from the world's big
So far, 30 student teams have entered the Indy Autonomous Challenge, scheduled for October 2021.
- The Indy Autonomous Challenge will task student teams with developing self-driving software for race cars.
- The competition requires cars to complete 20 laps within 25 minutes, meaning cars would need to average about 110 mph.
- The organizers say they hope to advance the field of driverless cars and "inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>Completing the race in 25 minutes means the cars will need to average about 110 miles per hour. So, while the race may end up being a bit slower than a typical Indy 500 competition, in which winners average speeds of over 160 mph, it's still set to be the fastest autonomous race featuring full-size cars.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is no human redundancy there," Matt Peak, managing director for Energy Systems Network, a nonprofit that develops technology for the automation and energy sectors, told the <a href="https://www.post-gazette.com/business/tech-news/2020/06/01/Indy-Autonomous-Challenge-Indy-500-Indianapolis-Motor-Speedway-Ansys-Aptiv-self-driving-cars/stories/202005280137" target="_blank">Pittsburgh Post-Gazette</a>. "Either your car makes this happen or smash into the wall you go."</p>
Illustration of the Indy Autonomous Challenge
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>The Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://www.indyautonomouschallenge.com/rules" target="_blank">describes</a> itself as a "past-the-post" competition, which "refers to a binary, objective, measurable performance rather than a subjective evaluation, judgement, or recognition."</p><p>This competition design was inspired by the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge, which tasked teams with developing driverless cars and sending them along a 150-mile route in Southern California for a chance to win $1 million. But that prize went unclaimed, because within a few hours after starting, all the vehicles had suffered some kind of critical failure.</p>
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>One factor that could prevent a similar outcome in the upcoming race is the ability to test-run cars on a virtual racetrack. The simulation software company Ansys Inc. has already developed a model of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on which teams will test their algorithms as part of a series of qualifying rounds.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We can create, with physics, multiple real-life scenarios that are reflective of the real world," Ansys President Ajei Gopal told <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/autonomous-vehicles-to-race-at-indianapolis-motor-speedway-11595237401?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">The Wall Street Journal</a>. "We can use that to train the AI, so it starts to come up to speed."</p><p>Still, the race could reveal that self-driving cars aren't quite ready to race at speeds of over 110 mph. After all, regular self-driving cars already face enough logistical and technical roadblocks, including <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53349313#:~:text=Tesla%20will%20be%20able%20to,no%20driver%20input%2C%20he%20said." target="_blank">crumbling infrastructure, communication issues</a> and the <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/would-you-ride-in-a-car-thats-programmed-to-kill-you" target="_self">fateful moral decisions driverless cars will have to make in split seconds</a>.</p>But the Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5da73021d0636f4ec706fa0a/t/5dc0680c41954d4ef41ec2b2/1572890638793/Indy+Autonomous+Challenge+Ruleset+-+v5NOV2019+%282%29.pdf" target="_blank">says</a> its main goal is to advance the industry, by challenging "students around the world to imagine, invent, and prove a new generation of automated vehicle (AV) software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Air pollution poses "a significant risk to brain development" according to researchers.
- A study found that childhood exposure to significant traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) is linked with structural changes in the brain.
- Among children who had been exposed to higher levels of TRAP, researchers found smaller regional gray matter volumes in some areas of the brain including the cerebellum.
- Increased levels in early life TRAP were associated with increases in depression and anxiety scores for the children in the study.
How the study was done<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYzNTA4My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDQ2NDk0NX0.hFk9-NSaecQKRPa6--8THUztah2NzTfnH7z6MchF-e4/img.png?width=980" id="3a83d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f3fe32b21fc772dc691f202e22bc8e3e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Clusters represent reduced cortical thickness in the high ECAT group compared to the low ECAT group.
