Uber says a single metric isn’t a clear indication of an autonomous car’s safety

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Drivers still had to take over once every 13 miles in Arizona, according to new documents The New York Times obtained.

In the days since a self-driving Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz., local police and federal agencies have yet determine whether Uber’s technology was at fault.

But new documents obtained by The New York Times show Uber’s technology had made little progress in the last year. The story details the series of setbacks the company faced in trying to get self-driving cars to market, including careless safety drivers who are supposed to take over test cars in case of emergencies.

The key stat underpinning the report is what’s known as “miles per intervention,” or the number of miles the car can drive on its own before the safety driver has to take over the car. The Times story cites internal documents showing Uber was unable to meet its goal of driving an average of 13 miles without a driver having to take back control as of March.

That’s not much better than its rate of intervention this time last year. In March 2017, documents Recode obtained showed Uber’s safety operators had to take back control of the cars an average of once per every 0.8 miles.

Uber wanted to spell out what this metric means and doesn’t mean in the wake of the fatality and sent this statement:

MPI is not a measure of the overall safety of our testing operations, and shouldn’t be interpreted as such. Miles per intervention is one of many metrics that we use to track our system’s improvement, but without context it can be one of the least useful. For example, depending on where and how it’s tested, the same software could result in significantly different MPI. Additionally, companies may define interventions differently from each other.

In other words, miles per intervention is a broad metric that includes most of the times drivers have had to take back control from the system over the course of a week.

The reasons for these interventions can include navigating unclear lane markings, the system overshooting a turn or driving in inclement weather. The stat excludes accidental disengagements, end-of-route disengagements and early takeovers.

Other metrics include the average number of miles between “critical” interventions — when a driver has to avoid causing harm, such as hitting pedestrians or causing material property damage and the average number of autonomous miles between “bad experiences” — things like jerky motions or hard braking, which are more likely to cause discomfort than damage.

Then there’s the total number of miles driven autonomously. The documents the Times obtained indicated Uber had driven 3 million miles as of March.

While other companies may define interventions differently, Uber’s rate of intervention in Arizona is far more frequent than that of its competitors’. For example, Alphabet’s self-driving company, Waymo, had a rate of 5,600 miles per intervention in California.

Still, this is by no means an indication that the technology was at fault in the fatal crash. It is, however, an indication of Uber’s slow technological progress with its self-driving cars.

Recode – All

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Strava will refresh its heat map every month to clear it of private data

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

The workout social network Strava is still attempting to respond to privacy oversights that led to the exposure of military bases around the world earlier this year. The company announced multiple changes to its heat map today, according to Reuters, including the restriction of data viewing to anyone but registered users. The heat map also won’t display routes with little activity and will only populate once several different users have worked out in the area. The map will also refresh monthly to clear any data that might have been made private.

None of these changes seem super helpful for avoiding the exposure of low-profile locations. Researchers can always register to view data, and assuming a group of people work out at a military…

Continue reading…

The Verge – All Posts

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Clear your mind of privacy concerns with totally zen VPN [Deals]

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Life on the internet means feeling stress about having your data or identity stolen. That’s why signing on with a virtual private network (VPN) is key for online peace of mind. So where do you start? ZenMate is a worry-free way to protect your online life, eliminate restrictions and stay anonymous. With strong encryption, you […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

Cult of Mac

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When Facebook wants to clear things up, it turns to … Twitter

Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director

This time, Facebook execs want to talk about the Trump campaign’s 2016 ad spend. Confused? We explain.

Facebook generated more than $ 40 billion in revenue last year. Twitter did $ 2.4 billion. Investors think Facebook is worth $ 527 billion. They value Twitter at $ 23 billion.

Facebook used to care about competing with Twitter. It stopped worrying about that a long time ago.

But Facebook can’t ignore what happens on Twitter.

Which is why there’s an email in my inbox from Facebook’s PR firm, telling me that a Facebook executive has sent out a series of tweets in response to a tweet from one of Donald Trump’s campaign officials, which had been retweeted by Hillary Clinton, and which was originally made in response to a tweet from a journalist.

Got it? Didn’t think so.

