Self Driving Vehicles Approved For Public Road Testing In Beijing

The City of Beijing has released its first temporary license plates for Baidu’s self-driving vehicles for public road testing on Thursday.

According to reports 33 roads have been opened with a total length of 105 kilometres for autonomous car testing outside the Fifth Ring Road and away from densely-populated areas on the outskirts.

Regulations for managing road testing for self-driving vehicles, autonomous vehicles are eligible for public road testing only after they have completed 5,000 kilometres of daily driving in designated closed test fields and passed assessments.

The test vehicles must be equipped with monitoring devices that can monitor driving behaviour, collect vehicle location information and monitor whether a vehicle is in self-driving mode.

Test drivers must have received no less than 50 hours of self-driving training.

Beijing has built its first closed test fields in Haidian District covering about 13 hectares.

The licenses for road testing are valid for 30 days and license holders can apply for renewal after self-driving cars pass assessments.


Zuckerberg Breaks Five Day Silence To Apologize For Breach

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for a “major breach of trust,” while admitting mistakes and outlined steps to protect user data in light of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm.

“I am really sorry that happened,” Zuckerberg said of the scandal involving data mining firm Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data, If it fails, “we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people.” he said in a Wednesday interview on CNN.

His mea culpa on cable television came a few hours after he acknowledged his company’s mistakes in a Facebook post , but without saying he was sorry.

Recall that news broke Friday that Cambridge may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections. Cambridge’s clients included Donald Trump’s general-election campaign.

Facebook shares have dropped some 8 percent, lopping about $46 billion off the company’s market value, since the revelations were first published.

In the CNN interview, Zuckerberg offered equivocal and carefully hedged answers to two other questions. He said, for instance, that he would be “happy” to testify before Congress, but only if it was “the right thing to do.” He went on to note that many other Facebook officials might be more appropriate witnesses depending on what Congress wanted to know.

Similarly, the Facebook chief seemed at one point to favor regulation for Facebook and other internet giants — at least the “right” kind of rules, he said, such as ones that require online political ads to disclose who paid for them. In almost the next breath, however, Zuckerberg steered clear of endorsing a bill that would write such rules into federal law, and instead talked up Facebook’s own voluntary efforts on that front.

Even before the scandal broke, Facebook has already taken the most important steps to prevent a recurrence, Zuckerberg said. For example, in 2014, it reduced access outside apps had to user data. However, some of the measures didn’t take effect until a year later, allowing Cambridge to access the data in the intervening months.

Zuckerberg acknowledged that there is more to do.

In his Facebook post, Zuckerberg said it will ban developers who don’t agree to an audit. An app’s developer will no longer have access to data from people who haven’t used that app in three months. Data will also be generally limited to user names, profile photos and email, unless the developer signs a contract with Facebook and gets user approval.

In a separate post, Facebook said it will inform people whose data was misused by apps. Facebook first learned of this breach of privacy more than two years ago, but hadn’t mentioned it publicly until Friday.

The company said it was “building a way” for people to know if their data was accessed by “This Is Your Digital Life,” the psychological-profiling quiz app that researcher Aleksandr Kogan created and paid about 270,000 people to take part in. Cambridge Analytica later obtained information from the app for about 50 million Facebook users, as the app also vacuumed up data on people’s friends — including those who never downloaded the app or gave explicit consent.

Chris Wylie, a Cambridge co-founder who left in 2014, has said one of the firm’s goals was to influence people’s perceptions by injecting content, some misleading or false, all around them. It’s not clear whether Facebook would be able to tell users whether they had seen such content.

Cambridge has shifted the blame to Kogan, which the firm described as a contractor. Kogan described himself as a scapegoat.

Kogan, a psychology researcher at Cambridge University, told the BBC that both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have tried to place the blame on him, even though the firm ensured him that everything he did was legal.

“One of the great mistakes I did here was I just didn’t ask enough questions,” he said. “I had never done a commercial project. I didn’t really have any reason to doubt their sincerity. That’s certainly something I strongly regret now.”

He said the firm paid some $800,000 for the work, but it went to participants in the survey.

“My motivation was to get a dataset I could do research on,” he said. “I have never profited from this in any way personally.”

Authorities in Britain and the United States are investigating.

David Carroll, a professor at Parsons School of Design in New York who sued Cambridge Analytica in the U.K., said he was not satisfied with Zuckerberg’s response, but acknowledged that “this is just the beginning.”

He said it was “insane” that Facebook had yet to take legal action against Cambridge parent SCL Group over the inappropriate data use. Carroll himself sued Cambridge Friday to recover data on him that the firm had obtained.