Image Source: PLOS ONE<p>The participants in the study were a subset of children enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study. Researchers wanted to see if early life exposure to traffic-related air pollution was associated with changes in brain volume and cortical thickness. To do this, they used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get anatomical brain images from a group of 147 12-year-old volunteers characterized by either high or low levels of TRAP exposure during their first year of life. That exposure was estimated using an "air sampling network" of 27 sites around Cincinnati. The average TRAP exposure for the high exposure group was about twice as high as the low exposure group. Using the anatomical brain images, researchers measured cortical thickness and differences in regional brain volume among the group of child-participants. </p>
Key findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYzNTM0Mi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0OTY3NTAwNn0.vtXHsE2kJvBRfkR8qsyFUXtUzUM9Eqkhrf9WW4ekE48/img.png?width=980" id="90756" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2b1085b9348dfe36b9a59718463013bc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Reduced gray matter volume in the high ECAT group compared to the low ECAT group.
Image Source: PLOS ONE<p>The results of the study suggest that where a child lives and the air quality in that location can affect how his or her brain develops. </p><p>"Our study found that children with higher levels of exposure to TRAP demonstrated regional reductions of cortical thickness and gray matter volume relative to children with lower levels," write the authors of the study. </p><p>Gray matter includes areas of the brain that are involved in sensory perception (seeing, hearing, smelling, etc.) and motor control. Cortical thickness reflects the depth of outer gray matter. Among the children exposed to higher levels of TRAP, researchers found smaller regional gray matter volumes in certain areas of the brain including the cerebellum. This brain region grows rapidly in the first two years of life and is involved in the regulation of motor function, cognition, and emotion. "Cerebellar abnormalities are consistently associated with numerous mental health disorders including anxiety, ADHD, ASD, and schizophrenia," the authors note. </p><p>Decreased cerebellar volumes have also been linked to levels of depression and anxiety, and the researchers found evidence that each .25 mg per cubic meter increase in early life TRAP was associated with increases in <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001393511930132X" target="_blank">depression and anxiety</a> scores for the children. Similar evidence has associated air pollution with higher levels of anxiety and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6447209/" target="_blank">depression</a> in adults. The study, however, is limited in that the findings hinge upon a single MRI examination showing a single moment in time of ongoing brain development. </p><p>"While the results are concerning, there still needs to be more research conducted to confirm and replicate the results, and to expand the analysis to include those whose [TRAP] exposure level falls in the middle as our study design only examined the high and low exposed participants," writes Dr. Kim Cecil, a researcher at CCHMC and lead author of the study, in an email to Big Think. "It is also important to note that elevated exposure doesn't necessarily mean children will experience any adverse effects."</p><p>She notes that at this point in the research, the study participants have been found to have normal IQ distributions.</p>
How to know what the air quality is in your area<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="012c2db38e00723c6e5d6faa22b23ba0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ypwMlS1DF4A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>In 2018, <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/480141-one-third-experienced-poor-air-quality-due-to-pollution-in-2018" target="_blank">one-third of Americans</a> were living in an area that experienced poor air quality due to pollution. To find out what the air quality is in your area, you can go to the <a href="https://waqi.info/" target="_blank">World's Air Pollution: Real-Time Air Quality Index.</a> If you want to monitor the air quality in your own home, investing in <a href="https://www.techhive.com/article/3356448/best-indoor-air-quality-monitor.html" target="_blank">an air quality monitor</a> might be worth it, but what can you do if the numbers are showing a concerning level of air pollution? </p><p>"Though it can be difficult to avoid air pollution itself, doing things like exercising (in lesser exposed environments such as parks and other green spaces) and eating foods high in antioxidants may help mitigate the effects," writes Cecil. " We think inflammation is the primary mechanism behind our results, so things <a href="https://mindd.org/foods-for-brain-inflammation/" target="_blank">you can control like diet</a> and exercise can be beneficial."</p><p>There's also a growing need to address the root of the problem. The fossil fuel industry, and <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesellsmoor/2019/06/15/united-states-spend-ten-times-more-on-fossil-fuel-subsidies-than-education/#22dc945f4473" target="_blank">government support of it</a>, facilitate American reliance on fossil fuels that causes traffic-related air pollution. National, state, and local policy makers have a large role to play in protecting public health by strengthening air quality protections. Rather than subsidizing fossil fuels, elected officials can propose or support legislation that reduces our reliance on pollutants that diminish our air quality and put children's health at risk.</p>
The national public charging infrastructure is coming online.
