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The Download

The Download: how China’s regulating robotaxis

Plus: San Francisco wants to pause its robotaxi expansions

This is today's edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what's going on in the world of technology.

How China is regulating robotaxis

Not many technologies have had such a roller-coaster ride in the past year as robotaxis. In just a few months they went from San Francisco’s new darling to a national scandal after a car operated by Cruise, one of the leading companies in the business, was involved in a serious accident.

Other than rebuilding the public trust that was lost last year, robotaxi companies are also struggling to find a realistic business model. It’s not a moonshot idea anymore, but it’s also not a viable business yet either.

Zeyi Yang, our China reporter, published a piece yesterday looking at where the industry is going this year. While it mostly focuses on the situation in the US, he’s also paying close attention to the industry’s Chinese players. Read his story about what’s happening in China’s robotaxi scene.

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things happening in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

Correction: The story we ran yesterday, What’s next for robotaxis in 2024, has been updated to clarify that Cruise’s October accident was not fatal.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 San Francisco is fighting back against self-driving cars 
The city has filed a lawsuit that could force firms to roll back their rapid expansions. (WP $)
+ Meanwhile, Waymo is planning a new fleet in LA. (NBC News)
+ Robotaxis are here. It’s time to decide what to do about them. (MIT Technology Review)

2 The EU is going to force Apple to permit non-App Store downloads
Naturally, Apple has discovered it’s a way for it to introduce new fees. (WSJ $)

3 Amazon has been fined for excessively surveilling its workers
A French data watchdog deemed its system ‘overly intrusive.’ (TechCrunch)

4 AI could help to develop exciting new battery materials
Just like drug discovery, it could halve the length of time it takes to bring them to market. (FT $)
+ Tesla is reportedly starting production of a new EV next year. (Reuters)
+ This abundant material could unlock cheaper batteries for EVs. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Global electricity demand is expected to surge in the next three years
And data centers, crypto, and AI is behind it. (Bloomberg $)
+ Nuclear power is being touted as a potential solution. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ AI could also make the power grid faster and more resilient, though. (MIT Technology Review)

6 This Chinese startup says it’s working on generative AI’s first killer apps
01.AI’s open source model is outperforming its Big Tech rivals’. (Wired $)
+ America’s chip sanctions against China are pretty easy to circumvent. (Economist $)
+ North Korea is throwing everything into AI development right now. (Reuters)
+ These six questions will dictate the future of generative AI. (MIT Technology Review)

7 How China’s fast fashion giants exploit a tax loophole to ship packages
Which has helped them to gain a major foothold in the US. (Insider $)
+ Why my bittersweet relationship with Shein had to end. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Spreading rock dust on farms could help remove atmospheric CO2
The only problem is, it’s really hard to measure how much it captures. (New Scientist $)

9 We can finally see how animals see the world around us
A new video system is unveiling their secrets. (NYT $)

10 This space tech company is experimenting with inflatable habitats
By pushing them to their absolute pressure limits. (Ars Technica)

Quote of the day

“We surely want to avoid the situation turning into a FURBYGATE. :)”

—An NSA employee discusses the potential spying dangers presented by electronic Furby toys in the late 90s in internal documents seen by 404 Media.

The big story

My new Turing test would see if AI can make $1 million

July 2023

—Mustafa Suleyman is the co-founder and CEO of Inflection AI and a venture partner at Greylock, a venture capital firm. Before that, he co-founded DeepMind, one of the world’s leading artificial intelligence companies.

AI systems are increasingly everywhere and are becoming more powerful almost by the day. But how can we know if a machine is truly “intelligent”? For decades this has been defined by the Turing test, which argues that an AI that’s able to replicate language convincingly enough to trick a human into thinking it was also human should be considered intelligent.

But there’s now a problem: the Turing test has arguably already been surpassed. We need something better. I propose the Modern Turing Test. It would give AIs a simple instruction:  “Go make $1 million on a retail web platform in a few months with just a $100,000 investment.” Read the full story.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ Italy’s former premier Silvio Burlusconi had… interesting taste in art.
+ Looking to get into a new hobby? Here’s how to get started.
+ Take a minute to reflect on the ever-changing saga of the Little Mermaid.
+ Tune into the soulful sounds of someone making edits to a Wikipedia page.
+ A trip to Helsinki would be pretty great right now.

Deep Dive

The Download

The Download: Apple’s AI plans, and a carbon storage boom

Plus: Elon Musk has withdrawn his lawsuit against OpenAI

The Download: more energy-efficient AI, and the problem with QWERTY keyboards

Plus: an FDA panel has voted against approving MDMA as a treatment for PTSD

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

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