Tags Posts tagged with "Tech"

Tech

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Uber Technology Drives Into Portland

Uber technology and the company’s automobiles are making their way to Portland, OR. The company doesn’t have the best history with the city, but that won’t stop Portland from becoming the first U.S. market where Uber will push a set benchmarks for electrifying its fleet.

For the Portland version of Uber Electric, a program that the company rolled out to London last year, the ride-hailing company will team up with Drive Oregon, a partially state-funded nonprofit that seeks to get more electric vehicles on the road. With a combination of incentives and educational initiatives, Uber aims to make 10 percent of its Oregon fleet electric by 2019, statewide. Right now, the company says that 100 of the 6,000 active Portland Uber drivers use electric vehicles, so it has a lot of work to do.

To reach its 10 percent goal, Uber is pursuing a range of local collaborations. The company will work with Portland’s Black Parent Initiative to expand electric vehicle access to underserved communities, Cynergy E-Bikes to connect UberEATS couriers with electric bikes, and Arcimoto, an Oregon-based EV company. Uber is expected to use its auto-lease subsidiary Xchange Leasing to offer in-house deals to drivers wishing to get behind the wheel of an EV.

Uber stated about its mission in the city, “The City of Portland has also adopted some of the nation’s most aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Uber Electric will help Portland and the state of Oregon achieve these important clean energy goals.” Uber isn’t the only alternative transportation company going electric in Portland. Late last year, the city became the second market for BMW’s ReachNow, a Zipcar-like service with a focus on electric vehicles, and a previous initiative by Car2Go sprinkled electric smart cars onto its rainy streets all the way back in 2012.

In a world where a quarter of cars could drive themselves by 2030, Uber’s decision to take two years to recruit a few hundred EV drivers is more incremental than revolutionary. Still, it shows that the company is implementing both long and short-term strategies for rethinking transportation, even in the midst of one of the worst PR crises the tech industry has ever known.

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Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence Goes Corporate

Artificial Intelligence / A Cambridge, Massachusetts startup, Talla, wants to help companies to ease into artificial intelligence, and they have come up with a new service assistant bot that gives companies whatever degree of intelligence-fueled power they are looking for. The tool, called ServiceAssistant, works as an IT or HR help desk inside of Slack or Microsoft Teams and gives customers a few options on how to use it. First of all, you can run it like a conventional service desk. The user sends requests through ServiceAssistant where it gets processed and answered by a human.

Artificial Intelligence

In the second scenario, the customer eases into automation where the ServiceAssistant provides an automated answer, which gets checked by a human before being sent through to the questioner, or at the highest level of automation the system simply sends an answer when the confidence threshold is above a certain level set by the customer. Rob May, CEO and co-founder, says the company deliberately used an in-house service model instead of live customers because after reviewing the technology, he felt that the current Natural Language Processing technology was better suited to this approach.

The Talla ServiceAssistant looks like any user on Slack or Microsoft Teams. As with any Slack or Teams bot, employees can interact with it by asking questions. If it’s tuned to be an HR assistant, for example, an employee might ask, “Do we have Labor Day off?” If the system has been configured to answer automatically, it’s the kind of question that it can answer with a high degree of certainty and can simply tell the employee yes or no. In an IT Help Desk approach, the questions could get trickier such as, “How I get access to QuickBooks?” In this case, the system might find multiple matches, and if it were set for automated responses, it could ask the questioner to choose the most relevant one, or it could ask if they want to open a help desk ticket to move to the question to a human for processing.

The system is tuned to ask questions when it doesn’t understand and to learn from the responses. Since people ask questions in non-standard ways, the system can also learn that “Are we open Labor Day?” is the same as “Do we have Labor Day off?” or “Is the office closed on Labor Day?” May says even in companies where there are high usage rates for Slack or Teams, there could be as many as 20% of employees not using that tool, so they’ve also built a Web App and allow email, but the ultimate goal is to get people into the conversational tools to ask the questions; and do it in an automated way as possible.

The company wants to be more than a conversational bot, however. It wants to be a central place for processing IT and HR requests. That means having a ticket system, a knowledge base, and the ability to broadcast to employees, for example, when the system is going down for maintenance or the office is closed for a holiday. May says among his customers Slack is definitely the more popular of the two offerings today, but he believes it’s important to look at the different conversational tools and continually assess where that market is going as it’s still being established.

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automatic driving technology

GM Debuts Automatic Driving Technology This Fall

Coming in the fall of this year, GM will launch its Super Cruise advanced highway automatic driving technology, debuting first in the new Cadillac CT6. Super Cruise has been in the works for a few years now, and the semi-autonomous drive mode is almost ready for its debut, after its release date was pushed from 2016 to 2017 to give engineers more time to focus on designing the safest system possible.

