What’s new in tech
Driverless taxis are here
“The driverless taxi race is on,” said Alison Griswold in Qz.com. Last week, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, started offering driverless taxi rides via its new ride-hailing company, Waymo One. The rides, available only in Phoenix for now, don’t make for a “robo-taxi takeover” just yet, but Waymo One is “in every way a competitor to Uber.” Google started its self-driving car project in 2009, the same year Uber was founded. They’ve logged 7 billion miles in simulation and 10 million miles on public roads—public trials in Phoenix began in 2017. Uber, meanwhile, has had tragic problems with its self-driving fleet—one of its driverless vehicles struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz., in March. Uber is slated to start testing its autonomous cars again in Pittsburgh, but with some precautions: No car will drive above 25 mph, or at night, or in wet conditions.
Facebook’s data offensive revealed
Some 250 pages of internal Facebook emails released by British lawmakers reveal that “executives were ruthless and unsparing in their ambition to collect more data from users,” said Kevin Roose in The New York Times. The emails, which span 2012 to 2015, a time of tremendous expansion for Facebook, show executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, “discussing ways to undermine their competitors, obscure their collection of user data, and—above all—ensure that their products kept growing.” Facebook engineered a way to collect Android users’ data without having to alert them, and Zuckerberg personally approved cutting off a video-sharing app’s access to Facebook, because it was a competitor to Facebook-owned Instagram. The app, Vine, was eventually forced to shut down.
Still waiting for true 5G speed
“The first ‘real world’ 5G test was a dud,” said Sean Hollister in TheVerge.com. Last week, AT&T and Verizon gave journalists a demo of their newest devices running on a real 5G network—the next stage in their wireless rollout. In theory, the new wireless networks are capable of speeds of about 400 Mbps, faster than all but the best home cable connections. But the networks that the telecom carriers showed off at a major technology conference in Maui “aren’t anywhere near as fast as 5G is supposed to be.” AT&T is just weeks away from launching a 5G network in several cities, but so far there’s no firsthand proof that “5G is actually delivering” on its promise.