Lately I’ve been pretty optimistic about self-driving cars…the technology seems to be maturing so quickly, I’ve been expecting them to become commonplace in a matter of years, not decades. A recent photo from Apple has me questioning that – and it’s not a problem unique to Apple, all self-driving automotive technology currently has this limitation.
Take a look at that picture, what do you see? An incredibly complex array of optical-based sensors. Some are lasers, some are cameras. All self-driving cars use something similar, at least based on what’s publicly known right now (GPS is also used, but it just provides approximate location, with no insight into obstacles on the road).
So. Optical sensors. What happens when the lenses get dirty? I used to live in CA so sure, out there they can stay clean for months. Or, as Apple recently announced, the technology can be improved to deal with some raindrops on the lens. But drivers in most of the country have an honest four seasons to deal with, and of course the worst is areas with snow. Not just for the snow that can accumulate on the lenses, but when that snow melts, the dirty airborne mist kicked up by other cars coats your own in a deep layer of muck.
The automotive industry has developed washers for headlights to partially address this problem, but those are imperfect…but maybe good enough for this application? Ideally, I think a true wiper-based solution is needed for each lens.
How will this be solved? I really don’t know…maybe improving the technology used to clean some car headlights. Until then, I do expect self-driving cars to become commonplace, but only in mild-climate urban areas.
The EPA’s own scientists found that ingesting even small amounts of the pesticide chlorpyrifos can interfere with brain development in fetuses and infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics urged that the chemical not be made for sale. Traces of it are already found in drinking water, and 87% of blood samples from umbilical cords had detectable levels. Dow (the manufacturer of this chemical) seemed to even acknowledge a risk when it stopped selling it for home use in 2000. The EPA had been pushing for a ban on this chemical, but after the EPA head (Scott Pruitt) met with Dow Chemical’s CEO, that position has been reversed, and the EPA has denied a petition to ban the chemical from being sprayed on food.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said that, the “EPA has concluded that the science addressing chlorpyrifos remains unresolved.” UNRESOLVED. To put that another way, they’re saying the science doesn’t show whether or not the chemical is safe…so they choose to APPROVE it for use on food? Wouldn’t you want to RESOLVE that science completely before subjecting people to this?!
The power of corporations over the American government seems to know no limits. Dow spent $13.6 million on lobbying in 2016, gave $1 million to help with Trump’s inauguration celebration, and the Dow CEO was even photographed at Trump’s side at one of his infamous oval office signings.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, President Trump has announced his decision to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Accord. It’s not clear exactly when this can happen…if it’ll actually take the years that some people say (he said he’ll stick to the withdrawal process laid out in the agreement, which could take up to four years, but do you really believe what he says?). He says he wants to ‘renegotiate’ the agreement, something that the leaders of France, Germany, and Italy said was not possible (in a joint statement today). It doesn’t matter though…it sends a message to the world that the US will no longer be a global leader. Other countries will rise up to take that place and will prosper from that.
The latest WikiLeaks data dump is all over the news today. This time, they’ve released documents detailing the techniques the CIA uses to spy on people. if it’s true, it’s pretty amazing how deep they’ve burrowed into our digital lives. It covers pretty much anything you can think of…from old-school viruses and malware, to hacking of smart TVs and even cars. Pretty much any electronic device that has a microphone, they can probably tap into and listen in.
This is the sort of thing that people used to dismiss as crazy conspiracy theories. Times have changed, huh?!