Here we go:

  • If you don’t follow digital advertising, that tweet may not seem like a big deal, but here’s why it was provocative: Parscale was suggesting that the Trump campaign was able to reach Facebook audiences at a much, much cheaper rate — expressed as a “CPM,” which means the cost to generate a thousand impressions — than the Clinton campaign did.
  • That tweet sat around until Sunday, when it was amplified by TechCrunch columnist Kim-Mai Cutler, who picked up Parscale’s comments and interpreted them to read that “Facebook may have systematically charged the Clinton campaign an order of magnitude or two more than it was charging Trump to reach American voters.”
  • Then Clinton herself retweeted Cutler last evening:
  • A few hours later, Facebook’s Andrew Bosworth, who used to be a VP in Facebook’s ads group and has become one of the company’s most outspoken executives on Twitter, responded with his own tweets, arguing that Facebook doesn’t set the prices for its ads — Facebook’s auction software sets the prices for its own ads:
  • Which brings us to the bulk email I got today from a Facebook rep telling me about another set of tweets from Bosworth. The crucial one is this chart, which shows that, throughout the campaign, the Trump and Clinton campaign paid roughly similar ad rates, and that the “Trump campaign paid slightly higher CPM prices on most days rather than lower as has been reported.”

Whew! We will leave it there, for now, although Facebook certainly isn’t done defending itself. And as weird as this may have seemed a few years ago, I doubt that it is done using Twitter to defend itself in debates that start on Twitter.

Recode – All

Some ‘distracted’ Apple employees accidentally walking into Apple Park’s clear glass panes, claims report

An amusing tidbit this morning highlights a potential flaw in Apple Park’s all-glass design. Bloomberg reports that some employees who might not have been paying 100% attention to where they are walking have accidentally walked into the clear glass internal walls of the pods that make up Apple Park. As a remedy, employees stuck Post-It notes to the walls to make them easier to see. However, these had to be removed because ‘they detracted from the building’s design’.

Whilst there are some markings on these panes, it seems employees haven’t quite adjusted to their new campus. Apple is still in the process of moving employees over to the new campus; at last count, it had permission to move in workers to 5 out of the 12 Apple Park sections.



Apple Park Employees Are Walking Into Its Clear Glass Walls

According to a report, some of Apple’s employees who work at its brand new Apple Park campus are having a few problems getting around. The story goes that people are accidentally walking into the clear glass internal walls that make up Apple Park, apparently because they simply aren’t paying attention.

[ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

Redmond Pie

Stable Coins: A Clear Path to Our Future Crypto-Economy

A Port in a Storm

One of the most rapid economic collapses of the twenty-first century is currently unfolding in Venezuela. A formerly wealthy and cosmopolitan nation with huge oil reserves, Venezuela has seen its economy shrink a stunning 23% since 2013. Things recently went from very bad to even worse thanks to the government’s desperate turn to printing money: the money supply is expanding as much as 30% in a month, leading to runaway inflation and shortages. Citizens are losing weight for lack of food, basic goods must be smuggled from neighboring countries, and even the armed forces are restive because of cuts to their rations.

But, in contrast to similar disasters in the past, individual Venezuelans have an escape route: many have flocked to Bitcoin as a way to generate income and preserve wealth. That’s a vindication of cryptocurrency’s potential to act as a bulwark against government mismanagement of national currencies, but it’s not a perfect solution – many Venezuelans who bought or mined cryptocurrency in December or January have seen the value of those holdings decline as crypto markets entered a down cycle. Even from one day to the next, it’s not uncommon for Bitcoin to fall or rise more than 20% in a day. While cryptocurrency supporters are used to riding out those short- and mid-term fluctuations, they could be catastrophic for Venezuelans who now earn the equivalent of less than USD$ 10 a month.

The situation illustrates one of the most obvious and compelling arguments for a so-called “stablecoin” – a cryptocurrency that holds its value over time, usually in U.S. dollar terms, rather than fluctuating with big market swings. The technological advantages of cryptocurrency, the argument goes, have been undermined by its price volatility, which discourage its use for things like daily payments or savings. International remittances are also an important example – currently, an emigrant sending money home using Bitcoin can’t be sure its value will be the same by the time the recipient converts back to a local currency.

Stable Coins: The Backbone of the Internet of Value

All of this is absolutely true, but it’s also limited by an assumption that cryptocurrency is just ‘digital money’ – a faster, more efficient way to transfer value. But cryptocurrency, and the blockchain tech it is built on, is much more than that. Because blockchains are internet-native, open-access, and can execute automated transactions, they have the potential to enmesh the world in an omnipresent network of thinking assets – a new kind of global financial brain, in which a stable coin will be an absolutely vital architectural element.

To understand this, rewind to early 2014, when Vitalik Buterin publicly debuted his plan for Ethereum. While Bitcoin is a fairly simple transaction platform, Ethereum promised both more complex automated transactions – ‘smart contracts’ – and, furthermore, a ‘Turing complete’ blockchain that could host executable code in the same way Bitcoin hosts a transaction ledger. This leads to the most obviously revolutionary part of Buterin’s vision: the distributed autonomous application, or dapp, and its big brother, the distributed autonomous organization, or DAO.

