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Forget bikes; driverless vehicles are our saviour

I’ve been saying this for years and now someone else has piped up and provided a good article on why driverless technology will save us from loopy rail projects and stupid cycleways.

Ian Apperly writes at NBR:

Debate over the past two years has argued cycleways are either a good solution to traffic woes or an over-hyped solution put forward by self-interested industry groups and a left-leaning local politics environment.

The reality is that cycleways are going to vanish as is a lot of industry, as autonomous vehicles take over.

In 2010, Uber launched. It connected drivers with riders. Over the past few years Uber has been more commonly thought of as a taxi service but it is not. It’s a lot better and a lot safer.

In 2015, nearly half of all “taxi” rides in the US were Uber-driven. Uber is valued at about $50 billion, half the value of all the global taxi companies.

That new model is already “disrupting” and is set to “super-disrupt” as autonomous vehicles appear.

It’s long been known Google has a stake in Uber and that the end goal of Uber is to go driverless.

In July 2015, Uber preordered 500,000 vehicles from Tesla.

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This is what public transport should look like

Len Brown and other socialists want 19th century technology for public transport.

The future of public transport are vehicles that pick you up from where you want to leave from and take you to where you ant to go to, for a reasonable price.

Beverly Hills seems to have worked it out.

Beverly Hills is known for celeb residents like Jennifer Lawrence and Harry Styles, but in just a few years tourists might be heading there to take photos of something else – a brand new fleet of on-demand driverless cars.

A unanimous vote by the council means that preparations are now underway to build a fleet of robot-controlled vehicles that will take people to every address in the city, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

‘This is a game-changer for Beverly Hills and, we hope, for the region,’ Mayor John Mirisch said in a press release. ‘Beverly Hills is the perfect community to take the lead to make this technology a reality.’   Read more »

This is what happens when you pour subsidies into stupid ideas

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The Greens want us all to pour billions into “green energy” projects.

In the US they have been doing just that…billions of dollars of subsidies into green energy projects.

Where has it got them?

A federally backed, $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert isn’t producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if it doesn’t receive a break Thursday from state regulators.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, owned by BrightSource Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. NRG, -1.86% and Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG, -0.02% GOOGL, -0.40% Google, uses more than 170,000 mirrors mounted to the ground to reflect sunlight to 450-foot-high towers topped by boilers that heat up to create steam, which in turn is used to generate electricity.

But the unconventional solar-thermal project, financed with $1.5 billion in federal loans, has riled environmentalists by killing thousands of birds, many of which are burned to death — and has so far failed to produce the expected power.   Read more »

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Forget trains, invest in driverless techology

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Google has released a study that shows clearly that driverless cars are safer than cars with drivers.

Google commissioned a study whose results were released on Friday. The study carried by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that the vehicles with a driver behind the wheels are more prone to accident than the self-driving cars.

Google’s self-driving cars have been reported to be involved in a series of minor crashes. The study considered only Google’s fleet, which has more than 50 self-driving cars. These cars have already traveled 1.3 million miles on the streets of Texas and California in self-driving mode.    Read more »

The market always corrects, even against newcomers

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In every country in the world where Uber has deployed there has been considerable whinging from protected players in the taxi industry.

The worst problems have been in France where the cheese eating surrender monkey taxi drivers rioted, demanding the government DO something.

Of course in other countries the market is working to counter disruptors like Uber, with more disruption, which can only be good for consumers.

It was only a matter of time before Google peaked its nose through the ride-sharing door.

Employing the superior travel-tech knowledge of its acquired Israeli company Waze, Google announced  it will launch a pilot of its ride-sharing service in central Israel on Monday. The service will synchronize between Waze users and eager carpoolers, through a separate app called RideWith. But before you sigh at the birth of yet another ride-sharing application, like the super-popular, but controversial Uber and Lyft, Google has twerked its platform so that it uniquely serves carpoolers who live and work in the same location.

Launched in the central Israeli cities of Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Ra’anana on Monday, Waze integrated the option for drivers to take on two rides a day to and from work for a nominal fee that covers gas and wear and tear. Identifying users’ regular routes of travel, navigation app Waze and the separate Android application RideWith pair drivers and potential riders.  Read more »

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Google cars drive like a granny, but that’s ok

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People argue that self driving cars are risky, yet after millions of miles Google’s self drive cars have only had about a dozen accidents and none were the fault of the car.

Perhaps it is because they drive like grannies.

Google cars drive like your grandma – they’re never the first off the line at a stop light, they don’t accelerate quickly, they don’t speed, and they never take any chances with lane changes (cut people off, etc.).

