Big Tech & Startups
Stories about tech giants, startups, and venture capital
Inside Uber before its self-driving car killed a pedestrian: sources describe infighting, "perverse" incentives, and questionable decisions (15 minute read)
Earlier this year, one of Uber's self-driving Volvo SUVs struck and killed Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. Now internal documents show that Uber's self-driving car team had disabled the car's emergency brakes and reduced the car's ability to swerve, because it wanted to show their new CEO progress in the form of a smoother rider experience. At the time of the accident, engineers knew the software was immature, and it was having trouble recognizing and predicting paths of pedestrians and wasn't always detecting objects within a couple of meters of it. One engineer says "This could have killed a toddler in a parking lot." Engineers describe a "toxic" culture, where the bonus structure incentivizes quickly hitting milestones with or without careful testing. A former engineer says "At ATG, the attitude is I will do whatever it takes and I will get this huge bonus. I swear that everything that drives bad behaviors was the bonus structure." Uber stopped testing their self-driving cars on public roads after the incident, but plans on starting up again in 2019.
Apple has reportedly cut production of its 3 newest iPhone models after lower-than-expected demand (1 minute read)
Apple has cut production targets for all three iPhones it released in September (the XR, the XS, and the XS Max) due to low demand. Analysts believe that the iPhone could start seeing year-over-year declines in sales as soon as the first quarter of 2019. Apple recently announced that it would no longer be reporting iPhone unit sales. The XR model is doing especially poorly, and Apple has told producers to cut production by a third (originally they asked for 70 million units between September and February).
Science & Cutting Edge Technology
Stories about scientific breakthroughs and futuristic
technologies like AI, blockchain, and space travel
New experimental Lockheed supersonic jet starts production (2 minute read)
NASA has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to design a quiet supersonic jet. Currently supersonic jets are banned because they cause loud "sonic booms". The slender design of this jet would be able to reduce noise to a level where supersonic flight is tenable. The new X-59 will cruise at a speed of about 940 mph at an altitude of 55,000 feet, and will be about as loud as a car door closing. It is expected to conduct its first flight in 2021.
NASA considers selling seats on the spacecraft used for International Space Station (2 minute read)
NASA is considering selling seats on the shuttles used to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station as an additional revenue source. Russia already does something like this, selling seats on its spacecraft to wealthy individuals for millions of dollars. The agency is also considering boosting its brand in other ways by allowing its logo to be used commercially and its astronauts to appear in commercials. The White House is considering ending direct funding of the International Space Station by 2025, so selling seats could be one way of turning the station into a self-funding commercial entity. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says "NASA has the best brand in the world, and it is important for us to make sure that we're using it in a way that helps people perceive the United States of America in a different way all around the world."
Tools, Media, & Open Source
Sites, tools, podcasts, videos, open source
libraries, and other interesting stuff you should check out
Self Driving Pi Car (Github Repo)
This is the code used to build a $60 self-driving car with Legos and a Raspberry Pi. There is an extensive Medium article in here too detailing the whole process of building the car. The code is written in Python and uses a deep neural network to provide the self-driving functionality.
Random stuff techie people might be interested in
Google News may shut over EU plans to charge tax for links (2 minute read)
The EU has proposed a "link tax" that would charge search engines and link aggregators that use snippets to provide context for an article. Richard Gingras, VP of Google News, says that while "it's not desirable to shut down services", Google wouldn't rule out shutting down Google News in Europe, pointing out that when Spain tried to charge Google for links in 2014, the company responded by shutting down Google News in Spain, causing an immediate fall in traffic for Spanish news sites. He emphasized that Google News does not make any profit, saying "There's no advertising in Google News. It is not a revenue-generating product to Google. We think it's valuable as a service to society. We are proud to have it as part of the stable of properties that people have."