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.

Tulsa police say cuffed woman allegedly steals police car


Police in Oklahoma say a woman managed to slip out of handcuffs and steal a police car after she was arrested for allegedly driving a stolen vehicle.

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If that don’t beat all!

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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Ten years after the crisis

From The Wall Street Journal:

The financial crisis and the massive federal response reshaped the world we live in. Though the economy is in one of its longest expansions and stock indexes have hit new highs, many people across the political spectrum complain that the recovery is uneven and the markets’ gains aren’t fairly distributed. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at some of the most eventful aspects of the response and how we got to where we are today.

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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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Experts say self-driving cars are coming ‘whether we like it or not’ as race for robot vehicles continues after fatal Uber crash  


The race to perfect robot cars continues despite fears kindled by the death of a woman hit by a self-driving Uber vehicle while pushing a bicycle across an Arizona street.

Uber put a temporary halt to its self-driving car program in the US after the fatal accident this month near Phoenix, where several other companies including Google-owned Waymo are testing such technology.

While the Uber accident may be used to advance arguments of those fearful of driverless cars, it does not change the fact that ‘transformative technology is coming whether we like it or not,’ according to Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

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