Sandy Parakilas, who worked in data protection for Facebook in 2011 and 2012, told a U.K. parliamentary committee Wednesday that the company was vigilant about its network security but lax when it came to protecting users’ data.

He said personal data including email addresses and in some cases private messages was allowed to leave Facebook servers with no real controls on how the data was used after that.

“The real challenge here is that Facebook was allowing developers to access the data of people who hadn’t explicitly authorized that,” he said, adding that the company had “lost sight” of what developers did with the data.


Self Driving Uber Kills Woman In Arizona

A self driving Uber has killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona, marking the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle.  This might become a major issue because the self-driving technology was developed to reduce road accidents and deaths.

The ride services company said it was suspending North American tests of its self-driving vehicles, which are currently going on in Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

The so-called robot cars, when fully developed by companies including Uber, Alphabet Inc and General Motors Co, are expected to drastically cut down on motor vehicle fatalities and create billion-dollar businesses. But Monday’s accident underscored the possible challenges ahead for the promising technology as the cars confront real-world situations involving real people. U.S. lawmakers have been debating legislation that would speed introduction of self-driving cars.

“This tragic accident underscores why we need to be exceptionally cautious when testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technologies on public roads,” said Democratic Senator Edward Markey, a member of the transportation committee, in a statement.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bicycle outside the crosswalk on a four-lane road in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe about 10 p.m. MST Sunday (0400 GMT Monday) when she was struck by the Uber vehicle traveling at about 40 miles per hour (65 km per hour), police said. The Volvo XC90 SUV was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel.  Herzberg later died from her injuries in a hospital, police said.

The pedestrian was outside of the crosswalk. As soon as she walked into the lane of traffic she was struck,”Tempe Police Sergeant Ronald Elcock told reporters at a news conference. He said he did not yet know how close Herzberg was to the vehicle when she stepped into the lane.  Elcock said he believed Herzberg may have been homeless.

The San Francisco Chronicle late Monday reported that Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said that from viewing videos taken from the vehicle “it’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway.” (  Moir told the Chronicle, “I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident,” but she did not rule out that charges could be filed against the operator in the Uber vehicle, the paper reported.

The “Tempe Police Department does not determine fault in vehicular collisions,” the department said in a statement late Monday, in reply to questions from Reuters about the chief’s comments. “Ultimately the investigation will be submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for review and any potential charges.”  Tempe authorities and federal officials are still investigating the incident. Canada’s transportation ministry in Ontario, where Uber conducts testing, also said it was reviewing the accident.  Volvo, the Swedish car brand owned by China’s Geely, said the software controlling the car in the crash was not its own.  Video footage will aid the ongoing investigation, and the case would be submitted to the district attorney, Elcock said.

“Our investigators have that information, and they will be using that in their investigation as well as the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office as part of their investigation,” said Elcock. “They are going to attempt to try to find who was possibly at fault and how we can better be safe, whether it’s pedestrians or whether it’s the vehicle itself.”


Snapchat Finally Releases A Statement After Rihanna’s Outburst

Snapchat has released a statement after they lost about $800m in market value after Rihanna blasted them for an offensive ad that referenced her physical assault from Chris Brown.

In the statement issued to CNN, the Social Media Network called the ad “disgusting” and said they are looking into the controversial case.

“We are investigating how that happened so that we can make sure it never happens again,” the company said.

Daniel Ives, chief strategy officer and head of technology research at GBH Insights, told CNN that it’s a big challenge for Snap.

“Social media platforms continue to have troubles with catching all offensive ads and content as we have seen from the likes of Facebook and Twitter,” Ives told CNN. “Snap dropped the ball on this ad.”

He added: “This is a make or break [year] for Snap and although we believe it’s heading in the right strategic direction, the Rihanna backlash and ad is another gut punch for this company to make sure they minimize the speed bumps ahead.”

The company shares also dropped 3.6% to close at $17.20 right after the Pop star’s clapped back at Snapchat for running the offensive advert that asked its users if they would rather “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown”.

Diamonds Used In Biomedical Implants

Australian researchers have revealed that they are harnessing diamonds for use in biomedical implants, through a novel way that could improve the way the human body accepts the medical devices.

RMIT University quoted its biomedical engineer Dr Kate Fox, who led the team behind the development, saying;

“Currently the gold standard for medical implants is titanium but too often titanium implants don’t interact with our bodies the way we need them to,” “To work around this, we have used diamond on 3D scaffolds to create a surface coating that adheres better to cells commonly found in mammals.”

