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Uber, Lyft, and Waymo: A story of rivalry, love and betrayal

(TECH NEWS) Uber, Lyft and Waymo are the three biggest names in automated vehicles right now. They are also in the most awesome love triangle of all time.

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Transportation love triangle

Coming soon to roads near you: an autonomous vehicle love triangle.

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Here’s the scene: Uber and Lyft are Shakespearian rivals, bitterly battling it out since basically day one. Now Lyft is teaming up with Waymo, the artist formerly known as “The Google self-driving car project” that Uber jilted by stealing thousands of documents.

A tumultuous past

Uber and Lyft have history rife with strife. Since 2013, Uber employees have ordered and cancelled over 5,000 rides with Lyft to decrease driver availability. Most of these requests came from known Uber recruiters, who essentially tried to poach drivers in instances where they didn’t ghost on the ride request.

When Lyft entered the New York Market, Uber continued to play the villain.

The company texted current Uber drivers falsely claiming they could not legally work for both companies simultaneously.

Now a former Lyft employee is filing a class action lawsuit against Uber, alleging that from 2014 to 2016, the company used software to track Lyft drivers and lure them over to Uber. The suit claims multiple counts of privacy invasion in which Uber identified and tracked Lyft drivers, as well as driver who worked for both companies.

Continuing its villainous streak, former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski was accused of stealing around 14,000 files before leaving to join Uber’s self-driving trucking startup, Otto in early 2016.

New drama

A judge recently ruled Uber Technologies is definitely responsible for this, and granted a partial injunction against the company.

So Uber isn’t super-duper grounded, but they must return all documents taken from the Waymo project.

The ruling states Uber can still work on its own autonomous car project so long as the documents are returned by May 31, and Levandowski is removed from any related work.

Swerve

In a new plot twist, Lyft and Waymo are now getting together. According to insiders, Waymo signed a deal with Lyft to collaborate autonomous vehicle projects. This pairing means Waymo is closer to moving its self-driving cars from the research stage to a commercial market.

So far, Waymo’s vehicles have accrued over three million miles of real-world testing in Arizona, California, Texas, and Washington state. Waymo has partnered with Fiat Chyrsler to establish a minivan fleet, and is in talks with integrating its technology into fleet of Honda test vehicles.

Although few details have been released so far about the Lyft pairing, the companies are already singing each other’s praise.

A Lyft spokesperson said in a statement, “Waymo holds today’s best self-driving technology, and collaborating with them will accelerate our shared vision of improving lives with the world’s best transportation.”

Likewise, Waymo commended Lyft saying, “Lyft’s vision and commitment to improving the way cities move will help Waymo’s self-driving technology reach more people, in more places.”

Funny how far mutual respect can get you.

Uber has not yet responded about the new couple, but infamous chief executive Travis Kalanick separately noted bringing autonomous cars to the commercial market is “existential” to the future of Uber.

As consumers, we just get to kick back and see if this new pairing will put Uber’s self-driving project on the fast track or if some new, exciting scandal will pop up. Stay tuned for further developments in the autonomous vehicle love triangle.

#autonomouslovetriangle

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

New stats behind mobile addiction and how people are coping

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Addiction to our screens is now accepted, and while younger generations are glued more tightly to them, many people are finding ways to fight back.

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I’d probably get this article done faster if I wasn’t checking my phone every couple of sentences. Even if I’m not expecting a message and know that everyone I was talking to is currently busy, it’s likely I’ll still neurotically check my phone every few minutes just in case.

Turns out I’m not alone in my mobile addiction.

A study from Deloitte of 2,000 U.S. internet users aged 18 to 75 found most people check their smartphone roughly 47 times a day.

Younger users nearly double this stat, checking their devices around 86 times a day, up from 82 times reported in the 2016 study.

The study also assessed which activities drove users to check their smartphones. Patterns of use compared to the previous year remain relatively unchanged except for self-reports of checking the phone while driving, which has fortunately decreased.

More than nine out of every ten respondents confess they use their phone while shopping or “spending leisure time.” Over eight out of ten reported checking on phones while watching TV, eating in a restaurant, and even while talking to family and friends.

When watching a show that’s longer than eleven minutes, I put my phone on the opposite side of the room if I want any hope of paying attention. I know if I keep my phone next to me, I’ll miss crucial chunks of episodes. This is a partial attempt to manage the addiction.

Likewise, around 47 percent of respondents said they’re trying to limit their usage, and are actively taking steps to reduce time spent on their phones. Some people report success by simply keeping their phones out of sight, turning it off during meals, or while spending time with friends.

A third of those surveyed turn off audio notifications, while around a quarter even went as far as putting some apps the chopping block. Another quarter could only part with their phones at bed time, turning their devices off at night.

Having a smartphone is fun (an addiction), but you don’t want to end up being that sad woman in the “Selfie” episode of High Maintenance only interacting with your phone.