Super Cruise offers features similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, which can take over control of driving in highway settings, maintaining lane position and adapting speed based on surrounding traffic. The feature will be available on a limited basis, with access narrowed to “divided, limited-access highways” with “defined ‘on’ and ‘off’ ramps” according to The Verge. The system will also track driver head position using infrared cameras built into the steering wheel that will make sure they pay attention while the feature is engaged, and will alert them via a steering-wheel mounted light notification system, and audio alerts, if they stop.
automatic driving technology

GM has also incorporate a fail-safe measure that will stop the vehicle safely if a driver ends up not being able to respond to the alerts, a feature which Tesla also implements in its Autopilot software. Super Cruise can also be updated over-the-air, another similarity between it and Tesla’s offering.

However, unlike Autopilot, GM’s semi-autonomous highway driving features incorporate LiDAR data. Tesla has refrained from equipping its vehicles with the high-resolution laser detection tech, and GM isn’t putting LiDAR on consumer cars either. Cost of components and the aesthetics likely make this an unappealing way to go, but GM has an interesting workaround to both use LiDAR data and keep it off production vehicles: It’s deploying a fleet of LiDAR mapping cars that will image highways where Super Cruise is used and make that information available to the system over-the-air.

The option is a paid add-on, with a $2,500 upgrade price and a $3,100 additional requirement if you get a trim-model that doesn’t include a driver assist suite lumped into the existing price. Super Cruise finally getting on the road is definitely exciting, but this is also the year Elon Musk has said he’s aiming to field a first coast-to-coast test of Tesla’s full self-driving technology. In other words, we’re off to the autonomous races.

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    hybrid technology

    Technology for World’s First Electric Hybrid Aircraft Gets Funding From Boeing And JetBlue

    Technology / Backed by funding from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue’s technology venture arm, Zunum Aero has revealed its plans to create a hybrid electric aircraft designed for regional flights with plans to fly by 2020. The aircraft would have a range of around 700 miles at launch, and the plan is to get that up to over 1,000 miles by 2030, which means it could potentially service many popular commuter routes in the United States.

    hybrid technology

    The Zunum Aero plane is designed around the idea that by routing more traffic to regional hub airports, and providing much lower operating costs for smaller craft with between 10 and 50 seats that do short-haul trips, between locations like Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, air travel can become much more efficient and convenient for commuters. Zunum says that air travel between hubs as an alternative to slower options like overland rail and highways hasn’t really gotten any better in the last 50 years, but it hopes to change the economics with its electric drive technology.

    The use of electric drive system technology will help Zunum Aero achieve hard targets including a 40 percent decrease in the overall travel time between spots on busy commuter corridors, or by up to 80 percent on routes that have less traffic. Costs will be reduced by between 40 to 80 percent, too, which could accommodate a corresponding decline in fares. Even with the hybrid tech, the planes will result in 80 percent decreased emissions vs. purely gas-powered regional jets, with the ultimate aim of working on 100 percent battery power with zero emissions once battery density capability catches up.

    Finally, Zunum Aero promises a 75 percent drop in community noise, which could dramatically increase both the hours of operation for smaller regional airports, and the willingness of communities to allow the existence of hubs to begin with, and larger planes with higher seating capacity on existing routes.

    In addition to funding from Boeing and JetBlue, Zunum has a team that includes a leader from a previous NASA-backed project on developing electric drives for airliners, and a long-term partnership in place for research on electric systems power optimization with the University of Illinois. It’s also been in close contact with the FAA since 2014 to work on certification standards for electric aircraft, so it’s up to date on the regulatory environment, too, and is helping shape what that looks like.

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    water technology

    Technology Turning Seawater Into Drinking Water

    Technology / Researchers continue to examine the potential of graphene, the one-atom thin sheet of bonded carbon atoms that was created more than ten years ago after researchers first peeled a few layers off a block of graphite with some Scotch Tape, before going on to refine their technique until a sheet just a single atom thick was produced.

    water technology

    The nanomaterial has been posited for all sorts of potentially revolutionary uses; from faster, thinner and even transparent electronics, to biotech implants, to better battery capacity. Now researchers at the University of Manchester say they have come up with a method for controlling the permeation of graphene oxide membranes so they can act as a filter to remove salt from ocean water. By controlling the size of the pores in the membranes the team was able to prevent common salts passing through the material, turning seawater into drinking water.

    While graphene has previously been demonstrated for filtering small nanoparticles, organic molecules, and even large salts, the challenge with common salts found in seawater is their small size. Graphene membranes also swell in size when immersed in water; meaning smaller sieves were required in order to block these common salts.

    The team at Manchester say they used physical confinement to control the interlayer spacing within graphene laminates immersed in water, enabling them to achieve what they describe as “accurate and tunable ion sieving”, and to provide a sieve size smaller than the diameters of hydrated ions.

