Jag Claims Tech Will Greenlight Your Commute; Lyft Offering Automatic Tips & Driver Ratings; Boeing Division-Solar Powered Drone

A lot of people are excited about self-driving tech, and some are skeptical of it ever becoming commonplace. Now, Jaguar-Land Rover may have something that will win skeptics over to assisted or autonomous driving…all green lights! Cnet.com reports that Jag is saying their V2X tech includes something called Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory, and it’s capable of suggesting a speed for the driver. If the driver maintains the speed, they should be able to hit a series of green lights without stopping. The system is being test run in London right now…interestingly, the home of the first ever traffic lights. Hitting a series of green lights is not necessarily new…back in the day, Dad figured out if you drove either 18 or 38, you could hit every green light on the Main Street in our town between 1st Street and 17th Street! You can guess which speed he generally took!

Lyft is doing a limited launch to test out default tipping and mid-ride tipping. According to engadget.com, only select customers will see this at first, but it should be widely available in 2019 if all goes well. Also, Lyft is testing out a default on driver rating. Starting in December, if you don’t leave a rating, the default will be a 5-star rating. Lyft says a lot of people don’t bother with ratings if the ride went well. If you do ding the driver, the app will ask you to justify it. It nullifies ratings where circumstances were out of the driver’s control…like bad traffic.

Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences says its high altitude, long endurance Odysseus solar drone will take its maiden flight next spring. Geekwire.com says that first flight will happen next April 23rd in Puerto Rico. The wide-winged drone can be deployed at a fraction the cost of a satellite, and can spend far more time airborne than a conventional drone…in fact, for months! Right now, climate and atmospheric research are the first claimed applications. (Nope…no spying…we’d never use science for cover for that.)

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Waymo Public Self-Driving Service Imminent; Facebook Patches Nasty Bug; Amazon Formalizes 2nd HQ (two of them); Apple XR Estimates Cut, but Sells Big on Singles’ Day

Waymo is apparently going to go live with their first commercial driverless car service in December. No name has been leaked yet, but cnet.com reports that the service will be a direct competitor for Uber and Lyft. Waymo will field its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica vans for the service, which will NOT be free. Expect to us an app to hail the car and pay for the ride. An article over the weekend speculated that, in a few years, we might see self-driving vehicles used for quick sex romps…but we will leave that to your imagination.

The engineers at Facebook have squashed a nasty bug in their code base that could have allowed hackers to collect highly personal info on Facebook users. According to zdnet.com, a security researcher found the bug and notified Facebook. He was browsing their online search results, and in the HTML saw iframe elements. By simple queries of yes and no, a lot could be determined about user interests and those of their friends. The researcher believes the iframe was used by Facebook itself. The bug was discovered in May, and the platform patched it shortly after being notified. The researchers, Ron Masas, points out that Facebook has become such a large and complicated platform, that there will always be bugs and hacks…even with their relatively generous bounty for people that spot problems and notify them.

It was reported here and elsewhere last week that Amazon was likely going to settle on two locations for it’s HQ2, and today they made it official. Theverge.com says Long Island City in Queens, NY, and Crystal City in Arlington, VA will share the HQ2 duties. Amazon already employs more people in these two locations than anywhere else outside of its Seattle HQ and the San Francisco Bay Area. An additional announcement was that Nashville will host a new East Coast operations hub, which will handle customer fulfillment and transportation. That facility will employ some 5,000.

The iPhone is doomed…long live the iPhone. A report from Ming-Chi Kuo cuts shipment estimates for the new iPhone XR from 100 million to 70 million, and that…coupled with the announcement last week that Apple won’t be releasing iPhone sales numbers moving forward, have whacked the stock. Nonetheless, 9to5mac.com says Apple had a huge day during Alibaba’s Singles’ Day on Sunday. Apple was the top selling mobile phone brand…one of 237 brands that pulled in over $14.36 million in sales on that one day (yes, it’s a funny number…but a nice, round 100 million yuan.) Apple even beat Chinese makers Xiaomi and Huawei. Huawei did come in 2nd, and Xiaomi was third in sales, though. Neither Alibaba nor Apple broke out what iPhone models sold the most during the giant online one-day event.


Huawei Mate 20; Apple Patents Double Fold iPhone; Lyft $299 All-Access; Bezos-Internet a Confirmation Bias Machine

Huawei’s Mate 20 smartphone pretty well runs the table when it comes to top shelf features. Theverge.com is reporting that it sports 3 rear cams, and an in-display fingerprint sensor (something both Apple and Samsung have worked on, but are yet to perfect.) The Mate 20 also has a 3D face unlock feature like the iPhone X, Xs, etc, and has a hi-resolution 6.4 inch OLED display. It’s available today for $1443 with 6 Gigs of RAM and 128 Gigs of storage.

