Uber will check in with riders and drivers if it detects unusual activity during rides in the US....
How it works: The system, called “RideCheck,” uses the GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, and other sensors on the driver’s smartphone to monitor for irregular activity, like an unexpected long stop, or a car crash. If it detects something out of the ordinary, a notification pops up on both the driver’s and rider’s app to see if everything is okay. Options range from confirming there’s no problem to calling 911 or Uber’s safety hotline.
The AI element: Uber says it uses machine learning to screen out false positives, like a lost phone, the Verge reports. Uber has been working on the system for a year and will roll it out to other countries in the following months.
The context: Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are under pressure to improve safety amid a spate of lawsuits from women who say they have been sexually assaulted by drivers. Lyft is currently being sued by 14 women in California, with the lawsuit alleging about 100 more reports of sexual assaults by Lyft drivers between May 2015 and May 2016. It announced a similar feature to RideCheck last week. Meanwhile several states, including Massachusetts, California, and Texas, are currently investigating Uber over passenger safety.
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Meet the comet: Its name is C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), in provisional honor of the amateur astronomer who first discovered it. Follow-up observations revealed a few things about the object. First, it possessed a long tail that almost certainly suggested it was a comet. Second, it has what’s called a hyperbolic orbit, which basically means it’s traveling too fast to be in the sun’s orbit. And if it’s too fast to be moving around the sun, it very likely comes from outside the solar system.
The image: Astronomers at the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, with help from astronomers using the William Herschel Telescope in Spain, caught a multicolored glimpse of C/2019 on September 10, during a short window of visibility. The new image shows off C/2019’s elongated tail of outgassed matter and hazy coma—two telltale characteristics of a comet. The blurry blue and red lines are images of background stars.
“This is the first certain case of an interstellar comet,” the astronomers write. C/2019 is just the second object on record to visit us from from outside the solar system (the first being the infamously rod-shaped ‘Oumuamua).
What’s next: In contrast to the situation with ‘Oumuamua, we have ample time to plan out investigations around C/2019 and better characterize its movement through the solar system. C/2019 will be closest to Earth on or around December 10.
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