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.

DeepMind’s Go-playing AI can learn the game for itself now

Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind believes it is one step closer to creating AI with general intelligence because its Go-playing software, AlphaGo, has been updated and can now teach itself how to play. AlphaGo Zero was only programmed with Go's basic rules, and from there it learns everything else by itself.

Source: The Verge

UK spies monitoring social media in mass surveillance tactic

The privacy rights group Privacy International says it has obtained evidence for the first time that UK spy agencies are collecting social media information on potentially millions of people. The discovery raises concerns about whether effective oversight of the mass surveillance programs is in place.

Source: TechCrunch

Blue Origin passes hot-fire test

Blue Origin, the aerospace company fronted and largely funded by Jeff Bezos, has released footage of its BE-4 engine's first and successful completion of a hot-fire test. The successful hotfire supports the idea that Blue Origin could in the future be used for orbital and deep space missions.

Source: Ars Technica

5G to be used by 1 billion people in 2023 with China set to dominate

Analysts at CCS Insight have predicted that 5G technology will be in place by 2020, with China being the main beneficiary. "China will dominate 5G thanks to its political ambition to lead technology development," said Marina Koytcheva, VP Forecasting at CCS Insight.

Source: CNBC

Climate change makes it more likely to see hurricanes in Europe

Meteorologists from the University of Bristol have predicted that the likelihood of hurricane-force storms hitting the UK, much like Hurricane Ophelia did this week, will be enhanced in the future due to human-induced climate change.

Source: New Scientist

Russia to launch 'CryptoRuble’

According to local news sources, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the nation will issue its own cryptocurrency at a closed door meeting in Moscow. The news broke via minister of communications, Nikolay Nikiforov.

Source: Coin Telegraph

Human habitat located on the Moon that will shield us from its extreme elements

Researchers have discovered a potential habitat on the Moon, which may protect astronauts from hazardous conditions on the surface.

No one has ever been on the Moon for longer than three days, largely because space suits alone can’t shield astronauts from its elements: extreme temperature variation, radiation, and meteorite impacts. Unlike Earth, the Moon also has no atmosphere or magnetic field to protects its inhabitants.

However, in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers have claimed that the safest place for astronauts to seek shelter is inside an intact lava tube.

“It’s important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we’re ever going to construct a lunar base,” said Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at JAXA, Japan’s space agency.

Image courtesy of Purdue University/David Blair. Featured image courtesy of NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Lava tubes are naturally occurring channels formed when a lava flow develops a hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. Once the lava stops flowing, the tunnel sometimes drains, forming a hollow void.

The Lava tubes located by Purdue University researchers are said to be spacious enough to house one of the United States’ largest cities, and while their existence – and in particular their entrance near the Marius Hills Skylight – was previously known, their size was previously an unknown quantity.

“They knew about the skylight in the Marius Hills, but they didn’t have any idea how far that underground cavity might have gone,” said Jay Melosh, professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University.

“Our group at Purdue used the gravity data over that area to infer that the opening was part of a larger system. By using this complimentary technique of radar, they were able to figure out how deep and high the cavities are.”

At the first meeting of the US’ reintroduced National Space Council, vice president Mike Pence announced that the Trump administration will redirect America’s focus to travelling back to the Moon.

Pence’s declaration marks a fundamental change for NASA, which abandoned plans to send people to the moon in favour of Mars under President Barack Obama.

“We will return NASA astronauts to the moon – not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said.