News Roundup: The first driverless fatality

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Hilary’s tech policies, $4 smartphones, and post-Brexit stuff.

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Hilary’s tech policies, $4 smartphones, and post-Brexit stuff.

The inevitable happens

So last week I made lofty predictions that we’re still a while off from the first fatality involving a driverless car. Unfortunately I was wrong. On the 7th May, Joshua Brown, 40, put his Tesla Model S into Autopilot mode. The car collided with a large, white 18-wheel truck in Florida, and Brown was killed.

According a statement from Tesla, the truck wasn’t seen by the Tesla because of a brightly lit sky, and so failed to slow down when the truck turned in front of the car. The post also reminded readers that drivers should still be fully aware of their surroundings and ready to take over when using Autopilot.

A police report says the car’s roof “was torn off by the force of the collision”. An investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now underway.

Brown recently posted a video online showing the same Model S preventing a similar crash.

Thoughts go out to Brown’s family.

$4 smartphone a reality

Earlier in the year, an unknown company Ringing Bells promised to release a $4 smartphone. Questions were obviously raised about how a device could be made so cheaply, and then the early models sent out turned out to be a different phone with the old logo covered up.

But Ringing Bells are back and claiming the device is ready to ship. It also turns out the device is not only being subsidized by companies with pre-loaded apps, but is also being sold at a loss of $2 per device (which the company hope the government will pick up). So it’s not really a $4 phone, but also kind of is.

In other phone news, Android N is now officially Android Nougat. To the surprise of no one. Except maybe die-hard Nutella fans. 

Hilary for tech

This week saw Hilary Clinton reveal her technology policies. The Democratic presidential candidate’s promises include high-speed internet, net neutrality protection, greater STEM education, greater diversity in technology, and a more digital government.

On the other hand, Republican candidate Donald Trump has “positions”, not policies, and none mention technology.

M&A

2014 saw the fewest Software as a Service companies being founded in a long time. Is the SaaS boom over?

Cisco has acquired CloudLock, Infor has bought Predictix, Workday has snapped up Zaption, and Doodle has purchased Meekan.

According to the internet rumour mill, Intel is looking to offload its McAfee unit to the highest bidder. For John McAfee, it’s about time. “It is like a car manufacturer suddenly deciding to get into the skateboard business,” he told Business Insider. “It never made sense to me.”

Energy

We’re creating more data than ever. The number of data centers in the world continues to escalate. But good news; the amount of energy they use is staying steady. According to a new Berkeley Lab report, data center energy usage has plateaued, remaining steady at just under 2% of total electricity consumption in the US since 2010. The report also predicts energy usage – currently around 70 billion kWh per year – to increase around 4% annually between now and 2020, compared to 90% increase from 2000-2005 and 24% increase from 2005-2010. What’s behind this plateau? Mainly advances in cooling technologies, better power management and less idle servers.

Elsewhere, IBM has revealed an interesting project around recycling eWaste. Researchers at Big Blue found that through a simple process involving a chemical similar to baking powder, polycarbonate plastics - CDs, LED screens etc. - can be converted into medical-grade plastic less likely to leak harmful chemicals as they decompose.

Brexit

Some post-Brexit referendum headlines…

Some firms want to re-locate, some don’t.

IT spending is going to go down. Startups say they’ve lost funding.

Activity trackers detected restlessness on referendum night.

NSA

-          Lavabit’s founder finally confirms it was Ed Snowden the government wanted info on

-          Snowden is against Russia’s plans for greater data collection

-          The UK will be less useful to the US from an intelligence perspective post-Brexit

-          Advocacy groups think the Snooper’s Charter should be put on the backburner due to Brexit

-          The Snooper’s Charter could be used to legally hack a whole overseas town.

-          China is deleting Lada Gaga from the web after she met with the Dali Lama

Diversity

Google this week revealed its latest diversity report. 31% of the search giant’s workforce is now female, up 1% on the year before. The percentage of workers in the US from non-white, non-Asian employees remained unchanged.

+5

Big week for anniversaries. The iPhone first hit stores nine years ago this week, while both Google+ and Office 365 turned five years old. A rare case of Microsoft faring better than Google?

In other news, Facebook Paper – a fancy news app that gained plenty of plaudits but little traction – is shutting down at the end of July.