Google told to come clean on how it tracks what you buy offline

Liam Tung:

Privacy rights group the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) will file a legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over a system Google is using to link web activity with in-store card purchases.
 The complaint concerns Google’s new Store Sales Measurement program, which aims to demonstrate to advertisers that clicks online do lead to purchases at the register.
 According to The Washington Post, EPIC wants Google to be more transparent about what data on credit and debit card purchases it’s accessing, how it’s getting the information, and what encryption it’s using to ensure user data remains anonymous.
 Announcing the system in May, Google said third-party partnerships allow it to capture 70 percent of all payment card transactions in the US. The system matches transactions back to Google ads, which Google said was done in a “secure and privacy-safe way”. It also reports aggregated and anonymized store sales data to advertisers.

Self-driving cars will affect everything you know

Anika Patel

These were just a few drops in an ocean of secondary effects that came to be when we massively adopted the first feasible cars. When most people were able to afford a car, society went through an evolution.
 And while AVs will be more of a socioeconomic revolution rather than an evolution, we could still see a lot of secondary effects in the decades to come. An example includes changes in the workforce — taxi drivers, certain car mechanics, and traffic officers will no longer be professions.
 But here are three less obvious areas that I think will experience secondary effects when we massively adopt AVs:
 Land and Property Use

German carmakers deserve to be disrupted

Wolfgang Munchau:

The third and most important factor is an irreparable loss of consumer confidence. Scandals come and go, but the persistence of negative news reinforces negative views. Consumers have been paying premium prices not, as it turns out, for premium quality, but in support of an illegal cartel. Many customers have been duped by false emissions claims. Consumers’ rational response would be to seek alternatives or to pay less. Either way, high margins cannot be maintained.
 All three factors are colluding against the German car industry at a time when it should be in the advanced stages of developing new technologies, like the next generation of electrical engines or driverless cars. But the car industry itself and German car experts tend to be complacent. A study by Germany’s Ifo Institute for Economic Research makes the comforting point that the German car industry holds one-third of the patents for electric engines and for hybrids. But the number of patents is a poor indicator of real innovation. It misjudges the dynamics of a fast-changing market. Companies need different kinds of engineers and scientists to produce an electric, self-driven car than for an emissions-cheating diesel vehicle.
 The German government still vigorously defends the interests of the car industry in Brussels, but the politics of the car has changed over the past 15 years. The number of cheated car buyers in Germany now vastly outnumbers the number of auto workers.

The digital native is a myth The younger generation uses technology in the same ways as older people — and is no better at multitasking.


Some people put the cut-off at 1984, but for most it is 1980. People born after that date are the digital natives; those born before are digital immigrants, doomed to be forever strangers in a computer-based strange land.
 The generational difference between the groups goes beyond their numbers of Facebook friends and Twitter followers: it can also help to explain differences in how they buy insurance. At least, that’s according to a report released this week for the insurance industry. Targeting Millennials with Insurance explains that young people aren’t like those who came before and queued passively for cover. They “prioritize holidays”, for one, which might surprise some of them. Because they are digital natives, they “will favor technologically innovative insurance policies”.

Cars Suck Up Data About You. Where Does It All Go?

John Quain:

What Can Be Collected?
 Government rules limit how event data recorders — the black boxes in cars that record information such as speed and seatbelt position in the seconds before, during and after a crash — can be used. But no single law in the United States covers all the data captured by all the other devices in automobiles.
 Those devices include radar sensors, diagnostic systems, in-dash navigation systems and built-in cellular connections. Newer cars may record a driver’s eye movements, the weight of people in the front seats and whether the driver’s hands are on the wheel. Smartphones connected to the car, and those not connected to the car, can also track your activities, including any texting while driving.

It’s a car! It’s a plane! Actually it’s both at the EAA AirVenture

Meg Jones:

Standing on the stage at AirVenture’s Theater in the Woods under video screens showing what Uber Elevate would look like, Jeff Holden explained that in a few years people will pull out their phone, tap the Uber icon and instead of pushing the button picturing a car, they’ll push a plane button.
 “Urban mobility is not a solved problem. Many cities are gridlocked; some workers have no way to get to their jobs,” said Holden. “Think about the day when Uber Air starts and you push a button to get a flight.”
 Uber isn’t going to build or engineer the new vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. Instead, it’s partnering with aircraft manufacturers including Embraer, Mooney, Pipistrel and Bell Helicopter.
 What it won’t be is a helicopter, which Uber is ruling out for noise and safety reasons.
 The company has so far signed agreements with Dallas and Dubai to build landing pads using existing helicopter routes and eventually have so many that it will be easy to get around, perhaps with Uber car drivers to take people to their final destination.
 Holden said Uber plans to launch Elevate test flights in 2020 and start moving paying customers to their destinations in 2023. The company hasn’t set a price for Elevate rides, but Holden said as more routes and aircraft are added, it will likely become cheaper.
 “We’re very ambitious. We want this all over,” said Holden.

