The Lede, Tuesday, March 20, 2018
By David Royse
Today is the first day of spring.
There will undoubtedly be some calls to move more slowly on adoption of self-driving cars in the wake of yesterday’s news that an Uber SUV on auto-pilot struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz., thought to be the first such death.
Uber has suspended its testing in the Phoenix area, San Francisco and Pittsburgh. Federal crash investigators are on the scene – which makes this crash different from any of the other fatal car accidents yesterday.
That’s a segue to the counterpoint to those who will warn that driverless technology isn’t quite ready for the road (and they may be right). Some industry backers are likely to offer reminders, however, that there are fatal crashes every day involving cars with drivers, which is the main reason for designing driverless cars. Autonomous cars don’t get sleepy, distracted by texting, drunk, confused or aggressive. And they follow traffic laws. Overall, it’s expected they’ll be safer than human drivers.
Calls for caution are also based on a desire for safety – so the two sides may be more in sync than you might think.
Here’s one of the cautionary notes from yesterday, from U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
“This tragic accident underscores why we need to be exceptionally cautious when testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technologies on public roads. If these technologies are to reap their purported safety, efficiency and environmental benefits, we must have robust safety, cybersecurity and privacy rules in place before these vehicles are traveling our roadways to prevent such tragedies from occurring.”
One might also say we should have technology in place to prevent tragedies involving drivers from occurring. If it was a normal day, statistically, in the United States yesterday, then about 108 other people died in car accidents yesterday, all involving human drivers.
The Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir, told the San Francisco Chronicle in an interview that the video may show that a human driver wouldn’t have been able to prevent the tragedy.
From viewing the videos, “it’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Moir said. The police have not released the videos.
Other stories on the reaction to the accident, starting with one from my former Florida colleague Keith Laing, who has a story today on the front page of the Detroit News
The Arizona Republic has more on the victim, a homeless woman named Elaine Herzberg, and on local reaction to the accident.
#RISE OF THE REST
This is a bit of a long read – but it’s dead-center to my effort to bring you stories of people innovating and solving problems out in the “rest” of America, outside of Silicon Valley, the DC Beltway, New York and Boston.
AOL founder Steve Case and venture capitalist J.D. Vance (author of Hillbilly Elegy) are leading an effort to capitalize good ideas from the rest of the country.
“Rise of the Rest Fund officially launched, with $150 million in cash. A few months after that, Case identified the recipients of the first seed round. Two were software startups headquartered in Ohio. One was an outdoor-apparel company from Utah. And one was an Indianapolis cloud-computing platform…..
“….Salesforce had opened up a VC firm in (Indianapolis), and in December, the state of Indiana had hired a Chicago-based asset management company to oversee its new Next Level Fund — a $250 million pot pooled from government coffers that will soon be available to local startups. Langellier speculated that in coming years, the city’s population could swell with developers and entrepreneurs. “We have a lot of quality-of-life advantages: not a lot of congestion, good restaurants, low home prices,” he said. “It’s a place where a young family won’t bankrupt themselves buying a house with a yard.”
NOTES FROM THE AGE OF DISRUPTION:
DISRUPTIVE IDEA OF THE DAY:
Is using pictures on social media and AI to predict fashion trend. Forbes
“Fashion tech startup Heuritech launched the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) service that can predict fashion trends based on the analysis of millions of images shared every day on social media.”
That’s a pretty cool idea. It can skip my Facebook page, though. I’m mostly pictured in the same T-shirts I wore in the early 1990s and one sweater, which I’ve had for about a decade. I am likely not predictive.
Other Disruptor News
Says 60 augmented reality apps for the ARCore platform are launching on the Play Store this week. Engadget
Looks to expand beyond Chicago, expand the idea of a corner store Curbed
Is trying to take autonomous vehicle tech to the construction industry. Insurance Journal
Stem Cell Therapy Shows Promising Results as Possible Cure for Blindness
A revolutionary new stem cell therapy has helped two patients regain enough of their sight to be able to read. The results of the trial were published this week in the academic journal Nature.
The two patients, a man and a woman, had advanced age-related macular degeneration (or AMD), a problem that destroys the central vision. Before the procedure, neither was able to even see a book, according to their surgeon. After the procedure, their sight has improved dramatically.
As always, I welcome your thoughts. @daveroyse on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org