Bytes: What’s new in tech
Making clean cars purr
Federal regulators want electric vehicles to get a little noisier—for safety’s sake, said Sonari Glinton in NPR.org. “One of the benefits for owners of electric and hybrid cars is that they are quiet.” But while that may be a selling point for drivers, it poses a danger to pedestrians, especially those who are visually impaired. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finalized a new rule last week requiring hybrid and electric cars, trucks, SUVs, and buses to make an audible noise to alert pedestrians to their presence when traveling at speeds less than 19 miles per hour. At faster speeds, tire and wind noise are enough to warn people that a vehicle is coming. The new feature will cost car companies $39 million each year, partly to install external waterproof speakers, but is expected to result in 2,400 fewer pedestrian injuries each year.
Strolling memory lane with Google
Google wants to help you finally digitize those scrapbooks full of old family photos, said Casey Newton in TheVerge.com. A new app called PhotoScan, released last week for iOS and Android, allows users to quickly scan lots of old prints and save them online “with a single tap.” PhotoScan uses “a novel, almost game-like interface.” The app opens to the smartphone camera and shows users how to position a photo within the frame. Users then scan the photo by moving their phone over four dots that appear on top of the photo in the camera’s viewfinder, which takes just seconds. Photos are automatically cropped, rotated, and color corrected. The tradeoff is in scan quality, which is “slightly lower than what you might expect to get from a traditional flatbed scanner.”
Your cellphone number knows all
“The next time someone asks you for your cellphone number, you may want to think twice about giving it,” said Steve Lohr in The New York Times. Cellphone numbers are becoming a kind of “10-digit key code to your private life,” with companies like moneylenders and social networks using it as a link to users’ private data and online habits. In fact, a cellphone number can often now tell more about its owner than a Social Security number “because it is tied to so many databases and is connected to a device” people almost always have with them. But unlike with Social Security numbers, which companies are required to keep private, there are scant consumer protections for personal cellphone numbers.