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Tesla launches beta version 9 of its self-driving car

Hala Turk



Tesla has finally released through the weekend its beta version 9 update of its full self-driving system, after four years of delay, the automaker’s CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet.

Musk had stated earlier in 2018 that version 9 is coming soon, then again in 2019. However, earlier this month, the CEO again swore to Tesla fans that the update was coming and attributed the delay to generalized self-driving being harder than he thought.

In screenshots of the update’s shared on social media, the electric automaker pointed out upgrades in driving visualization, which will show “additional surrounding information” on the in-car display.

In parallel, the company improved the cabin camera above the rearview mirror that allows the car to determine “driver inattentiveness” and provides them with audible alerts to remind drivers to keep their eyes on the road when using autopilot systems.

As for privacy reasons, the company states that images captured by this camera will not be shared if users don’t want them to be.

Despite the name of the system, the car doesn’t drive itself. Musk stressed in a tweet that “Beta 9 addresses most known issues, but there will be unknown issues, so please be paranoid.”

The upgraded smart car is considered a level 2 driver-assist system, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers, meaning that an automated system is doing most of the driving, steering, braking, and accelerating, but a human must be alert and ready to take over at any given moment.

Currently, beta version 9 is now accessible to 2000 tesla owners, who are mainly comprised of company employees, according to a report by electric transportation and sustainable energy website Electrek.

This update arrives with looming negative experiences, as two men had previously died in Texas after their Tesla crashed into a tree and burst into flames earlier in April; local authorities believe that no one was sitting in the driver’s seat.

This incident highlighted the car’s autopilot system limitations.

Hala is a journalist and an editor with experience in the news industry. She enjoys writing motivational stories aiming to inspire people to overachieve.


Climate bid faces tricky path over money for electric cars

Associated Press



Climate bid faces tricky path over money for electric cars

The bipartisan compromise on infrastructure cuts in half President Joe Biden’s call for $15 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging outlets, raising the stakes as the administration seeks to win auto industry cooperation on anti-pollution rules to curb climate change.

The Senate legislation provides $7.5 billion in federal grants to build a national network of charging outlets, an amount that analysts say is a good start but isn’t enough to spur widespread electric vehicle adoption.

Still, even the smaller amount can be effective if they’re placed in the right locations, said Jessika Trancik, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies EV charging.

“If there’s half the funding, you have to be twice as strategic and twice as deliberate,” she said.

Biden has made combating climate change a policy priority, and the broad compromise bill reached after intense negotiations takes some steps toward his goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. Widespread availability of electric charging stations in communities big and small is the cornerstone of his efforts to switch America’s car and truck fleet from polluting combustion engines to zero-emissions electric. Many drivers are hesitant to make the switch for fear of running out of electricity with no charging station in sight.

The back-and-forth in a closely divided Congress over EV funding reflects a tricky balance for the auto industry and the Biden administration. The transportation sector is the single biggest U.S. contributor to climate change.

Currently there are just over 43,000 charging stations in the U.S. with more than 106,000 outlets, according to the Department of Energy. Fully electric vehicles represented just 2.2% of U.S. new vehicle sales during the first half of this year, or about 1.1 million vehicles on the road.

The Biden administration had planned to build a half-million charging units around the country to fulfill a campaign promise and nudge a significant number of Americans into zero-emission vehicles by 2030. It intended to tap an additional $7.5 billion in low-cost loans from an infrastructure bank of public-private investment that was to be created in the Senate bill.

But the president’s plans evaporated Wednesday after lawmakers haggling over wage laws for transportation projects covered by the $20 billion bank gave up and eliminated it. The White House now says it won’t set a specific target for charging units but hopes to find other funding to cover the gap.

“The future of cars is electric, and we’re ready,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted Wednesday after the bipartisan deal was announced.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Biden administration plans to issue proposed rules as early as next week on tailpipe emission standards, including nonbinding language that at least 40% of U.S. sales be electric vehicles, according to government and industry sources who spoke on condition on anonymity to reveal details that are still being finalized.

While Ford CEO Jim Farley announced Wednesday that he expects 40% of the company’s sales to be fully electric vehicles by 2030, other companies are still weighing whether to endorse that figure. Stellantis, for instance, has has committed to a 40% U.S. sales figure, but counts “low-emission vehicles” such as gas-electric hybrids in its mix.

In the past year, U.S. automakers have accelerated announcements of new electric vehicles, spending billions to develop them. Some, including General Motors and Volvo, have set goals of selling only electric passenger vehicles by 2035.

But nearly all have said it will take government incentives to persuade people to switch to the new technology, at least until EV prices fall as more are produced and sold. And they have said that government spending on charging infrastructure is essential to overcoming consumer anxiety about running out of electricity.

