Self-Driving Cars Are Here

Waymo, a spin-off company of Google, has announced today that they will be offering rides to the public in unmanned, self-driving cars. They’ve been testing this taxi service privately since mid-October, and are ready to take the project to the next level.

Whoa. Let that sink in.

Self-driving cars are, to a lot of people, in the “way-far future” of transportation, along  the lines of flying cars and a Siri that works well. But today, if you’re a part of Waymo’s Early Riders Program and live within 100 miles of Chandler, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix), then you can call a Waymo car instead of an Uber or Lyft, and your ride might not have a driver.

But what is a self-driving car, really? Well, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and SAE (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers), the two largest authorities of classifications on American roads, have nearly identical systems that break a self-driving car down into levels. Here’s their six-level scheme:

  1. Yes, zero first. This means absolutely no autonomy. A human must do all of the work. You might be thinking that this is what most cars have now, but most cars are actually beyond this.

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    The original Ford Model T; an iconic example of a car with zero autonomy.

  2. Level one is the most basic autonomy; a car can maintain its speed if you tell it to. Basically, a car with level one autonomy had cruise control. Your car is almost certainly equipped with this level-one autonomy. It’s industry standard at this point.

    1 honda accord

    This Honda Civic, like most cars on the road today, has level one autonomy.

  3. Level two autonomy is where things start to get interesting, because it’s the lowest level where the car must act without instruction from a human. This can be thought of as “advanced cruise control,” in that a car at level two isn’t really driving itself. It can, however, generally maintain speed while also being able to stay in a lane, slow down for traffic, and brake to avoid obstacles. The most popular brand of cars to have this is Tesla, which has all of its cars equipped with a system called Autopilot. Autopilot is a level two autonomy, and can drive itself on a highway or a road. But if you need to make a turn or change roads or lanes, then it’s on the driver to do so.

    2 tesla model s

    The Tesla Model S, along with all Tesla cars, has built-in level two autonomy.

  4. Level three autonomy is the next logical step up from level two; cars can generally follow a set of rules on a single road. It can do all of level two, but can also change lanes and pass cars, as well as give alerts for when its own sensors for tracking the world are questionable or failing. As of right now, there aren’t very many companies building or developing cars for level three. They’re all headed up to the next rung on the ladder.

    3 audi a7

    This prototype Audi A7 is one of the few cars with level three autonomy.

  5. Level four autonomy is what you’re probably imagining when you think of a “self-driving car” right now. This is a car that you can drop on the roads now, and will basically do everything. If you give it a destination, it will take you there. It can follow paths, track traffic, make turns and deal with complex intersections, and can basically do all of the other things that a human driver would normally do as it relates to driving. All of this has a caveat, though; it really only works in a restricted area, a “safe zone” for the car. It should be a reasonably flat area that’s seen a lot of data in information so that the computers in these cars can know what the area looks like and how to deal with obstacles. The Waymo cars that are being released in Arizona are of this level.

    4 waymo van

    Waymo will be using minivans equipped with sensors, like the one pictured above, Chandler, Arizona. This car has level four autonomy.

  6. This is the dream of the self-driving car. Waymo has a few of these in development, and various automotive makers have concept cars that fit the level five autonomy standard, but these kinds of cars on the road are still a hot minute away from invading our roads. These cars are distinct in one key way; no human backup. Every other level of autonomy still has the familiar controls of every car so that a human could, at any moment, take over the driving. Not level five cars (if you can even call them “cars” at that point). These vehicles have no input method other than entering your desired destination. There are no restrictions, no caveats. They just take you there.

    5 waymo car

    This Waymo car has no controls, and scarcely resembles a car. It has level five autonomy.

This all sounds great—and it is. Human error is the cause of almost every single accident that’s ever happened on the roads, and that would be gone. Studies show that if autonomous cars became the only cars on the road, that accidents could almost disappear, speed limits could increase or be lifted entirely, and traffic throughput could be improved by as much as 300%. This is a massive improvement for roads. While there are still lots of regulations and ethical debates to be had about whether or not self-driving cars are ready to replace cars, autonomous driving isn’t on the horizon  of the future anymore; it’s here to stay.

 

Read up on Google Waymo, and all autonomous driving news here:

WAYMO main site

WAYMO Early Rider FAQ

Waymo is first to put fully self-driving cars on US roads without a safety driver

Everyone Wants a Level 5 Self-Driving Car—Here’s What That Means

Wikipedia: Autonomous Car

 

 

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Made By Google

Google announced new products today at a press conference in San Francisco.  New phones, computers, cameras, and VR headsets are some of the hot items Google will be releasing.

Here are the products that were announced.

Google Home Mini and Google Home Max

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The tiny, and jumbo version of the Google Home speaker.  The mini is about the size of a donut, and will can easily blend in with its surroundings.  It does everything the same as the average size speaker.  Just smaller!  The Max is much bigger then the original Google Home.  It can stand vertical or horizontal!  Price for the mini is $49.  Price for the max is starting at $399.

Google Pixelbook

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Google’s latest laptop/tablet.  You can use it as a traditional laptop, or fold it into a tablet.  Also you can flip it over, and use it as a kickstand or base.   It has a thin sleek look, and the price will start of at $999.  For an extra $99 you can add the Pixelbook pen.  Who even uses styluses anymore?

