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UBER’S SELF-DRIVING CARS RETURN TO PUBLIC ROADS FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE FATAL CRASH

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Uber officially resumed testing its self-driving cars on public roads Thursday, nine months after one of its vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The company received a letter from Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation authorizing it to restart its program, albeit in a highly scaled back fashion.

For the time being, Uber’s self-driving Volvo SUVs will be confined to a one-mile loop around Pittsburgh’s Strip District, where the company’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) is headquartered. Only two vehicles are being tested for now, though more will be added. The cars won’t exceed the posted speed limit of 25 mph, and will have two safety drivers in them at all times — Uber calls them “mission specialists.” For now, the cars aren’t picking up any passengers.

This downsized version of Uber’s self-driving program reflects the extent to which the company’s had to reassess its grand plan to conquer urban transportation with robot taxis after the crash in Tempe. The self-driving Uber car was traveling north with one safety driver inside when it struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg while she was pushing her bicycle across the street. The driver was streaming a television show on her phone at the time of the crash, and didn’t hit the brakes until after impact, according to the National Traffic Safety Board and local police.

The governor of Arizona barred the company from further testing in his state, and Uber subsequently laid off hundreds of safety drivers in Arizona and Pittsburgh. In the wake of the crash, reports emerged that Uber’s self-driving program was potentially fraught with risk. Uber had reduced the number of “safety drivers” in its test cars from two to one, according to a New York Times report. This explained why the driver who was in the car that killed Herzberg was alone.

The company’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi considered pulling the plug on the program all together. But in an April interview with the Today show Khosrowshahi said the company is “absolutely committed to self-driving cars.” And in May, Khosrowshahi was promoting the company’s inevitable return to public road testing. Uber’s ATG had conducted a “top-to-bottom” safety review. In July, Uber returned its cars to the roads in Pittsburgh, but in manual mode only. And in November, it released its voluntary safety report to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

TWO EMPLOYEES IN EACH AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE
“We implemented recommendations from our review processes, spanning technical, operational and organizational improvements,” Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber ATG, wrote in a blog post. “This required a lot of introspection and took some time. Now we are ready to move forward.”

Uber said it will resume testing with two employees in each autonomous vehicle, enabling Volvo’s factory setting for automatic braking, and strictly monitoring safety drivers. The company said it now has real-time third-party monitoring of backup safety drivers, it sets limits on the amount of time drivers can work per day, and it has improved training.

But it wasn’t easy going. The company’s vehicles were continuing to fail some of their track tests as recently as September, according to documents reviewed by the Times. Uber uses track testing to not only test against common road scenarios, but also edge cases with the goal of training the vehicle to become a generally good defensive driver. But the cars needed to drive 20 percent slower to match the reaction time of a human driver at 25 mph. A spokesperson said some of the test failures were minor and non-safety related, like a hard brake or a too-wide turn.

In a break with the past, Uber is working closer with regulators and third-party experts to build trust. A spokesperson for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said since Uber has “accepted established state guidelines, demonstrated transparency, and conformed to our expectations in addressing the unique conditions of a complex urban environment, the city is satisfied that self-driving testing operations by Uber will not introduce an increased level of safety risk in Pittsburgh,” the spokesperson said.

PITTSBURGH’S MAYOR IS “SATISFIED THAT … UBER WILL NOT INTRODUCE AN INCREASED LEVEL OF SAFETY RISK IN PITTSBURGH”

Sam Abuelsamid, a senior analyst at Navigant, had a briefing with Uber in November. “They said all the right things as far as revamping all of their processes for training of staff, reviewing and validating changes and general procedures,” Abuelsamid said. “Personally, I’d still like to see every system being tested on public roads reviewed and evaluated by an independent third party, but since that is unlikely any time soon, this will probably have to do.”

Abuelsamid noted that Uber doesn’t appear to be trying to rush this market as the company was under the management of the previous CEO, Travis Kalanick. And he pointed to Toyota’s partnership with Uber, in which the Japanese automaker is investing $500 million in developing self-driving cars with Uber, “as a big vote of confidence that the changes taking place at Uber are in the right direction.”

