Taxi Drivers Strike Against Driverless Cabs

cabTechnology has finally caught up with another industry and is forcing many cabbies out of their jobs. It started with services like Uber and Lyft bringing in driverless cars that were cheaper to use than normal cabs (including those driven by Uber and Lyft themselves). Then taxi companies started experimenting with driverless cars as well, some even teaming up with public transport, providing shuttles to rail and bus stations.

Customers liked it. It was the next best thing to car ownership. You didn’t have to deal with a driver, worry about being taken on the long route, the odor of their last cigarette in the cab, the lack of privacy. It was cheap and convenient.

Companies didn’t have to pay drivers, lose business if drivers were off sick, insurance premiums were reduced and there were less accidents, meaning better return on assets.

Effectively driverless car technology has made taxi drivers redundant. Many of these people are migrants and don’t have other opportunities available to them and there have been many protest marches in cities around the world.

Car sales have also dropped for the third consecutive year and are sliding at a rapid pace. Many car dealerships have closed shop and more car manufacturing plants have closed down.

Ultimately it is a win for society when it comes to traffic congestion and pollution, but at a cost to a section of society that can least afford to lose their jobs.

Poor GPS Map Data on Aftermarket HUD Car Nav Devices Turns Heads

New aftermarket GPS car nav units have been blamed for a spate of car accidents due to inaccurate map data. The wave of new aftermarket HUD (Heads Up Display) aftermarket car navigation devices over the last few years were ,et with much enthusiasm. Being able to purchase devices like the Garmin HUD (How did they manage to get that as a brand name?) that launched in 2013 for under $200 bundled with a nav unit or $150 on its own, made it the next car enthusiasts must have device (toy). 

With in car options (admittedly including in-car entertainment, climate control, car computer etc) adding an easy $2,000 to the bill for people who could afford a new car, a solution that cost that can go into virtually any car was a great starter for 10%.

Touted as being much safer than in dash systems because you don’t have to take your eyes off the road, it appears to have unwittingly revealed a much more critical situation that has caused stress and confusion and has allegedly resulted in accidents and assertions of liability being placed on the manufacturers of the nav systems.

The reason is that in many cases the map data is either out of date or inaccurate. This means that the driver is seeing both the road in front of them through the windscreen as well as a laser image representation of the road from the HUD. When these do not match and the driver is in a relaxed frame of mind (partly due to confidence in the GPS car nav data) confusion may arise. For example driving late at night or on a foggy morning on a country road with poor visibility and the nav displays a sharp turn (but the road has been realigned) could result in a nasty accident. Urban roads (such as Wellington in New Zealand) where one-way streets were changed to run in the opposite direction are another classic example.

Psychologist John Doe from Lost Highway University said “When drivers used traditional in-dash car nav devices, they relied mostly on auditory instructions, glancing at the nav unit from time to time to confirm the details, but then interpreted the information and commands based on what they were seeing. This meant that if there was a discrepancy in the directions, common sense usually prevailed and they would act on what they actually saw through the windscreen. Since large numbers of people started using HUD systems, they mentally merged the heads up data with what they saw through the windscreen and when they contradicted each other, this caused confusion and stress. It only takes momentary confusion at 50 miles per hour to find themselves in an accident situation,” he explained.

The more sophisticated units such as the Pioneer system released 2013 in the video below, do have some advantages over the cheaper units because they also include character recognition of outside objects such as speed signs. This means that if the car navigation database says the speed is 50 mph but the sign on the road says 30 mph, the navigation instructions will give higher credence to the physical roadside sign.

John Doe went on say that many car nav companies have managed to get their prices very low by purchasing cheap car navigation data and not updating them as often. People accepted that for a low price, they weren’t going to get high detail map updates and because the map wasn’t in their face, they were able to deal with the discrepancies.

Portable HUD car GPS manufacturers are now adding modular components to their systems including WiFi cameras and adding software to their Smartphones and Portable Car GPS devices including character recognition, distance and speed of the car in front and connection to in car entertainment such as streaming audio. Legislators are now looking at enforcement of restrictions, ensuring that drivers can only see car control related information on the HUD, ensuring they can’t be distracted by videos. email messages etc which can also technically be displayed on the screen whilst driving.

I Found the Real Auckland Transport Plan

Everyone thought the new Auckland transport plan was going to be about a second harbour crossing, a tunnel, more busways an extra lanes. The new Labour Government together with Auckland Transport came up with a much cheaper plan and it only took a year to complete!


Yep, it was pretty obvious given input from rich list Kiwi, Allan Gibbs of Aquada fame. he started with cars, then trucks and then he said to the Government (I didn’t get where I am today by building tunnels) why not give me a small fraction of the money you were going to spend digging holes under the harbour and we’ll drive on water?

