Google
Google

Google's Self-Driving Cars Will Hit the Road This Summer

Google
Google

Google’s new self-driving car is getting ready to hit the road—as early as this summer, in fact.

These pod-like vehicles—the designs for which were unveiled last May—are completely autonomous and the first to be totally developed by the Internet giant. (Its previous fleet of self-driving cars were converted Lexus SUVs; some of these have already been making regular trips on roadways.) This newer prototype will begin taking its own test drives around Mountain View, Calif., where Google’s headquarters are based, this summer.

“Vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button could transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error, reclaiming the billions of hours wasted in traffic, or bringing everyday destinations and new opportunities within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car,” Chris Umrson, director of the project, explains on Google’s official blog.

The new model uses the same software as the Lexus SUVs, which have “logged nearly a million autonomous miles on the roads since we started the project,” Urmson says. “So the new prototypes already have lots of experience to draw on—in fact, it’s the equivalent of about 75 years of typical American adult driving experience.” But just in case, so-called “safety drivers” will ride along for this stage of the project, and will be able take over driving—using the car's removable steering wheels and pedals—if needed.

The Los Angeles Times points out that four of the 48 self-driving cars that have been cruising around California’s roadways have been involved in accidents so far; according to a report, however, all were caused by human error.

Google plans to do more than just fine-tune its software during this phase of test-drives—it also hopes to gain a better understanding of how other drivers on the road will react to the vehicles. Says Urmson, “We’re looking forward to learning how the community perceives and interacts with the vehicles, and to uncovering challenges that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle.”

[h/t BBC, LA Times

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There’s No Safe Amount of Time to Leave a Dog in a Hot Car
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iStock

We often think of dogs as indomitable and durable animals who can fend off attackers, tirelessly chase Frisbees, and even eat poop without digestive consequences.

It’s true that dogs generally have a solid constitution, but that shouldn’t lead you to believe they can endure one of the biggest mistakes a pet owner can make: Leaving them in a hot car, even for a few minutes, puts a dog’s life at serious risk.

Even on relatively cool days with temperatures around 71.6°F, the inside of a vehicle can reach 116.6°F within an hour, as Quartz highlights.

If it’s a scorching summer heat wave, an 80-degree day will see temperatures get up to 99°F in just 10 minutes; a 90-degree day can turn the car into an oven at 119°F in the same amount of time.

Dogs can't tolerate this kind of heat. As their bodies struggle to cool down, the temperature is often more than they can expel through panting and opening capillaries in the skin. If their body reaches a temperature of 105.8°F, they're at risk of heatstroke, which only half of dogs survive. At 111.2°F, a lack of blood circulation can cause kidney failure and internal bleeding. Brain damage and death is very likely at this point. Depending on the outside temperature, it can happen in as little as six minutes. Cracking windows won't help.

Unless you plan on leaving your vehicle running with the air conditioning on (and we don't recommend that), there’s really no safe amount of time to leave a pet inside. If you do come back to find a listless dog who is unresponsive, it’s best to get to a veterinarian as soon as possible. And if you’re a bystander who sees a dog trapped inside a car, alert the nearest store to try and make an announcement to get the owner back to the vehicle. You can also phone local law enforcement or animal control. In some states, including California, you’re legally allowed to enter a vehicle to rescue a distressed animal.

[h/t Quartz]

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Why an Ex-FBI Agent Recommends Wrapping Your Keys in Tinfoil Whenever You Leave Your Car
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iStock

A car thief doesn't need to get their hands on your keys to break into your vehicle. If you use a wireless, keyless system, or fob, to unlock your car, all they need to do is steal the signal it emits. Luckily there's a tool you can use to protect your fob from hackers that you may already have in your kitchen at home: tinfoil.

Speaking with USA Today, retired FBI agent Holly Hubert said that wrapping car fobs in a layer of foil is the cheapest way to block their sensitive information from anyone who may be trying to access it. Hackers can easily infiltrate your car by using a device to amplify the fob signal or by copying the code it uses. And they don't even need to be in the same room as you to do it: They can hack the fob inside your pocket from the street outside your house or office.

Electronic car theft is a growing problem for automobile manufacturers. Ideally fobs made in the future will come with cyber protection built-in, but until then the best way to keep your car safe is to carry your fob in an electromagnetic field-blocking shield when you go out. Bags made specifically to protect your key fob work better than foil, but they can cost more than $50. If tinfoil is all you can afford, it's better than nothing.

At home, make sure to store your keys in a spot where they will continue to get protection. Dropping them in a metal coffee can is a lot smarter than leaving them out in the open on your kitchen counter.

[h/t USA Today]

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