Mercedes becomes the first automaker to sell Level 3 self-driving vehicles in California

Mercedes-Benz is the first automaker to get permission from California regulators to sell or lease vehicles with Level 3 (hands-off and eyes-off) self driving tech on designated roads, Reuters has reported. The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued a permit for the company’s Drive Pilot system, provided it’s used under certain conditions and on specific roads. Mercedes-Benz previous received a similar certification in Nevada. 

Drive Pilot will allow Mercedes-Benz drivers to takes their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel, then do other non-driving activities like watching videos and texting. If the rules for use are followed, Mercedes (and not the driver) will be legally responsible for any accident that happens. 

To do all this, the Drive Pilot system relies on sensors installed throughout the vehicle including visual cameras, LiDAR arrays, radar/ultrasound sensors and audio mics to keep an ear out for approaching emergency vehicles. It can even compare onboard sensor and GPS data to fix its precise location on roads. 

It’s not as advanced as the systems on Waymo and Cruise vehicles, which allow full self-driving with no human driver aboard. At the same time, it’s a step up from Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving system, which is actually a Level 2 system and requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention at all times. 

Utilization is limited to high-traffic situations during daylight, with speeds under 40 MPH, and drivers must be available to resume control — so you can’t go in the back seat and sleep, for example. To enforce that, the vehicle tracks the driver with an in-car monitor, and you’ll need to take over if it goes faster than 40MPH, an emergency vehicle shows up, it rains, or other situations Driver Pilot can’t handle on its own. 

The system will be available on 2024 S-Class and EQS Sedan models, with deliveries slated for later this year. Engadget was able to test the system at Mercedes-Benz’s test track in Germany (and see it in action on LA roads). According to contributor Roberto Baldwin, "while it did what it was supposed to do, we found it hard to turn off our driving brain while behind the wheel."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

via Engadget

June 9, 2023 at 05:45AM

Tesla drivers are using bioweapon defense mode to escape wildfire smoke — here’s how it works

The Statue of Liberty is covered in haze and smoke caused by wildfires in Canada.
Amr Alfiky/Reuters
  • Three Tesla Models come with “bioweapon defense mode.”
  • Using HEPA air filters and positive pressure, Tesla says you could ride out a military attack in one. 
  • Tesla owners posted videos of the mode in use amid thick wildfire smoke this week. 

Tesla added intense air filtration to three of its models years ago and drivers are once again finding them useful for unhealthy air sweeping across North America.

“Never thought I’d have to use this feature,” one Reddit user posted with a photo. In the comments, Californians chimed in that they’d found it useful during the state’s fires in recent years. 

Tesla’s bioweapon mode acts as an air pressure buffer on top of the usual HEPA filtration, similar to the positive ventilation used in surgical facilities to keep any pollutants out. 

Tesla made a demonstration video on how it works: 


“You can literally survive a military grade bio attack by sitting in your car,” Tesla said, posting a chart of its data to prove it. 

Tesla’s not the only automaker to include air-purifying HEPA filters, but they’re not common. Mercedes-Benz‘ “Air Balance” system also uses them.



via Autoblog

June 8, 2023 at 03:14PM

EcoFlow Blade Review: Smart Robot Mower, Silly Glitches

I have never much liked mowing the lawn. I remember struggling with an antiquated hand-push lawn mower as a kid. Nowadays, I dread my weekly battle with the big, heavy, indestructible gas mower I inherited from my grandfather. The idea of a robot mower filling in for me as I lounge with a cold drink has always appealed, so I was excited to test the EcoFlow Blade.

Not only does this thing have a cool name, it looks like it rolled straight out of Robot Wars, with big chunky wheels, an angular frame, and a central chassis that can go up and down to your preferred cutting length. Since it uses GPS for navigation, there’s no need to faff with boundary wire, and a front-facing camera combines with lidar to ensure it avoids obstacles. But the EcoFlow Blade does not come cheap, and has some disappointing quirks.

Get Your Mower Running

Photograph: Simon Hill

Setup was surprisingly quick and easy. I unpacked the mower and followed the instructions to set up the charging station and plant the 4-foot-tall GNSS antenna. The mower relies on satellite navigation. Picking a spot was tricky, as the antenna and base require a location with a strong GPS signal and nothing too tall close by. Trees and buildings can block the signal. The EcoFlow Blade employs real-time kinematic positioning (RTK), triangulating GPS modules in the mower and the charging base with the GNSS antenna to get an accurate position.