“We are using detonation nanodiamonds to create the coating, which are cheaper than the titanium powder.”

The coating also helps cell growth and reduces bacterial attachment in the implants, she said.

“Not only could our diamond coating lead to better biocompatibility for 3D-printed implants, but it could also improve their wear and resistance.

It’s an exceptional biomaterial.”`

The researchers are focusing on using the technology for orthopaedics. Other than the musculoskeletal system, diamond has also been used to coat cardiovascular stents – tubes that help keep the heart’s arteries open – and on joints, as well as in bionics and prosthetics, said the university.

“It will be a number of years before a technology like this is rolled out, and there are many steps to take until we see it available to patients,” said Fox.

“But what we have done is taking the first crucial step in a long and potentially incredible journey.”


Volkswagen Ready To Fizzle Out Beetle.

The Beetle, is set for extermination and would be off the market after it had enjoyed old and iconic history in the world of automobiles Volkswagen has reported.

Speaking at the Geneva motor show on Monday, VW’s Head of Research and Design, Frank Welsch, said that the production version of the company’s ID Buzz electric concept–taking cues from the Type 2 Transporter better known as the Microbus – will wave the retro flag.

A production version of the ID Buzz is  planned for the 2022 model year, according to the report by an online auto journal,

It quotes Welsch as saying, “Two or three generations is enough now” for the Beetle, adding that the car was “made with history in mind but you can’t do it five times and have a new Beetle.”

The ID Buzz, an electric resurrection of VW’s famed bus will feature a rear-mounted engine and the same steering wheel placement as the original to keep its retro styling authentic. It’ll be up to consumers to decide if John Lennon glasses, tie-dye shirts, and bell-bottom jeans will return.

The Buzz will be part of the company’s new ID family of cars that will also include an all-electric hatchback and crossover SUV.

It also says the VW will position the Buzz to be the star of the ID lineup and to help the company rebuild its reputation after its massive Dieselgate emissions-cheating scandal.

The VW stopped selling the original Beetle in the United States in 1979 after it failed to comply with safety and emissions standards, although it was still built for global markets for another quarter of a century.

The VW rode the retro-inspired wave in 1998 with a modern interpretation it called the New Beetle. A third-generation arrived in 2012 with a more aggressive style sporty coupe intention, but sales never met the VW’s expectations.





















Toyota Out With New Engine, Improves Fuel Efficiency

Toyota Motor Corporation is ready to lift  the fuel-efficiency bar in the automobile industry as it has announced plans to release a new class of engines

Many vehicles users are always making fuel efficiency an important factor to look on before making purchases. This is because the less fuel used the more money saved. Unarguably, Toyota ranks highest among top fuel-efficient brands; it offers many vehicles with impressive fuel economy.

Toyota is reported to have said the new powertrain was part of a five-year overhaul to make its vehicles more fuel-efficient and sportier to drive.

A report by an online journal, Automotive News, quoted the leading automaker as saying the engine wave would begin with a cleaner, more powerful 2.0-litre engine, appearing first in the redesigned Toyota Auris hatchback on display at the ongoing Geneva auto show. The Auris is the European and Japanese version of the Toyota Corolla.

The new engine is coming with a feature called Dynamic Force that delivers 18 per cent better fuel economy and 18 per cent faster acceleration when combined with a continuously variable transmission.

When mated to a hybrid system, the engine gets nine per cent better fuel economy and 18 per cent better speed off the line.

The new 2.0-litre engine achieves thermal efficiency rates of 40 to 41 per cent, compared with 37 to 38 per cent in the previous-generation engines.

The first Dynamic Force engine was the 2.5-litre four-cylinder that appeared last year in the redesigned Camry sedan.

Toyota said its engineers achieved the improvements through several tweaks, noting that they increased fuel-air turbulence in the cylinders for a faster burn.

Giving details about the new technology, Toyota said it was done using a technology typically reserved for Formula One racing engines known as laser cladding.

The result, according to the automaker, is a valve seat with a widened valve angle, which it believes is the first for mass-production cars.

“Other gains came from introducing direct fuel injection, optimising valve-timing control and using an electric water pump to reduce mechanical friction,” it stated.

By 2023, the new engines and transmissions are expected to power 80 per cent of new Toyota vehicles.


With the help of two All-Wheel-Drive systems, the engine is able to improve fuel efficiency, stability and off-road performance. The systems could be used in the SUVs, crossovers or even cars.

The first, called Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD, is geared towards petrol vehicles and channels torque independently to the right and left wheels for better handling.