Steve Bannon Wants Facebook and Google Regulated Like Utilities

Ryan Grim:

TECH COMPANIES LIKE Facebook and Google that have become essential elements of 21st-century life should be regulated as utilities, top White House adviser Steve Bannon has argued, according to three people who’ve spoken to him about the issue.
 Bannon’s push for treating essential tech platforms as utilities pre-dates the Democratic “Better Deal” that was released this week. “Better Deal,” the branding for Democrats’ political objectives, included planks aimed at breaking up monopolies in a variety of sectors, suggesting that anti-monopoly politics is on the rise on both the right and left.
 Bannon’s basic argument, as he has outlined it to people who’ve spoken with him, is that Facebook and Google have become effectively a necessity in contemporary life. Indeed, there may be something about an online social network or a search engine that lends itself to becoming a natural monopoly, much like a cable company, a water and sewer system, or a railroad. The sources recounted the conversations on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give the accounts on record, and could face repercussions for doing so.

Ford Trucks celebrate 100 years as America’s workhorse icon

Mark Phelan:

He intended the Model TT for farmers, another tool like the Fordson tractors he built for the rural life he idealized. He would’ve tipped his straw boater hat back, squinted and laughed in your face if you told him the F-series pickup that’s the direct descendant of his Model TT would become America’s best-selling vehicle for 35 years straight.

The Apple Car could run traditional automakers off the road

Vitaliy N. Katsenelson:

I had this “Aha!” moment recently when I visited a Tesla TSLA+1.56% store and saw its cars’ power train. It looks just like a skateboard — basically a flat slab of metal (which houses the battery), four wheels, and an electric engine the size of a large watermelon. That’s it — the Tesla has only 18 moving parts.
 Wall Street nowadays is going gaga over the stocks of auto dealerships (especially after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Van Tuyl Group) and automakers. I am in the minority in thinking that party will come to an end. Just like Tesla, Apple is not going to be using a dealership model to sell its cars. Just as with the iPhone, the company will want complete control of the buying experience.
 If both Tesla and Apple bypass the dealership model, the GMs of the world will be at an even larger competitive disadvantage. They will have to abandon the dealership model too. Yes, I know, selling cars directly to consumers is not legal in many states, but if the U.S. Constitution could be amended 27 times, the law on car sales (which is an artifact of the Great Depression) can be amended as well. The traditional dealership model is unlikely to survive anyway, as its economics dramatically degrade in the electric-car world. A car with few moving parts and minimal electronics has few things to break. Consequently, electric cars will need less servicing, throttling the dealerships’ most important profit center.

Toyota set to sell long-range, fast-charging electric cars in 2022: paper


Toyota’s new electric car, to be built on an all-new platform, will use all-solid-state batteries, allowing it to be recharged in just a few minutes, the newspaper said, without citing sources.
 By contrast, current electric vehicles (EVs), which use lithium-ion batteries, need 20-30 minutes to recharge even with fast chargers and typically have a range of just 300-400 kilometers (185-250 miles).
 Toyota has decided to sell the new model in Japan as early as 2022, the paper said.
 Toyota spokeswoman Kayo Doi said the company would not comment on specific product plans but added that it aimed to commercialize all-solid-state batteries by the early 2020s.

Why riding a bike to school is often illegal

Matt McFarland:

Maura Flanagan teaches at the Brooklyn Transition Center, a high school for students with emotional disorders. Some students are autistic, others have been kicked out of previous schools.
 BTC has a full complement of guidance counselors, therapists and special educators to work with its students, but one of the most promising additions has been a bikeshare program.
 Last fall the school was selected for a first-of-its kind experiment from the New York Department of Health. A handful of Flanagan’s students were recruited to ride to and from school. They took a bike safety class, were given helmets, and started pedaling around Brooklyn’s streets. By this spring, 15 students had bikeshare memberships—as well as a greater sense of independence and confidenc

Ultrafast-Charging Solid-State EV Batteries Around The Corner, Toyota Confirms


Five years ago, Takeshi Uchiyamada was not yet chairman of Toyota, and I was still at Thetruthaboutcars. I went to a Toyota event in Tokyo, where Uchiyamada-san mentioned the possibility of a breakthrough solid-state battery. He had a small specimen of the battery, and it even powered a vehicle – a skateboard. I was told then it could take a decade before the solid-state battery powers a car, because that’s how long battery breakthroughs take to travel the distance from research lab to road. Half iof the decade is past, and that timing still holds. In another five years, and if a report in a Japanese newspaper is to be believed, Toyota will have the key technology for wide-spread adoption of battery-electric vehicles: Solid-state batteries with twice the range of today’s EVs, while charging only in minutes.