- There are over one million EVs in the U.S., but no gas stations have completely switched until now.
- Takoma Park, Maryland, is home of RS Automotive, the first merchant to fully make the leap.
- Worldwide, there's an urgent need for about 2 million public chargers.
Welcome to RS Automotive<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE2MjI4MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNDQ0MjI4OH0.mJkGtlKRN_u8AjTXg4EJM2ma0-PFAQpRPFGFOX1Lf5U/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=85%2C0%2C311%2C0&height=700" id="5fccd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c4b880a1cd9867ab67d8d665a3993ac3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: RS Automotive<p>The gas station, <a href="http://rsautomotive.com" target="_blank">RS Automotive</a>, has been owned by Depeswar Doley since 1997. He's hoping it's just the change he's looking for, having been increasingly unsure about depending on oil companies with their draconian contracts and onerous mandatory sales quotas.</p><p>A local public works manager suggested the idea to Doley, who told his 17-year-old daughter he was thinking about talking to the <a href="http://www.ev-institute.com/index.html" target="_blank">Electric Vehicle Institute</a> (EVI). He recalls to <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/26/first-gas-station-to-ditch-oil-for-electric-vehicle-charging-now-open.html" target="_blank">CNBC</a> that "She said, 'Dad, that's a real good suggestion.'"</p><p>RS Automotive has four high-power power dispensers running on a 200kW system. Reportedly, four vehicles can reach an 80 percent charge in 20–30 minutes. There's a comfortable space in which drivers can idle as they wait for their vehicles to charge, as well as an automated convenience store.</p><p>Doley's making his move with his eye on the future, not expecting it to result in an immediate windfall. "You notice there are not too many electric vehicles on the road. So it's not something that I expect to become rich overnight or something like that. But it's a good cause and good for the environment."</p><p>His risk is somewhat mitigated by a local electric taxi service in need of chargers. In addition, there are already 20,700 registered electric vehicles in Maryland, if not in Takoma Park, and the Maryland Energy Administration awarded Doley a grant of $786,000 for the conversion from petroleum.</p><p>EVI's Matthew Wade says there's undoubtedly going to be demand for the Doley's chargers. Without them, Takoma Park has just two, one located in a community center and the other on the side of a street. "They were fully utilized throughout the day; people were lining up. The city was happy they were being used, but then they said, 'Wait, no one can get in this parking lot, because these taxis are using these chargers.'"</p>
How many EVs are there?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE2MjI5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTM1MzY5MH0.UI_jp-ggDgGEQhv7ArdwSApbW9QRxH2F4Hh-lA6nwzM/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C11%2C0%2C11&height=700" id="09d68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5672f588a9660b213721507dccc09725" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: John_T / Shutterstock<p>There are <a href="https://advocacy.consumerreports.org/research/electric-vehicle-sales-hit-new-peak-in-2018-but-a-lot-of-room-for-continued-growth/" target="_blank">over a million EVs</a> now in service in the U.S. These vehicles still represent just 2 percent of America's wheels, but that number is rapidly growing, with 208,000 new registrations in <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/15/new-registrations-for-electric-vehicles-doubled-in-u-s-since-last-year/" target="_blank">2018 alone</a>. It's estimated that there will be 350,000 new U.S. registrations in 2020. Counting plug-in hybrids, there are some 40 varieties of vehicles to choose from.</p><p><a href="https://advocacy.consumerreports.org/research/electric-vehicle-sales-hit-new-peak-in-2018-but-a-lot-of-room-for-continued-growth/" target="_blank">Consumer Reports Advocacy</a> notes that if you remove well-publicized Tesla from the equation, the growth rate in sales is just 11 percent, but the EV industry has really just hit the ignition button. All new vehicle sales flattened out in 2018, so an 11 percent growth rate for EV sales is noteworthy. </p><p>Worldwide, the market acceptance of EVs is also growing, with an estimated 2 or 3 million EVs purchased and operating. <a href="https://www.nanalyze.com/2018/12/worlds-largest-electric-vehicle-charging-network/" target="_blank">Nanalzye</a> asserts that satisfying the charging needs for these vehicles would require some 2 million EV public charging stations worldwide. According to the <a href="https://www.iea.org" target="_blank">International Energy Agency</a>, the global number of EVs will rise to 300–400 million by 2040.</p>
