GOOD

Google Bots Take the Wheel in Nevada—After Hitting the DMV

A milestone in future studies: Robotic cars get a license in the Silver State.

\n\n\n\n\n\n

We’re another day closer to thinking about people who own cars the same way do we think about people who own horses: A nice hobby, but no way to get to work.


The state of Nevada announced yesterday that it has granted Google the nation’s first-ever license for a driverless vehicle; previously, Nevada and California had only allowed limited testing in specific areas. Road testing is the next step in the internet search company’s effort to design a reliable robotic car, one of few side projects maintained since founder Larry Page took over as CEO last spring.

Driverless cars offer a huge opportunity to save time, money and resources; most cars are idle most of the time, so the ability to have them pilot themselves will make transportation systems far more efficient. The improvements in quality of life—and in the environment—could be significant if fleets of shared autonomous cars replaced individual vehicles.

With only one car on the road, of course, this is more a publicity stunt from Nevada (no stranger to a big show), designed to showcase how the state embraces tech companies at a time when public officials are still trying to recover from the housing bust—which hit particularly hard in the development-happy desert.

The car will still require two human occupants when it’s on the road in case something goes wrong, but the cars—designed by some of the same engineers behind Google Street View—are probably safer under their own control: The only reported accident of a Google car came with a person behind the wheel, unless you count another incident when one was rear-ended at a red light.

Nevada DMV Director Bruce Breslow was convinced of the car’s safety after a few test drives. “It is a laser radar combination that sees 360, so while you can see out the front of your car, it sees sideways, behind you and everything around you and your environment,” Breslow told the radio show Marketplace. “It sees a lot more than you can see. It sees a pedestrian; a pothole; it sees three cars in front where I'm blocked by the car in front of me, but this has the laser radar that skips under that car, picks up the next one, skips under that, picks up the next one. It relaxes you quite a bit."

Breslow, complying with state laws (lobbied for by Google) that permit driverless vehicles on the road, designed the red license plate with an infinity sign on it. While Google was first in line to road test its vehicles, other companies that want to test autonomous vehicles are expected to apply for the permit.

Interested in heading for Las Vegas to snag a driverless vehicle of your own? The technology isn’t quite there yet, but Nevada is already planning ahead, at least according to the DMV’s website: "When autonomous vehicles are eventually made available for public use, motorists will be required to obtain a special driver license endorsement and the DMV will issue green license plates for the vehicles."

Articles
via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
Business
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics