The Uber Air flying car that will transport passengers of the future  

“Uber has promised to get its flying cars into the air over Dallas, Dubai, and Los Angeles by 2020.”

From Fortune:

For now, the concept vehicle is slated to have a cruising speed of between 150 miles per hour and 200 miles per hour, Uber said in a statement. It’ll also fly at between 1,000 and 2,000 feet and can last up to 60 miles before the electric vehicle’s battery needs to be recharged. It’ll take only five minutes to recharge the battery, Uber said. The flying cars will likely be refueled at the thousands of rooftop “skyports” Uber hopes to erect in cities across the U.S. Those skyports will be able to accommodate 200 liftoffs and landings each hour.

Uber has been working on a flying car concept for quite some time. The company believes that with drone technology advancing and urban transportation not the easiest for travelers to overcome, taking to the air is a reasonable solution.

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How self-driving cars are poised to move into the mainstream and upend the automotive industry  

“This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service.”

From Business Insider:

The self-driving car is no longer a futuristic fantasy. Consumers can already buy vehicles that, within a few years time, will get software updates enabling them to hit the road without the need for a driver.

This autonomous revolution will upend the automotive sector and disrupt huge swaths of the economy, while radically improving energy efficiency and changing the way people approach transport around the world.

Automakers and tech companies are racing to develop the technology that will power self-driving cars in the coming years. That tech is advancing, but leaves observers with a bigger question: will consumers trust driverless car tech, and will they want to use autonomous cars?

In a new report from Business Insider Intelligence, we analyze the self-driving car market, forecasting vehicle shipments and market penetration, profile the players expected to take on a prominent role in the autonomous future, examine the barriers to autonomous car development and adoption, review developments in technology, regulation, and consumer sentiment, before finally analyzing the impact the introduction of autonomy will have on various industries and transport trends.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

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Life in a bubble: How we can fight hunger, loneliness, and radiation on Mars  

It’s becoming increasingly clear that sooner or later humanity will have to migrate to other planets in the universe — or face extinction when Earth’s resources run out as they inevitably will.

And experiments are underway in preparation for that eventuality.

From Business Insider:

One by one, four men and four women wearing dark coveralls stepped up to a lectern to deliver their final remarks.

“I take my last breaths of this atmosphere, knowing that I will take breaths from a different atmosphere from all of you,” said Jane Poynter, one of the crew members.

Then they lined up in front of a velvet rope, waved to the cameras, and stepped through an airlock crafted from submarine bulkheads. The doors were sealed. It was September 26, 1991. The group wouldn’t leave until 1993.

The airtight facility they entered, called Biosphere 2, is dug into a hillside of the Sonoran Desert near Oracle, Arizona. It’s a geodesic cocoon made of 6,500 triangular glass panes, and it looks something like a cross between a brilliant jewel and a sprawling terrarium. Inside are acres of lush green plants, millions of cubic feet of air, and an undulating 675,000-gallon saltwater ocean.

Poynter was walking into the largest, longest-running space colony simulation ever built. It would not only pioneer a system to regenerate all the food, air, and water needed to survive on Mars but also test the crew’s physical and mental limits. Poynter would also face a daunting emotional trial with another crew member, Taber MacCallum: a relationship they’d hidden for years from public view.

“It was an incredibly audacious and, in so many ways, incredibly successful attempt at building a prototype space base,” Poynter, who now co-runs the high-altitude-balloon company World View, told me nearly 25 years after she emerged from the biosphere.

People no longer get sealed inside Biosphere 2. Today it’s a scientific research facility run by the University of Arizona. Yet the original mission of the biospherians has taken on new relevance as threatening changes to the Earth’s climate, and ultimately to humanity, take alarming shape.

The outlook has grown so gloomy that, in the eyes of some, the idea of colonizing Mars as a backup drive for the human race now seems appropriate, if not inevitable. Joining Stephen Hawking and others is billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk, whose grand ambitions have made talk of inhabiting the red planet using his aerospace company, SpaceX, part of casual conversation.

The ultimate goal of his entrepreneurial existence, Musk has said, is to build a permanent, self-sustaining city of 1 million people on Mars — complete with pizza joints — as a sort of insurance policy against all-out catastrophe on Earth.

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Another driver died in a Tesla that was on autopilot  

From Slate:

Friday night’s admission by Tesla that its autopilot mode was activated during a deadly crash by a Model X SUV earlier this month is bad for Tesla, bad for the cause of self-driving cars, and certainly bad for anyone who rides in semiautonomous or autonomous vehicles or shares the road with them. On March 23, the vehicle hit a barrier on Highway 101 near Mountain View, California, then caught fire and was hit by two other vehicles. The driver died. In an earlier statement about the incident, before Tesla had been able to retrieve the SUV’s logs, the electric-vehicle company was preemptively defensive of its technology, stressing that while autopilot can’t prevent all accidents, it makes them “less likely to occur.” […]

The crash took place five days after a self-driving Uber being tested in Arizona killed a pedestrian at night — leading Uber to suspend its tests of the vehicles everywhere, and Arizona to suspend testing in the state by Uber. The first fatality caused by a self-driving car, it has inspired louder calls for the nascent technology to be strictly regulated as companies race to perfect it.