Sometimes it can be much healthier to just put your phone away for a while. This can be a few hours of no phone time, or if you cans swing it, a few days of “business only” phone time.

Let people know if you’re going radio silent for a significant amount of time though, because otherwise your mom will think you’re dead if you stop responding to texts. Now please excuse me while I fail to follow my own advice and continue the technology loop of checking my Snaps, texts, and Instagram feed.

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Tech News

Turn your FAQ page into a chatbot without knowing how to code

(TECH NEWS) An easy way to add a chatbot to your site and automate some of your work is through this new simple tool that doesn’t require any tech know-how.

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Reduce your workload and personalize customer service engagement with Faqbot, the tool that turns your online FAQ into a customized chatbot.

Co-founded by Denny Wong and CEO Mathis André, Faqbot uses machine learning to streamline frequently asked questions into a handy chatbot pal.

Based on your existing FAQ content, Faqbot builds a database that learns from every conversation to improve responses. Faqbot can also be used to automate sales and lead generation.

You get to design the conversation flow, mapping out a custom path to guide users to a desired outcome. Set predefined choices or free text, customize the bot’s responses, and determine what leading questions the bot should ask.

For example, on the Faqbot site, I was given two pre-set choices to click after each response from the bot. Clicking “Thanks for helping” gets the polite response “You are welcome! ;-)” complete with an old-school emoji featuring a nose.

If you select “not my question,” Faqbot uses its general response to any unanswerable question: “Sorry, I’m a chatbot. I am constantly learning and have answers to frequently asked questions. Thank you for leaving your email and we will get back to you shortly.”

Choose your own responses based on already defined FAQ or come up with new messaging to better engage and inform your customers as needed. The free text option is also available if customers wish to continue asking questions.

Of course, I had to try out some less than frequently asked questions. When I asked Faqbot “are we friends?” it kindly replied, “Absolutely. You don’t have to ask.” So I’m smitten.

However, when I tried to take it to the next level by asking “Do you love me?,” which seems to be the internet’s favorite way to harass a bot, I got the “Sorry, I’m a chatbot” response.

That’s okay. I’ll recover. Faqbot isn’t here to love, it’s here to answer questions.

You can easily install the chatbot by either copy/pasting the snippet of codes directly into your webpage, or connect Faqbot to your company’s Facebook page. No coding skills required.

Pricing is based on number of users per month, but all levels include the same service offerings of FAQ database management, messaging interface, a ticketing system, and DIY guided conversation flow. You can try out Faqbot free for 7 days by signing up on their site.

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Ex-Facebook President, Sean Parker says they knew they were creating addictions

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Sean Parker, a long-time player in tech, says that Facebook was aware they were creating something addictive but “did it anyway.”

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Oh snap, there’s some Facebook drama going on, and like most Facebook drama, it’s a little awkward and over-exaggerated.

During an Axios event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Sean Parker, first president of Facebook, co-founder of Napster, Mother of Dragons, and now founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, lamented openly during a candid discussion about his role in creating the social media giant.

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them… was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'” said Parker, likening the cycle of posting and receiving likes and thus posting more to being given a “little dopamine hit.”

That’s right folks, Facebook was designed to be enjoyable and addictive.

While tycoons Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerberg remain large players in the current social media sphere, social media was already an addicting form of communication with old schoolers Friendster, Myspace, LiveJournal, and even Second Life. As mobile technology advances and marketing makes the tech seem less daunting and more fun, naturally, social media would begin to proliferate over time.

Arcade machines, pinball machines, theme park games, you name it; all were designed to be both fun and addicting.

But those things couldn’t really be carried around, because the tech wasn’t quite there yet. Now all of these things can be done from a phone, installed from the app store for free, to be used at any spare moment’s notice with sporadic pop-ups encouraging you to buy more in-game currency to keep playing.

Even better, Facebook gives us a platform to sick brag about our high scores and pester relatives to help out our digital farms.

During the discussion with Axios, Parker refers to his and his colleagues’ knowledge of media addiction and time consumption “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology” by creating a social feedback validation loop… something a hacker might come up with.

“[W]e understood this consciously,” Parker said, concluding with a harrowing, “And we did it anyway.”

Selfies have been around since I can remember getting the internet at 13. Filters had to be applied manually or via Photoshop, and there were more dirty bathroom mirror photos with a hot white flash in half the shots, but they were there.

This just happens to be an age of selfies. More people are getting into the tech. It’s getting better, cheaper, and more obtainable, so yeah, people are going to get more creative and more use out of it than they used to.

Though it’s not entirely clear that rabid selfie-sharing is Parker’s uneasiness, but what makes Facebook and other new social media platforms different than some of their predecessors is the automation of things through algorithms, the collection of data for targeting advertising, and privacy concerns.

So let’s not simply assume using Facebook and social media platforms will do weird things to our brains, rather let’s be smart about how we use them.

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