Roomba’s Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder

Rhett Jones

The Roomba is generally regarded as a cute little robot friend that no one but dogs would consider to be a potential menace. But for the last couple of years, the robovacs have been quietly mapping homes to maximize efficiency. Now, the device’s makers plan to sell that data to smart home device manufacturers, turning the friendly robot into a creeping, creepy little spy.

Germany’s self crashing car industry

Chris Bryant::

Just as Germany’s car industry seemed to be turning a corner after the diesel emissions scandal, along comes another potentially credibility-shredding story.Volkswagen AG (and its Porsche and Audi subsidiaries), BMW AG and Daimler AG may have colluded for decades to agree on technical standards, thereby impeding competition, Der Spiegel reported on Friday. While the scope of any wrongdoing or potential fines are very unclear, these cartel allegations may yet impose a heavy financial and political price on the carmakers.It’s not as if investors have been queuing up to buy shares in the German car giants anyway, amid fears that the rise of autonomous and electric vehicles will leave them without much of a business model. In Europe, meanwhile, they are having to fight against the efforts of cities to ban many diesel vehicles. New questions about their integrity won’t help. That’s especially true ahead of a German federal election in September. Opposition politicians have every incentive to fling mud at chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, which is perceived as too chummy with the powerful car industry.

Oregon’s New Bike Tax and the Future of Transportation Taxes

Jared Walczak::

Oregon’s new $5.3 billion transportation package includes an interesting wrinkle: a bicycle tax. Although it represents a miniscule share of the new revenues adopted under House Bill 2017, the $15 excise tax undeniably captured the attention of cycling enthusiasts in Oregon and elsewhere. It also inspired others, with a Colorado legislator floating the idea of a $15 a year tax, though a negative response was enough for him to lay on the brakes.
 Oregon’s tax is an excise on the purchase of bicycles with a retail price of $200 or more and a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches—in other words, adult bikes, and not the inexpensive ones you might find in a big box store. The briefly floated Colorado tax proposal would have taken the form of a tangible personal property on a specific class of property, namely bicycles.
 A bike tax is unusual—currently, only the city of Colorado Springs imposes a bike tax—but it plays into a larger debate about how states should navigate the taxation of preferred policy outcomes. Many advocates would like to see more people biking to work, just as many would like to see more people driving electric cars. So do you tax bicycles (and electric cars) or not?
 A lot depends on why you think the taxes exist in the first place.
 Revenue is a big part of it, of course, but if a secondary priority is to get people out of standard vehicles and into electric cars or onto a bicycle, then one might favor substantial tax preferences for those other modes of transportation. On the other hand, one might just as well conceptualize these taxes as paying for the roads (or bike paths) used and the wear-and-tear of traffic, and perhaps to help “price” contributions to congestion. In that case, the preferences make less sense.

Where in the privacy cost of “free apps”


AppCensus is created by an international collaboration of researchers with combined expertise in the fields of networking, privacy, security, and usability. We’re centered in Berkeley, California.
 Our mission is to give app users better transparency into how their mobile apps use and misuse their personally identifying information. We want to explore whether apps are following standard best practices when handling private data. We hope that by giving out this transparency, we will foster a better mobile app ecosystem, because users are exposed to hidden privacy costs and app developers are better made aware of best practices for their future apps.

The oil price is living on borrowed time

Min Zhu

Just before prices fell from their highs at over $110 per barrel in the middle of 2014, the common wisdom among the same experts was that prices were expected to stay high for a while.
 But almost three years later, they are still in a relatively low range of the upper $40s to the lower $50s per barrel.
 They may remain low for a considerable time as shale producers in the US have adjusted to this environment. Even though prices could rally in the short to medium term, in the long run (by that I mean as early as the late-2020s), oil will start losing its lustre.
 This last age of oil will come as the transportation revolution displaces oil’s major role as a fuel for transportation, especially in motor vehicles.

China Unrisen

John Robb

I was just got back from a great conference in Singapore. A central theme of the conference was that China (and Asia in general with substantial US help) isn’t ‘rising’ anymore, it has risen (again), and that the US and much of the rest of the world hasn’t recognized this yet. This makes sense. China has risen economically with India is soon to follow and it will require a big rethink in terms of how we manage the world (the UN, IMF, etc.).