With Samsung allegedly looking to finally come out with its fabled folding smartphone by early next year, Apple has received another patent for a folding smartphone. This one has an interesting twist…according to 9to5mac.com, the patent is for a phone that folds in two places! It appears that this would allow an iPhone sized device to unfold into something the size of an iPad Mini. Apparently, Apple has been working with LG, to minimize leaks to arch competitor Samsung…which, as noted above, is actually ahead of Apple in the folding phone game. In Apple’s patent, it appears the phone can be folded with the display on the outside OR the inside. No clues in the patent info on when Cupertino might actually come out with such a phone, of course.

Lyft has gone fully live with their subscription service. The All-Access plan is now widely available for $299 a month. Engadget.com says for that, you get 30 trips a month of up to $15 in value (you pay for anything over that). There’s also a 5% discount on additional trips. If it works for you, you can sign up today, and it should be available to all US customers by the end of the week. Lyft is offering the plan as an alternative to owning a car, and time will tell if this actually moves enough people out of ownership and into full time ride sharing.

At the Wired 25 Conference Monday, Jeff Bezos noted that the internet…in its current configuration…is basically a ‘confirmation bias machine.’ Businessinsider.com reports that Bezos expressed concern that some of the web’s tech is very useful to autocratic regimes ‘to enforce their will.’ He fears that the confirmation bias leads to more and more tribalism. On the other hand, the Amazon CEO pointed out that something similar happened with the proliferation of books, and humanity survived that. He said ‘The last thing we’d ever want to do is stop the progress of new technologies.’


Galaxy Note 9 ‘Unpacked’; NYC Whacks Uber and Lyft; Facebook May Drop From #2 Website; Apple Considers Subwoofer for iMacs

Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Note 9 at their Unpacked event. 9to5google.com notes that it bows with up to 512 gigs of storage, a Bluetooth S-Pen, and has a base price of $999. It’s not a revolutionary update, but has some nice adds…the Bluetooth connected S-Pen, for one. The connection lets you use the pen as a remote shutter for the camera, and a remote for presentations. The Note 9 still rolls with dual cams and the dual aperture primary sensor like the S9 family. It does have a built in AI camera mode that adjusts settings to get the best possible shot. Besides the Bluetooth pen, another notable advance is the 4000 mAh battery, which is up 20% from the Note 8. It should give virtually everyone an all day battery, and has USB-C fast charging as well as wireless charging (with charging pad.) You’ll drop the $999 for the 128 gig model, and a wallet crushing $1249 for the 512 gig memory rig.

New York City’s Council voted to cap the number of for-hire delivery and transportation vehicles yesterday, in a kneecap to Uber and Lyft. According to theverge.com, the city will halt new for-hire licenses for 12 months while it studies the industry. The council made an exception to vehicles that are wheelchair accessible…those can still be licensed. Exceptions can also be had for particular neighborhoods that are low on ride-hail vehicles. The council also passed a bill that establishes a $15 living wage for drivers. Both bills head for Mayor de Blasio’s desk, and he’s likely to sign them. Uber already has 80,000 vehicles in NYC.

Facebook has taken some real hits lately, but may be about to get another body blow. Businessinsider.com reports that SimilarWeb has released a study showing that Facebook is about to be passed up as the number two website in America by YouTube. YouTube is projected to blow past Facebook in traffic in the next 3 months, making it #2 to parent Google. Facebook’s monthly visits have dropped from 8.5 billion two years ago to 4.7 billion this past July. YouTube is up to 4.5 billion in July, and on an upswing.

Apple may be getting ready to improve the tinny sound of the built in speakers in their iMac. They have patented a way of putting in a subwoofer that would double as a cooling device. Without getting into the weeds technically, Apple would use sub-audible air flow to reduce the amount of noise the computer makes in addition to providing cooling and sub-woofer thump for music. Geek.com points out it may be another great idea that never sees the light of day, but a very interesting combination that would go well into Apple’s impossibly skinny computers.


Fire TV Cube Gets Alexa; Lyft Redesigns App; Waymo Passes Big Milestone; Instagram Long Form Video

Amazon has announced the Fire TV Cube. It’s a set top box with all the usual suspects: Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, HBO Go, Sling, And Amazon Prime Video. It also features Alexa…which Engadget.com notes was already available in the Stick and Fire TV box…but the Cube has full-featured Alexa. You can access thousands of third party ‘skills’ on the Cube just like an Echo. The Cube had eight built-in microphones, and can turn on your TV, sound system, cable box. Amazon demoed it by saying ‘Alexa…I’m home,’ and it turned on the entire home theatre system, and brought up the lights in the room. It supports cable boxes from Comcast as well as Dish and DirecTV. There is an IR extension cable for the cable box so the Cube can turn it on and off when the gadgets aren’t line of sight. It ships June 21st for $119. ***UPDATE*** Prime members can preorder and save $30 for a limited time!

