Category Archives: cars

Uber Settles Discrimination Lawsuit



uberlogo[1]Ride-sharing service Uber agreed to settle a lawsuit brought against them by the National Federation of the Blind. The suit contended that Uber was engaging in discriminatory practices by refusing to pick up blind passengers with service dogs. The settlement is still being reviewed by a judge and pending approval. The terms of the settlement force Uber to notify all of its drivers that they must take all passengers with service animals. The suit also awards $225,000 to the National Federation of the Blind over three years.

From a statement released by Uber:

As part of this settlement, we have agreed to take steps to make clear to drivers using Uber that they are obligated to transport to any passenger with a service animal. If the settlement is approved, drivers will see a pop-up in the Uber app reminding them of this obligation. We will also send periodic email reminders to drivers.

We have also agreed to publish a service animal policy which, in addition to our code of conduct and new deactivation policy, makes clear that any driver found to have refused someone with a service animal will be barred from using the Uber platform.

The National Federation of the Blind will deploy blind passengers with service animals to help test the new measures put in place by the settlement.


Greece Gets First Self-Driving Bus



Robosoft logoMost of the news these days in regards to self-driving vehicles has to do with cars. Tesla has been breaking ground in this technology for years and now rumors are circulating that Apple is about to roll in with its own autonomous car. While it seems self-driving passenger cars might be all the world can really handle right now, that hasn’t stopped French technology firm Robosoft from building its first robotic bus. The bus recently completed a test run in the Greek city of Trikala.

CityMobil2, as the bus is called, can’t compete with the buses we usually see in large urban areas. The autonomous bus is fully electric and carries a total of 10 passengers. Its maximum speed is 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) per hour. The bus is guided by GPS to follow a pre-programmed path. There are no traditional controls on board (steering wheel, brake/acceleration controls, etc.). CityMobile2 is incapable of changing lanes but it will stop if it detects objects in the way, like parked cars.

The self-driving bus did well enough in its initial six-month, accident-free phase that it will soon be deployed to the Spanish town of San Sebastian. There, it will undergo another series of trials, similar to what happened in Greece.


Drust Helps You to Become a Super Driver at CES



Drust LogoThere’s much talk these days about the so-called “connected car.” And while much of that talk focuses on things like smartphone integration, there’s much more to it than that. Modern cars have a built-in diagnostic port that transmits all kinds of data to connected devices. Typically, these devices are only accessed by mechanics, who use them to run tests and gather information on your car’s hardware and electronics. But what if you could access and use some of that diagnostic data yourself?

Scott stopped by the Drust booth to speak with Michael Fernandez, the company’s CEO. Drust makes a dongle that connects to your car’s diagnostic port. The dongle then communicates with a smartphone app to give you information about your car. Drust tracks your fuel usage and gives you tips on how to optimize gas pedal usage to make you a more efficient driver. It also helps to track preventative maintenance needs like oil and fluid changes. Down the road, Drust might even be able to help you lower your auto insurance rates. The product is currently available in Europe at a cost of 119 euros. The Drust smartphone app is a free download for Android, coming soon to iOS and other platforms.

Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Cobra Dash Cams and Detectors at CES



Cobra LogoCobra Electronics are well-known for their radar detectors and other automotive products. Here at CES, Cobra won the TWICE Picks Award for one of its flagship units, the CDR 855 BT Drive HD dash cam, so Todd Aune finds out more about the latest devices from Mark Karnes, VP of Marketing at Cobra.

On the table are two relatively new devices from Cobra, the CDR 855BT dash cam and the world’s smallest DSP radar detector, the DSP 9200 BT. Starting with the dash cam, it’s a connected device, pairing via Bluetooth with a smartphone to acquire GPS co-ordinates which are then sync’d with the video footage. On top of this, the dash cam can work with Cobra’s iRadar app on the smartphone to know the location of cameras and provide alerts to the driver. The app is shared with the radar detector, so as the detector finds cameras, these can be reported back to the app and then up to the cloud to keep the camera database up-to-date for everyone through the iRadar Community. That’s pretty neat.