This Image Is Why Self-Driving Cars Come Loaded with Many Types of Sensors

Jamie Condliffe:

You’re looking at what’s known in the autonomous-car industry as an “edge case”—a situation where a vehicle might have behaved unpredictably because its software processed an unusual scenario differently from the way a human would. In this example, image-recognition software applied to data from a regular camera has been fooled into thinking that images of cyclists on the back of a van are genuine human cyclists.
 This particular blind spot was identified by researchers at Cognata, a firm that builds software simulators—essentially, highly detailed and programmable computer games—in which automakers can test autonomous-driving algorithms. That allows them to throw these kinds of edge cases at vehicles until they can work out how to deal with them, without risking an accident.

These are the top ZIP codes for rental returns

Diana Olnick:

Historically, most mom-and-pop landlords choose homes in their backyards. It’s a practical choice, as they often manage the properties themselves and need to be nearby should a pipe break or a basement flood. With the recent growth of rental management companies to do the dirty work, investors are increasingly looking nationally and don’t necessarily want to have to travel to see the properties they buy. That means statistics are key, and potential investors are hungrier than ever for data.
 “They know real estate is a good investment, and they want to invest, but to do all the due diligence takes a lot of work, and most of our investors are already busy with other jobs,” said Hovland.
 So, will every house in each of those Top 20 markets yield top dollar? Not necessarily. There will always be renters who fail to pay and extenuating circumstances that can suddenly cause a local market to turn. As with the other multitude of lists and rankings, this is just a guide.

Innovation Is as Much About Finding Partners as Building Products

Chandra GnanasambandamMichael Uhl:

This is the challenge for all kinds of disruptors, whether in the auto industry, pharmaceuticals, service industries, or healthcare. The fact is, going it alone, we believe, is simply not the way to go at all. Collaboration is the essential new secret sauce for startups and industry leaders alike. For true disruption to take hold, old and new must work together, playing to each other’s strengths.
 This is an incredible moment for innovation. Previously unthinkable opportunities to reinvent complex, established industries are now being made possible by the convergence of cloud computing, new analytical tools, and the data flowing from a host of new sensors in the physical world. Improbable advances are now real possibilities.
 Yet the requirements for innovation today are entirely different from those of the last 30 years. The technology-driven disruption model that brought us computing, the internet, and mobile apps is no longer sufficient. Transforming our oldest industries calls for more than new technology; sophisticated knowledge of regulations, testing protocols, and traditional physical assets are now essential.

California is changing its roads for self-driving cars

Susan Carpenter:

Dougherty: There’s 36 different companies that have permits to test autonomous vehicles on public roads today, so those companies are learning as they’re going, but some of the issues that are coming up is that those vehicles are looking at the environment that they’re driving in — the condition of the infrastructure, the condition of our signs, the condition of the delineation is a factor in how effectively they operate within that environment.
 How much money does the state need to make the roads ready for them to operate?
 We just passed SB1, the new transportation revenue package. In my eyes, that’s a sufficient amount of resources for cities, counties and the state to properly maintain our existing infrastructure whether it’s roads, bridges, drainage systems like culverts, but it also identified intelligent transportation systems as one of the important items we need to maintain. That would be signals, cameras, changeable message signs, ramp meters and those things, so I think that there is adequate funding.

“I keep my eyes on the scorecard,”

Monte Reel , Kae Inoue , John Lippert , Jie Ma , and Ania Nussbaum:

“I keep my eyes on the scorecard,” Ghosn tells them. Production, profit, growth—the bottom line. Diversions constantly arise, but he’s learned to manage the distractions, which he says assume different forms in different parts of the world. “In Japan,” he says, “people have a tendency to preserve other people. But if you start to look at people, and not your scorecard, you’re going to be in trouble. If you start to say, ‘He’s not very good, but, hey, he’s such a good person, and he’s nice, and he’s a stand-up guy,’ then you’re compromising.”

It doesn’t take long for an indirect challenge to rise from the crowd: Can’t a modern executive do more than protect his bottom line? A Thai business consultant asks him to consider the example of driverless cars and the potential they have to ease congestion. Nissan is a leader in the field; it’s already selling its Serena model, with driver assistance, in Japan. But maybe, the man suggests, companies such as Ghosn’s should first introduce them to Bangkok and other underdeveloped cities, where rapid globalization has brought increased mobility but also haphazard urbanization and murderous traffic. Conventional business wisdom says companies should first test them in places with advanced infrastructures, but why shouldn’t Ghosn focus on the places where they’d do the most good? “Change the entire society,” the man urges Ghosn. “Disrupt!”

