The Download, Mar 21, 2017: Laser-Guided Car Woes, Electronics Flight Ban, and Future Boutiques
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The Laser-Guided Car Problem
There’s a sensor famine in the autonomous car industry. Most self-driving car firms (Tesla being a notable exception) use lidar—which maps physical space in 3-D by bouncing laser beams off objects—to enable vehicles to see their surroundings. But, as our own Tom Simonite reports, there’s a hitch: the waiting list for the expensive sensors is increasing because suppliers can’t keep up with now dizzying demand for the hardware, creating “lidar lag.” Cue massive investment into lidar manufacturers, in-house teams dedicated to building new devices, and explosive lawsuits over stolen intellectual property.
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Unprecedented Warming, Unexpected Impacts
Climate change is pushing Earth into “uncharted territory.” That’s according to a new analysis by the World Meteorological Organization, which points to “extreme and unusual” climate-related measurements from 2016 which are continuing into 2017—including record high temperatures, unprecedented sea ice lows, and the highest CO2 levels in 4 million years. Even as the effects of El Niño wane, it appears the world continues to warm. The result won’t just be sea level rises and struggling crops, though—the upheaval to the planet will also bring economic uncertainty and increased social tensions.
Don’t Complain About the Electronics Flight Ban
Some flyers may have to deal with packing their laptop differently. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. government will not allow passengers on nonstop U.S.-bound flights from 10 (mainly Middle Eastern and North African) airports to take electronic devices larger than a smartphone into the cabin. Nothing to do with self-igniting batteries—instead, the decision is based on terrorism concerns over explosives hidden inside consumer electronics. Wired notes that you shouldn’t grumble: if the concerns are founded, a smartphone-worth of explosives is a small threat, but anything larger is much safer in the hold.
Ten Fascinating Things
When no treatment exists, what do parents do to save children from rare diseases? Increasingly, raise funds and found companies to explore gene therapies.
Apple is reportedly planning to bring augmented reality to the masses, with desires to bake the technology into its iPhone and a new pair of smart glasses.
Following boycotts in the U.K., Google says that it’s going to hire more staff and intensify video vetting to ensure that ads don’t appear alongside offensive material.
The Paris climate agreement could help save our planet. But according to a new analysis, it could also boost the world economy by $19 trillion.
So long, sweatshop: a new Adidas store has customers design a sweater and complete a body scan, then uses a machine to knit their threads inside four hours.
A new silicon solar cell is 26.3-percent efficient—beating the previous best by 0.7 percent and edging towards the theoretical limit of 29 percent.
Watch out Siri and Alexa: Samsung's forthcoming voice assistant, called Bixby, is said to use contextual clues to be more tolerant of fumbled commands.
Biomedical researchers might be forgetting females.
What happens when you throw bacteria into a 3-D printer? Unexpectedly, a whole new way to create novel kinds of materials.
An analysis of Donald Trump’s recent Twitter activity suggests that he might, finally, have given up using his aged Android smartphone.
Quote of the Day
"Grocery is the most alluring and treacherous category. It lures inventors and retailers with shopping volume and frequency, and then sinks them with low margin."