So now he is building Gibbs Amphibious Buses for Auckland Transport (yes I know Aqua Ducks have been around for years but not for commuters) and we now have a regular stream of amphibious cars going from Gulf Harbour all the way through to the city, the inner harbour, and even a special commuter lane to Onetangi on Waiheke Island. It was pretty obvious really wasn’t it? I just don’t know why they didn’t think of it back in 2013?

The toll booths on the boat ramps can be a bit annoying on sunny days, but I guess that’s the price you pay. The bonus is you can try to catch your dinner on the way home from the office.

The End Of Out Of Tune Guitars

I have perfect pitch (well I used to when I was younger) and it used to make me cringe when I heard someone play an out of tune instrument. I’m so glad those days are gone.

photo (9)When you live in a country where the temperature changes a lot, an instrument made of wood goes out of tune frequently. This resulted in three scenarios:

1. People playing that boring old Chinese song on stage called Chiu Ning. Old joke too, sorry.

2. People playing out of tune.

3. A great industry selling a variety of devices to clip onto your guitar, to plug your guitar into or in some cases a tuner built in, which worked really well when you used it.

Today those days are over and even a guitar like a humble Squier Stratocaster has built in robot tuning. You don’t have to do anything, it automatically tunes itself.

It got really cool with the 2011 Gibson Firebird X, checkout the video below, sorry its old, so not 3D, but check out history man. This was huge when it came out, not only did it tune itself, but you cold pre-set 55 different tunings! When I used to want to play a bit of slide and then some lead, drop bass or whatever, it would so often end up with the guitar gong out of tune. Not any more, watch the machine heads turn themselves!

What’s changed? Now you don’t need to own a guitar that costs nearly $6,000 to enjoy those features. Now people like me don’t have to cringe when you play and it doesn’t matter if you go from the warm house to the cold car and play in the bar by the fireplace. Of course there are people who will still go retro old school, but I’ve never enjoyed tuning. I just want to play!

 

Boy Racers Make Sport With Driverless Cars

Driverless Car photo by Steve Jurvetson

Driverless Car photo by Steve Jurvetson

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A dangerous new sport has started with boy racers trying to run driverless cars off the road. Car manufacturers fight back by capturing video and emailing to police services.

Whilst the concept of driverless cars has been well accepted and offered mobility and new levels of freedom to many users including blind and disabled people, a new challenge has arisen. Boy racers growing bored with illegal street racing have found new antics to amuse themselves and endanger others.

Driverless cars have been designed to deal with a wide range of conditions, able to monitor the speed of vehicles around them and deal with weather and other hazardous conditions. One thing that was never anticipated was dealing with deliberate erratic driving behaviour from other motorists.

Several incidents have occurred where drivers have deliberately swerved into the path of these vehicles which in several cases have resulted in hit and run accidents.

Following meetings between car manufacturers and law enforcement agencies, an emergency feature has now been installed into the car computers. These cars already have several external facing cameras mounted on them and are connected to the cloud anywhere that cellular mobile services are available. The camera software has been enhanced and is currently being tested with a number of new software features including car make and model, color and number plate recognition.

A 911 feature is also being tested,  so that if an incident occurs, the occupant can transmit video combined with the data collected to the nearest emergency call centre, complete with their GPS coordinates and the direction they are driving in. The boy racers may very soon find themselves racing to find themselves behind bars and not the kind that serve alcohol.

You have been driving for 2 hours

“Would you like to order your favorite coffee from Starbucks? You have been driving for a little over 2 hours and there is one just a mile ahead.”

StarbucksFord Sync is looking after my well being. It also asked if I had any passengers that I would like to order for and I was able to order for all of us without lifting my fingers from the wheel. I then told Spotify to play some more old school Bruno Mars as headed for the cafe.

I was also able to reserve an EV carpark right by the front door, so that the car could get a lift at the same time as we had our coffee break.

You won’t ever see me in a self driving car if I can help it, but I do like the new technology:)

 

Police Look Into Fake Google Glasses

Police are struggling to enforce the new law banning wearing Google Glasses whilst driving a motor vehicle according to spokesperson AR Seymour. “From a distance many of today’s Augmented Reality glasses are indistinguishable from normal eye-wear. This has been compounded”, he said “by the many cheap knock-off’s that young people are wearing today that look like AR glasses with a HUD (Heads Up Display, but are in fact just plain plastic imitations.” 

There have been suggestions that a driver mode be enforced, which only allows certain functionality, such as GPS car navigation, however there appears to be no way to police this. Google has suggested adding functionality that allows the glasses to check whether there is a steering wheel in front of the driver or not and if there is, automatically put it into driver mode. Hackers are already saying that if this is done, they will develop jailbreaks for this functionality.