Autonomous Driving, Parking and Planning

D/D advisors

A few weeks ago, we attended a conference looking at the Future of Transportation. This was a small gathering of technologists from auto companies and regional transportation planners. The focus of much of the discussion was on cars, consumer behavior and the desire to find solutions to automobile traffic.
 By now, these concepts should be pretty familiar to most readers. We once calculated that the US economy would save $600 billion a year in labor productivity lost to long commutes. But after a week in Beijing, I think it is important to expand the scope of analysis beyond the level of cars and look at what other benefits autonomous driving will bring.

Why This $4,000 Renault Is as Disruptive as the Tesla Model 3

Alex Roy:

What is disruption? Ask the clickbait mills and the sheep who retweet them, and thy name is Tesla. Everyone knows the Tesla narrative. Autonomy! Electrification! Superchargers! Musk! If it weren’t for Tesla, we’d still be waiting for our electric and autonomous future to dawn. The Model 3 will disrupt, just as Tesla has disrupted the entire automotive sector, and now you can own one for only $35,000, plus options. It’s all true, but it’s only half right.
 Go to India and Renault will sell the other half of disruption for just under $4,000.
 This French-Indian disruptor is called the Kwid, and it’s the opposite of the Tesla Model 3 in almost every way. It lacks any of the technology or performance that earn cars placement on magazine covers. It’s a front-wheel-drive, 3-cylinder, 800-cc, four-door compact crossover (CUV) with plastic cladding. Boxes ticked? None. And yet it is the most important car in the largest segment in what will soon be the third largest car market in the world.

Cracks in the ridesharing market—and how to fill them

Russell Hensley, Asutosh Padhi, and Jeff Salazar:

Quick quiz: What percent of 2016 vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the United States came from ridesharing? Given the hype, it would be reasonable if your estimate were higher than the right answer—1 percent. Currently, ridesharing does not apply in any significant way to the overwhelming majority of practical use cases. Car ownership is still more economical and convenient for most car owners and users, and for all of the buzz and excitement, when we count VMT in absolute terms, ridesharing’s share is almost a rounding error.

These are the small US towns that will be crushed as trucking becomes autonomous

Dave Gershgorn:

In 2014, in an attempt to curb traffic from rumbling through the small town of Milton and disturbing its 5,500 residents, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation built a bypass highway, effectively rerouting cars and trucks away from Shaikh’s business and others on the town’s main street. The 15,000 vehicles that had rolled down the town’s main street every day trickled to 3,200 between 2014 and 2015, according to data from the department.

Batteries are not atom bombs, integrated circuits or penicillin

John Dizard:

Batteries, though, are not atomic bombs, integrated circuits, or penicillin. With a great deal of effort on the part of engineers, you get progress, not breakthroughs. That progress will not come at a pace that can change the reality that fossil fuels store a great deal more energy in a smaller space at a low cost, at least not within the next decade.
 It is tempting to think that the performance of batteries can improve as quickly as that of the microelectronics, software, and display screens they power. As a battery engineer friend of mine says, though, “batteries are a smokestack industry”.
 Mind you, they are a smokestack industry that is growing pretty fast, thanks in part to the public policy commitments made to the electric vehicle industry, particularly in China. According to Christophe Pillot, of Avicenne Energy in Paris, global lithium ion battery demand for vehicles will grow from $15bn in 2016 to $28bn in 2020, and $38bn in 2025. Even so, Mr Pillot projects that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles will have less than a 2 per cent share of the global market by 2020.

Luxury SUVs: From Niche to Majority


Luxury SUVs continue to be a growing force in the luxury market. Not only have they reached a new high in sales and market share in 2017, but they also garner more traffic from shoppers, sell more quickly, reach a more diverse audience, and lease less.

Compelling debuts, including many smaller SUVs, and the introduction of new brands have shaken up the segment. Not only are new offerings luring shoppers away from luxury leaders, they’re also helping the luxury segment penetrate markets that had previously eschewed the segment.

Electric cars will take over, threatening European car industry


Only electric passenger cars will be sold from 2035 onwards, according to the research estimation. This has a drastic impact on the European car market. Currently, European car manufacturers are at the forefront of internal combustion engines (25% market share), but their share in lithium-ion production used in electric cars is only 3%. Therefore, it is likely that both Asia and North-America will get a bigger foothold in the European car market due to their great supply of resources.