Today’s public charging<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE2MjI5Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTc1NjMzMH0.y_VCbBpkSeu2HXCVWEm6oD1lcOqLXu2YENxgrE6EClg/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=586%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="c80b9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7c922c0e26175ebeb44a3e150c6be056" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Elektronik-Zeit / Shutterstock<p>Tesla has more than 1,600 charging stations around the U.S., adding up to almost 15,00 chargers. (Originally free, Tesla now charges for a charge.) Other automakers are also dabbling in EV charging stations, <a href="https://roboticsandautomationnews.com/2019/05/01/top-20-electric-vehicle-charging-station-companies/22138/" target="_blank">including</a> Hyundai, Kia, Daimler Mercedes Benz, and Renault.</p><p>Perhaps most promising is that some petroleum corporations are themselves moving into the space, such as Shell and BP. Count in some power utilities, too, including California's Pacific Gas and Electric and Europe's RWE.</p><p>Venture capitalists are seeing the future much as Doley is, funding startups such as ChargePoint, which plans to get as many as 2.5 million chargers by 2025 in place. EVgo claims to have the largest current public EV charging infrastructure in the U.S., with 1,200 fast chargers at 700 EV charging stations. Worldwide, the leader may be EVBox, who says they have 60,000 charging points internationally.</p><p>Doley may be making a very smart move here.</p>
There are good historical reasons why Germans are suspicious of surveillance — but is Google as bad as Gestapo or Stasi?
- Since its launch in 2007, Google Street View has mapped millions of miles of roads across the world — and even gone to space and into the ocean.
- Germany and Austria are a conspicuous gap in the mess of blue lines that covers the rest of Europe.
- It's to do with Germans' curious sense of privacy: they'd rather flaunt their private parts than their personal data.
Regions unknown<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE0Njc5MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMTIxMTY4MX0.Ml5kw0Ui0GtMcPHGzrpiSqV135JbrFgFAhTNK9ej5yk/img.png?width=980" id="82ec5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9f8160f15c6220f39c6d2dcc62308863" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map showing coverage of Google Street View in Europe, with Germany and Austria the glaring exceptions in the centre, but with Belarus, Moldova and Bosnia-Herzegovina also almost entirely blank." />
The only other European countries as yet virtually unmapped are Belarus, Moldova and Bosnia
Image: Google Maps<p>In Google Maps, drag <a href="https://www.sypo.uk/news/three-hidden-google-maps-pegman-easter-eggs-revealed/" target="_blank">Pegman</a> over Europe and you'll see a curious picture emerge: virtually the entire continent is covered in the blue lines that indicate Street View is available – but Germany and Austria are almost entirely blank.<br></p><p>It's an image reminiscent of those late-19th-century maps of Africa with the center of the continent left empty, marked <em>Regions Unknown</em>. Germany and Austria are among the world's most advanced economies, so why do Google's camera cars find those countries as inaccessible and/or inhospitable as European explorers found Africa's interior?</p><p>It's because Germans are famously jealous of their privacy – an attitude that also resonates with their culturally close neighbors in Austria. But it all depends on what you mean by "privacy." For example, Germans are not that private about their private parts.</p>
Totalitarian traumas<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE0ODgyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTQ2OTU3NH0.NJDA4yxxktGlKayvRsxQ6zkrOGDkwQxPpKECY8aIjvU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=228%2C0%2C45%2C0&height=700" id="88939" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4537b029f25b33835a06b06cf48e0fdf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"Social nudity," for health and vigor and to commune with nature, is very accepted in Germany.