Biden had originally proposed $174 billion in his Build Back Better plan to boost the EV market, including tax credits and other incentives to spur consumers to embrace the newer technology. While only $7.5 billion of that in the bipartisan bill will go to charging stations, Democrats are expected to add back roughly $100 billion in EV tax credits in a separate $3.5 trillion “reconciliation” bill. Support from all 50 Democratic senators will be needed for that bill to pass.

“If a reconciliation bill emerges with 10 digits of guaranteed EV rebate money, that will go a long way towards reassuring automakers that they can ramp up production,” said Jeff Davis, a senior fellow at Eno Center for Transportation.

Automakers have made it clear the government needs to help make the switch away from internal combustion engines.

“Much of this transition is going to depend on government support, infrastructure build-out,” Ford’s Farley said during its second-quarter earnings conference call Wednesday.

According to a Consumer Reports survey last December, anxiety about limited range and the availability of charging stations were among the top concerns consumers had about owning an EV.

Currently electric vehicle owners charge their vehicles at home 80% of the time. But that is likely to change as more people buy EVs who don’t have a garage to house a charging station.

New chargers should be located based on models that predict where they will be needed, MIT’s Trancik said. They should be placed along travel corridors for people going long distances, as well as in areas where people spend lots of time, such as hotels, apartment building parking lots and even along public streets, she said. The government also will have to raise incentives to get charging stations built in less-populated rural areas, she said.

Direct current fast chargers, which can charge a car up to 80% of its battery capacity in 20 to 45 minutes, are quite expensive, costing $40,000 to $100,000. So those should be placed where people need to charge quickly and get back on the road.

Chargers that run on 240-volt electricity similar to what powers a clothes dryer are far cheaper, around $2,000. They take around eight hours to fully recharge a car. Trancik says they can be used effectively at much lower costs in areas where people stay for long periods of time.


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Ethical Tech

PayPal, ADL announce initiative against criminal funding

Daryn Kara Ali



In PayPal’s most recent efforts to fight racism and extremism across the industry, the financial gateway partners up with the Anti-Defamation League to investigate how extremists adopt financial platforms to fund their activity.  

PayPal and Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) atypical collaboration initiates the first step to divert focus towards the importance of recognizing how extremists are leveraging financial platforms for criminal funding. 

The initiative will be guided through ADL’s Center on Extremism, one of the main authorities that addresses extremism, terrorism, and hate.  

“By identifying partners across sectors with common goals and complementary resources, we can make an even greater impact than any of us could do on our own,” said PayPal’s chief compliance officer Aaron Karczmer in a statement.  

“We are excited to partner with the ADL, other non-profit and law enforcement in our fight against hate in all its forms,” he added. 

The Financial platform alongside the ADL will create a partnership with civil rights organizations to secure marginalized communities from extremists.  

ADL’s fight against extremism has been going for decades, with its team of investigators, analysts, researchers, and technical experts who are constantly monitoring, and aiming to expose radical threats, whether on the internet or on the ground.  

Various civil rights organizations encouraged the developed efforts PayPal and ADL are putting to spread awareness and develop key insights that would optimistically minimize extremists’ efforts in funding their activities through any financial platform. 

One of the initiative’s biggest advocates is the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). It considered this new partnership between the financial platform and the ADL as a stepping point to motivate such organizations to take initiative to proceed or initiate its own fight against extremism.   

“All of us, including in the private sector, have a critical role to play in fighting the spread of extremism and hate. With this new initiative, we’re setting a new standard for companies to bring their expertise to critical social issues,” said ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. 

This is a clear demonstration how PayPal is working on broadening its reach on financial crimes capabilities, which will take place through multi-sector collaborations concerning any vital societal and community issues. 

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AI bot detects and shames Belgian MPs glued to phones

Hala Turk



Belgian digital artist called Dries Depoorter launched earlier this month an AI bot called “The Flemish Scrollers” that automatically catches, and tags members of the Federal Parliament glued to their phones during parliamentary proceedings.  

Using artificial intelligence and facial recognition, the software calculates how long the politician spends on their phone, all while broadcasting the session and results on YouTube.  

Those figures are automatically posted on Twitter and Instagram, Depoorter’s website explains. 

Flemish Scrollers’ Twitter bio explains that the program is “automatically tagging distracted Belgian politician when they use their phone on the daily livestreams. This with the help of AI.” 

This case was reported with Peter Van Rompuy, a member of the Senate of Belgium, who was caught using his smartphone; the software picked up the footage, posted it on Twitter, and tagged the politician asking him to “focus.” 

Another Belgian politician, Bart Somers, was also reported to be using his phone while parliamentary proceedings were underway.  

In response, politicians highlighted to the Flemish Scrollers project that they were using their phones for work purposes. However, there’s no way to determine if that was actually the case – the AI bot doesn’t ascertain what politicians are doing on their devices. 

It seems that the idea caught the international eye, as foreign twitter accounts are asking the software creator to make it open source so that it could be used across other countries. 

It’s worth noting that the AI bot comes almost two years after Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon caused public outrage after playing Angry Birds during a policy discussion. 

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