Big Oil Just Woke Up to Threat of Rising Electric Car Demand

Jess Shankleman:

BNEF expects electric cars to outsell gasoline and diesel models by 2040, reflecting a rapid decline in the cost of lithium-ion battery units that store power for the vehicles. It expects 530 million plug-in cars on the road by 2040, a third of worldwide total number of cars.
 For a story on BNEF’s electric car forecasts for 2040, click here.
 The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries raised its 2040 EV fleet prediction to 266 million from the 46 million it anticipated a year ago. Battery cars under the new projection account for 12 percent of the market within 23 years, compared to 2 percent in the 2015 forecast. Based in Vienna, the group representing 14 nations expects half the number diesel vehicles as it did a year ago.

Lithium-ion Battery Costs: Squeezed Margins and New Business Models

Claire Curry:

Lithium-ion battery manufacturers built large amounts of capacity in 2011, expecting significant demand from EVs. But passenger EV sales were lower than expected in 2011-H1 2015, meaning demand for lithium-ion batteries was low and the manufacturing industry suffered from oversupply. To increase utilization, manufacturers have been lowering prices and competing fiercely with one another, as well as targeting the electric bus market.

The Impact of Autonomous and Electric Cars on Cities

Christopher Beech::

Although the potential impact of autonomous and electric cars has been talked about extensively on technology blogs and podcasts, I’ve seen little discussion on urban planning and architecture sites. How might our cities change as a result of new road transportation technologies? How might technology change cycling? Here I explore the ideas of Benedict Evans and Horace Dediu and add a few of my own.
 Autonomous cars may yet be 5-10 years away from reality. And what currently works well in sunny California may not work quite so well in rainy Manchester or worse. Similarly, if algorithms are trained in the US where ‘jaywalking’ is a crime, I’d want to see how well they can learn about London’s rather more anarchical pedestrians crossing the road anywhere, any which way.
 Autonomous cars will vastly reduce accidents, injuries and deaths and the subsequent costs on society. If roads are safer might cities become that little bit less stressful? Would there be a psychological shift for potential cyclists? True autonomous cars won’t require fixed traffic lanes but I’d imagine that cyclists would still prefer the safety of their own lane.

The Facebook Algorithm Mom Problem

Chris Aldrich::

Here’s what’s happening
 I write my content on my own personal site. I automatically syndicate it to Facebook. My mom, who seems to be on Facebook 24/7, immediately clicks “like” on the post. The Facebook algorithm immediately thinks that because my mom liked it, it must be a family related piece of content–even if it’s obviously about theoretical math, a subject in which my mom has no interest or knowledge. (My mom has about 180 friends on Facebook; 45 of them overlap with mine and the vast majority of those are close family members).
 The algorithm narrows the presentation of the content down to very close family. Then my mom’s sister sees it and clicks “like” moments later. Now Facebook’s algorithm has created a self-fulfilling prophesy and further narrows the audience of my post. As a result, my post gets no further exposure on Facebook other than perhaps five people–the circle of family that overlaps in all three of our social graphs. Naturally, none of these people love me enough to click “like” on random technical things I think are cool. I certainly couldn’t blame them for not liking these arcane topics, but shame on Facebook for torturing them for the exposure when I was originally targeting maybe 10 other colleagues to begin with.

With Amazon on the rise and a business tycoon in the the White House, can a new generation of Democrats return the party to its trust-busting roots?

Matt Stoller:

On July 15, 2015, Amazon marked the twentieth anniversary of its founding with a “global shopping event” called Prime Day. Over the next 24 hours, starting at midnight, the company offered special discounts every ten minutes to the 44 million users of Amazon Prime, its members-only benefit program. The event was astonishingly successful: Amazon made 34 million Prime sales that day, nearly 20 percent more than it had on Black Friday, the traditional post-Thanksgiving buying bonanza. The company received almost 400 orders per second—all on a single, ordinary day in the middle of summer.

The Rise and Fall of Working From Home

Rebecca Greenfield:

Last year, Richard Laermer decided to let his employees work from home on a regular basis. “We hire adults, they shouldn’t be tied to the office five days a week,” said Laermer, who owns a New York-based public relations firm. “I always assumed that you can get your work done anywhere, as long as you actually get it done.”
 Turns out, he was wrong.
 Employees took advantage of the perk, Laermer said. One was unavailable for hours at a time. Another wouldn’t communicate with co-workers all day, which Laermer found suspicious. The last straw, he said, was when someone refused to come in for a meeting because she had plans to go to the Hamptons. “That was the most unbelievably nervy thing I’d heard in years,” he said.

A panda and a cabana: How to get started car hacking with

When I plugged it in to my MacBook, it showed up as a serial interface. And it used AT commands. I found some Python code to speak this protocol, and I thought I could now talk to the car.
 When the code worked (which was about 50% of the time!), the information it gave me was very limited, mostly just about the engine. Surely there had to be more…
 So I dove deeper, and looked into what’s actually on the OBDII port. Sure enough, there is a CAN bus! Many of the USB to CAN transceivers were thousands of dollars, but I found a moderately priced one that gave me full access. We were in business, and I could read all the CAN messages on the bus.

