Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to turn the electric car company's fleet of vehicles into a massive autonomous ride-hailing network. Musk laid out his vision for the self-driving Tesla network -- which he expects to be in operation as early as next year -- at a Monday investor event focused on autonomous driving. It's not the first time he's floated the idea; he tweeted about Tesla robotaxis earlier this month. But his timeline, and much of the other details about the service, should be taken with huge helpings of salt. Competitors that have been testing self-driving taxis for awhile couldn't pull off what Musk is suggesting in the same timeframe.
As Elon Musk made clear Monday, the technology most of his competitors in the self-driving car space use to help vehicles detect what's around them is lame. And his option is way better. "LiDAR is a fool's errand," he quipped about the laser-emitting tool that, in the simplest terms, acts as eyes for autonomous cars. "Anyone who is relying on LiDAR is doomed." That's pretty much most of the businesses testing self-driving cars, including Waymo and Uber who went to court over LiDAR technology last year.
It's so disappointing to see a great game come along that falls shorts because it keeps getting in its own way. I don't know what went wrong with Heaven's Vault. Developer Inkle Studios has done enough strong work over the years for me to go into any of their games with confidence and curiosity. I still feel that way even now. But I'm disappointed with this latest game.
The plant, which is also known as "Wood's hau kuahiwi" and was thought to be extinct, is apparently still around and possibly even flourishing in its native Hawaii. Researchers for the National Tropical Botanical Garden on the island of Kauai made the discovery with a little help from a drone. Three of the plants were spotted in footage captured by a drone that was sent out to explore Kalalau Valley. The remote region of Kauai is known for its biodiversity, thanks to cliffs that make the region inaccessible to the humans and goats that pose a threat to local plant life. You can see the NTBG's drone footage below, and see the plant itself (clearly marked) at roughly the halfway point.
Business Insider reports that Uber's self-driving tech is still far behind competitors like Waymo. The report, which cites interviews with employees in Uber's Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), compares the self-driving cars project to a "science experiment," and says that the cars "perform reliably only on limited well-mapped routes, and aren't making much progress on handling more." That may sound like a harsh assessment, but as BI points out, Uber has had other priorities besides autonomous driving alone. Since the company resumed testing its self-driving cars in December following a fatal accident in Arizona, Uber has been progressing much more slowly. It's possible the cautious approach is frustrating to some employees, who may want to see more rapid improvements in the underlying technology rather than safety-related updates alone.
It sure looks like Apple is moving closer and closer to its goal of merging its iOS and macOS ecosystems. Apple has plans to bring more iOS features, including Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts, to macOS later in 2019, according a new report from 9to5Mac. The update will likely be shown off at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June as part of macOS 10.15, according to the report. With the update, Apple's Screen Time features, which lets you set limits on how long you use certain apps, would be accessible from System Preferences on macOS. The feature is reported to work the same way on the Mac as it does on iOS -- when you've reached your predetermined time limit, you'll get a notification and the option to close the app.
Editor's note: Mashable and PCMag are both owned by Ziff Davis. We're lucky to live in such technologically-advanced times, but there are moments when it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Because we tend to scoop up the latest and greatest in tech as soon as the products drop, we ultimately overload ourselves and end up with tons of devices -- more than we could even attempt to use in one day. Do yourself a favor and simplify your life by having most of your necessary tech in one place. The Google Home Hub, which is on sale right now for just about the cheapest we've ever seen it, makes this possible.
The federal government wants to hold Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for Facebook's privacy woes. According to a report in the Washington Post, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently investigating Facebook and looking into whether the Facebook's founder and CEO should be held liable for the company's data mishandling and privacy issues. Facebook and the FTC have been in discussions for more than a year over the agency's probe into the company. Sources familiar with these discussions say that the FTC is mulling over an unusual decision to hold Zuckerberg himself accountable for the company's data leaks and breaches. The FTC does not regularly go after executives when levying fines or other penalties for a company's wrongdoings.
But the company is now working on its own digital assistant, according to a new report from CNBC. It's not clear exactly how the assistant will work or what it will be called, though CNBC reports it could be integrated with Facebook's Oculus virtual reality headsets or with the company's Portal speakers. Right now, Portal relies on Alexa for assistant functionality, though you can control speaker functions like volume by saying "hey Portal." Facebook doesn't have an AI assistant of its own, however, despite longstanding rumors about its ambitions in the space. The latest project is reportedly being led by Ira Snyder, who works in Facebook's Reality Labs.
If you were hoping to hail a self-driving car from Waymo, you better live in the Phoenix area -- and be prepared to wait even after downloading the app. The Waymo app is now available on the Google Play app store for the first time, but it's not like Uber or Lyft, mostly because once you download it you have to join a waitlist. Only after you've been accepted can you start ordering rides. The pricing for rides in the Phoenix area is apparently similar to rides on other ride-sharing services. Waymo One, an independent company under Google's parent company Alphabet, has only been available for the past few months to 400 "Early Riders," or approved service users who give feedback about the rides, and other riders who have since signed up to test the vehicles.