Once the EcoFlow app was satisfied with the signal, I drove the mower around my lawn like a gigantic remote control car to set a mowing area. You can set no-go zones and define multiple mowing areas. Within an hour of unboxing, the EcoFlow Blade was busily cutting my lawn. You can set your preferred grass length between 0.8 and 3.1 inches in the app, schedule the Blade to mow, and tell it to make multiple passes around the edge.

By default, the EcoFlow Blade connects to your phone via Bluetooth, which takes a few seconds and has limited range. But you can also connect via Wi-Fi or use an eSIM. It can track its own position, so if anyone pinches your EcoFlow Blade, it will stop working. Then you can use the app to locate it.

Thankfully, you don’t need the app to use your mower. There’s a big red stop button on top for safety and a trio of buttons to turn the power on or off, start mowing, and return to base. It takes just over two hours to charge and works for up to four hours.

Lawn Patrol

Photograph: Simon Hill

EcoFlow says the Blade can cover over 30,000 square feet of lawn and handle slopes up to 27 degrees. Most robot mowers are designed for much smaller areas and struggle with inclines. The EcoFlow Blade’s front two wheels are angled in, which enables it to turn sharply, and the back wheels have teeth for better traction. It certainly had no trouble with the gentle slope in my modest lawn and cut the grass in neat rows.

via Wired Top Stories

June 8, 2023 at 08:22AM

India’s Tech Obsession May Leave Millions of Workers Without Pay

Vaishali Kanal’s wages don’t depend on how much she works. They depend on whether there is internet in her village or not. Kanal, 25, usually leaves her toddler at home in Palatpada, a remote village in western India, early in the morning, and goes to work on a nearby building site. But when we met on a scorching May afternoon, she was cradling her daughter in her arms. “If she is awake or crying, I take her with me,” she says. “It is tough to do backbreaking labor and take care of the toddler at the same time.”

Often she puts in a whole day of grueling labor but doesn’t get paid for it, due to a glitch in a government system that was supposed to help some of the country’s most marginalized people—like Kanal, a tribal farmer from Maharashtra’s Palghar district. Kanal is a worker under the Indian government’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, or MGNREGA, which gives rural workers a guaranteed income for working on public infrastructure project, such as roads, wells and dams. The aim of the scheme was to give people in rural areas employment opportunities close to home, so they wouldn’t have to move to cities to find work. With 266.3 million registered workers and 144.3 million active ones, it is probably the largest employment scheme in the world.

Until last year, workers’ attendance at their jobs was often marked on a physical muster roll by a village employment guarantee assistant or worksite supervisor. However, in January this year, the national government made it mandatory to log the attendance of workers on an app, the National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS). The official on site now has to upload pictures of workers to the system to prove their attendance. But the app doesn’t work in remote areas with weak or infrequent internet connections. Critics of the policy say the lack of connectivity was an easily foreseeable problem, and that workers from marginalized groups are—not for the first time—being left behind in the government’s obsession with rolling out glossy, but poorly thought-through technologies.

“The government’s focus is not on workers, but on technology, regardless of whether it helps workers,” says Brian Lobo, an activist working in Palghar.

The Ministry of Rural Development, which oversees the MGNREGA scheme, did not respond to a request for comment.

Workers using the NMMS have to have their photos taken twice—once when they start work, and once when the day is over. “If the internet is sluggish, the photos don’t get uploaded,” said Jagadish Bhujade, a guarantee assistant in the block of Vikramgad where Kanal’s village is located. “In our block, it is always a problem.”

Kanal says that there have been days she’s rushed to work, only to find that the internet is down and there’s no way to log in. “That means I have to walk back all the way to my home,” she says. “Some of the worksites are quite far, and I can’t afford to take the bus each time.”

via Wired Top Stories

June 6, 2023 at 01:08AM

Rich Nations Owe $192 Trillion for Causing Climate Change, New Analysis Finds

CLIMATEWIRE | A major question has emerged as the world strives to reduce greenhouse gases: How much money should rich nations pay to poor ones for raising Earth’s temperature?

Scientists have found an answer.

High carbon countries owe at least $192 trillion to low-emitting nations in compensation for their greenhouse gas pollution.

That’s the conclusion of a new paper published Monday in the journal Nature Sustainability by researchers Andrew Fanning and Jason Hickel.

