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Why Southern Californians Say “The” Before Freeway Numbers

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Highway 101 stretches from Los Angeles all the way up California, but there’s a noted difference between how a resident of L.A. refers to it and how a resident of San Francisco refers to it. Thanks to my Southern California upbringing, I refer to “taking the 101,” while a denizen of Oakland or San Jose, or someone further up the coast in Oregon or Washington, would probably instruct a traveler to simply “take 101.” 

This is the only time Southern Californians get particularly attached to their definite articles compared to natives of other regions. Why the difference? 

It all has to do with how long freeways have been a part of the Southern Californian landscape. When the Arroyo Seco Parkway opened between L.A. and Pasadena in 1940, it was the first freeway in the West (New York already had a few). But outside of Los Angeles and New York City, many places didn’t get highways until Eisenhower launched the Interstate Highway system in 1956.

By the time the rest of the country started building highways, L.A. already had several local freeways. They all had local names that described their route, like “the San Bernadino Freeway” or “the Ventura Freeway.” Besides, certain freeways encompassed multiple route numbers—the Hollywood Freeway was both Route 66 and 101, depending on where you were along it. 

In 1964, California simplified its numbering system so the highways only had one route number each, but the linguistic pattern was already set. Eventually, people began to replace the descriptive names like the Harbor Freeway with route numbers, but it was still the 110, not 110. 

Essentially, “the” is just Southern Californians’ saying “I drove along highways before it was cool.” Hipness is at least one bright side of dealing with all that traffic

[h/t: KCET]

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technology
Driverless Cars Could Be Hacked With Stickers on Traffic Signs, Study Suggests
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As driverless cars inch toward becoming regular sights on our streets, experts have started to warn that the connected cars could be vulnerable to hackers who can take control of the vehicles from a distance. Though most of these warnings are related to hacking into the internet-connected computer on board, there’s an analog way to disrupt the workings of a driverless car, too, as Autoblog reports. Researchers from across the U.S. recently figured out how to trick a driverless car with a set of stickers, as they detail in a paper posted on arXiv.org.

They examined how fiddling with the appearance of stop signs could redirect a driverless car, tricking its sensors and cameras into thinking that a stop sign is actually a speed limit sign for a 45 mile-per-hour zone, for instance.

They found that by creating a mask to cover the sign that looks almost identical to the sign itself (so a human wouldn’t necessarily notice the difference), they could fool a road-sign classifier like those used by driverless cars into misreading the sign 100 percent of the time.

Five different views of a stop sign with black and white block-shaped stickers seen from various angles and distances.

Evtimov et al., arXiv.org

In a test of a right-turn sign, a mask that filled in the arrow on the sign resulted in a 100 percent misclassification rate. In two thirds of the trials, the right-turn was misclassified as a stop sign, and in one third, it was misclassified as an added lane sign. Graffiti-like stickers that read “love” and “hate” confused the classifier into reading a stop sign as a speed limit sign the majority of the time, as did an abstract design where just a few block-shaped stickers were placed over the sign.

“We hypothesize that given the similar appearance of warning signs, small perturbations are sufficient to confuse the classifier,” they write.

The study suggests that hackers wouldn’t need much equipment to wreak havoc on a driverless car. If they knew the algorithm of the car’s visual system, they would just need a printer or some stickers to fool the car.

However, the attacks could be foiled if the cars have fail-safes like multiple sensors and take context (like whether the car is driving in a city or on a highway) into account while reading signs, as Autoblog notes.

[h/t Autoblog]

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This Just In
London is Using Imaginary Speed Bumps to Curb Speeding
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In London, excessive speeding isn’t defined in quite the same way as it is in the States. While drivers here may get ticketed in some areas for hitting 40 or 50 miles per hour on city streets, vehicles there are in danger of being ticketed for exceeding 20 miles per hour.  

To curb the problem, the city began a clever initiative 18 months ago. Rather than spend the money it would take to install real speed bumps, officials for Transport for London painted stencils on the road that give the illusion of being raised. There’s no actual bump, but drivers who anticipate going over one might wind up slowing down.

We say “might” because, as a pilot program, there’s no word yet on how effective the faux-bumps have been. London has been struggling with traffic threats, noting in 2015 that speeds needed to be reduced to 20 mph in main arteries to help reduce the number of cyclists and pedestrians injured or killed as the result of collisions. The city recorded 136 fatalities in 2015 and 2092 injuries. The hope is to cut this number by 50 percent by the end of this decade.

[h/t Fast Company]

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