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Dawn of a new era: why the best video games are not about saving the world

The Guardian

Something has only just occurred to me about Horizon Zero Dawn. The PlayStation 4 action adventure game, set in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by robotic dinosaurs, is thrilling and beautiful – that much is obvious right from the start. Also obvious is the fact that it borrows a lot of mechanics from the Far Cry series, and that it lacks the sheer depth and scope of role-playing adventures like Witcher 3 and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But what dawned on me much more slowly was the fact that its wonderful lead protagonist, Aloy, is not so much motivated by some grand mission to save humanity (though that sort of comes into it), she is motivated by intellectual curiosity. She is fascinated by the mechanised monsters roaming the landscape and the ruins of an ancient technological culture that she first discovers as a child, and she wants to learn more.


Twelve things you need to know about driverless cars

The Guardian

From forecourt to scrapyard, a new car in the UK lasts an average of 13.9 years, which is why if you got one today, it might very well be the last car you buy. Over the next decade, accelerating autonomous driving technology, including advances in artificial intelligence, sensors, cameras, radar and data analytics, are set to transform not only how we drive (or, indeed, are driven), but the notion of car ownership itself. "Autonomous driving has become the next major battlefield for the car industry," says Luca Mentuccia, automotive global MD at Accenture. The six levels of automation, defined under international standards by the Society of Automotive Engineers, range from "no automation" to "full automation", explains Sven Raeymaekers, of tech investment banker GP Bullhound. "If you look at the most recent predictions, the majority of car manufacturers estimate the first highly to fully automated vehicles [AVs] will hit the market between 2020-2025," he says.


Southern rail dispute reflects workers' growing fears about rise of automation

The Guardian

Trains with a guard become driver-only trains, which then become driverless trains. That's the fear underlying Aslef's dispute with Southern railways and accounts for the rearguard action to prevent further job losses across the rail industry. It's not the only reason for the dispute. There is also scorn for Southern's management, which has attacked drivers' basic terms and conditions, and there is anger at transport secretary Chris Grayling's anti-union stance. But, at its heart, the dispute is over the status and even the very existence of the job of train driver, which has been around for nigh on 200 years.


Google spins off self-driving car division, signalling new direction

The Guardian

Mooted revenue streams include Uber-style driverless ride sharing, disrupting the trucking and logistics sector, fitting self-driving technology into public transit vehicles, improving the "last mile" of postal delivery or even simply licensing the software to car manufacturers who will sell cars to end users. If that deal expands into a full-blown partnership, Fiat Chrysler could be the first company selling Google tech to end users. That trip was the world's first fully driverless trip on public roads. Jiajun Zhu, a founder member of the team, and software engineering manager Dave Ferguson left in the summer to co-found autonomous car company Nuro.


First self-driving cars will be unmarked so that other drivers don't try to bully them

The Guardian

The first self-driving cars to be operated by ordinary British drivers will be left deliberately unmarked so that other drivers will not be tempted to "take them on", a senior car industry executive has revealed. One of the biggest fears of an ambitious project to lease the first autonomous vehicles to everyday motorists is that other road users might slam on their brakes or drive erratically in order to force the driverless cars into submission, he said. This is why the first 100 self-driving 4x4 vehicles to be leased to motorists as part of a pilot scheme on busy main roads into London will look no different than other Volvos of the same model, said Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader at Volvo Cars. The scheme will start in 2018. "From the outside you won't see that it's a self-driving car.


Self-driving trucks: what's the future for millions of American truckers?

The Guardian

Driverless trucks will be safer and cheaper than their human-controlled counterparts, but that doesn't mean America's 3.5 million professional truck drivers are giving up to the machines without a fight. "Individuals can make their own choices about whether they want to get into a driverless car or taxi, but labour-saving technology will be deployed by businesses much quicker," explains Stern, whose book Raising the Floor explores the need for a universal basic income as technology replaces jobs. Now the race is on to put driverless trucks on public roads. The savings are expected to come from labor ( 70bn), fuel efficiency ( 35bn), productivity ( 27bn) and accidents ( 36bn), before including any estimates from non-truck freight modes like air and rail.


Self-driving cars: overlooking data privacy is a car crash waiting to happen

The Guardian

States across the US are scrambling to figure out how to regulate self-driving cars, wearable technologies that track our health, smart homes that constantly monitor their infrastructure and the rest of the devices emerging from the so-called "internet of things" (IoT). The result is a smattering of incomplete and inconsistent law that could depress the upside of the technology without really addressing its risks. What's most notable about these early regulatory attempts is not that they are varied – that is to be expected. It's that the regulations deal mostly with physical safety, leaving privacy and cybersecurity issues almost wholly unexamined. This seems to be a pattern now, true too of drone regulation, where regulatory bodies have jurisdiction over physical threats, not informational ones.


Surveillance fears fuel cottage industry: computer camera covers

The Guardian

For the past half decade, the technology industry has been racing to build better cameras into the hardware we use every day. Yet the surveillance age has inspired an odd cottage industry battling against this trend: a glut of cheap stickers and branded plastic slides designed to cover up the front-facing cameras on phones, laptops and even televisions. For years, security researchers have shown that hackers can hijack the cameras to spy on whomever is on the other end. To put that in perspective, think of all the things your devices have seen you do. Such warnings have finally caught on.


Saudi Arabia's Uber venture: a case of if you can't beat 'em join 'em

The Guardian

The global automotive industry and the oil majors are not known for meekly rolling over when a competitor comes along – from General Motors involvement in killing public transport in Los Angeles in the 1940s to Shell lobbying to undermine EU renewables targets in more recent years. But recently, the world has started to see a new side to the sector: "If you can't beat them, join them; and if you can't join them, buy them out." This week Saudi Arabia announced a surprising new venture for the country's vast oil-generated sovereign investment fund: a 3.5bn stake in the ride-hailing startup Uber. The investment, which values six-year-old Uber at 62.5bn, is one of the largest ever made in a privately held company, and is roughly the same size as the sum total of all investments in the UK's tech sector over the course of 2015, according to the venture capitalist David Galbraith. Saudi Arabia's goal with its investment fund is to use some of the state's 2tn in assets to make long-standing investments that will fund the future of the country once its oil economy begins to sputter.


Brace yourself for a cyber-tsunami – the six biggest waves of change about to hit the world

The Guardian

Related: Robot revolution: rise of'thinking' machines could exacerbate inequality As a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, Alec Ross travelled the world with the remit of cataloguing the best examples of innovation the human race has to offer. His trips took him to Korea, the Congo and Silicon Valley (and far enough overall he has calculated, to take him from the Earth to the moon twice, with a side trip from the US to New Zealand), and left him with a concern that the rate of change could leave many behind. From robots entering the workforce and leading to the very real prospect of redundancy within a decade for the million employees of Taiwan's electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn to genetic engineering unleashing the possibility of designer babies, the power of technology to reshape the world is reaching historic levels. But the people who have the most to lose from those changes are often the ones who get the least warning. That, says Ross, was his motivation for writing The Industries of the Future, which looks at six of the biggest waves of change about to hit the world.