What’s new in tech
Google now predicts flight delays
Google wants “to help travelers tackle some of the more frustrating aspects of air travel,” said Sarah Perez in TechCrunch.com. The tech giant launched an updated version of its Google Flights search engine last week that can predict flight delays “that haven’t yet been flagged by airlines themselves.” Rather than just pull information from carriers, the app uses historical data and artificial intelligence to judge when a flight is going to be late. When it’s at least 80 percent confident that a flight is delayed, Google will notify users, even if the operating airline hasn’t issued an official confirmation. Another new Google Flights feature will show travelers what amenities are missing from “basic economy” fares—overhead space or the option to pick a seat, for example—so fliers can better assess the trade-offs of these lower-cost tickets.
Is Facebook’s new app bad for kids?
Child development experts are demanding that Facebook scrap its Messenger Kids app, said Nitasha Tiku in Wired.com. Marketed to 6- to 12-year-olds, the app lets youngsters exchange photos and videos, and add crayon-style stickers to messages. It doesn’t include a news feed. Kids need parental approval to sign up for the service and to add new contacts. But in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 97 child health advocates said those safeguards aren’t sufficient and that the app will “undermine healthy childhood development.” The experts say their concerns stem from studies that link “increased depression, poor sleeping habits, and unhealthy body image in children and teens with higher use of social media and digital devices.” Facebook says it has no plans to shutter the app, noting it was developed with the help of parents and child-health professionals.
Uber, but for bicycles
For the first time, Uber is offering rides on U.S. roads “using something other than cars,” said Daisuke Wakabayashi in The New York Times. Starting this week, select customers in San Francisco will be able to use the ride-sharing app to rent pedal-assist electric bicycles. The service, which costs $2 for a 30-minute hire, will initially target users who often travel through areas of the city where the 250 bikes are available; other customers can join a wait list for the service. Combined with its work on autonomous trucks and the Uber Eats delivery business, the pilot project signals “Uber’s ambition to move beyond its ride-hailing origins.”