Ann Arbor Self Driving Car Activity

Neil Boudette:

As the world looks ahead to a future of interconnected, self-driving cars, this college town 40 miles west of Detroit has emerged as a one-of-a-kind, living laboratory for the technologies that will pave the way.
 Here, it is not uncommon to see self-driving Ford Fusions or Lexus sedans winding their way through downtown streets and busy intersections, occupied by engineers with eyes focused more on laptops and test equipment than the roadway.
 Soon students and staff members at the University of Michigan will be able to get around the engineering campus on fully automated, driverless shuttle buses provided by a French company drawn to Ann Arbor by the university’s autonomous-car test track, known as MCity.
 And at any time of the day, some 1,500 cars — owned by university employees, businesses and local residents, and wired up by university researchers — radio their speed and direction to one another and to equipment like traffic lights and crosswalk signals. It is all part of a vast pilot project run by the university to develop connected-car technologies that someday should ease congestion and make self-driving cars safe.

Vehicles as weapons of terror: U.S. cities on alert as attacks hit the West

Luz Lazo:

Self-driving cars prove to be labour-intensive for humans

Tim Bradshaw

Self-driving cars seem like a magical idea. The concept of vehicles that can operate themselves, without steering wheels or pedals, leaps straight from the pages of science fiction.
 Yet like so many fantastical stories, there are “wizards” hidden behind the curtain — lots of them. Constructing the road to fully automated driving, it turns out, requires a lot of manual labour.
 Most companies working on this technology employ hundreds or even thousands of people, often in offshore outsourcing centres in India or China, whose job it is to teach the robo-cars to recognise pedestrians, cyclists and other obstacles. The workers do this by manually marking up or “labelling” thousands of hours of video footage, often frame by frame, taken from prototype vehicles driving around testbeds such as Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

Cash for Clunkers Was a Complete Failure

Daniel Mitchell:

The 2009 Cash for Clunkers program aimed to stimulate consumer spending in the new automobile industry, which was experiencing disproportionate reductions in demand and employment during the Great Recession. Exploiting program eligibility criteria in a regression discontinuity design, we show nearly 60 percent of the subsidies went to households who would have purchased during the two-month program anyway; the rest accelerated sales by no more than eight months. Moreover, the program’s fuel efficiency restrictions shifted purchases toward vehicles that cost on average $5,000 less. On net, Cash for Clunkers significantly reduced total new vehicle spending over the ten month period.
 This is remarkable. At the time, the most obvious criticism of the scheme was that it would simply alter the timing of purchases.
 And scholars the following year confirmed that the program didn’t have any long-run impact.
 But now we find out that there was impact, but it was negative. Here’s the most relevant graph from the study. It shows actual vehicle spending and estimated spending in the absence of the program

This Is How Big Oil Will Die

Seth Miller::

Let’s bring this back to today: Big Oil is perhaps the most feared and respected industry in history. Oil is warming the planet — cars and trucks contribute about 15% of global fossil fuels emissions — yet this fact barely dents its use. Oil fuels the most politically volatile regions in the world, yet we’ve decided to send military aid to unstable and untrustworthy dictators, because their oil is critical to our own security. For the last century, oil has dominated our economics and our politics. Oil is power.
 Yet I argue here that technology is about to undo a century of political and economic dominance by oil. Big Oil will be cut down in the next decade by a combination of smartphone apps, long-life batteries, and simpler gearing. And as is always the case with new technology, the undoing will occur far faster than anyone thought possible.
 To understand why Big Oil is in far weaker a position than anyone realizes, let’s take a closer look at the lynchpin of oil’s grip on our lives: the internal combustion engine, and the modern vehicle drivetrain.

BNEF’s annual long-term forecast of global electric vehicle (EV) adoption to 2040.


Our global long-term Electric Vehicle Outlook (EVO) forecasts passenger EV adoption out to 2040 and the impact that electrification will have on automotive and power markets, as well as on fossil fuel displacement and demand for key materials. The EVO 2017 report updates our view of future lithium-ion battery prices and how this will affect the economics of different vehicle segments. It also looks at important upcoming EV models, and analyzes the impact of car sharing, ride hailing and autonomous driving.

