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Fully Autonomous Car Still Not Ready for Prime Time

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has confirmed what many people already know: Current autonomous vehicle systems aren’t ample substitutes for human drivers.

For a recent “Reality Check” study, the nonprofit tested five driver-assist systems from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and Volvo.

The results are, well … varied.

“We have found situations where the vehicles under semi-automated control may do things that can put you and your passengers at risk, and so you really need to be on top of it to prevent that from happening,” IIHS chief research officer David Zuby said in a statement, as reported by the Associated Press.

Humans have a love-hate relationship with technology. While devices like computers, smartphones, and interactive speakers have made our lives better, they’ve also opened the door to new risks. The same goes for autonomous cars.

According to the Virginia-based nonprofit, when test vehicles didn’t perform as expected, the outcomes ranged from “the irksome” (too-cautious braking) to “the dangerous” (veering toward the shoulder because sensors didn’t detect lane lines).

IIHS focused its evaluations on adaptive cruise control and active lane-keeping—each with consumer pros and cons.

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) maintains a set speed and following distance, slowing for cars ahead, or coming to a full stop when necessary. Unfortunately, it may not react to already-stopped vehicles.

During an experiment with ACC turned off and autobrake turned on, Tesla’s Model S and Model 3 vehicles (moving at 31 miles per hour) were the only two cars that failed to stop in time, embarrassingly hitting a stationary balloon.

How does your favorite autonomous system stack up? (via Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

But when the same test was repeated—this time with ACC engaged—the Model S and Model 3 braked earlier and avoided the target.

On the road, test engineers found that all vehicles except Tesla’s Model 3 failed to respond to stopped vehicles ahead.

The five vehicles—BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Volvo S90, and two Teslas—each have automatic emergency braking systems rated “superior” by IIHS.

“At IIHS we are coached to intervene without warning, but other drivers might not be as vigilant,” senior research engineer Jessica Jermakian said. “ACC systems require drivers to pay attention to what the vehicle is doing at all times and be ready to brake manually.”

Manufacturers are careful to remind drivers that the shorthand “hands off” shouldn’t be taken literally. But titles like “Autopilot” (Tesla) or “Pilot Assist” (Volvo) can give people a false sense of security.

“They will help you with some steering or speed control but you really better be paying attention because they don’t always get it right,” Zuby said.

Especially BMW owners: In active lane-keeping challenges, the 5-series “steered toward or across the lane line regularly,” IIHS revealed, forcing drivers to override the steering support. The car failed to stay in the lane on all 14 trials.

This doesn’t spell doom for autonomous vehicles, though. The Institute continues to run tests and compile its consumer rating system for advanced driver assistance systems.

“We’re not ready to say yet which company has the safest implementation of Level 2 driver assistance, but it’s important to note that none of these vehicles is capable of driving safely on its own,” Zuby said.

“A production autonomous vehicle that can go anywhere, anytime isn’t available at your local car dealer and won’t be for quite some time,” he added. “We aren’t there yet.”

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Watch: Passengers Freak Out Over New Tesla Roadster’s Record-Setting Acceleration

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When Tesla announced its new version of the Roadster, which can accelerate in zero to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, a lot of people were doubtful.

But a new video of the first test rides in the new Roadster, unveiled by Tesla on YouTube on Friday, shows that the “quickest car in the world” could actually be close to becoming a reality.

The video shows passengers’ hilarious reactions as the Roadster demonstrates its record-setting acceleration.

Reactions included a lot of “Holy S%!#” and “Oh My God” and “Holy F%!#”

According to Tesla, the all-new Roadster can travel 620 miles on a single charge – a new record for an all-electric vehicle.

“[It’s] the fastest production car ever made, period,” said Tesla founder Elon Musk. (Photo Credit: Tesla, Inc.)

The four-seater supercar can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and from zero to 100 mph in 4.2 seconds, and it boasts a top speed of 250 mph.

The all-new Roadster will cost $200,000 at launch (the first 1,000 are available for a ‘Founders Series Price’ of $250,000), and will be available in 2020.


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Cuba Rolls Out Mobile Internet Service to Citizens for the First Time

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Cubans will now be able to access the internet on their mobile phones, according to state-run telecom agency ETECSA.

The announcement is a milestone for the Communist-run country, which has long been considered one of the least connected countries in the world, and one of the last without mobile internet.

Starting Thursday, December 6, citizens would be able able to start subscribing to internet access via a 3G mobile network.

In a news show broadcast on Tuesday, ETECSA executives announced a range of packages valid for 30 days from 600 MB for the equivalent of $7 dollars to 4 GB for $30. Without a package, 100 MB will cost users $10, Reuters reported.

With average state wages at around $30, the cost for mobile internet will likely be out of reach for most Cubans, even though users get a bonus 300MB use of local .cu domain websites.

The list of packages for the connection to mobile internet from mobile phones is displayed on a woman’s phone screen in Havana, Cuba on December 6, 2018. (Photo Credit: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

Until today, citizens have mostly relied on Wi-Fi hotspots and internet cafes for mobile internet access, and the 3G service has been restricted to state-employed journalists and foreign businesses among others, according to BBC News.

“It was about time this became a possibility for Cubans too,” Havana resident Joaquin Montiel, 58, told Reuters. “But for some, like me, it’s still a remote one.” Montiel said he would not be able to afford a cellphone with 3G technology on his salary of less than $20 per month as a salesman in a state company.

Still, the launch is seen by many as a sign that the country is further softening its tough stance on individual freedoms. Internet was only largely available to tourist hotels and state-run clubs until 2013, when the island country began opening internet cafes.

It wasn’t until 2015 when the first Wi-Fi hotspot opened at a cultural centre, and other public spaces followed, the BBC reported. But many Cubans have complained about having to brave the elements just to use the Wi-Fi at the hotspots, which also lack of privacy. In 2017, ETECSA offered a limited number of home connections.

To reduce the risk of being overwhelmed with demand, ETECSA is rolling out the new 3G service will be rolled out over a three-day period.

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Robot Vacuum Showdown: Neato Versus Roomba

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Cleaning can be a pain sometimes, especially if you have to use a clunky vacuum to suck up nasty debris. Thankfully though, technology has gifted us with handy smart home devices, including Neato […]


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