What happens when a self-driving car gets pulled over by a cop? Nothing – Quartz

Best headline ever.

Earlier this week, one of its cars was driving on the El Camino Real, a road with a speed limit of 35 mph. A police officer noticed that traffic was backing up on the road, caught up to the vehicle causing the jam, and realized it was one of Google’s koala-shaped cars, driving at a leisurely 24 mph. According to a blog post from the Mountain View Police Department, the officer wasn’t looking to give anyone (or anything) a ticket, but made contact with the car’s operators to learn more about how the car determines its speeds on certain roads—and to point out the dangers of impeding the regular flow of traffic.

via What happens when a self-driving car gets pulled over by a cop? Nothing – Quartz.

Experts Still Think uBeam’s Through-the-Air Charging Tech Is Unlikely – IEEE Spectrum

It even promises to improve health care. “Because bacteria can spread via electrical outlets,” the company says, hospitals using uBeam “will be cleaner and safer for patients.”

A TechCrunch interview from Saturday concedes the point, saying, The system “requires a line of sight and can’t charge through walls or clothes.” The latest story, though, didn’t address the obvious discrepancy with the earlier account. The most recent story says uBeam could transmit up to 4 meters, far less than the 30 feet (9 meters) claimed in an earlier piece.

via Experts Still Think uBeam’s Through-the-Air Charging Tech Is Unlikely – IEEE Spectrum.

Peter Thiel of Founders Fund Outlines Biotech Investment Ideas | MIT Technology Review

One of the very unusual things they do is graft human cancer into the mice. It’s a somewhat more expensive way to do this than studying cancer in cell culture. It’s a somewhat harder structure to build. But drugs tested this way are much more likely to work in humans. They convinced me there is a surprising amount that has gone wrong with the cancer cell lines people have been studying. This framework of getting rid of probabilistic contingencies leads us to think it is quite a valuable company and is quite an unusual company. It runs counter to so much of the culture of the way biotech gets done.

Stemcentrx actually makes its own drugs. It does everything itself. But you also invest in Emerald Therapeutics, which has a “lab in my butt” where anyone can outsource scientific projects. Is there a contradiction there?

There are many experiments you can outsource. But if you are trying to build an end-to-end next-generation pharma company, then actually doing a lot of these things internally is correct. The ability to do complex coӧrdination of different pieces of a business and make them work together is a very underrated entrepreneurial skill. I think that is what Elon Musk has done really well at Tesla, doing end-to-end car assembly, and owning all the stages of the process. This turns out to be really critical. Some other electric car competitors outsourced key components and then the people they relied on ended up being unreliable or failing.

via Peter Thiel of Founders Fund Outlines Biotech Investment Ideas | MIT Technology Review.

Report says Uber surge pricing has a twist: some drivers flee – SFGate

When his Uber app notifies him about a surge, a price increase in an area where rider demand is high, Sollars knows just what to do: He drives his black Ford Escape somewhere else.
“The seasoned drivers don’t pay any attention to surge,” he said. “By the time you get to that part of the city, the surge is over. Often, even when I’m sitting dead center in the middle of a surge area, I don’t get a ride request. Then, as soon as the surge is off — bam! — here comes a ride.”


Still, by quashing demand, surge ensures that passengers who are willing to pay more can get a ride quickly, achieving its basic goal. “One side is working; it definitely impacts demand, but the impact on supply is minimal,” Wilson said.


“They missed a lot of what surge does with respect to supply,” said Keith Chen, a UCLA associate economics professor currently on a two-year leave to work with Uber as its head of economic research, designing the third iteration of its surge system. During busy times, the study’s method would miss cars that “got gobbled up” by riders and instantly replaced by other cars, he said.

Idea: perhaps Uber should provide an estimated duration for the surge to its drivers.

via Report says Uber surge pricing has a twist: some drivers flee – SFGate.

Paper: Peeking Beneath the Hood of Uber, IMC 2015

Q&A: A powerful look at the future of AI, from its epicenter at Carnegie Mellon – TechRepublic

This was a great interview with Andrew Moore, Dean of CMU’s School of CS.

What’s the most pressing area of research in robotics?

We have a dirty secret. One of the reasons we’re having this renaissance in AI in the last few years is that we’ve become very good at computer vision. We’ve become very good at learning, so that robots no longer need to be programmed for every possible eventuality—they just adapt to their environment. That’s why you’re seeing this big burst in robotics, in car industries and the logistics industries and retail and medicine and so forth. But we have not had the same success in grasping and manipulation. The claw of the hand of the robot being dextrous, quickly moving around and picking things up without breaking them. That’s where we’re devoting a huge amount of effort. Roboticists around the world are focusing on that. Until then, robots will be deployed in areas where they’re not controlling manipulation, but they’re controlling machines and detecting problems, moving large bulky objects around. We’ve given ourselves a 5-year moonshot project. We want to put a robot arm on 100,000 powered wheelchairs in the US. The goal is that the people on those wheelchairs who have high spinal cord injuries or degenerative diseases, can’t use their own arms, look at an object, hold their focus on it, and the robot arm will reach to pick it up and place it where the user looks or indicates. If we can get this problem solved—we think there’s a 50/50 chance to do it in five years—it will be an extremely good thing for all the people who need this help. It’s a big test to see if we’ve broken the barriers of manipulation. This is exactly what we did about 15 years ago with self-driving car technology. That one panned out.

Are schools meeting the demands?

There’s been a lot of progress, and I’m excited by the new inclusion of CS in the New York curriculum. In Queensland, Australia, robotics is becoming an actual part of the required curriculum for kids. The countries that really push the math and statistics behind AI are the ones that will prosper in the long run.

