Uber set to fill a massive bus-shaped hole in the town of Innisfil, Ontario

Uber has entered in an agreement with the Canadian town of Innisfil, Ontario to serve as the town’s public transport service.

The town of Innisfil decided that subsidising Ubers, with its services like Uber Pool, was cheaper than paying for its own dedicated bus service, so on May 1 a partnership between Uber and the town will begin and residents will be able to pay between $3 and $5 , depending on the destination, to ride the service.

“[The] Council was really being pressured to bring transit to the town of Innisfil,” said Innisfil’s mayor, Gord Wauchope, to the Toronto Star.

“You can’t have taxpayers pay for a transit system which they cannot use. And this was a transit system that people can get from anywhere in the town of Innisfil, and use it for a reasonable price.”

Innisfil, Ontario. Image courtesy of Michael Gil

Although Innisfil has been criticised by some for not investing in its own public transport, the town argues that it doesn’t make economic sense to do so.

The Council says that for a town like Innisfil that currently has no bus service, bringing one bus into the town would cost $270,000 and two buses would set the town back $610,00, which would be too costly for the limited level of service that they would provide.

In contrast, Innisfil will pay Uber $100,00 during Stage 1 of the programme and then another $125,00 during Stage 2, which should commence around 6 to 9 months later.

Featured image courtesy of Jirapong Manustrong / Shutterstock, Inc.

The town is still in discussions with taxi companies that already operate in Innisfil – Innisfil Taxi, Global Taxi and Barrie Taxi – to arrange a partnership that would also see them offer “accessibility” rides, which Uber may  not offer, during Stage 1 of the ridesharing transit service.

For residents of Innisfil who don’t have access to a smartphone, Uber has provided the Town with a number of iPads that will be available in community hubs like the Town Hall, the library and the Nantyr Shores Seconday School within the town.

Speaking to Factor, Uber Canada’s senior communications associate, Susie Heath, says: “On May 1st, Uber and the Town of Innisfil will launch Canada’s first ridesharing-transit partnership. This partnership will not only help residents get around town but will encourage them to access local transit hubs.

“We were thrilled when the Town of Innisfil approached us last year as they were interested in running a dynamic ridesharing-based transit service to test the feasibility of such a service in the Town.

“Since then, we have worked closely with Town staff to develop a public transit partnership that will provide affordable and cost effective transit to their residents.

Prathan Chorruangsak / Shutterstock.com

“We know that Uber and ridesharing has become a first mile/last mile complement with public transit in cities around the world. The American Public Transportation Association (to which many Canadian transit authorities are members) published a study last year that found that people who routinely use “shared modes” of transportation (e.g., bikesharing, carsharing, and ridesharing) were more likely to use public transit,” says Heath.

“Today, people are combining ridesharing and public transit to substitute for a car and create shared journeys. As a case in point, in London, 30% of Uber rides in the outer boroughs during the morning rush hour end within 200 metres of a Tube or train station.

“Realizing these trends are already happening, more and more transit authorities and cities are entering into formal agreements with ridesharing companies to help connect people to public transit, like in the feeder communities of New York City and Orlando, or improve paratransit services for the elderly and disabled, as with a pilot program in Boston.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Innisfil for Canada’s first partnership of this kind and look forward to continued dialogue with other jurisdictions and transit authorities across Canada to explore similar partnerships. “

Updated with comment from Uber.

Valve’s ‘Knuckles’ controller brings individual finger control to VR

With a prototype first revealed at the company’s Steam Dev Days conference last October, Valve’s new ‘Knuckles’ controller is now being shipped to developers as a prototype, while a blog post unveils a few more of the specs.

What’s important about the new controller is that it on only utilises an ‘open hand’ design that will mean you don’t have to spend your entire time gripping the controller like a weapon, but  it also features basic tracking for individual fingers.

The device is similar to the current HTC Vive motion controller, positioning in 3D space via Steam’s Lighthouse tracking system, but looks to build to the next stage of what can be done with motion control in VR. Specifically, Valve is looking to bring a much greater presence of your virtual hand into the market.

Moreover, they’re looking to make that virtual hand feel far more natural. With the controller able to grip onto your hand – think somewhat similar to securing your Wiimotes to your wrist – you’ll be able to operate in the virtual space with an open hand. While it may seem a small thing, it brings a whole new realism to any kind of grabbing or catching motion.

In addition, the ability of the Knuckles to track the movement of individual fingers could prove a real game-changer to virtual reality experiences.  Using a number of capacitive sensors to detect the state of your hands when your finger is on a button, or particular part of a controller, the controller will, according to the dev post, “return a curl value between zero and one, where zero indicates that the finger is pointing straight out and one indicates that the finger is fully curled around the controller”.

In essence, this means that the controller will be able to sense fine gradations of movement in each of your fingers, rather than relying on a binary “open” or “closed” status. Beyond lending a more organic feel to the use of your virtual hand, this will also allow users to make use of a range of hand gestures currently unavailable with VR controllers. A screenshot from a new version of SteamVR Home displays the possibilities with a Knuckles user’s avatar throwing up devil horns.

Images courtesy of Valve

It’s worth noting that this isn’t a perfect tracking system. While farther along than, for example, the Oculus Touch controllers, which allow you to slightly open your fingers while tracking the three non-index fingers together via an analog trigger, the Knuckles aren’t exactly ‘full’ finger tracking. Ideally, controllers will reach the point of knowing where your fingers are at all times with pinpoint precision. Until then however, the Knuckles are no small step forward.

The current Knuckles controller dev kit reportedly has a battery life of three hours and requires an hour of USB Micro charging to fill up (if accurate, these numbers put it roughly in the same realm as Vive controllers in regards to battery). We’ll have to wait on confirmation of this and other details,

Elon Musk speaks to LA's mayor about his Boring Company

Elon Musk said this week that he has held “promising conversations” with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, regarding the potential of bringing his recently formed Boring Company to the city. One of the ideas reportedly under consideration would see an express line to LAX airport from LA’s Union Station being built.

Source: Tech Crunch

Atari is back with a new console

Last week, Atari began teasing a new product called the Ataribox. Now, in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat Atari CEO Fred Chesnais has confirmed that the pioneering video game company is working on a new game console. “We’re back in the hardware business,” said Chesnais.

Source: Venture Beat

Nasa find 10 planets that could potentially host life

Nasa has added a further 219 candidates to the list of planets beyond our solar system, 10 of which may be about the same size and temperature as Earth, and may host life. Scientists found the candidates in a final batch of Nasa’s Kepler Space Telescope observations of 200,000 sample stars in the constellation Cygnus.

Source: The Guardian

Tesla Model S told driver to put his hands on the wheel before fatal crash

Federal regulators said on Monday, the driver of a Tesla Model S, who was killed in a collision while the car was in autopilot mode, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for a prolonged period of time despite being repeatedly warned by the vehicle that having his hands on the wheel was necessary.

Source: Ars Technica

Uber founder Travis Kalanick resigns

Having last week said that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence, Uber boss Travis Kalanick resigned as chief executive of the company this week after pressure from shareholders. His resignation comes after a review of practices at the firm and scandals including complaints of sexual harassment.

Source: BBC

Facebook defends against injunction to remove Oculus Rift from sale

Facebook and Oculus want a federal judge to let them continue selling Rifts despite a jury deciding Oculus stole another company’s computer code. Lawyers for Facebook said halting the sale of Oculus Rifts “would serve no one but ZeniMax, who would use it only as leverage to try to extract money from Oculus”.

Source: Bloomberg