How do I drive? – I dunno, Google it!

You know that it is nearing submission time when I suddenly post boatloads, in the same way that you know something special has hit the stream of consciousness when many publications suddenly all talk about the one thing.

Two pieces of news that had flooded my RSS feeds more frequently than any other in the last two days are: Watch_Dog reviews, and this new driverless Google car that has been put properly on the table as a working prototype. Since all I seem to talk about are video games, let’s go with the latter.

So, what is it? And what does it look like?

You look like a dweeb, but you will look like one while doing nothing at all. Image courtesy of The Guardian and Google.

This piece of engineering and computing genius has enough space for two people, and reaches a top speed of 25mph, or ~40km/hr.

Basically, it’s aimed towards people who didn’t want to get anywhere in the first place.

Alright, enough skepticism. The fact is, this car really drives itself. How does it do that?

Driverless car

The Google car contains “no steering wheel, no pedals and no brakes”, and relies on a sensor mounted on top (yeah, that thing that looks like a blender) to “see” where it’s going.

It also has newer and better sensors that give it the ability to see what’s going on up to a distance of two football fields. For example, on the most current version of the retrofitted self-driving Lexus, a mounted laser has about a 12-degree field of view that it uses to essentially zoom in on details of points of interest. On the prototype car, the lasers have full 360-degree views. “It’s going from looking just in front, like a flashlight, to a lantern all around the car,” said self-driving car project director Chris Urmson.

Re/code

Of course, that explains why its top speed is so slow. Having said that, 25mph is the average safe speed for driving in most American cities, and while it’s unfeasible here on bigger and busier Australian roads, 40 km/h is probably a good speed to drive around in the suburbs. The car is also made with lots of foam and safety materials to ensure that a crash, should it ever occur, would hurt a lot less.

What’s it like in there?

I think this video sums it up perfectly.

The testers all seem very happy with their experience, although it must be noted most of them seem to treat it as a rollercoaster ride. I wonder what would happen if in real practise, the driver suddenly decides to stop at a Maccas drive-thru? Or they get a message to go pick someone else up suddenly? I suppose on-board GPS would be so good by this time that they just need to speak “let’s go to McDonalds” and the car will pick the nearest one and drive to it, but I still feel like it takes away from the spontaneity of manually driving around.

Safety

The most important issue is obviously safety. The fact that there is close to no way for a human to interrupt the machine and take over, save for an emergency stop button, can be a problem.

The controls are needed to comply with the law in California which along with Nevada and Florida allows autonomous vehicles but only if a driver can take charge.

The Guardian

And with technology such as these making their way into the mainstream use, sooner or later laws will have to reflect the changes. Perhaps jumpy technophobes will push for laws to stop complete automation. I think, maybe, the problem lies in the way we think about safety, being that we always regard it as something that we need to prevent from not happening instead of something that we act to let happen. But, that’s an issue for another debate.

The main thing is, as the project director pointed out, having a human suddenly wrench themselves into control can be even more dangerous: have you ever had someone grab your steering wheel suddenly while driving? Doesn’t end well, does it?

The cool factor

I don’t think that having a little golf cart cupcake car is going to make you look cool, but if this is the direction that vehicular travel will head, then obviously a prototype from one manufacturer won’t dictate the eventual norm. Still, imagine trying to do burn-outs in one of those babies!

The really cool part is you really can drive and not-drive, text and not-drive, etc etc. That can change the landscape of traffic laws almost entirely, since things like rear-ending and side-swiping would end up being the issue with manufacturers, not the individual driver.

“Hey, this guy was on his phone when he crashed into me!”

“Well, what do you want me to do? I did call 911 as we were crashing to get a head-start!”

Alex

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So Fuck You, You Can Go Cry Me An Ocean

[Save Rock And Roll – Fall Out Boy ft Elton John]

I’m mostly going to bitch about the episode of Glee where they commemorated Finn/Cory, and also catch up on my life. (I have to write these little intro excepts because Tumblr cuts it off pretty fast and I don’t know how to fix it.)

First, the Glee rant. For those of you somehow not in the know, the actor for the main role of Finn Hudson, Cory Monteith, passed away during July from a drug OD. He was struggling with drugs all his grown life, so it wasn’t exactly completely out of the blue, although he was supposed to have gotten better from the rehab stint he did a month prior. And also a quick disclaimer: I understand there are some strong and loyal Glee fans out there and since I’m going to be tagging this post, they might come across it. I want to make this clear: I mean no disrespect to him, to his work, or to his legacy. You’ll see that my rant is mostly about how the show treated the tribute to him, but some may overlap into sensitive areas.