How is CMU dealing with recruiting more women into tech?

We’re really passionate about this. We’re the first university to have broken through the 40% barrier

Is the Field of Artificial Intelligence Sexist? – Nextgov.com

This article on diversity in AI (or STEM in general) is preaching to the choir here, but I’d like to see more studies / numbers backing up some of the comments.

“There’s a difference between agentic goals, which have to do with your personal goals and your desire to be intellectually challenged, and communal goals, which involve working with other people and solving problems.”

In general, many women are driven by the desire to do work that benefits their communities, desJardins says. Men tend to be more interested in questions about algorithms and mathematical properties. Since men have come to dominate AI, she says, “research has become very narrowly focused on solving technical problems and not on the big questions.”

To close the diversity gap, schools need to emphasize the humanistic applications of artificial intelligence.

via Is the Field of Artificial Intelligence Sexist? – Nextgov.com.

Waze – Did it Steal Data from a Rival Traffic App? – Neurogadget.com

How did PhantomAlert discover the theft?

PhantomAlert claims that it became aware of the data theft after realizing that Waze displayed its proprietary information. The traffic app maker claimed that Waze used information for which they never obtained authorization or consent. PhantomAlert goes ahead to say that Waze not only copied it’s database, but also went a step further and incorporated the same on its platform. PhantomAlert made these claims through its lawyers when filing the lawsuit against Waze.

via Waze – Did it Steal Data from a Rival Traffic App? – Neurogadget.com.

Waze’s RideWith carpooling app (Israel)

RideWith uses technology developed by Waze, an Israeli start-up bought by Google in 2013 for about $1bn.

Its navigation system, which uses data from users’ smartphones to give live traffic information, learns the routes drivers most frequently take to work and matches them up with people wanting to travel in the same direction.

It is aimed at people who work for the same company and live reasonably close to each other.

An estimated 200,000 people participate in carpooling in Israel already.

via Google revs up carpooling with Waze app in Israel trial | Technology | The Guardian.

Thus Waze knows exactly where we live and work, as well as our preferred routes for getting between the two. Moreover, they know precisely the time that we leave these locations, even if we have not activated the app on our devices.

It is clear to see how Google is tip toeing around now, so as not to broadcast a clear and present threat to the local cabbies, and avoid confrontations with regulators who in turn could cause a legal fuss for their users. Google is calling this a “ride sharing service”, saying that it is a “green and social way to get to work”. They have even gone so far as to euphamize the payment system, saying that users are “pitching in”, just like people have done for years with a few bucks for gas when their friend gives them a ride.

via Waze’s ride sharing service launches in Israel.

Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill | MIT Technology Review

The results are interesting, if predictable. In general, people are comfortable with the idea that self-driving vehicles should be programmed to minimize the death toll.

This utilitarian approach is certainly laudable but the participants were willing to go only so far. “[Participants] were not as confident that autonomous vehicles would be programmed that way in reality—and for a good reason: they actually wished others to cruise in utilitarian autonomous vehicles, more than they wanted to buy utilitarian autonomous vehicles themselves,” conclude Bonnefon and co.

And therein lies the paradox. People are in favor of cars that sacrifice the occupant to save other lives—as long they don’t have to drive one themselves.

via Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill | MIT Technology Review.

Efficiencies and Regulatory Shortcuts: How Should We Regulate Companies like Airbnb and Uber? – Working Paper – Harvard Business School

Enjoyed reading a comprehensive working paper from the Harvard Business School on the upsides, downsides, and potential downsides of two-sided markets (aka platforms); implications and challenges for the legal system with respect to regulating these new types of services. The paper suggests ending “protectionist” regulation and discusses negative externalities (many of which have initial evidence but require further study), asymmetry in information (as compared to incumbent services), cognitive biases such as racial profiling based on profile picture, not being incentivized to provide “universal service”. The paper provides a nice overview of both driver and consumer perspectives, concerns, and challenges.


New software platforms use modern information technology, including full-featured web sites and mobile apps, to allow service providers and consumers to transact with relative ease and increased trust. These platforms provide notable benefits including reducing transaction costs, improving allocation of resources, and information and pricing efficiencies. Yet they also raise questions of regulation, including how regulation should adapt to new services and capabilities, and how to correct market failures that may arise. We explore these challenges and suggest an updated regulatory framework that is sufficiently flexible to allow software platforms to operate and deliver their benefits, while ensuring that service providers, users and third parties are adequately protected from harms that may arise.

It appears that the potential and role of government in regulating these services is to provide sustainability of these services (whether through private or public, one or many players); this means long-term and consistent reliability and wide-spread and fair access. The role of government is to look beyond the capitalistic systems upon which corporations operate and look beyond the short-sighted-ness of individual citizens, as a way to protect it’s people.

Regulation can usefully set minimum standards to protect consumers who fail to recognize potential problems and to protect against problems prior consumers could not notice… Many long standing transportation requirements address aspects of safety that customers would struggle to access even after a ride–for example, requiring vehicle inspection with heightened frequency or rigor.

What is role of statistics and control theory in these questions of providing assurances to the consumer?

via Efficiencies and Regulatory Shortcuts: How Should We Regulate Companies like Airbnb and Uber? – Working Paper – Harvard Business School.

Citation: Edelman, Benjamin G., and Damien Geradin. “Efficiencies and Regulatory Shortcuts: How Should We Regulate Companies like Airbnb and Uber?” Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-026, September 2015.