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Innovations

Google Stadia Gaming Service ‘Will Not Have Any Adults-Only’ Content, Executive Says

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A Google executive offered new details on Wednesday about the company’s upcoming video game streaming service, telling Reuters that game makers may use competing cloud providers and must avoid some inappropriate content.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, unveiled Stadia on Tuesday, saying the service launching this year would make playing high-quality video games in an internet browser as easy as watching a movie on its YouTube service.

The game would operate on Google’s servers, receiving commands from a user’s controller and sending video streams to their screen. Player settings, leaderboards, matchmaking tools and other data related to the game would “not necessarily” have to reside on Google’s servers, Phil Harrison, a Google vice president, said in an interview.

Hosting the data elsewhere, however, could lead to slower loading times or less crisp streaming quality, he said.

“Obviously, we would want and incentivize the publisher to bring as much of their backend as possible” to Google servers, he said. “But Stadia can reach out to other public and private cloud services.”

The approach could limit Google’s revenue from Stadia. It has declined to comment on the business model for the new service, but attracting new customers to Google’s paid cloud computing program is one of Stadia’s aims.

If a game publisher was using Amazon for some tools, “the first thing I would do is introduce you to the Google Cloud team,” Harrison said.

In addition, Stadia will require games to follow content guidelines that build upon the system of Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a self-regulatory body, he said.

“We absolutely will not have A-O content,” Harrison said, referring to the ESRB’s moniker for the rare designation of a game as adult-only because of intense violence, pornography or real-money gambling.

He said Stadia’s guidelines would not be public.

Asked about growing public concerns about game addiction, Harrison said Stadia would empower parents with controls on “what you play, when you play and who you play with.”

Google views Stadia as connecting its various efforts in gaming, including selling them on its mobile app store, Harrison said. But game streaming, he said, is an opportunity to tackle among the most complex technical challenges around and potentially apply breakthroughs to other industries.

“We think we can grow a very significant games market vertical,” he said. “And by getting this right we can advance the state of the art of computing.”

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Business

Mercedes-Benz sells 180,539 vehicles, January

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Mercedes-Benz delivered 180,539 vehicles to its customers worldwide in January (-6.7%).

The second-best start to a year for sales was influenced by important model changes in the high-volume SUV and compact-car segments.

In particular, the model change of the B-Class, CLA and GLE, each with a double-digit sales decrease, had a negative impact on total unit sales worldwide despite the ongoing high demand for the cars with the star insignia.

From today’s perspective, the company expects the model changes to affect deliveries in the first quarter.

With a high degree of probability, the full year will be affected also by exogenous challenges and geopolitical risks, the company announces in its global sale report for January.

A member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Mercedes-Benz cars marketing and sales, Britta Seeger, said “With more than 180,000 vehicles delivered, Mercedes-Benz has started the year 2019 with the second-best January ever”.

“With the B-Class, the CLA and the GLE, we look forward in the coming months to the new generations of models very popular with our customers and expect the model offensive in our high-volume segments to provide significant sales impetus”.

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Reports

THE EVOLUTION OF WEB DESIGN

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Website architecture has gained some amazing ground, so we should look back and see how what we have come to know as destinations these days was created.

Only content based, the first site denoted the beginning of what would transform into a digital revolution. Also, remember that recollections of “a work in progress” GIFs and blinding establishment tints make us appreciate how far site structure and web design have come, there are some bona fide website design choices that truly ask for a sign of respect.

Other than that, there is a flood of e-commerce content management system. Furthermore, with the development of SEO, the website structure methods have in like manner changed to consider ways to respond to web indexes.

The way in which we plan web design have definitely changed now. From content based goals back then to sites with complex functionalities made on open source today, the website synthesis strategies have changed to an extensive degree. This has obviously implied a lot for organizations, to go according to the advancement of website design and building their sites for improved expansion.

In this infographic, we can see the advancement of website architecture and web design in a visual way.

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