The tribute episode for him, titled “The Quarterback“, mostly depicted a period of time after Finn’s death, where actors from the previous seasons as well as the current season paid him tribute through each of their storylines and song. It showcased the grief experienced by Finn’s mom, his stepdad Burt and his step-brother/co-Directioner Kurt; Puck his best friend from high school; Santana, the chick who he lost his virginity to and who was horrible to him most of the time; Mercedes who was just his friend but I think the actress was probably really close to Cory in real life, so she got her own song; Will, the teacher; Sue Sylvester, who actually had a really touching and out-of-character scene over him, which I again suspect came as a result of Jane Lynch being very close to Cory; and of course Rachel, aka Lea Michele, aka Cory’s real life girlfriend/fiance or however they were. Then, of course, everyone else were also featured crying and etc.

The entire episode, I felt, was a way for each cast member to properly say goodbye to Cory in a place where Cory meant a lot. And in that, it was very good. The emotions were extremely raw, and I even overlooked the bad lip syncing done when Rachel did her solo, because it was obvious that Lea was breaking down, and that was real. For the same reasons, I overlooked Sue’s huge character discrepancy because I know from interviews that Jane Lynch respected and loved Cory a lot, and of course she wanted a way to say goodbye properly on screen. For the most part, I think that all the monologues were either well structured, or at least forgiveably deviant. But, I had a problem with the story for the episode.

Because, see, Glee is a show about issues. It’s a musical dramedy, which tackles all and almost every hot button issue that comes around, which may be relevant to the target demography (teens and young adults). They had homosexual relationships, bullying, suicide attempts, trans-gender, divorce, adultery, teen pregnancy, hell they even had a school shooting. So when the episode started with Kurt’s voice over saying that Finn had already died, and that they did not want to go into the ‘how’ despite so many people asking, I was extremely annoyed.

Yes, this was a clear reflection of the real-life situation where all the tabloids wanted to talk about was that Cory died from OD, and how tragic it all is, when all they want is some privacy for the family. But in the show, in the story continuation, why couldn’t they address the OD? How is drug use and abuse not a common issue among the demography? There are so many ways which the OD could have been written into the episode without evening changing much of the script, and they really could have hit home the impact of an OD for some of the audience.

They could have easily had Puck feel extreme guilt that he didn’t look out for Finn at a party, where he OD’d. The survivor’s guilt storyline is almost identical to the real one that happened. It would have been a matter of a few extra words to put in Puck saying something like, “I was the screw up, not him. So why am I still walking around?”

Will could have gone through self-blame, thinking that he wasn’t father enough to Finn, and didn’t give him enough guidance, only to realize in the end that he did all he could, and ultimately Finn made a bad, fatal choice.

They could have easily had either Kurt or Rachel go through the stages of extreme anger at Finn for having done something so dumb, and died from it, and finally succumb to the real grief that is in their hearts, but they didn’t. They had a chance to show kids who may be experimenting dangerously with drugs that it could end horribly and hurt everyone around them, but they didn’t. They didn’t even so much as put a whiff of it. We don’t even know if Finn died from an accident or foul play.

And, I understand it was out of respect to Cory that they didn’t talk about the dark side of his life. I understand, most likely, that FOX probably didn’t let it happen, or the producers were worried that an episode might glorify drug use and ODing, and make matters worse. But I just feel like, with so many other teen after-school specials having dealt with the topic, that they definitely could have done something about it. It was a missed opportunity to take a tragic death and bring some good into it.

Alright, that’s it for the Glee rant.

Recently, I’ve been working a lot. The new manager has been very tough on everyone, but he has also trained me up in a lot of areas. I am now moderately confident in my coffee skills, and with more practise I’m sure I’ll be rather competent. I also got a new phone, the Sony Xperia Z1, and of course I ran it under the tap because the motherfucker is waterproof. I’m finalizing the steps to studying next year, and now I’m just waiting for summer to properly roll around so I can wear the new sunglasses I got from ASOS.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Phoenix Wright instead of Pokemon, and it’s quite gripping so far.

That’s all for now. I think I should find a theme for this blog but I feel like that’s not really my thing. Maybe the theme for my blog could be themes.

Alex.