Driverless Waymo’s Hitting Cali Roads; Ford & VW May Share e-Platform; Apple Pulls watchOS Update; Solar Cell-Electricity & Hydrogen Simultaneously

The application went in last spring, but yesterday, Google’s Waymo got permission from California to start testing driverless cars on public roads. 9too5google.com notes that Waymo was already operating in 25 US cities, but always with a safety driver on board. Waymo will start initial testing in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto…all near the Google and Alphabet campuses. The DMV permit allows for day/night testing on city streets, rural roads, and highways with posted speed limits of 65 mph…so pretty well anywhere in the above communities and their surroundings. Perhaps Waymo should strap in a realistic dummy to make other motorists feel more comfortable!

With the move to electric vehicles, a number of auto makers are partnering with others. Toyota has hooked up with Subaru and BMW, for example, and now Ford and Volkswagen may be teaming up. Cnet.com reports that Ford and VW may share a platform for EVs. VW had previously said it might open up its MEB platform to others. Ford and VW had announced a ‘memorandum of understanding’ about possible collaboration last summer. Ford had previously announced that it would be bringing 40 EV models to market, and that it was investing some 11 billion in electrics by 2022. As long as we don’t have a Musta-Beetle or the like, all will probably be well with the EV world!

After their big show yesterday on iPads and Macs, Apple dropped iOS 12.1 and watchOS 5.1. Now, according to zdnet.com, they have pulled the Watch update. It was apparently bricking the newest, greatest Watch Series 4 models. The Watches just stopped booting at the apple logo, and couldn’t be force quit or rebooted, even if unpaired from an iPhone. Many users attempted to take the devices into Apple Stores, but most were out of Series 4 models, and they are being shipped from overseas by 3 day air. Apple says it is a very small number that were affected.

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a process that can turn sunlight and water into electricity AND hydrogen! Engadget.com says its an ‘artificial photosynthesis’ process, but a big step up from previous attempts…going from 6.8% to 20.2% efficient. The team is moving into experimenting with real-world applications of the tech, but both electricity and hydrogen (for fuel cells) from one source could be a giant step towards more clean energy.

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Galaxy S8’s Bixby Button Can Be Changed to Google Assistant; Apple Says No to All-ARM Macs; Spotify Testing Lossless Audio; Unexpected Changes From Driverless Cars

Samsung touts its Bixby personal assistant and even provides a dedicated soft button for it. Now, 9to5google.com says an app lets you remap the button for Google Assistant (or other functions.) Just get the app All in One Gestures and you can remap buttons. Do expect a cat and mouse though, as Samsung try to disable the app from getting around their assistant!

Previously, Apple has said they think touchscreens on computers are less efficient than mice and touchpads. Macrumors.com reports that they have repeated this, and also said they have no plans for ARM chips in Macs, except as ‘companion processors,’ like the one that runs the Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pros. For the foreseeable future, Cupertino’s laptops and desktops will continue to run on Intel silicon.

Last month, Spotify tested a new lossless version of its audio stream. According to theverge.com Spotify Hi-Fi will cost an extra $10 a month, on top of the $10 price of the premium ad-free service. Tidal already has hi-fi streaming for $19.99 a month. If you have a great audio system you route your streaming audio into, and have golden ears, it may be worth it, but several tech writers say it’s hard to tell the difference.

Driverless cars…a lot of folks are looking forward to surfing the web, watching videos, and otherwise kicking back during a commute in vehicles that handle the piloting chore for us. Washingtonpost.com notes some ways things might change you may not have thought of. It’s possible traffic could become worse, as people opt for the privacy of self-driving cars and ditch public transport. Also, with the array of cams and sensors, cars may become witnesses to crimes. This is random, but as electric self driving cars come on line, cigarette sales may drop, since a lot of gas stations make considerable extra cash selling those cancer sticks while we fill up. Air bags and crumple zones may become a thing of the past, as crashes practically disappear and they aren’t needed. You won’t need to circle like a vulture for parking, since the computer in the car will be able to find the closest spot…which will open frequently as shared vehicles come and go. Car expenses will drop…most cash goes into crashes and engine repairs. Electric cars require far less upkeep, and with nearly no crashes, cars could last far longer, too. Self driving trucks may not displace as many drivers as originally thought…there’s already a shortage, and as drivers retire, they just won’t be replaced. Plus, some firms will always carry a human to make sure cargo that’s loaded and unloaded isn’t ‘shorted’…they will want their person at the site to supervise.


Waze Ridesharing Coming to San Francisco; Google Dropping Nexus Brand; Ford Patents Button Press Car Passcodes

In what may be a precursor to driverless service, Google is going to open up a ride share pilot program through the Waze app this fall. They had already tested a smaller version near Google headquarters that allowed people to grab a ride with another Waze user. Appleinsider.com says this may not just be aimed at Uber and Lyft, but to get a head start on Apple in the driverless car arena. The service will roll out in San Francisco.

Google is also dropping the Nexus brand for its smartphones. Theverge.com reports that they’ll still be made by HTC, but will be branded with a ‘G’ logo. For the first time, they won’t run a ‘pure’ version of Android. The next version of Google phones will be slightly smaller, with 5 inch and 5.5 inch screen models offered. This will be the first use of the Google brand on hardware for the company.

Ford has patented an interesting method to safeguard your car. With key fobs being relatively easy to hack, Ford has developed a way to set a security code with a series of presses. Cnet.com notes that the interesting part is it’s not all buttons, which makes it much tougher to hack. It will use the radio buttons, both on the dash and steering wheel, and the brake pedal. The car won’t start without the correct sequence. It could be used with keyless and keyed entry systems, or maybe without any key fob at all. No word from Ford on when…or if…the feature might be available.