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.

Researchers believe modified CRISPR could be used without editing DNA

Researchers from the US' Salk Institute have used CRISPR as a switch that turns genes on and off and allows harmful mutant genes to be disabled without affecting the structure of their DNA. Until this development gene editing using CRISPR carried the risk of causing unintended effects.

Source: Gizmodo

Nissan to trial robo-taxis in Japan next year

The carmaker Nissan is is partnering with Japanese software company DeNA to test self-driving taxis on Japanese roads from March next year. The free trials will be held over a two-week period in March in Yokohama, and Nissan believes the service could be officially launched in Japan in the early 2020s.

Source: BBC

Apparently, gaming can save your brain

Research participants who played 3D platforming games like the iconic Super Mario 64 had more gray matter in their hippocampus after playing, That part of the brain transforms short-term memories into long-term ones and maintains the spatial memory that helps us navigate the world around us.

Source: Inverse

San Francisco votes to restrict delivery robots

San Francisco officials have voted to restrict where delivery robots can go in the city, amid concerns about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children. Start-ups will now have to get permits to use such bots, which will be restricted to less crowded urban areas.

Source: BBC

Steam stops accepting Bitcoin

When Valve first started accepting Bitcoin in April 2016 it was trading around $450 per coin. Today, with Bitcoin surging past $12,000 per coin, Valve has announced that "Steam will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method on our platform due to high fees and volatility in the value of Bitcoin."

Source: Ars Technica

The maker of Budweiser beer reserves 40 Tesla electric trucks

Budweiser beer maker Anheuser-Busch has reserved 40 Tesla all-electric Semi trucks as it seeks to reduce fuel costs and vehicle emissions. The reservation is one of the largest publicly announced orders Tesla has received, while production of the trucks is scheduled to begin by 2019.

Source: Reuters

The UK government is launching a fintech competition to help renters get on the property ladder

The UK government is offering £2 million to fintech developers who come up with a tool that lets renters record and share their payment data.

The Rent Recognition Challenge, which was first announced as part of the chancellors’ autumn budget, will task developers with finding a way to record payment data from Britain’s 11 million renters in a bid to improve their credit scores and ultimately help them to get a mortgage.

“Most lenders and Credit Reference Agencies are unable to take rental data into account, because they don’t have access to it.

“The Rent Recognition Challenge will challenge firms to develop an innovative solution to this problem and help to restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation,” said the economic secretary to HM Treasury, Stephen Barclay.

Economic secretary to HM Treasury, Stephen Barclay. Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew

The competition will provide an initial round of grant funding to six promising proposals to help turn their ideas into workable products.

A panel of leading figures from the Fintech sector will then whittle the six down to just a handful of teams who will receive further funding and support to bring their ideas to market.

“People’s monthly rent is often their biggest expense, so it makes sense for it to be recognised when applying for a mortgage. Without a good credit score, getting a mortgage can be a real struggle.”

Image courtesy of Jeff Djevdet

The government’s attempt to help more people out of private renting arrangements and into home ownership comes after Scottish Widows published a report that warned tomorrow’s pensioners will have to find huge amounts of money to pay ever-escalating rents to private landlords.

Scottish Widows projected one in eight retirees will be renting by 2032, which works out to three times the number renting today. It also said there is a £43bn gap between the income and savings people have now and what the rent bill will be in retirement.

Speaking to the Guardian, Dan Wilson Craw of campaign group Generation Rent said: “The common perception is that retirees either own their home outright or have a council tenancy, so the government will be in for a nasty shock as more of us retire and continue to rent from a private landlord.

“Many renters relying on pensions will qualify for housing benefit which will put greater strain on the public finances.”

The Rent Recognition Challenge will open to applications early in the New Year, and development will conclude in October 2018.