It also can disconnect drive rotation to the rear wheels in two-wheel-drive mode to boost fuel economy.

The version for hybrids, called E-Four, delivers 30 per cent more torque to the rear wheels compared with Toyota’s current AWD setup for hybrids.

Toyota also plans a six-speed manual transmission that is lighter, more compact and more efficient than the outgoing gearbox.

The efforts to get more fuel economy from its conventional internal combustion engines occur even as Toyota is said to invest in full electric technology.

Toyota, long perceived as an EV sceptic, announced in December that it planned to introduce more than 10 EVs worldwide by the early 2020s.

According to the automaker, the powertrain blueprint is its clear signal that it sees big potential for improving old-school internal combustion technology.

The Toyota’s Chief Engineer for Powertrain Planning, Mitsumasa Yamagata, says although some of the automaker’s nameplates should be electrified by 2030, many of its vehicles will continue to rely on fuel-burning powerplants.

He stresses that only 10 per cent of Toyota’s models will dump engines altogether in favour of full electric or fuel cell powertrains. Thus, Toyota’s key focus at the moment is improving the humble petrol powerplant.

“The evolution of engines and transmissions will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions and greatly contribute to the environment,” Yamagata said.

The firm says the new portfolio of engines and transmissions is accompanying an even bigger makeover for Toyota.

It states that it will be launching one nameplate at a time — what it calls its Toyota New Global Architecture modular vehicle platform around the world.

The TNGA, it says, will yield cars and trucks that are lighter and simpler to build and modify.

And to pair with all those newly designed vehicles, Toyota plans to introduce 17 versions of nine new engines by 2021. There also will be 10 versions of four new transmissions and 10 versions of six hybrid systems.

Meanwhile, Toyota has confirmed bookings of the Yaris will begin in April 2018. The launch is expected to happen in mid-2018. Once launched, the Yaris is expected to raise the sales figures for Toyota. The India-bound Toyota Yaris was first showcased at the Auto Expo 2018, according to a report by an online auto journal, Drive Spark.

The report notes the new C-segment offering from Toyota will face stiff competition from cars such as the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Skoda Rapid, Volkswagen Vento and the Honda City.

It says the Toyota Yaris will be available only with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, initially, adding that the power plant will be mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed CVT automatic gearbox.

For the interiors, the Toyota Yaris features an eight-way adjustable driver seat and also a 7-inch infotainment system with navigation and gesture controls.

The car also gets rain sensing wipers and cruise control options.

The car will be available in a range of colour options namely, Wildfire Red, Pearl White, Grey Metallic, Silver Metallic among others.

Truecaller Allows Users Identify Vconnect’s Service Providers

Recently, it has been gathered that Truecaller has integrated VConnect’s business directory with its app, thereby allowing users to identify VConnect’s service providers.

Truecaller is a business and engagement platform and last year, the company and VConnect launched the Truecaller Priority in Nigeria, which enables businesses to quickly identify if a call is a potential prospect.

Industry players on Friday said many users searching for businesses on usually called the numbers mentioned in their profile.

The Director, Growth and Partnerships at VConnect, Naveen Luthra, said, “These numbers, which are routed through VConnect intermediate numbers, are marked as ‘Priority’ in the Truecaller app.

“This step of integrating our business listings on Truecaller platform will further empower Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Nigeria to get more visibility and new customers.

“This partnership deepens the relationships between the two organisations and will bring about digital inclusion of small businesses here.”

NCC Bars Telecom Operators For Call Masking

The Nigerian Communications Commission has suspended the operating licenses of some telecommunications operators for engaging in call masking.

The commission also issued warning letters to others it said were caught engaging in the practice.

A statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by the Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Tony Ojobo, said the telecommunications regulatory agency had also begun the second phase of investigation on the involvement of digital mobile operators in masking activities.

Call masking is the act of concealing international calls coming into a country and presenting them as local in order to make profits from the difference in prices between local and international calls.

“The NCC has recently been inundated with complaints from service providers and consumers regarding the high incidence of call masking , call refiling and SIM boxing,” the statement said.

“Generally, the practice complained of involves disguising international calls as local calls in order to profit from price differentials between international and local calls.

“Apart from the resultant loss of revenue by service providers , the practice also has some negative security implications . Following a painstaking investigation process , which included collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser and the Department of State Services , the commission has imposed a range of sanctions on licensees involved in the fraudulent practice.”

According to the statement, the sanctions include suspension of the interconnect clearing house licence issued to Medallion Communications Limited for a period of 90 days and issuance of a strong warning to Interconnect Clearinghouse Nigeria Limited.