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The deaths of those two people are tragedies that have exposed shortcomings in current autonomous-vehicle technology. The technology will have to be improved. And it will be improved. Driverless road transportation is the wave of the future.

It’s even conceivable that one day — maybe sooner than anyone thinks — driver-operated vehicles could be ruled accident-prone, compared to the autonomous kind, and banished from public roads.

Today’s cars could become collectibles for enthusiasts to drive on tracks allocated for that purpose.

And, of course, time is also running out for gasoline-fed internal combustion engines. Future anti-pollution laws will see to that.

Should you be worried about cancer in your coffee?  


A California judge ruled yesterday that coffee sellers will have to post warnings that coffee contains a carcinogenic chemical.

Coffee has been part of the human diet for centuries, but scientists have oscillated between warning against over-consumption and advising that a cup a day (or more) may have protective effects.

At the heart of the cancer debate is a chemical called acrylamide, which can be found in a number of foods and drinks, including both coffee and french fries.

Daily Mail Online spoke to an expert who broke down how coffee can help and hurt your health, and why you will likely never drink enough to give you cancer.

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Coffee causes cancer. Coffee prevents cancer. Wait, what?  

From Forbes:

California might soon start requiring Starbucks to warn its customers that coffee causes cancer. Has California gone nuts, or is there something to this?

A lawsuit filed in 2010 by a group called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics is in its final stages, and the judge might rule soon unless the plaintiffs settle the case. Several of the plaintiffs, including 7-Eleven, have already settled and agreed to post warnings in their stores.

The basis for the lawsuit is that brewing hot coffee produces acrylamide, which is on a list of substances that California claims cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. (It’s a very long list.) Even though acrylamide has been on the list since 1990, it wasn’t until 2002 that Swedish scientists discovered that acrylamide is present in many foods. […]

Finally, in answer to my own question at the top of this article: yes, California has gone a bit nuts. Or, as the nonprofit American Council on Science and Health put it: “If coffee is deemed carcinogenic, then the State of California will be required to give up all pretense at common sense and sanity.”

An afterthought: the lawsuit may be just about money. As Bloomberg News explained last October, in a story about the California coffee case: “Unfortunately, it is very easy for ‘bounty hunters’ to file Prop. 65 lawsuits against even small businesses and the cost of settlement and defense often exceeds other types of abusive litigation.” The American Council on Science and Health was even more blunt, calling it an attempt to grab “a giant bag of money.”

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The most important self-driving car announcement yet  

From The Atlantic:

Autonomous vehicles will transform urban life by 2020, if Waymo’s time line is correct.

On Tuesday, Waymo announced they’d purchase 20,000 sporty, electric self-driving vehicles from Jaguar for the company’s forthcoming ride-hailing service.

Waymo, Google’s sister company within Alphabet, held a press conference in New York for the unveiling of the vehicle, and most of the stories revolved around the luxury SUV’s look and feel.

But the company embedded a much more significant milestone inside this supposed announcement about a fancy car. With orders now in for more than 20,000 of these vehicles and thousands of minivans that Chrysler announced earlier this year, Waymo will be capable of doing vast numbers of trips per day. They estimate that the Jaguar fleet alone will be capable of doing a million trips each day in 2020.

You could quibble with their math (will it really be that many daily trips per car?) or their overall utilization rate (how many cars will be lost to maintenance per day?), but if Waymo is even within 50 percent of that number in two years, the United States will have entered an entirely new phase in robotics and technology.

The company’s autonomous vehicles have driven 5 million miles since Alphabet began the program back in 2009. The first million miles took roughly six years. The next million took about a year. The third million took less than eight months. The fourth million took six months. And the fifth million took just under three months. Today, that suggests a rate on the order of 10,000 miles per day. If Waymo hits their marks, they’ll be driving at a rate that’s three orders of magnitude faster in 2020. We’re talking about covering each million miles in hours.

But the qualitative impact will be even bigger. Right now, maybe 10,000 or 20,000 people have ever ridden in a self-driving car, in any context. Far fewer have been in a vehicle that is truly absent a driver. Up to a million people could have that experience every day in 2020.

2020 is not some distant number. It’s hardly even a projection. By laying out this time line yesterday, Waymo is telling the world: Get ready, this is really happening. This is autonomous driving at scale, and not in five years or 10 years or 50 years, but in two years or less.

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