Not to be outdone, the radar detector was a CTA Honoree Award for an Intelligent Vehicle Device. The trick in this radar detector is to use digital signal processing to tell the difference between signals from the new collision avoidance systems and law enforcement speed guns. A range of radar and laser signals are presented to the driver as detected, with both visual and audio warnings, and the unit also benefits from alerts provided from the iRadar app on a connected smartphone.

Both devices are on sale now for US$349 for the radar detection and US$149 for the dash cam.

Todd Aune bridges the technology gap with the The Elder Divide.

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Pioneer Brings CarPlay and Android Auto to the After-Market



Pioneer logoPioneer is a brand for well-known for its in-car audio and entertainment systems so it comes as no surprise that the company is bringing a range of after-market units with Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. Todd and Marlo get a demo of the latest product with Ted Cardenas from Pioneer.

On show here is the freshly-announced Pioneer AVH-4200-NEX, which is one of three products which incorporate both CarPlay and Android Auto. As a result, the display and user interface will take on the persona of the connected device. The in-dash receiver connects to the smartphone using a wired connection as the phones contribute heavily to the running of apps. Plugging in the phones avoids issues with data speeds and keeps the battery charged, though Bluetooth is used in Android Auto for calls.

Voice is heavily used by both the driver to control the NEX and for the system to respond. Voice can be used to compose and listen to text messages, to navigate and to talk to Siri or Google Now. This keeps the need to look at the screen to a minimum and enhances safety.

If your current vehicle’s in-car entertainment system doesn’t support CarPlay or Android Auto, the Pioneer NEX range offers a great way to upgrade to the latest auto technology. Priced at around $700, the AVH-4200-NEX will be available in March.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com and Marlo Anderson rounds up the latest technology news at The Tech Ranch.

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SPLT Rides is Bringing an All New Rideshare to CES



SPLT LogoThe current riidesharing craze is something that seems so obvious now. But it was hardly thinkable in a pre-mobile app world. And while companies like Uber and Lyft have gained most of the attention in the ridesharing space there are still plenty of others who are trailblazing their own paths. One up and comer at this year’s CES is SPLT Rides.

Benjamin Seidman, Director of Business Development at SPLT Rides sat down with Todd and Don to talk about the service. SPLT is focused on companies rather than individual consumers. SPLT uses dynamic routing and scheduling along with on-demand service to accommodate riders who are going to the same destination, such as a shared office building or workspace. Drivers who take SPLT passengers get reimbursed for that time behind the wheel directly thru SPLT’s mobile app. Reimbursement rates are usually based on state per-mile regulations but in some cases, companies are opting to pay their own reimbursement rates to SPLT drivers. Also, SPLT will soon be looking at providing its ridesharing services to events.

Don Baine is the Gadget Professor and he holds classes at TheGadgetProfessor.com.

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New Ford SYNC Connect Brings Smartphone Connectivity to Cars



Ford LogoThis week at the L.A. Auto Show, Ford announced its new SYNC Connect technology which will allow vehicle owners to control certain car functions from their smartphones. Key features of Ford SYNC Connect include:

  • Lock and unlock
  • Remote start, including scheduling a future start
  • Vehicle status, including fuel, oil and battery levels, along with tire pressure readings
  • Vehicle location – where your car is parked is displayed on a map

Ford SYNC Connect will first be rolled out with the new Ford Escape in spring of 2017, with other vehicles to follow. Users will communicate with SYNC Connect using free apps downloaded to their smartphones. Those smartphones will then connect to special modems built into Ford vehicles that’ll allow them to access different car features remotely. SYNC Connect is activated thru a two-step authentication process that helps to protect personal information, confirming setup on the vehicle touch screen and on the mobile application.

SYNC Connect plays a key role in Ford Smart Mobility, an evolving line of car technology that Ford is developing into the future. Smart Mobility covers more than just smartphone connectivity, including things like autonomous driving, enhanced customer service, and “big data” aggregation.

Learn more about Ford SYNC 3 at the official SYNC website.