NCC also announced the disconnection of Information Connectivity Solutions Limited and Solid Interconnectivity Services Limited from all networks until these regularise operations, and issuance of warning letters to Exchange Telecoms Limited , NiconnX Limited and Breeze Micro Limited , cautioning them against engaging in the fraudulent practice.

Mr. Ojobo disclosed that the commission also barred over 750,000 numbers assigned to several Private Network Links and Local Exchange Operator licensees, many of which he said were found to have been utilised for the masking activity.

The NCC said the sanctioned companies were found to be “directly and indirectly complicit in several infractions”, including covertly allowing organisations with expired licences to transit calls and failure to undertake due diligence on parties seeking to interconnect.

The statement listed other infractions to include “deliberately turning a blind eye to masking infractions by interconnect partners and using a licence issued to other organisation to bring in and terminate international calls”, which were masked as local calls to other operators.

Mr. Ojobo noted that the NCC reserved the right to revoke the licences of service providers where they failed to take the necessary corrective measures.

The statement said: “The commission is pleased to note that the incidence of call masking has significantly reduced since it commenced a multi-faceted approach to address the menace.

“The commission hereby informs all stakeholders that the actions so far taken are just the first stage of the exercise. The second stage , which has now commenced, will focus on the Mobile Network Operators and other persons involved in SIM boxing.

“The aim of the commission is to completely stamp out the fraudulent practice in the overall interest of all Nigerians. Accordingly, every service provider that has been sanctioned still has an opportunity to correct the identified anomalies and satisfy the commission that it should be allowed to continue to operate in Nigeria.”

Over 750,000 individual numbers across the nation, Mr. Ojobo said, made up of about 31 number ranges had been barred.

The licensees whose numbers were barred are: Vezeti Communications Services Limited, Voix Networks Limited, Mobitel Limited, Peace Global Satellite Communications Limited, ABG Communications Limited and Vodacom Business Africa ( Nigeria ) Limited.

Others are Swift Telephone Networks Limited, QVODA Telecoms Limited, Wireless Telecoms Limited and Emcatel Networks Limited.

The commission said it found that some of these firms were “terminating millions of minutes, whereas they only had very few active customers.”

Police Can’t Arrest Herdsmen For Grazing On Airport Runways –Commissioner

The Commissioner of Police, Airport Command, Mustapha Dandaura, has revealed that members of the Nigeria Police Force cannot arrest herdsmen who allow their cattle to stray onto and graze on airport runways in the country.

Dandaura claimed that such arrest could only be made in states where the anti-open grazing law was effective.

In a recent media interview following the disruption of Akure airport operations by cows last weekend, he said, “It’s only in states where the anti-open grazing law is in place that herdsmen can be arrested for allowing their cattle to graze on airport runways. Apart from those states, we have not been told to start arresting herdsmen.

“But we have already alerted our men at the airports to ensure such incident does not occur again. The state police commands have also been carried along and everyone is on the alert.

“We can’t have a situation whereby cows would be straying onto and grazing on airport runways because it is embarrassing. Everyone is now on the alert and it’s going to be prevented.”

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria apologised Air Peace which was affected by the incident in Akure last week. The head of aviation security at the airport was also suspended.

Virtual Copy Of Mexican Underwater Cave Replicated By Scientist

Scientists from every nooks and crannies world will soon be able to dive into a virtual 3-D replica of a vast underwater cave off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, where Americas’ oldest skeleton was found some seven years back.

Anthropologists, cave experts, archaeologists and photographers are busy working on a way to  fashion a virtual copy of the cave known in Spanish as Hoyo Negro, or black hole, where the skeleton of Naia, a young girl, who existed more than 13000 years ago was found seven years ago.

The first work results were presented Wednesday night by archaeologist Alberto Nava, who found the cave in 2007.

That cavern is part of something much bigger, believed to be the world’s largest underwater cave network. Its existence was made public last month.

“Someday I will have a complete replica,” said Nava of the bell-shaped Hoyo Negro cave off the coast of Quintana Roo state.

The exact location is being kept secret by the National Institute of Anthropology and History in order to protect it from being raided.

Scientists around the world are drooling over the fossils found in the cave: the remains of 42 animals from the late Pleistocene period, including sabre-tooth tigers.

Scientists say that 13,000 years ago the sea level there was 80 to 100 meters lower than today.

Naia’s remains, almost a complete skeleton, were from a female who apparently entered the cave even though she probably knew it was risky, experts said.