Image: FKK Gelande Sudstrand / CC BY 2.0<p>While public nudity is a big no-no in the United States for example, Germany has a long tradition with what is known as FKK – short for <em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or "Free Body Culture." Certain beaches and areas of city parks are dedicated to nude sunbathing, and even <em>Nacktwanderung</em> ("nude rambling") is a thing.</p><p><span></span>On the other hand, Germans are extremely possessive of their personal data — and are shocked by the readiness with which Americans (and others) share their names, addresses, friends' lists, and purchase histories online. </p><p><span></span>According to research presented in the <em>Harvard Business Review</em>, the average German is willing to pay as much as $184 to protect their personal health data. For the average Brit, the privacy of that information is only worth $59. For Americans and Chinese, that value declines to single-digit figures. </p><p>Why? Because Germans carry the trauma of not one, but two totalitarian systems in their recent past: the fascist Third Reich, and communist East Germany. <br></p>
Nie wieder<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE0ODg5Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzM2MzM4N30.egZdtCVesU8BbzMxTmy83d-AkFie9vlDksc-HcY6d8s/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=189%2C236%2C-1%2C2&height=700" id="5aae8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fdcd3b157178a7407c763e2b233b6e93" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Stasi listening post, used for spying on its own citizens, in Berlin's DDR Museum
Image source: Rakoon / CC0 1.0<p>Both regimes wanted total control over their citizens. In the Nazi years, the state's blunt instrument was called the Gestapo (short for <em>Geheime Staatspolizei</em>, or "Secret State Police"), in East Germany it was the Stasi (short for <em>Staatssicherheit</em>, or "State Security"). </p><p>In either system, citizens effectively ceased to have a right to privacy, and could be branded criminals for private thoughts or acts, resulting in severe punishment.</p><p>As with many other aspects of the Nazi regime, post-war Germany resolved <em>Nie wieder</em> ("Never again") when it came to violations of privacy. That's one of the reasons why the very first article of (then still only West) Germany's post-war constitution reads:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.</em> </p>
Informational self-determination<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE0NjgyNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTE4NTQzN30.SBsbQBe86d4htQCxkALdoDqjGB-EkysojKbQMBnpPgk/img.jpg?width=980" id="fd46d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a483887e4ca2bab20ee51a7ae607d60" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Logo for the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)" />
The EU's GDPR, adopted in May 2018, builds on Germany's tradition of strict privacy laws
Image: Dooffy / CC0 1.0<p>Over the decades, Germany broadened and deepened its definition of privacy.<br></p> <ul> <li>In 1970, the German state of Hesse passed the first data protection law in the world.</li></ul><ul> <li>In 1979, West Germany laid the foundation for the <em>Bundesdatenschutzgesetz</em> (BDSG), or Federal Data Protection Act, the main aim of which was to protect the inviolability of personal, private information.</li></ul><ul><li>In the 1980s, citizens successfully sued the government over a census questionnaire so detailed it would allow the government to identify individuals. The court recognised German citizens' right to "informational self-determination" and block the sharing of any personal information with any government agency or corporation.</li></ul><ul><li>In March 2010, the German Federal Constitutional Court overturned a law that allowed the authorities to store phone and email data for up to six months for security reasons, as a "grave intrusion" of personal privacy rights.</li></ul><ul><li>In May 2018, the EU adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which follows the German model of data discretion rather than the laxer American one. </li></ul>
Missing the train<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE0ODkzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNjkxNTQ2N30.7xgbJ1xRHAbgQFrAbLUYZIMHzsA5DFoooiE8G8pAduY/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C358%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="45218" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4f7a5c1a2b86e7bb484e8661fecf2390" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Germany is high-tech when it comes to transport – cars, trains – but when it comes to digitisation, not so much
