California Legalises Driver-Free Autonomous Vehicles

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has approved new rules that allow self-driving cars to operate on public roads in the state without a human behind the wheel. The regulations, which take effect on 2nd April, will allow major driverless car producers, including Waymo and Uber, to commence testing in the state.

Source: Ars Technica

Israel to Eliminate Major Fossil Fuels by 2030

Israel has unveiled a plan to end the use of coal, petrol and diesel fuel by 2030, making the country fully reliant on natural gas and renewable and alternative fuels within 12 years. The plan was unveiled by the Energy Ministry and will be now submitted as a master plan to the government for approval.

Voice Cloning AI Can Swap Accents, Genders

Baidu has unveiled an updated version of its voice cloning AI that can replicate a human voice with only a few seconds of audio and can modify a voice to change both gender and accent. The AI, Deep Voice, was unveiled last year, but had fewer capabilities and far longer training times, making this an impressive advance.

Source: The Next Web

Leading US Lawyers Lose to AI in Competition

A competition between a legal AI platform and professors from some of the US' top law schools saw the AI win by a significant margin. The AI, LawGeex, was able to review five non-disclosure agreements for legal issues in 26 seconds, as opposed to the humans' 92 minutes, with an accuracy rate of 95%, compared to the humans' 85%.

Source: Mashable

Global Seed Bank Hits One Million Crops

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is designed to store the world's most important seeds against natural disasters, climate change and other catastrophic incidents, has passed one million deposits. The addition of 70,000 crops took the number to 1,059,646, ensuring the bank fulfills its role of protecting the world's food supply.

Source: BBC

Bill Gates: Cryptocurrencies have Cause Deaths

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has expressed concern about cryptocurrencies, saying that the anonymity of the technology has resulted in deaths through the purchasing of dangerous drugs such as fentanyl. Making the comments on a Reddit AMA, Gates said the government’s ability identify terrorism funding and money laundering "is a good thing".

Source: The Guardian

US wants to use the Moon as a petrol station

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has said that the Trump administration aims to turn the Moon into a petrol station, which will allow for the exploration of deeper parts of the solar system. According to Ross, explorers would use ice from the moon's craters to refuel on the way to other destinations.

SpaceX’s first broadband satellites are now in space

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has confirmed the company's first broadband satellites – named Tintin A and Tintin B – have been deployed and are now "communicating to Earth stations". The satellites are being used to test SpaceX's future Starlink broadband service, which aims to provide gigabit broadband worldwide.

Source: Ars Technica

Nissan to trial self-driving taxis in Japan

Nissan and Japanese tech giant DeNA have announced field tests of Easy Ride, the self-driving taxi service they developed together, will begin on March 5 in Yokohama, Japan. The cars will take passengers along a 4.5km route between the Yokohama World Porters shopping centre and Nissan’s corporate complex.

Source: Tech Crunch

Elon Musk quits AI ethics group

Elon Musk has always been quick to urge caution when it comes to AI, but now he has quit the board of the research group he co-founded to look into the tech's ethics. OpenAI said the decision had been taken to avoid any conflict of interest as Mr Musk's electric car company, Tesla, became "more focused on AI".

Source: BBC

Beef companies file petition against lab-grown meat startups

The US beef industry is fighting back against tech startups who are creating meat in a lab using animal cells. The US Cattlemen’s Association has filed a petition arguing that lab-grown meat startups should not be able to call their products "meat," since they do not come from slaughtered animals.

Millions of dollars in Ethereum are vulnerable to hackers

Researchers claim that having analysed almost one million smart contracts stored on the Ethereum blockchain, 34,200 are "critically vulnerable". A sample of roughly 3,000 vulnerable contracts that the team verified could be exploited to steal roughly $6 million worth of Ether, Ethereum’s in-house cryptocurrency.

Source: Motherboard