Meanwhile there have been more and more motor accidents occurring due to distraction by drivers, including many involving pedestrians, often the fault is in fact the pedestrian not paying attention as they cross busy roads. This technology is very exciting and unstoppable and authorities are holding meetings with Google and others to explore possible solutions.

Hundreds more bars, Government Departments and workplaces have followed the example of The 5 Point in Seattle in banning Google Glasses, as an invasion of privacy.

Google Glasses Separation Syndrome

Google Glasses and dozens of other brands of Augmented Reality goggles hit the road running for Christmas 2013 and over the next couple of years AR applications went from Wow to business as usual. Today people look at you sideways in many cities if you aren’t wearing glasses. But there has been a downside.  People can’t bear to be without them.

 Not that long ago people had separation anxiety when they didn’t have their mobile with them, then their smartphone. Now its their AR glasses. Hospitals and A&R clinics are reporting many people are presenting with a feeling of vertigo with some patients reporting in an almost psychotic state, saying they feel they have been detached from the real world.

Others are describing the real world without AR glasses as flat, 2 dimensional, when they don’t have access to features they take for granted such as information about locations, deals, games and access to their friends via social media, the ability to take pictures or view them. Many find it difficult to function because they now rely on their glasses to tell them everything from the names of people they ‘know’ through facial recognition (including information on their last point of contact, meeting, email) to public transport timetables or driving directions. They no  longer seem to have the ability to cope without this information beaming onto their eyeballs. The are unable to make decisions and are so used to large volumes of information at their fingertips that they are suffering from sensory deprivation with their eye-wear.

Insurance companies who have benefited from knowing much more about their clients, have been caught by surprise and won’t pay out on claims until the Syndrome has been recognised as an official condition and because they AR glasses are now a way of life, no one really has answers on what to do next.

Loving the Auckland Ferry Commute

I once said that I would never commute across the bridge any more for any job. Spending an hour each way from home to work just didn’t make sense, what a total waste of time. Well almost, because I used to listen to podcasts on the way that I might not have made time for otherwise, but I have to say I hated it.

Then with the increase in population and the lack of initiative and imagination from Council, NZTA and Government in creating a decent mass transit system it become an hour and a half each way at peak times and still an hour each way in off peak. When Imersia was a relatively small company, it wasn’t such a problem because I could start work from home and head in the office once the traffic died down, but these days it doesn’t really die down at all.

The book Urban Legend that came out back in ’12 said it all. What would Auckland have been like if they had listened to Robbie? We could have been a phenomenally successful city. But we didn’t and now we have a nice ring system that travels at 10km an hour at peak and the Northern Motorway slows to 8km per hour. I used to feel like hopping out of my car on the motorway, leaving it there and running home.

Heading to Long Bay on the Ferry After Work

Then they managed to give the PC brigade the slip and followed the example of Sydney and put ferry wharf’s into Long Bay, Browns Bay and Takapuna and it was problem solved. Our offices are in the Viaduct and commuting is now a pleasure. I walk down to Long Bay, unless its raining, then I park my car in the ‘Park and Cruise’ just up from the beach. I have a flat white on the ferry and clear my inbox using their WiFi, whilst enjoying our awesome coastline on the way into town.

On the way home, especially in winter, I get to enjoy the beautiful city lights, instead of inhaling diesel fumes on the clogged motorway. I just have to wonder why they didn’t do this years ago. More people get to enjoy our North Shore beaches, the wharf’s are great for fishing and strolling along and there are less cars on the motorways. It cost a hell of a lot less to build too.

 

 

New Zealand Rooftops to power the country

Based on research developed by scientists at USC, electricity is being produced on home and business roofs all over the country, feeding the now popular electric cars with sustainable electricity and selling surplus energy back into the grid for all to share.

Liquid Energy

It took a couple of elections and a lot of pressure from the Green Party, but finally the feed in tariffs that we have been asking for over recent years have been implemented.

The tipping point was the ability to create liquid solar cells as nanocrystals that can be ‘printed’ onto other materials. Roof material manufacturers were able to design roofing sheets and tiles which look normal, but are in fact covered with solar cells.

Farmers have welcomed this technology and have covered farm buildings with solar cells reducing the problems caused by power outages in rural areas and reducing their overheads.

In addition to now having a sustainable power infrastructure for New Zealand, this initiative has generated a whole wave of new jobs in roofing materials design and manufacturing, installation, smart metering design and much more.

New Zealand has become a world leader in this technology and has once again been able to proudly call itself a clean green country.

Electric vehicles have become not only more viable with ease of access to electricity, but they are now truly green because the power generated to run them is no longer produced by sources requiring the use of fossil fuels.