Dapps and DAOs provide services through the blockchain, usually in exchange for their native cryptographic token – for instance, the Storj dapp will let you pay for cloud storage using Storj tokens. A DAO would add broader business logic designed to maintain and profit from those services without day-to-day human involvement, making it, essentially, a self-driving company. A global network of these self-maintaining services and applications, communicating and transacting with each other near-instantaneously, would be a massive efficiency boost for the world economy – the financial corollary to broader trends towards A.I. and automation.

But some form of stable cryptocurrency would also be vital for customers of these distributed services. Let’s imagine a rideshare DAO managing a fleet of self-driving cars on the blockchain. It would take payments in its own cryptocurrency – let’s just call it CarCoin. If you’re a big believer in this DAO, you might have a stash of CarCoin, but an average user might not, especially if they have to interact with a half-dozen other crypto-fueled blockchain services on any given day. The mobile crypto wallets of the near future, then, will almost certainly contain some sort of stable cryptocurrency that can be seamlessly traded for app-specific currency.

The Trader’s Dilemma

The importance of a stablecoin becomes even clearer when you think about all this from the perspective of our ridesharing DAO. Behind the scenes, it will be managing its service, including paying for things like electricity, repairs, and new cars – quite possibly with other DAOs. To do that, they’ll need what’s known in today’s global markets as a vehicle currency – a commonly-agreed-upon way of paying invoices that would both provide a standard for pricing, and reduce the technological load of interoperabililty with thousands of application-specific tokens. That vehicle currency would, of course, have to be a cryptocurrency.

DAOs would also need a fast way to transact with entities outside of the crypto-ecosystem – remember that even now, 60 years after their introduction, there are plenty of businesses that don’t accept credit cards. Their 21st century equivalents will be businesses that don’t have the tech or risk appetite to accept all crypto – but who might be convinced to accept a crypto token that reliably holds its value.

We already have a preview of this future crypto-economy, in the present-day travails of active crypto traders. Buying cryptocurrency for USD through an exchange like Coinbase can take days using bank wire transfers, and often involves fees. That makes it hard to fully capitalize on looming market moves – meaning that the crypto-economy, which thrives on speed, is throttled to a crawl at its contact-points with the old paper-money economy. A blockchain asset that was firmly connected to that paper economy, and didn’t move with the crypto market, would drastically increase the informational efficiency of both.

What We Mean by a “Stable Coin”

So, a cryptocurrency that holds value would be a huge convenience today, and will be a fundamental piece of infrastructure tomorrow. But what exactly do we mean by “holding value”? In the modern global economy, the relative price of everything is nearly constantly moving, including that of essentially every major currency. A dollar will buy you a different amount of yen tomorrow than it did today, and it will also – at least in the abstract – buy you a very slightly different amount of goods and services.

So “stable” doesn’t mean a token that will buy the exact same amount of stuff a decade from now as it does today – even gold bars can’t do that. Rather, the goal is the relative stability which comes from trustworthy convertibility into some specific asset or assets, which themselves enjoy stable market demand.

Venezuela can again provide a useful example, though of course not a positive one. Venezuela ‘pegs’ its currency to the U.S. dollar, maintaining an official exchange rate recently set at 3,345 bolivars to the dollar. Many small or developing nations do this to one degree or another, maintaining dollar parity by buying and selling currency reserves, and in some cases stabilizing a national currency helps encourage international trade – just as a stable cryptocurrency will be important to the development of the networked crypto economy.

But Venezuela also shows the serious limitations of pegging: without enough real reserves to actually maintain the peg, it becomes a dangerous fiction. Most Venezuelans can only buy dollars at a black market price that was recently closer to 250,000 bolivars to the dollar, or about 75 times higher than the official rate. Currency traders, including a thriving trade across the border in Columbia, are arbitraging that gap for their own gain,  and making Venezuela’s economic crisis even worse by essentially pillaging the central bank.

This process is known as ‘attacking’ the peg, but that phrase attributes malice where there is none – these currency traders don’t give a damn if a peg stands or falls, they just see an opportunity for profit, because the government has declared its intention to spend reserves to defy market signals about the value of its currency. Arbitragers have no grudge or vendetta against Venezuela  – a point that also applies to market reactions to certain ‘pegged’ cryptocurrencies.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is now trying something else – a currency pegged to his nation’s oil reserves. It’s set to be called the ‘Petro,’ and, believe it or not, it’s planned to launch as a cryptocurrency, with each token ‘worth’ a barrel of Venezuelan oil. The problems with the idea are legion, but the key issue is this: there’s little reason to expect that you can convert a crypto-token to a barrel of oil, or that it will maintain an equivalent value in the market, based on nothing more than the word of a regime like Maduro’s. It’s just another fictional crypto “peg” that’s doomed to fail.