Pixel 2

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Who ready for the new Google phone?  Here it is, the Pixel 2.  It comes in two sizes, is water resistant, has a fingerprint sensor, is the first phone to have Google Lens, but there is still no headphone jack!  Google had a hard time selling the original pixel phone, and will be interesting to see if Pixel 2 can make a turn around.

Daydream VR headset

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A follow up to the 2016 Daydream headset, this new set will have a wider view, and a few new colors.

Google Pixel Buds

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For your phone with no headphone jack, you can buy these bad boys for $159.  Cool idea, but way to expensive for my taste.  Just give us our headphone jack back!

Google Clips

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Google Clips is a tiny camera that clips on to almost anything.  Your clothes, a bike, a table, anything!  It takes pictures automatically.  This small little gadget will cost you $249.  Is this little camera really worth it for that kind of price?  I need to be more convinced.

Check out this video Google posted of all the highlights of the event today.

https://techcrunch.com/gallery/heres-everything-google-announced-today/

Breaking News Tends to Equal Fake News

In the wake of a disaster, many people are left reeling, confused, and desperate for answers. Yesterday’s tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas was no exception. Social media was riddled with false information, mostly because it is too soon for investigators to release information. This morning, Facebook’s “Safety Check” page included updates saying that the shooter was a “far left loon”, which was written by a far-right-wing blogger. It was the top post on Facebook for a time. The shooter was also misidentified as “Geary Danley”, and this was a top hit on Google.

The problem with these sites algorithms is that it doesn’t provide security against non-reputable news organizations spreading fake news. Fake news in a situation like a mass shooting can lead to widespread issues because people will be misinformed.

If the wrong name is released as the identity of the shooter, that person may be in danger. I remember right after Sandy Hook happened, the wrong name was released as the name of the shooter. Media outlets named Ryan Lanza as the shooter, but Adam Lanza was the actual shooter. People on Twitter looked up the name Ryan Lanza and found people with the same name, and harassed them on Twitter. The name Ryan Lanza was wrong the whole time. The problem with this is that these people simply had a case of having the wrong name at the wrong time. They did not commit a crime, but were being treated as criminals by fellow Twitter users. Fake news in the wake of a disaster needs to be carefully monitored by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. 

Google Brings “Hamilton” to the Classroom

 

Hamilton
Orpheum Theatre

Starting at 300 dollars and reaching the thousands, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Hamilton’ is a pricey ticket. Google’s more public-spirited company Google.org gave 5,000 high school students across the country a great opportunity to see Hamilton: An American Musical. This is all thanks to an $800,000 grant from Google in collaboration with Gilder- Lehrman Institute.

Of course Google wants to help children but the real reason why they are doing this is to make some money. “Google is hoping that its virtual reality Expeditions program can cause students to more easily identify with historical events by taking on different viewpoints.”

What I gather from this article is that Google paid for some student to go on a trip to see Hamilton and see how they learn before they launch their new virtual reality platform for learning. It seems like it will be great for bringing great experiences like seeing ‘Hamilton’ to the classroom. Bringing a virtual museum or special event to a school without having to take them on a field trip could be very beneficial and cost effective if that’s what Google and schools plan on doing.

Please read more at:

Google brings ‘Hamilton’ experiences to students in the theater and virtual reality

Google Search tackles Fake News

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‘Fake News’ has been some of the most popular buzz words to come out of politicians and media news outlets mouths as of late. First fact checking came to Facebook Inc. and now to Google. Although, this giant search engine usually has a hands off approach to policing its website, they have recently gotten pressure to follow suit.

In Google News, you will see an article that has been fact checked with a simple “fact check” label. I think this is one of the best things to happen to Journalism in a long time. Although writers and publishers should have been checking each others work from the beginning, this will bring a new integrity to news and hopefully restore some faith in some parts of the media.

Like all things, this preventative measure can only last for so long before some of the ‘fake news’ sites find away around these road blocks. I am also interested in how these algorithms, if that’s how they are policing the search results will be able to decipher between satirical websites who are trying to provide humor or exaggerate a particular story.

Either way, the idea of checking new stories should have always been prevalent. Now that these fact check labels are out there we can continue the discussion and perhaps be more skeptical of what we read.

For further information visit this site:

Google’s fact check feature goes global and comes to Google Search

 

Find your parked car with Google Maps.

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Google Maps is working on an app that will help you find your parked car. At one point in time this was a premise for an entire Seinfeld episode, to find their car in a parking garage. But now this problem can be solved in seconds. This technology will only be available for Android users at first but Apple Maps has a similar feature to be compatible for cars with Bluetooth,

In the app. After you parked your car you simply touch the little blue location dot and select the “save your parking” option. You are also able to make notes and/or take pictures about the surrounding location of the parking garage, neighborhood, street signs, etc. This feature can even keep track of how long you’ve been parked in the same spot to avoid your car being towed spot to avoid those pesky signs that make you switch sides of the street at certain times of the night or if you parking meter has expired. This feature requires you to always be logged in to the Google Maps app.

Google recently lets users share their location with others. The idea of sharing your location with others and the hacking going on these days, it could be a serious privacy issue. I think this app. is a great idea, especially due to the amount of time I lose my car in the St. John Fisher parking lot alone. Like all good ideas, there are always going to be people hesitant to want to try it. After time evolves and there are little to no issues regarding privacy breaches or negative consequences due to the app. we will see what the people have chosen.

Original article posted on: Mar 25, 2017

https://tinyurl.com/kmfwso2