    While they found that permeation rates for the membranes decrease exponentially with decreasing sieve size, they also report that water transport itself is only “weakly affected.” That means the filtered water flows through the membrane relatively quickly; an important factor if the aim is to develop affordable desalination technology. As well as potential uses for desalination, the team envisages wider industrial applications for “on-demand filtration capable of filtering out ions according to their sizes.” This study is detailed in a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

    Professor Rahul Nair, one of the scientists stated, “Realisation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology. This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sieve sizes.”

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    Artificial Intelligence

    Brain Enhancement To Accelerate Development Of Artificial Intelligence

    Artificial Intelligence : Elon Musk has another new company that is focused on developing the capabilities of the brain through AI. Neuralink, the new endeavor, officially came to light thanks to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, though it has been known for some time that Musk was working on brain-computer interface technology as a means to help ensure humans can keep pace with the accelerating development of artificial intelligence.

    Artificial Intelligence

    At Code Conference last year, Musk brought up the prospect of a “neural lace” that would be surgically connected to a human brain and permit a user to interact with a computer without the bandwidth challenges that come with current input methods, including keyboards, mice, and trackpads. He’s since tweeted that he has made progress on his own exploration of the technology, and more recently rumors emerged that he was planning to create another company with this project as its focus.

    According to the Wall Street Journal report, the medical conditions being studied could include epilepsy and severe depressive disorder. These efforts could build on existing therapies that use electrodes in the brain to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s, giving Neuralink a starting point with established science and an easier path to approval for human use. Clearing that lower hurdle would then set up the company for its longer-term goal of human augmentation.

    It may sound far-fetched, but in fact this is basically the Musk standard playbook for building new companies based on big ideas. Both SpaceX and Tesla used the same model, starting with near-term products that weren’t nearly as ambitious as later efforts in order to crest a sustainable path to grand designs, like landing on Mars or affordable, mass-produced long-range EVs.

    Musk will definitely have a full plate with Neuralink on top of SpaceX and Tesla, as well as his side venture The Boring Company, which is looking into solving urban transportation issues via tunnels. However, the CEO sees artificial intelligence as a risk that could potentially affect humanity at large, and his decision to pursue this potential solution likely seems as imperative to him as does the necessity of expanding our intergalactic colonial footprint, or weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels.

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    electric vehicle

    Electric Vehicles Go To Two Wheels

    What To Expect With A Zero Motorcycles’ Electric Vehicles, I mean, Motorcycles.

    With growing popularity, electric vehicles have started taking over. Some of the most popular brands on American roads are: Bolt, Prius, Proterra, and Tesla. It is rare to see or hear of a fully electric or hybrid motorcycle. Harley and Honda are two of the more popular brands of motor bikes. Their customers have expressed interest in the greener approach to riding but not many startups have been successful. Zero Motorcycles, Lightning Motorcycle, and Alta Motors are some US Companies still in the game.

    electric vehicles

    Zero Motorcycles CTO, Abe Askenazi, has been in the motorcycle industry for almost twenty years. He said right now a lot of Zero Motorcycles’ customers buy the company’s EV bikes alongside market-leading V-twins and V-4s. To him, that indicates Zero’s bikes perform at the same or better levels as riders’ long-held favorites. He continued, electric bikes are quiet, so riders can hear what’s happening around them, and won’t disturb the peace, which their neighbors appreciate. That quietness is one reason police departments buy Zero Motorcycles for their fleets. They can ride at any hour, and approach suspects stealthily if they drive electric.

    Zero’s products range from lightweight “hot rods” to off-road models that cost anywhere from about $8,500 to $16,000. Some of the new bikes are promising 200 miles per charge, which is a significant improvement from past models. The motorcycles’ easy to read instruments, speed control, and acceleration are some of Zero’s customers’ favorite qualities.

    Askenazi stated, “Optimization of chemistry has gotten us here. The beautiful thing is that batteries are plug-and-play. When that battery comes that will give you 1,000 miles, we’ll be able to use it. Where the industry is going though is not so much a bigger battery to go further between charges, but faster charging so you can go grocery shopping, plug it in, come back and then you’re ready to go again.”

    The CTO said that batteries will eventually weigh less and take up less space on the e-bikes. This will allow more space for cargo and other components. Askenazi stated, “You gain a lot of practicality with this bike.” He believes over time there will be many improvements with lighter weight and stronger materials.

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    technology_ride_sharing

    How Will Autonomous Vehicle Sharing Technology Affect Cities?

