It looks like New York City will be hosting its first test of fully autonomous vehicles very soon and surprisingly, they're not from Waymo or Uber. Instead, General Motors and Cruise Automation have submitted the first application for sustained testing and are aiming to do so in Manhattan. New York state only recently opened its roads up to self-driving vehicles, joining California, Arizona and Pennsylvania in allowing tests of the technology. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in May that the DMV had begun taking applications for said tests on New York's roads and GM is the first in line. In order to be approved, companies like GM will have to cover each vehicle with a $5 million insurance policy, reimburse state police for any costs that come with overseeing the tests and keep a person in the driver's seat at all times.
Nobody likes it when their binge watching is disrupted by a buffering video. While streaming sites like Netflix have offered workarounds for connectivity problems (including offline viewing and quality controls), researchers are tackling the issue head on. In August, a team from MIT CSAIL unveiled its solution: A neural network that can pick the ideal algorithms to ensure a smooth stream at the best possible quality. But, they're not alone in their quest to banish video stutters. The folks at France's EPFL university are also tapping into machine learning as part of their own method.
Google's first Pixel smartphones weren't just smartphones; they were a proclamation that Google was more than just a software giant. They were proof that it could craft first-class devices that showed off what Android was really capable of. The new Pixel 2 and 2 XL continue that new tradition and offer some major changes to the Pixel formula. They're also among the first devices to highlight what's new and notable in Android 8.0 Oreo. While they don't get absolutely everything right, Google's new phones have still managed to further the Pixel's reputation for Android excellence.
Gamin's GPS devices already feature voice control, but if you'd prefer to have Alexa onboard, its latest product is more your jam. The GPS device maker has just released Garmin Speak, which it says is the first in-vehicle device with hands-free access to Alexa. It's a tiny little thing, measuring just around an inch-a-half with a LED light ring and an OLED display that shows turn-by-turn directions. You can talk to the voice assistant through it the same way you'd talk to Alexa through an Echo: just say "Alexa" and follow it up with a voice command. Say "Alexa, ask Garmin to route me to" where you're going.
Apparently, Project Wing brought airborne burritos to Virginia Tech last year as preparation for something bigger. Alphabet X's experimental project is now dropping burritos (and medicine) from the skies of Australia as part of a series of tests to figure out how to run a drone delivery service efficiently. Project Wing Co-Lead James Ryan Burgess said they've teamed up with Australia Mexican food chain Guzman y Gomez and pharmacy chain Chemist Warehouse to drop off orders to testers living in a rural area. These testers usually have to take a 40-minute round trip by car to get to the nearest grocery or restaurant, making them the perfect subjects for Wing's experiments. Project Wing has to conduct these tests, because while it has a system that can pre-configure routes, its drones rely on on-board sensors to avoid obstacles.
There are a lot of hurdles to clear before autonomous cars can fully take over the roadways. Chief among them is training the police on how to react and handle a self-driving car error, as spotted by Recode. Currently, Waymo is working with local police forces and first responders in Arizona, California, Texas and Washington to educate them on how to identify and access an autonomous car in the event of an accident. Furthermore, if there isn't a driver present, the car will find a safe place to stop if a collision happens or if there's a system error. Same goes for times when its sensors are essentially whited out during a snow storm or other inclement weather.
The most important phones of the year have already been announced, but one company might still be able to pique our interest. Huawei unveiled its AI-focused Kirin 970 processor at IFA, saying the chip's real world benefits would be shared at the launch of its next flagship. Now, the company is ready to reveal how the Kirin 970 performs in a phone. The Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro were designed around AI -- so much so that Huawei wants to call them "intelligent machines." We don't know how much these intelligent machines will cost yet, but Huawei told Engadget to expect the prices to be competitive.
Surgeons are trained to accurately operate on you when you need it, but robotic assistants could help them get to hard-to-reach areas and boost their accuracy even more. Senhance, the robotic surgical assistant that has just earned the FDA's approval, was designed to accomplish both of those. According to TransEnterix, the company that developed the machine, it's the first surgical assistant for the abdominal area to get the FDA's approval since 2000. As you can see above, surgeons sit behind a console with a 3D view of the site of operation to control three surgical arms.
Like its US counterparts, Chinese internet titan Baidu has been working on autonomous vehicle research for years. After a failed partnership with BMW, Baidu opened itself up to teaming up with other companies, notably bringing on NVIDIA to power its Apollo self-driving car program. The internet giant has another partner now: Chinese automaker BAIC, which will pair its cars with Baidu's tech to start mass production of level three autonomous vehicles around 2019, followed by L4 vehicles around 2021. Baidu has outlined a roadmap for its line of self-driving cars with scheduled goals: By the end of 2018, BAIC's self-branded vehicles will carry Baidu's Apollo connectivity features along with the internet giant's DuerOS voice assistant, with plans to produce one million of those cars by the next year.
According to officials presenting the security and customs tunnel at the 37th Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) Technology Week at the World Trade Centre in Dubai, its video shows will not be limited to chicken of the sea. "The fish is a sort of entertainment and something new for the traveller but, at the end of the day, it attracts the vision of the travellers to different corners in the tunnel for the cameras to capture his/her face print," Major Gen Obaid Al Hameeri, deputy director general of Dubai residency and foreign affairs, told press. Australia is currently considering the same thing, where passengers are filtered through a tunnel that seamlessly captures their biometrics (facial scanning) as they go through the airport. But considering that the Dubai International Airport is already talking about its security scanner as an advertising surveillance tunnel, it feels like science fiction is letting our current world off the hook by comparison.