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The Lede: Newer Cars Have Cool Tech Now, But No Need to Drive – because Amazon

The Lede, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018
By David Royse

Good Day from the Chicago Auto Show, the oldest and largest auto show in America. I’m here looking for interesting stories about new things coming down the road, so to speak.

While futuristic craziness in the car world – think mostly in the realm of autonomous cars – has been all the rage at tech and car shows in the last year or two, the Chicago show is more focused on the present. It’s a consumer car show – where car companies can show off their latest models – but more focused on things people can actually buy and drive and less focused on concepts, or what they’re working on for the future.

But looking at new cars from the present instead of cars “from the future,” leads to the realization that in many ways the future is here. If you (like me until very recently when my beloved 18-year-old Toyota SUV died), have been tooling around in a car more than a few years old, you might be surprised at some of the tech that’s available in cars right now.

From cars that have the ability to parallel park themselves, to collision-avoidance systems, to heads-up displays, when it comes to cars, well, it’s truly not your father’s Oldsmobile. That’s today’s Lede.

Below I’ll have news from Amazon’s new delivery times for food, The New Opium War in the Healthcare section, and great news from Texas on the use of CRISPR in treating a certain type of muscular dystrophy. Also a good day for Twitter, which had a strong earnings report.

THE LEDE: If you have bought a car recently, and if you are in the particular income stratus that has allowed you to spend some money on some extra features, you may not find this to be “news.” You may skip ahead.

But for most of us, whether we drive a car that’s a few years old, or when we bought our last car we bought the standard model, some of the tech that’s available right now in cars currently on the road may surprise.

You’ve probably seen some of the TV commercials featuring cars that can parallel park themselves. But if you haven’t car-shopped lately, you may not realize that this is starting to go beyond being a feature just available on luxury vehicles. In fact, it’s been MORE THAN A DECADE since Lexus introduced auto-parking.

This past year, several major car makers offered self-steering parking, though in most cases it’s not a feature that comes standard. And while the feature is mostly available on more expensive car models, among those that could be bought in 2017 with self-parking were some very regular cars like the Ford Focus, the Toyota Prius, and the VW Golf.

The auto industry calls these near self-driving technologies “Level 1” or “Level 2” capabilities – the basics on a list that goes all the way to full autonomous driving at Level 6. Level 1 tech also includes a more sophisticated version of one of the oldest assistive driving technologies: adaptive cruise control.

Looking at some of the new cars at the Chicago Auto Show, it’s clear that technologies that can help drivers with that task (insert joke about Boston drivers, your mother-in-law, senior citizens, or some other person who may need help here) are becoming very popular.

Promotional Material for Car With Collision Avoidance

Among the most interesting technologies now showing up in regular cars, thanks to the research into the “future” self-driving car, is systems that try to make driving safer not by making crashing safer (like airbags and seat belts) but by trying to make crashing unlikely. That’s collision avoidance. Some of these systems merely warn you, the driver, that you’re about to hit something, so you can avoid it. Some cars are starting to have automatic braking systems that stop for you before hitting something.

Forward collision warning systems are actually pretty basic now, using cameras, radar, and sometimes LIDAR to detect things that are getting closer and closer, as if you might be about to hit them. The system then gives the driver a warning so he or she can brake. (I had this in the ’80s when I first started driving. It was called my dad. “stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!”)

This guy Rick and his dog Scout at MyCarDoesWhat.org demonstrate collision warning for us.

Forward Collision Warning is now standard on some models, including the Mazda 3, the 2019 Subaru Ascent and most models of Toyota.

Some cars that have collision warning as options include the Chevy Bolt, Volt and Cruze,  the Hyundai Santa Fe, and pretty much every Kia.

Automatic Braking, or AEB, goes a step further – actually trying to help you stop the car if you’re about to hit something, at least slowing it down if it can’t stop the car, thus lessening the impact.

Under a 2016 agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 20 major car makers have promised to make automatic braking standard in all new vehicles by 2022.