    New research from Arcadis, HR&A Advisors and Sam Schwartz Consulting offers advice for city planners who are considering a future that includes autonomous vehicle technology, or AVs. McKinsey (who was not part of this particular study) says that by 2030, autonomous vehicles will account for 15% of auto sales worldwide. The study released recently, “Driverless Future: A Policy Roadmap for City Leaders,” estimates that nearly 8 million people in its three sample cities will choose an AV over a traditional vehicle in the next 15 to 20 years. Those three sample cities were Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York and were selected for the extent of their of density, walkability, and usage of public transportation.

    technology ride sharing

    The research compared the cost of car ownership to speculated AV ridesharing and AV ridesourcing, and determined when people in those cities were likely to make the move from commuting in their own car to hailing a self-driving car. However, the study’s authors also point out that in order for AV to work, it has to work for everyone. They suggest things like using open data and universal apps so riders can compare prices, travel times, and environmental impact across modes of transportation, and pay using one app. To that extent, the authors also remind cities to keep in mind that not everyone has equal access to technology. People who do not have cell phones or bank accounts need to be able to access the transportation network, including autonomous rideshare or ridesource vehicles, through Dial-a-Ride and smartcard payment options.

    It is also worth taking in mind now, as this kind of technology and service is growing worldwide, how to fund accessible services. For example, the study notes that in New York City, there is a 30-cent fee per taxi ride that supports the city’s expansion of wheelchair-accessible transportation options. Ridesourcing services like Uber and Lyft don’t pay that fee. There are potential drawbacks to having fleets of AVs wandering city streets, and the study is aware of these concerns. Mass adoption of AVs could encourage sprawl and increase the number of miles cars travel, and the system could develop in a way that leaves behind anyone without a cell phone and a checking account. AVs also could decrease public transit revenues, which could affect public transportation.

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      technology nasa

      App Technology Allows Users To View Landscapes From Space

      The global imaging technology company that acquired Google’s Terra Bella satellite imaging business recently, Planet, is introducing a new tool called Planet Explorer Beta that permits its users to view how its image captures of Earth from space change over time. It is available to the public without a login, which means almost anyone can see what a particular spot on the planet looked like over a yearly or monthly period.

      technology nasa

      Will Marshall, Planet co-founder and CEO, describes in a blog post that the company has noticed that, as it captures images of the same locations over time, almost all places show visible signs of transformation. Planet’s satellite network captures a lot more imagery than has typically been available, and on a more frequent basis. It can collect a new photo of every piece of land on Earth on a daily basis, via its network of almost 150 orbital satellites. It proves things transform almost indefinitely all over the planet.

      There is clearly a business focus with Planet’s choice to reveal Explore Beta publicly with no login required. Use of the resulting images is limited to non-commercial purposes, and Planet anticipates this will drive free account sign-ups, which unlock access to not only yearly and monthly change imagery, but also daily comparisons. These gimmicks are likely to convert at least some users into paid subscribers, which permits them to use the available data for commercial use.

      However, Planet also says it believes imagery of the Earth should be freely accessible to all, including NGOs, individuals, and small companies, rather than exclusive province of big corporations and government agencies. For the everyday user, this is a great modern way to pass some time looking at truly fascinating satellite images, and getting some new perspective on the all-too inevitable passage of time.

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      technology

      Augmented-Reality Technology Company Attracting Big Investment

      Technology & e-commerce company Alibaba is digging deeper into the automobile industry after launching its first car last year. The company announced the Chinese Internet and e-commerce beast is the lead investor in smart car tech developer WayRay’s $18 million Series B round. Founded in 2012, WayRay makes holographic navigation systems. According to its funding announcement, WayRay has already spent $10 million of its own cash, as well as previous venture funding, on the technology that underpins Navion, an augmented-reality dashboard that overlays directions and other information onto a driver’s view of the road. WayRay plans to unveil a consumer version of Navion in 2017.

      technology

      Alibaba Group’s senior investment director, Ethan Xie stated, “We believe there is huge potential in the development of leading-edge technology like augmented reality and its application to various industries, like WayRay’s AR navigation system in the auto sector. The potential of augmented reality makes it an exciting and promising area.” Alibaba made its first appearance in the car industry last summer, when the RX5, a smart car it designed with SAIC (one of China’s “big four” state-owned auto manufacturers) opened for pre-orders. The RX5 uses Alibaba’s Yun operating system and the company anticipates to make the vehicle part of an Internet-of-Things ecosystem that will include its other smart hardware and Internet services like Alipay.

      But Alibaba’s smart cars are already up against challengers from other big Chinese tech companies like LeEco, which bills its electric car LeSee as “the first mobility ecosystem on wheels,” and Baidu, which is developing smart car technology and autonomous vehicles with BAIC, another of China’s big four state-owned automakers. WayRay also said that it will partner with Banma Technologies (a joint venture between Alibaba Group and SAIC) to create an augmented-reality navigation and entertainment system for a car that will be launched by Banma in 2018. WayRay claims that this is “the world’s first vehicle in-production with a holographic AR head-up display.”

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