Dense Inner-Cities Give Self-Driving Cars a Reality Check

Experts say it could be decades before autonomous cars are ready for cities. 

What's the Latest?


Google has abandoned the idea of giving humans partial control over autonomous vehicles, removing the steering wheel and brake pedal from current designs. This leave practically no room for machine error, meaning Google has given itself a very difficult task. (The company reasoned that humans couldn't be trusted to keep their attention on road conditions, especially since self-driving cars encourage drivers to take their attention away from driving in the first place). And while Google impressed many engineers with the progress made on its autonomous car, driving conditions in the city pose daunting challenges not present on the open roads where Google's cars are currently tested.

What's the Big Idea?

Lone highways in the southwest US do not change very often (where Google's cars have been tested). Driving them is predictable, but city streets are not. Chris Urmson, director of Google's project, said: "Obviously, the world doesn’t stay the same. You need to be able to deal with things like temporary construction, and so we’ve been putting a lot of effort into understanding the semantic meaning of the world." While humans use social context to differentiate between similar physical events--is the person waving their arm in the street a traffic cop or a trouble maker?--computers have a harder time at it. Experts say it could be decades before autonomous cars are ready for cities. 

Read more at Technology Review

Photo credit: Shutterstock

European wind farms could meet global energy demand, researchers now say

A new study estimated the untapped potential of wind energy across Europe.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • A new report calculated how much electricity Europe could generate if it built onshore wind farms on all of its exploitable land.
  • The results indicated that European onshore wind farms could supply the whole world with electricity from now until 2050.
  • Wind farms come with a few complications, but the researchers noted that their study was meant to highlight the untapped potential of the renewable energy source in Europe.
Keep reading Show less

First solar roadway in France turned out to be a 'total disaster'

French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.

Image source: Charly Triballeau / AFP / Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
  • French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
  • Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
Keep reading Show less

New vaccine (for cats) nixes allergic reactions for humans

You want one. Now you may be able to survive one.


Photo credit: Jie Zhao
/ Getty contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • Cats live in a quarter of Western households.
  • Allergies to them are common and can be dangerous.
  • A new approach targets the primary trouble-causing allergen.
Keep reading Show less