“It is a matter of climate justice that if we are asking nations to rapidly decarbonise their economies, even though they hold no responsibility for the excess emissions that are destabilizing the climate, then they should be compensated for this unfair burden,” said Fanning in a statement.

The concept of climate reparations is a topic of global discussion. Low-income and developing nations have long argued that wealthy, high-emitting countries should help them with the costs of decarbonizing. More recently, the international community has begun to acknowledge that high-emitting nations should help other countries grapple with the damages they’ve suffered as a result of climate change, including the impacts of extreme weather events, rising seas and other climate consequences.

World leaders agreed last year at the U.N. climate talks in Egypt to establish a fund that would pay vulnerable countries for “loss and damage” associated with climate change. But the details of how the fund will operate — including which states are eligible for compensation, what kinds of damage the fund will cover and how the money will be disbursed — are still undecided.

A special committee tasked with hashing out these details is expected to present a proposal at the climate talks in the United Arab Emirates starting in November.

Meanwhile, activists, scientists and policy experts around the world are considering ways that climate aid — sometimes called reparations — could potentially be structured. The new paper presents one potential framework for climate compensation.

Nations participating in the Paris climate agreement are currently striving to keep global temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of their preindustrial levels, and below 1.5 C if at all possible. So the researchers began by examining the carbon budget for both climate goals — that’s the amount of carbon the world can release without overshooting the temperature target.

Then they divided the carbon budgets into fair shares for every country. Each nation gets a slice of the budget according to its size and population.

Next, they examined each country’s cumulative emissions since the year 1960. The world had been emitting large quantities of greenhouse gases for decades beforehand — but by 1960, they said, researchers clearly understood the science of global warming and were beginning to communicate it to the public, as well.

Based on these historical emissions, the researchers then determined which countries have already used up their fair shares of the carbon budget. They also looked at how much more carbon each country is likely to emit between now and 2050, even if the world begins reducing emissions fast enough to meet the 1.5 C target.

The researchers divided the world into two groups. They lumped 39 high-emitting countries together, including the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Israel, in a group they refer to as the Global North. All of the other countries in the study, including the rest of Asia, the Americas and Africa, fell into the second group, which the researchers referred to as the Global South.

They found that all the countries in the Global North group had already exceeded their fair shares of the carbon budgets. The group had collectively blown through its 1.5 C budget back in 1986, and its 2 C budget was gone by 1995.

Even if nations worldwide manage to collectively reduce their net emissions to zero by 2050 and meet the 1.5 C temperature target, Global North countries would still overshoot their share of the budget by three times — and they’d use up half the Global South group’s budget in the process.

Fifty-five countries around the world would have at least 75 percent of their carbon budget used up by high emitters in this net-zero scenario. And 10 countries — all in sub-Saharan Africa — would sacrifice at least 95 percent of their carbon budgets.

The researchers then calculated the amount of money the overshooters would owe in compensation. They based their estimates on carbon prices, or the costs associated with excess emissions, established by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

They found that the overshooters would owe a total of $192 trillion to the rest of the world. The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom alone would be responsible for about two-thirds of that total. And the United States would owe the single greatest debt of any country on the planet.

Meanwhile, India and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa would be owed around half the total compensation value.

The researchers noted that these figures only include compensation for “atmospheric appropriation.” They don’t include payments that rich countries may owe poorer countries for the costs associated with decarbonizing or adapting to climate change — those would be extra.

The researchers also noted that the study does not account for inequalities within high-emitting nations themselves, where the wealthiest people account for much greater shares of the carbon footprint.

“Responsibility for excess emissions is largely held by the wealthy classes who have very high consumption and who wield disproportionate power over production and national policy,” Hickel said in a statement. “They are the ones who must bear the costs of compensation.”

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

via Scientific American

June 6, 2023 at 11:07AM

Apple Announces Very Fancy ‘Facial Computer,’ Starts At $3,499

Screenshot: Apple / Kotaku

All the rumors were true. Apple has a fancy headset it wants to sell you. The tech giant revealed its new mixed reality / virtual reality headset during its June 5 WWDC digital event, confirming the details of previous leaks.

The Week In Games: What’s Releasing Beyond Diablo IV

During today’s Worldwide Developers Conference—Apple’s annual event where it talks about its future plans and updates—the iPhone maker announced its new headset: The Vision Pro. The new headset features impressive specs, but you better be ready to pay a lot for this advanced piece of hardware.


The Vision Pro is controlled using your hands, eyes, and voice. Apps and videos will appears to exist in the real world using the headset’s advanced augmented reality tech, which lets it overlay computer visuals over a real-time camera feed. Apple also showed off how the headset can also immerse you in fully digital environments like a typical VR headset, letting you watch Ted Lasso in the middle of space.

An interesting feature called “EyeSight” shows your eyes to other people when they get close, via a display on the front of the unit. But if you are in the middle of a game or an immersive app, the front display makes that clear to other people, letting them know you are busy. However, at any point, Apple says you can see through apps to see other people in the room, helping to make you feel less isolated when using the new headset.


via Kotaku

June 5, 2023 at 01:44PM

‘The Risk of Extinction:’ AI Leaders Agree on One-Sentence Warning About Technology’s Future

Over 350 AI executives, researchers, and industry leaders signed a one-sentence warning released Tuesday, saying that we should try to stop their technology from destroying the world.

ChatGPT’s Creator Buddies Up to Congress | Future Tech

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” reads the statement, released by the Center for AI Safety. The signatories including Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google DeepMind, Dario Amodei, CEO of Anthropic, and Geoffrey Hinton, the so called “Godfather of AI” who recently quit Google over fears about his life’s work.

As the public conversation about AI shifted from awestruck to dystopian over the last year, a growing number of advocates, lawmakers, and even AI executives united around a single message: AI could destroy the world and we should do something about it. What that something should be, specifically, is entirely unsettled, and there’s little consensus about the nature or likelihood of these existential risks.

There’s no question that AI is poised to flood the world with misinformation, and a large number of jobs will likely be automated into oblivion. The question is just how far these problems will go, and when or if they will dismantle the order of our society.

Usually, tech executives tell you not to worry about the threats of their work, but the AI business is taking the opposite tactic. OpenAI’s Sam Altman testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month, calling on Congress to establish an AI regulatory agency. The company published a blogpost arguing that companies should need a license if they want to work on AI “super intelligence.” Altman and the heads of Anthropic and Google DeepMind recently met with President Biden at the White House for a chat about AI regulation.

Things break down when it comes to specifics though, which explains the length of Tuesday’s statement. Dan Hendrycks, executive director of the Center for AI Safety, told the New York Times they kept it short because experts don’t agree on the details about the risks, or what, exactly, should be done to address them. “We didn’t want to push for a very large menu of 30 potential interventions,” Hendrycks said. “When that happens, it dilutes the message.”

It may seem strange that AI companies would call on the government to regulate them, which would ostensibly get in their way. It’s possible that unlike the leaders of other tech businesses, AI executives really care about society. There are plenty of reasons to think this is all a bit more cynical than it seems, however. In many respects, light-touch rules would be good for business. This isn’t new: some of the biggest advocates for a national privacy law, for example, include Google, Meta, and Microsoft.

For one, regulation gives businesses an excuse when critics start making a fuss. That’s something we see in the oil and gas industry, where companies essentially throw up their hands and say “Well, we’re complying with the law. What more do you want?” Suddenly the problem is incompetent regulators, not the poor corporations.

Regulation also makes it far more expensive to operate, which can be a benefit to established companies when it hampers smaller upstarts that could otherwise be competitive. That’s especially relevant in the AI businesses, where it’s still anybody’s game and smaller developers could pose a threat to the big boys. With the right kind of regulation, companies like OpenAI and Google could essentially pull up the ladder behind them. On top of all that, weak nationwide laws get in the way of pesky state lawmakers, who often push harder on the tech business.

And let’s not forget that the regulation that AI businessmen are calling for is about hypothetical problems that might happen later, not real problems that are happening now. Tools like ChatGPT make up lies, they have baked-in racism, and they’re already helping companies eliminate jobs. In OpenAI’s calls to regulate super intelligence — a technology that does not exist — the company makes a single, hand-waving reference to the actual issues we’re already facing, “We must mitigate the risks of today’s AI technology too.”

So far though, OpenAI doesn’t actually seem to like it when people try to mitigate those risks. The European Union took steps to do something about these problems, proposing special rules for AI systems in “high-risk” areas like elections and healthcare, and Altman threatened to pull his company out of EU operations altogether. He later walked the statement back and said OpenAI has no plans to leave Europe, at least not yet.

Want to know more about AI, chatbots, and the future of machine learning? Check out our full coverage of artificial intelligence, or browse our guides to The Best Free AI Art Generators and Everything We Know About OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

via Gizmodo

May 30, 2023 at 10:49AM