The Saga of Ride Austin

John Daniel Davidson::

RideAustin, the capital’s homegrown nonprofit, announced earlier this month that it’s lowering prices to compete with the two ridesharing giants. The departure of Uber and Lyft last year spurred RideAustin’s creation, but now the dynamic duo is back. The ridesharing services started operating on Memorial Day, the same day Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill overriding the city’s ordinance with a statewide regulatory framework. RideAustin has seen a steep drop in business since then, reporting “dramatic decreases in demand” in a recent Facebook post. The ridesharing service said it gave 62 percent fewer rides the first week of June than it did the week before Uber and Lyft returned.

Most Austinites are familiar with the backstory of the city’s ongoing ridesharing saga. In a political battle that made national headlines, Uber and Lyft spent $8.2 million—the most expensive campaign in Austin history—to persuade voters to back Proposition 1, an ordinance that would have repealed the city’s ridesharing rules, which included a fingerprint requirement for drivers, among other regulations. Austinites rejected Prop 1 in a referendum vote last May. Uber and Lyft, having warned that they would not operate under the city’s rules, promptly closed up shop.

In a post on Medium written one week after Uber and Lyft came back, RideAustin’s CEO Andy Tryba and COO Marisa Goldenberg speculated that “super-price sensitive folks” accounted for the sudden drop . Up until its announcement that it would cut rates, RideAustin was charging a few more cents per minute than the cheaper apps, including Uber and Lyft. Now, its 99 cents a mile and 20 cents a minute rate is the lowest in Austin by a narrow margin (Uber and Lyft both charge $1 a mile and 20 cents a minute). But it’s not clear that lower rates attract more customers in the ridesharing market. One academic study of Uber’s surge pricing found users would be willing to pay significantly more for rides, a phenomena that’s also been observed locally, suggesting that tech reliability and consistency are more important to most riders than prices.

Behind much of the turmoil in Austin’s ridesharing market has been a decidedly non-market force: city government. After all, it was the city council’s insistence that no compromise with Uber and Lyft was possible on the fingerprinting issue that prompted the companies to push for a referendum vote in the first place. To his credit, Mayor Adler tried to broker an agreement between city Council and the ridesharing giants that would have made fingerprinting voluntary but also encouraged drivers to do it anyway. But city Council balked, defeating the compromise measure in an 8-2 vote last February. That failure triggered the Prop 1 vote, which was, perhaps, not instructive about what most ridesharing users want. A mere 48,673 Austinites voted against it—enough to defeat the measure but not nearly enough to gauge the market. Although Uber and Lyft’s Prop 1 campaign may have been misguided and heavy-handed, the narrative pushed by the city—that Austin residents deeply cared about fingerprint background checks—has been undermined by the number of riders who seem to have returned to still fingerprint-less Uber and Lyft in recent weeks.

Throughout this ordeal, the city’s political players became entwined in the ridesharing market—not just as regulators, but also as players. The same day Uber and Lyft went dark last May, Mayor Steve Adler’s office outlined seven things the city was doing to address transportation in their absence. The list included things like, “working to help TNCs [ridesharing companies] that operate in Austin to be successful,” and “exploring a local nonprofit TNC with Austin entrepreneurs,” a reference to what would become RideAustin.

The most ambitious idea was the mayor’s so-called Thumbs Up program, a kind of municipal tech startup to create what Adler called a “third-party, cross-platform badge validator,” based on various safety measures like fingerprinting and background checks. The idea was to allow any peer-to-peer vendor, from Uber to Airbnb, to display the badge on its app to show that a driver or homeowner had passed a given safety test. Adler told the American-Statesman it was, “potentially a real value addition to that sharing economy.” It was this sort of program the mayor had in mind when he told City Lab last May that Austin was “innovating too quickly for Uber and Lyft.”

Why Tesla Is Worth More Than GM

James Surowiecki

he digital economy has transformed the way we communicate with each other; the way we consume information, products, and services; the way we entertain ourselves. It’s revolutionized seemingly non-digital industries—think of how different financial services, for instance, are today from what they were two decades ago—and investors expect it to soon transform others, which is why Tesla Motors is worth more than General Motors despite making a tiny fraction as many cars as GM makes and earning a tiny fraction of the revenue.

Volvo admits its self-driving cars are confused by kangaroos

Naaman Zhou:

Volvo’s self-driving car is unable to detect kangaroos because hopping confounds its systems, the Swedish carmaker says.
 The company’s “Large Animal Detection system” can identify and avoid deer, elk and caribou, but early testing in Australia shows it cannot adjust to the kangaroo’s unique method of movement.
 The managing director of Volvo Australia, Kevin McCann, said the discovery was part of the development and testing of driverless technology, and wouldn’t pose problems by the time Volvo’s driverless cars would be available in 2020.

Via Bruce McLaughlin.