U.S. News and World Report has been good enough to compile a list of cars that currently have the feature.

Let’s go to that guy Rick and his dog Scout again.

The Follow:

While driving is getting easier and safer thanks to car makers and their techy toys, let’s just all stay home. Why drive at all? Amazon says it will start free, two-hour delivery from Whole Foods stores to Prime members in some parts of Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas and Virginia Beach, starting today.

The story from USA Today

Which gives us our:


STEPHENIE LANDRY, VP of Prime Now, Amazon Fresh and Amazon restaurants: Explaining in the above-linked USA Today story that “pickers” will go down the aisles at Whole Foods to find the items Prime members have ordered – and using an interesting phrase to tell us not to worry – they’ll keep your stuff cold.

“They will pick the items, put them in appropriate packaging to maintain the chill chain and pack them.”


So while our cars are getting better at helping us drive, the whole autonomous thing is still a work in progress, (obviously, or they’d be on the road, right?) Today from Slate:  Self-driving cars aren’t good at detecting cyclists.


The New Opium War:

In Florida, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week declared a new war on drugs, saying that the federal government “needs to get its head straight” and go full blast at the epidemic of drug overdoses.

From the Miami Herald, reporting on Sessions’ speech Wednesday in Tampa: “We will not stand by and let more of our friends, family members or neighbors get addicted or die of drug overdoses,” Sessions said. He repeated the theme at a Miami appearance Thursday.

More from the Herald:

“In just one year, we lost 5,700 Floridians — an increase of nearly 1,500 — to opioid-related deaths,” Sessions said. “And as we all know, these are not numbers — these are moms, dads, daughters, spouses, friends and neighbors.”

Meanwhile, the budget agreement Senate leaders have worked out in Washington allocates $6 billion over two years to fight opioid addiction, with the money slotted to go to prevention programs and law enforcement. CNBC

In case you missed it yesterday:
Alabama AG Sues Opioid Makers


NIH Gets Budget Boost:

The Senate plan also increases spending on the National Institutes of Health, which the White House had proposed cutting. Stat


Traveling today?

Hopefully if you’re coming to Chicago for the Auto Show or any other reason, you’re already here. We may be closed by tomorrow night. Chicago is supposed to get about 10 inches of snow starting tonight and going into tomorrow night.  So good luck. Pro tip: check out trains.


FORT LAUDERDALE  A step forward for the proposed WAVE streetcar
TAMPA Some in Tampa have concerns about proposed Bus Rapid Transit system
CHICAGO Proposals are in for the downtown Chicago to O’Hare in under 30 minutes idea
VIRGINIA Virginia lawmakers consider tax on ridesharing services to raise money for mass transit 


Earnings This Week: 
Big news from Twitter, which reported earnings today and announced it had its first quarterly profit. Twitter had a return to revenue growth, thanks in part to international expansion. Shares in Twitter went to two-year highs. Reuters


Brookings’ Dick Startz arguing that we need the international students who are starting to rethink the American educational experience. 

“College enrollment of international students is down for the first time in a long time. … In the short run, losing international students is bad for what some might think of as a pretty crass reason: International students subsidize American kids because nonresidents pay higher tuition and receive less financial aid. … One (other) easy-to-see benefit is that we get to skim cream, keeping some of the best students in the United States. Just as an example, many tech-entrepreneurs came to the U.S. this way. Losing international students will harm the domestic economy in the long run. … A harder-to-see benefit is that many international students who return home do so with an appreciation for what America is really like.

In the San Francisco Bay area, many professors can’t get enough paid hours – live fairly close to poverty

Publish or Perish

CRISPR WIN: “Scientists have developed a CRISPR gene-editing technique that can potentially correct a majority of the 3,000 mutations that cause Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) by making a single cut at strategic points along the patient’s DNA, according to a study from UT Southwestern Medical Center.” From UT Southwestern Medical Center

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About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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