to fix the problem, but the generalized statement doesn’t quite quell the fears of bicyclists and pedestrians. Plus, Uber broke the rules once, so will they do it again?

Part of our future

Self-driving cars have been a hot button issue in the news lately, from this Uber launch to the debate over Tesla’s “autopilot” feature. Whether you support them are not, it looks like autonomous vehicles will be a part of our future.

However, the only way to expand this booming technology is for the private and public sectors to work together, and test them out in the real world.

Though leaving the driving to your car seems dangerous, self-driving cars are predicted to be a safer alternative to people driving. It is estimated that 93 percent of accidents are caused by human error. Even so, “driverless” cars all include a feature where the driver can take over in case of an emergency. In addition, autonomous cars can improve other issues, such as reduced road rage and traffic congestion.

Taking responsibility

However just like in the case of Uber, many issues need to be resolved before we can fully enjoy the benefits of autonomous vehicles.

Along with the obvious danger to bicyclists, a collaborative effort from both state and federal governments need to work with these companies to set standards. Without everyone on board, no progress will be made. This also includes resolving liability issues between drivers, car companies, and insurance agencies. With any accidents that do occur, someone will need to take responsibility.

Whether you are behind the self-driving bandwagon or not, I think everyone can agree that safety is key. Self-driving cars are in our future, it’s just a question of how long it takes us to get there.

#SelfDrivingSafety

Natalie is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and co-founded an Austin creative magazine called Almost Real Things. When she is not writing, she spends her time making art, teaching painting classes and confusing people. In addition to pursuing a writing career, Natalie plans on getting her MFA to become a Professor of Fine Art.

Tech News

Uber has secretly set up tip limits for drivers #classy

(TECH NEWS) Uber has had a shaky year, but their latest move proves that perhaps a new leader doesn’t mean a new culture.

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After frequent requests from drivers, Uber finally added a tipping option to their ride-sharing app this June. But, after a few months to try it out, riders and drivers alike have been disappointed to discover that Uber puts an upper limit on how much a rider can tip.

Lyft has allowed riders to tip for almost five years, but Lyft too has a tipping maximum. In many cases, Lyft and Uber drivers aren’t aware that there’s a limit to tips until they have a generous customer who finds that they can’t tip as much as they’d like.

Initially, these apps were seen as a convenient, tip-free alternative to traditional cab services. However, because fares are calculated in mileage and not time, tips can be especially appreciated when rides take a long time but have low mileage, such as in dense traffic, or when the driver has to make multiple stops. And of course, tipping is always a great way to say thanks to a driver who goes the extra mile (no pun intended) to help out the rider or make the ride especially pleasant.

Unfortunately, some riders have found that they can’t tip as much as they’d like. Uber told CNET that they placed a maximum on tips to help avoid “fat fingers” typos, such as when a customer means to type $10, but accidentally types $100 instead – a problem that could seemingly be solved by adding a secondary confirmation before withdrawing the payment.

Uber limits tips to 200 percent of the cost of the ride, or $100. Lyft also limits to 200 percent of the fare, but also blocks tips above $50. Of course, riders can always tip in cash – but not having to carry cash was one of the perks of ride-sharing apps in the first place.

Generally, drivers for Lyft get more tips than Uber drivers. That’s because Lyft riders receive a prompt to tip upon reaching their destination, whereas Uber drivers have to reopen the app and rate the driver before tipping. Since few Uber riders take the time to rate their driver, even fewer ever make it to the tip screen.

Granted, an extra big tip is a rare and precious thing. But it shouldn’t be up to the company to cap tips if riders feel compelled. Says Denise, a Los Angeles Uber driver, “Generosity should be something that you have no limit on.”

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Tesla to build largest ‘virtual power grid’ on this round Earth

(TECH NEWS) Tesla teams up with Australia to create a virtual power grid, cutting energy costs and preventing blackouts.

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Tesla’s teaming up with Australia to provide an energy efficient solution to blackouts and price surges in the Southern Australian state.

Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill announced a new partnership with Tesla that will provide solar panels and batteries to homes in the southern state. Since the area consistently struggles with adequately powering homes, Weatherill and Tesla hope to create a “virtual” power grid to stabilize electricity infrastructure.

In the extreme wilderness area of South Australia, nearly half of all power comes from wind farms. Last September, issues with wind farms caused a statewide blackout. Sure, tornadoes were to blame too, but backup generators also failed, so the whole system collapsed.

To address this issue, a combination of solar panels and Tesla batteries will eventually be installed in 50,000 homes in the state. Any surplus energy generated by the home’s solar panels can contribute back to the larger grid.

Excess energy can be routed back to a centrally controlled grid to provide energy to the rest of the state as needed.

For the initial test, 1,100 public housing properties will receive the batteries and solar panels free of cost, using the sale of electricity to cover expenses. An additional 24,000 more public houses will get added to the program as well.

If the trial runs succeed, private homes will be included by 2019. Eventually, the plan is to have batteries and panels installed in 50,000 homes, creating a 250MW Virtual Power Plant.

Participating homes will have 5kW solar panels and Tesla Powerwall 2 13.5kWh batteries installed, providing a more reliable source of power, and potentially lowering power bills by thirty percent.

Installation is proposed to take four years, and according to Tesla, the virtual power plant will have as much capacity as a coal plant or large gas turbine.

Funding comes from a $2 million Australian ($1.6 million USD) grant, and a loan from the state’s Renewable Technology Funds for $30 million Australian ($23.8 million USD).

While the plan seems well-meaning, Austalian Prime Minister Malcomlm Turnbull called Weatherill’s previous strategies as “reckless” experiments, leading to excessive energy costs. Partnering with Tesla may give Weatherill some street cred for the upcoming South Australian election, proving he has a game plan for curbing energy costs.

According to the South Australian government, the virtual power plant could provide around twenty percent of the state’s daily average energy requirements. Tesla plans to review all properties to determine if the homes can support their systems and be able to participate.

If you happen to live in South Australia and are reading this, you can register to participate in the program. Registration doesn’t guarantee participation, but if initial interest exceeds original estimates, the government may consider extending the program.

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Tech News

Intel to launch smart glasses we might actually want to wear

(TECH NEWS) Smart glasses have launched and died, to be reborn as warehouse worker tools, but Intel’s giving it a shot, and this design might actually stick.

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Even though Google Glasses and Snap Spectacles totally bombed, tech companies keep trying to make smart glasses a thing.

Intel’s plans to make a go of it, betting on a sort of “less is more” design concept. Previous smart glasses were bulky, didn’t conform to the wearer’s head, and frankly, looked kind of dorky. People also found them invasive, awkward to interact with, and were especially creeped out by the notion that smart glasses wearers could be filming them or taking their picture without consent.

Intel’s smart glasses, called Vaunt, are much more stripped down – no camera, no buttons, no distracting messages or images floating in your vision. Says Itai Vonshak, head of products for Intel’s New Devices Group, “We wanted to make sure somebody puts this on and gets value without any of the negative impact of technology on their head. Everything from the ground up is designed to make the technology disappear.”

Vaunt glasses weight only 50 grams and look totally unassuming, like a regular pair of glasses. They work with prescription or non-prescription lenses. They use a very low-power laser to project messages directly into your eye. In order to get that right, you have to have the distance between your pupils measured so that Vaunt glasses are custom made to fit your eyes.

Intel wants their smart glasses to be helpful, but not invasive. Notification messages only appear if you look slightly down. Looking straight ahead, the messages disappear. Messages can also be scrolled through or dismissed with small nods of the head.

What exactly will Vaunt glasses be used for? Intel is taking a “if you build it they will come” attitude towards this question. They’ll have an early access program to encourage developers to come up with apps and uses for the smart glasses. Some ideas include driving directions, reminders, and recipes.

Will a set of simplified Vaunt smart glasses win over the same consumers that have rejected the bells-and-whistles versions of the past? That remains to be seen, but crazier things have happened.

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