Google cars seem to be a little overly-cautious at intersections where visibility is limited: Think a T-intersection where a big truck or a bush blocks visibility for the road that needs to turn either left or right. The Google car I saw inched forward very slowly with a lot of pauses, as if it was stopping to get its bearings even though it obviously hadn’t pulled forward enough to “see” anything. It appeared very safe, but if I had been behind it I probably would have been annoyed at how long it took to actually commit to pull out and turn.

Google cars are very polite to pedestrians. They leave plenty of space. A Google car would never do that rude thing where a driver inches impatiently into a crosswalk while people are crossing because he/she wants to make a right turn. However, this can also lead to some annoyance to drivers behind, as the Google car seems to wait for the pedestrian to be completely clear. On one occasion, I saw a pedestrian cross into a row of human-thickness trees and this seemed to throw the car for a loop for a few seconds. The person was a good 10 feet out of the crosswalk before the car made the turn.  Read more »

Two old troughing fools

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If you’ve ever wondered why people get upset over troughers, sometimes you only have to look at what they do to keep their noses in the trough.

Take these two old troughers Nick Wilson (top left) and George Thompson (bottom left) from the Department of Troughers, Otago University, who have spent years troughing it up on the taxpayer.

Their latest piece of research, if you can really call it that, now means they never really have to leave their comfy, sheep skin covered chairs. In a letter to the NZ Medical Journal they explain how.    Read more »

Uh oh…there goes the Herald’s new revenue stream

The NZ Herald and Fairfax went all in on native advertising, hoodwinking readers into thinking that paid for articles were news.

But all that is about to come to a crashing halt. Software engineers have worked out how to block native advertising.

For publishers, ad blockers are the elephant in the room: Everybody sees them, no one talks about them. The common understanding is that the first to speak up will be dead—it will acknowledge that the volume of ads actually delivered can in fact be 30% to 50% smaller than claimed—and invoiced. Publishers fear retaliation from media buying agencies—even though the ad community is quick to forget that it dug its own grave by flooding the web with intolerable amounts of promotional formats.

A week ago, I was in Finland for the Google-sponsored conference Newsgeist. The gathering was setup by Richard Gingras and his Google News team, and by Google’s media team in London. Up there, in a  high-tech campus nested in a birch forest outside Helsinki, about 150 internet people from Europe and the United States were setting the  agenda for what is called an un-conference—as opposed to the usual PowerPoint-saturated format delivered in one-way mode. As expected, one session was devoted to the ad blocking issue. (I can’t quote anyone since discussions took place under the Chatham House Rule). Read more »

Stick Len’s rail loop, here come driverless cars

As I said earlier this month driverless cars are the future, not stupid stuck on rails trains.

Don’t get too attached to your steering wheel and brake pedal because self-driving cars could be hitting our roads sooner than you think.

The first privately-owned driverless vehicles could start appearing in New Zealand in as little as two years, once European manufacturers start bringing them to market, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.

Bridges is in the German city of Leipzig to attend the International Transport Forum’s annual summit, where a lot of the talk has been about the rapid pace of driverless car technology and how it could dramatically reduce the number of vehicles clogging up our roads.

Alexander Dobrindt, the German Federal Minister of Transport, arrived at the summit on Wednesday in a self-driving BMW and predicted the technology would start rolling off German assembly lines as soon as 2017.   Read more »

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We don’t need Len’s trains, we need Google’s cars

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We don’t need to be sinking billions into 19th century technology when Google is planning on making human drivers obsolete within 5 years.

GOOGLE’S ADORABLE SELF-DRIVING car prototype hits the road this summer, the tech giant announced last week. Real roads, in the real world. The car has no steering wheel or pedals, so it’s up to the computer to do all the driving.

As cool as this sounds, it isn’t a huge technological step forward. The goofy little cars use the same software controlling the Lexus and Toyota vehicles that have logged hundreds of thousands of autonomous miles, and Google’s spent the past year testing its prototypes on test tracks. And, in keeping with California law, there will be a human aboard, ready to take over (with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal) if the something goes haywire.

What’s important here is Google’s commitment to its all-or-nothing approach, which contrasts with the steady-as-she-goes approach favored by automakerslike Mercedes, Audi and Nissan.

Autonomous vehicles are coming. Make no mistake. But conventional automakers are rolling out features piecemeal, over the course of many years. Cars already have active safety features like automatic braking and lane departure warnings. In the next few years, expect cars to handle themselves on the highway, with more complicated urban driving to follow.

“We call it a revolution by evolution. We will take it step by step, and add more functionality, add more usefulness to the system,” says Thomas Ruchatz, Audi’s head of driver assistance systems and integrated safety. Full autonomy is “not going to happen just like that,” where from one day to the next “we can travel from our doorstep to our work and we don’t have a steering wheel in the car.”

Google thinks that’s exactly what’s going to happen. It isn’t messing around with anything less than a completely autonomous vehicle, one that reduces “driving” to little more than getting in, entering a destination, and enjoying the ride.

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