Lyft is updating its app for the 1st time in 3 years, and putting more emphasis on shared rides and public transit. Theverge.com reports that it should roll out to everyone by the end of the month. A few changes include Lift Line being rebranded ‘Shared Rides’ and giving that feature a more prominent place in the app. Lyft says it wants shared rides to be 50% of its business by 2020, and has promised to lower its carbon footprint. The updated app will be customized based on a riders’ preferred services and locations. The algorithm considers account fare price, trip time, and more to present the most efficient ride for users, whether a solo rider or shared ride. There is a tweak that encourages riders to get picked up on side streets…which has been piloted in San Francisco (on Valencia Street), and Lyft got 20,000 riders to divert to side street pickup.

Now, more than ever, there’s Google’s Waymo and everyone else when it comes to self-driving cars. According to arstechnica.com, Waymo hit 7 million self-driven miles this week. For reference, they just announced that they had passed up 6 million less than a month ago! Waymo plans to launch commercial driverless taxi service in the Phoenix area before the end of the year.

Instagram is adding support for video of up to an hour in length, with the long form video hub designed to compete with YouTube and Snapchat Discover. According to 9to5google.com, all the videos will be in vertical orientation and 4K resolution. The company has been reportedly meeting with social media stars and content publishers in prep for launching the feature, which is planned for June 20th. No details have gotten out on monetization, but Instagram apparently intends to let creators and publishers earn money from the longer form videos.


Lyft To Test Self-Driving Cars Outside Concord, CA; Tesla’s Nav-Maps Engine Nears Completion; United Healthcare Looks to Apple Watch

A number of auto manufacturers are already testing self-driving equipment at the old Concord Naval Weapons Station on the Northeast part of Concord, CA. Now, Lyft has joined the party, according to theverge.com. Lyft will be testing out its self-driving tech at the 5000 square foot proving area. Uber already has a leg up on them, having started testing on public streets in several US cities. Besides Concord, there are 9 other official autonomous vehicle proving ground locations around the country, and of course, the auto makers all have had their own proving grounds for decades. Self-driving cars will be here sooner than you think…trucks, too…as Tesla is hauling a couple loads of batteries from the Gigafactory in Northern Nevada to their plant in Fremont, CA right now.

Speaking of Tesla, the Muskman has now said that their navigation and maps engine, which he claims is ‘light years ahead’ of all the others, is nearly done. Electrek.co reports that a hacker was able to get into a site Tesla is using, and posted screen shots. The hacker, who goes by ‘verygreen,’ says it looks like Google Maps, but is smoother and more detailed. Expect the software to be pushed out the Tesla owners sooner, not later.

Another company has joined the growing group offering people Apple Watches in an effort to monitor and keep them healthy…and this one is a biggie. 9to5mac.com says United Healthcare will make it so customers can earn an Apple Watch 3 basically for free, and on top of that will let users earn up to $1000 towards medical bills after the cost of the wearable.


Waymo & Fiat Chrysler Expand Ride-Hailing; Facebook Looks to Local News; iPhone X Top 3 Worldwide; Verizon Won’t Carry Huawei Line

Fiat Chrysler is preparing to provide Google’s Waymo with thousands of Pacifica hybrid minivans, as Waymo’s self-driving division rolls out public ride hailing services later this year. Reuters.com says this could press GM and Lyft to pick up the pace, as well as Uber, which already has a test fleet running. Waymo had been been testing out 500 Fiat Chrysler self-driving mini-vans through 2017 in 25 cities.

Facebook plans to start showing more local news in user newsfeeds. According to businessinsider.com, they will start this in the US, and expand to other countries later in the year. The Facebook definition of ‘local’ is if its links ‘are clicked on by readers in a tight geographic area,’ not the logical ‘is actually IN a local geographic area!’

With reports out that Apple is cutting iPhone X production from 40 to 20 million this quarter, some good news popped up. 9to5mac.com reports that Kantar found the pricey Apple hero phone was the #3 phone in all the regions they monitor during December. That includes Europe, China, Japan, Australia, and the US. iOS sales overall were down half a percentage point in the US, but loyalty hit a record high 96%. Apple and Samsung account for more than 2/3 of the US market at a combined 70.8%.

Under pressure from the government, Verizon has dropped plans to carry Huawei mobile devices. 9to5google.com says AT&T had previously backed out of carrying the Mate 10 Pro. The government apparently is concerned about the closeness of the Chinese government to the phone maker and their possible ability to manipulate upcoming 5G cellular networks.