#372 July 28, 2014 – Smart Cars Aren’t so Smart

This week’s headline story: Smart Cars Aren’t so Smart

google-carGoogle made headline news a few weeks back when it began piloting its driverless car. Google’s video showing the cute little smiling car with no driver’s seat or stearing wheel toting elderly and other driving-challenged people around an empty parking made it seem as though driverless cars are ready for market. But, some experts warn that it may be decades before we see autonomous cars driving city streets. While driverless cars can navigate known static environments, when it comes to unpredictable situations, they fall far short of human capabilities, and urban streets are full of unpredictable situations. “Obviously, the world doesn’t stay the same,” says Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car project, “You need to be able to deal with things like temporary construction, and so we’ve been putting a lot of effort into understanding the semantic meaning of the world.”

Academic experts say Google is taking on some of the hardest problems in artificial intelligence and robotics, essentially trying to replicate the ability of humans to effortlessly make sense of their environment. That’s because driving safely relies on much more than just knowing to avoid big objects, such as people or other cars, or being able to recognize symbols such as a stop sign. Humans make use of myriad “social cues” while on the road, such as establishing eye contact or making inferences about how a driver will behave based on the car’s make and model, says Alberto Broggi, a researcher at Italy’s Universita di Parma.Several AI researchers say they wouldn’t be surprised if self-driving cars were, for many decades, limited to specific, well-controlled settings, such as construction sites and campus-like environments with low speed limits and minimal traffic.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • Cellphone unlocking bill clears U.S. House, heads to Obama [Reuters]

    The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation on Friday to give mobile-phone users the right to ‘unlock’ their devices and use them on competitors’ wireless networks, something that is now technically illegal. The legislation cleared the Senate last week. President Barack Obama said in a statement that he looked forward to signing the bill into law.

  • Worldwide web of challenges as U.S. cedes Internet oversight [Washington Times]

    The Obama administration is preparing to cede a key oversight role for the Internet and domain names to the global Internet community. The planned end of ICANN’s contract with the Department of Commerce, which has caused a stir in the tech, business and political worlds, has given way to new worries about the Web infrastructure. Technology officials say the next challenge for the Web will be to ensure accountability and preserve the Internet’s openness as a global communications and commerce network.

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Google May Give YouTube a Sibling [Ecommerce Times]

    YouTube will soon have a video sibling in the Google family. The Internet giant has inked a deal to acquire Twitch, a service that specializes in streaming live video gameplay and sports events, for $1 Billion.

and finally…

  • Could “Force Illusions” Help Wearables Catch On? [MIT TechReview]

    Haptics – the vibrations used in smartphones and other smart devices may soon be able to relay more information than just alerts. Japanese researchers have made haptic interfaces that create the sensation of being pushed or pulled by an invisible force. The “force display” devices, exploit the fact that a vibrating object is perceived as either pulling or pushing when held. The effect could be applied in navigation and gaming applications, and it suggests possibilities in mobile and wearable technology as well.

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