How to Build a Stable Cryptocurrency

Amazingly, Venezuela’s bad examples have already been mirrored in several attempts at building a stable cryptocurrency. One of the earliest of these was called BitUSD, which tried to create a dollar-pegged token with tactics vaguely similar to a national central bank peg. The problem is that BitUSD  didn’t have any actual reserves, instead hoping to use assets on its own blockchain as leverage. BitUSD failed within days back in 2014. The broader BitShares platform BitUSD was a part of proposed pegging cryptocurrencies to everything from real estate to oil (sound familiar?), without any actual backing – but its founder has since moved on to other projects, freeing him from the onerous burden of an impossible promise.

Two projects are currently trying to do similar things. Basecoin describes its approach as “an algorithmic central bank,” using multiple versions of its own coins, rapidly bought and sold in response to market moves, to stabilize their peg. Basecoin even refers to these as ‘bonds,’ which makes their approach clear. MakerDAO’s DAI is “price stabilized against the value of the U.S. Dollar” using a basket of crypto-assets as collateral, which at least seems a bit more promising, but is still risky and capital-inefficient. DAI’s dollar peg, while a bit more durable than Venezuela’s, has had some hickups since its December debut.

There is a lot of evidence, then, that self-pegging systems are fundamentally untenable because they’re so vulnerable to arbitrage attacks and other externalities. MakerDAO, because it uses crypto-asset reserves, may have a better chance to invent something new as trust in those assets grows. But that’s a long-term proposition: it’ll be a while before a general public that witnessed the Bitcoin boom of 2017, its accompanying scrum of rampant scamming and vaporware, and then a dizzying year-end crash, will feel confident truly trusting pure crypto-assets (ironic, right?).

And so we move on to the ultimate “good but bad” example in the stable coin space: Tether. In principle, Tether is a stablecoin that does things right – its creators claim to have dollar-denominated bank reserves backing each of its $ 1 tokens, no algorithmic bonds or blockchain magic required. But ‘claim’ is the key word here – Tether has so far failed to provide transparent auditing to validate its reserves. That, along with some opacity around the coin’s relationship with the Bitfinex exchange, has led to widespread worries that Tether might be revealed as somehow unreliable or fraudulent – with potentially devastating impacts.

One project that wants to do reserve-backed crypto better is TrueUSD, a stablecoin built on the TrustToken platform. TrueUSD proposes to use an existing and reliable legal structure – trusts – to provide transparency and reliability for a dollar-stable cryptocurrency. The trust accounts backing TrueUSD would not be controlled by TrueUSD’s creators, avoiding many of Tether’s problems. Instead, TrueUSD users will be direct beneficiaries of funds in custodianship, and will be able to exchange funds directly with TrueUSD partner banks. It seems like a reasonable compromise between the crypto-ideals of decentralization, and practical and regulatory needs for an interface with the analog economy.

This simple idea of matching stablecoins to dollars one-to-one may seem simply boring, compared to the promises of advanced financial engineering made by projects like MakerDAO. But the reality is that pegging the value of a cryptocurrency – just like stabilizing a smaller national currency – is near-impossible without real-world reserves. That’s because ultimately, currencies are channels for information about entire economies and societies. Many stablecoin projects – not unlike Venezuela –  are essentially promising to defy those signals, using resources that are vanishingly insignificant compared to the forces arrayed against them. At least for the time being, a much more sensible path to building a stable cryptocurrency may be to lean on an asset that most of the world already trusts – the dollar, and the U.S. economy that stands behind it.

 The preceding communication has been paid for by TrustToken, and Futurism has a small financial stake in TrustToken’s token launch. This communication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to sell shares or securities in TrustToken or any related or associated company. The TrustToken tokens are not being structured or sold as securities or any other form of investment product, and consequently, none of the information presented herein is intended to form the basis for any investment decision, and no specific recommendations are intended. This communication does not constitute investment advice or solicitation for investment. Futurism expressly disclaims any and all responsibility for any direct or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from: (i) reliance on any information contained herein, (ii) any error, omission or inaccuracy in any such information or (iii) any action resulting from such information.

Each recipient of this communication expressly acknowledges that the TrustToken tokens are being sold solely for the purpose of providing purchasers of such tokens with access to the services associated with the tokens, and that such persons are not being offered, and will not be purchasing, any tokens for any other purposes, including, but not limited to, any investment, speculative or other financial purpose. Each recipient further acknowledges that they are aware of the commercial risks associated with TrustToken and the network associated with its tokens.

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