All posts by Daniel Davies

On the day the trailer for The Last Jedi drops, Star Wars fans also find out they’re getting a Darth Vader vacuum cleaner

When Disney bought the Star Wars franchise we knew there’d be new films, we knew they’d be toys, but a Darth Vader themed vacuum cleaner; no one saw that coming.

But on the day the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi dropped, Samsung has taken the opportunity to reveal Star Wars themed editions of its widely acclaimed VR7000 POWERbot robot vacuum cleaner.

“We are very pleased to be part of the excitement leading up to the release of The Last Jedi and to be launching our limited edition POWERbot in partnership with Star Wars fans,” said B.S. Suh, executive vice president of the Digital Appliances Business at Samsung Electronics.

“From its incredible suction power, slim design, and smart features, to the wonderful character-themed voice feedback and sound effects, we are confident the Star Wars limited edition of the VR7000 will be a big hit.”

Star Wars fans will be able to buy two versions of the vacuum, as Samsung is giving them the option of choosing between a Darth Vader or a Stormtrooper design.

The Darth Vader version of the POWERbot features a specially created cover using what Samsung calls “custom premium materials that resembles Darth Vader’s all-black mask”, while the Stormtrooper version replicates the look of a white and black Stormtrooper’s helmet.

The Darth Vader model comes with wifi connectivity and its own remote control, but both models play sound effects, so, for example, when the Darth Vader version is turned on the vacuum will play and mimic the character’s infamous breathing.

Images courtesy of Samsung

To create the special edition products, and make them authentic and true in the eyes of Star Wars fans, Samsung worked very closely with super fans at every stage of the product’s development, from product planning to design, production, marketing, and distribution.

Samsung has said that UK availability will be announced in due course, but if cleaning with a Star Wars themed vacuum isn’t your thing, and you’re happy to have a home that looks like it belongs to a scruffy-looking nerf herder, then you can just wait until Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released in cinemas on December 15.

And you can check out the latest trailer here.

Expert body urges governments to consider whether drunk or fatigued people should use driverless cars

Australia’s National Transport Commission (NTC) has suggested governments will soon need to make a judgement call on whether fatigued people or people under the influence of drink or drugs can use driverless cars.

In its ‘Changing driving laws to support automated vehicles’ discussion paper, the NTC said a conversation is needed to make sure the road safety benefits of automated vehicles were being fully exploited.

On drink driving the NTC said: “The NTC believes that the introduction of automated vehicles will have overall safety benefits for the road network by reducing the risk of human error. Barriers to use will reduce the uptake of automated vehicles and, therefore, the associated road safety benefits.

“One potential barrier to receiving the full benefits of automated vehicles would be to require occupants of automated vehicles, who are not driving, to comply with drink-driving laws,” reads the NTC’s report.

“Enabling people to use an automated vehicle to drive them home despite having consumed alcohol has the potential to improve road safety outcomes by reducing the incidence of drink-driving.”

Despite acknowledging that to take advantage of the benefits associated with driverless cars people under the influence of drink or drugs should be allowed to use the tech, the NTC did also admit that this decision would come with its own problems.

The major risk the NTC highlighted was that a person under the influence of drink or drugs could begin a journey in driverless mode but then take over control of the car and put other drivers at risk.

“A risk of providing exemptions is that an occupant may subsequently choose to take over driving the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If this occurred, they would become the driver of the vehicle and drink and drug driving offences would apply,” said the NTC’s paper.

“However, the road safety risks of exempting someone who may take over the driving task from the offences that prohibit driving or attempting to put a vehicle in motion while affected by alcohol or drugs, and waiting to see if they do in fact take over the driving task, may be too great. Governments will need to make a policy decision on where the overall safety benefit lies.”

On fatigue, the NTC said that while fatigue doesn’t impact driverless tech, it still needs to be considered if passengers are to become a “fallback” driver.

“Fatigue is not a relevant concept for an ADS so these provisions would not be relevant to the ADS. However, fatigue provisions should apply to a fallback-ready user for a fatigue regulated heavy vehicle,” reads the NTC statement.

“There will also be a need to consider how fatigue requirements should apply in situations where a human driver is not the fallback-ready user but will take over driving at some stage in the journey—for example, when the vehicle is leaving its operational design domain.