Image: TeaMeister / CC BY 2.0<p>Foreign firms operating in Germany have to adjust to some of the strictest privacy laws in the world. But <em>Nie wieder</em> is difficult to maintain in a world that increasingly mines and monetises data. As a result, the inexorable advance of digitization is viewed with a mixture of fatalism and misgiving.</p><p>Example one: Germany's split personality when it comes to social media. Yes, Germans are instinctively distrustful of big tech companies such as Google and Facebook. Meanwhile, Google has cornered more than 90 percent of the search engine market in Germany, and close to half of all Germans have a Facebook account. </p><p>Example two: privacy trumps efficiency. While Germany's macro-economy relies on high-tech to maintain its global pole position, on a micro-economic level, good old-fashioned cash is still king. In 2016, 80 percent of all point of sale transaction in Germany were made in notes and coins rather than via card. In the Netherlands, it was just 46 percent. </p><p>Brits, Danes or Swedes can go for months without handling cash. In Germany, you won't last a day. Why? Again, an intense desire for privacy and an instinctive distrust of surveillance. A cashless society would be more transparent and efficient, but also a lot less private. <br></p><p>If there's one thing Germans value even more than efficiency, it's — you guessed it — privacy. Germany seems in no hurry to catch the digitization train, when other countries are stations ahead, and generating measurable benefits.</p>
"A million-fold violation"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE0OTAwMy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTQ4MDY3Nn0.N9dWm1qhwxDm7Ak4PbkbtO2QqTMYWcuauFHut9MVuvQ/img.png?width=1245&coordinates=124%2C0%2C124%2C0&height=700" id="ece15" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="90f3a29e353cea2a7da8100f0f18ccc6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The larger German cities have been mapped – Cologne, Frankfurt, Dresden and others – but the rest of the country is a blank, compared to the Benelux countries and France (to the west) and the Czech Republic (to the east)
Image: Google Maps<p>Case in point: Google Street View's German debacle. Launched in the US in 2007, Google Street View's mapping of interactive roadside panoramas has since expanded to cover most of the world. </p><p><span></span>In June 2012, it had mapped 5 million miles of roads in 39 countries; by its 10th anniversary in May 2017, the total was 10 million miles in 83 countries.</p><p><span></span>Street View features places as far off the beaten path as the International Space Station, gas extraction platforms in the North Sea and the coral reefs of West Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia. But not the <em>Weimarer Strasse</em> in Fulda, or most other normal streets in Germany, or Austria for that matter. </p><p><span></span>Not for lack of trying. In August 2010, Google announced that it would map the streets of Germany's 20 biggest cities by the end of that year. The outrage was huge. Some of Google's camera cars were vandalised. A 70-year-old Austrian who didn't want his picture taken threatened the driver of one with a garden pick. </p><p>Ilse Aigner, Germany's minister for Consumer Protection at the time, called Google's "comprehensive photo offensive" a "million-fold violation of the private sphere (…) There is not a secret service in existence that would collect photos so unabashedly."<br></p>
Blurry Street<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE0Njg0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMDEzOTg2NX0.3l-bLBHTgoSGyI7PZYa0C7cJ725211bBR8MQzniSpWI/img.png?width=980" id="014e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="92cb3179b8e84c09002fee6ad1cd06f0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bA random street in one of the cities mapped by Street View in 2010, with plenty of houses blurred out" />
A random street in one of the cities mapped by Street View in 2010, with plenty of houses blurred out
Image: Google Maps<p>Google automatically blurs faces and vehicle license plates and, upon request, the fronts of houses. Fully 3 percent of households in the relevant areas requested their houses to be blurred. Faced with that unprecedentedly high level of resistance, Google in 2011 published the data already collected, but left it at that. No new Street View images have been taken since in Germany. </p><p><span></span>Following the revelation in May 2010 that Google had used data from unencrypted wifi connections when collating its roadside panoramas, Street View was banned from Austria. From 2017, Google has resumed collecting imagery in Austria, and from 2018, it is available for selected localities. </p><p><span></span>As younger generations become more familiar with the transactional aspect of their personal data, perhaps German attitudes toward data privacy will start shifting significantly toward the American model. </p><p>For now, the difference has one side of the argument at a distinct disadvantage. As one online commenter noted: <br>"It doesn't seem quite fair that anyone in the world including Germans can take a virtual stroll around my street and my city, but I can't do the same in their country."<br></p>
Such a battery would make it far cheaper to implement robotaxis and long-haul electric trucks, both of which Tesla is developing.
- A team of researchers working with Tesla recently released a paper describing a lithium-ion battery that should last 1 million miles over 4,000 charges and depletions.
- The researchers reportedly optimized commonly used components of EV batteries, and made their findings available to other battery researchers.
- Tesla CEO Elon Musk said robotaxis could hit streets as early as 2020.