As the plague of ride-sharing electric scooters descends on large cities across the country, many of those cities are considering new legislation to manage their popularity. But how does a controversy form from such a simple idea?
The surge of electric scooters comes from the desire for cheap, easy-to-use transportation. In large cities where commuting by car for shorter trips can be a challenge, many love the idea of simply downloading an app, finding a nearby scooter, and paying a small fee to ride it for a few miles.
In large cities where car damage happens fairly often, this can save you tons of money for your shorter trips. A deep scratch can result in up to $3,000 worth of repairs if the damage is serious. A simple scooter ride for short distances may extend the life of your car, making it a great option for many people.
The initial rental fee is only $1 and then you’re charged a measly 15 cents for every minute you ride. For a 10 minute trip, that means you only pay around $3. This is your average trip to a grocery store or your friend’s house. And when you’re finished, leave the scooter out of major walkways for the next rider to use.
Not so simple. At 12 miles per hour, the scooters aren’t fast enough to keep up with the flow of traffic and they’re a little too fast to work comfortably on walkways and sidewalks. On top of that, there aren’t designated drop-off points for scooters, making them a tripping hazard and eyesore for those who aren’t using them.
It might also be detrimental for the public metro system as more riders are lost to startups like these. It’s also not feasible for snowy cities with defined seasons.
However, those who ride scooters are becoming increasingly diverse. The Segway generation consists mainly of “tech bros” and the privileged upper class. Scooter riders, on the other hand, have shown more tourists, women, and lower-income individuals taking advantage of the tech. This was determined from a survey of around 7,000 scooter riders across 10 major cities.
Right now, cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Seattle are all trying to create legislation to determine the rules regarding rental scooter use. This could include regulating the number of scooters available in each town to stem the clutter of scooters on the sidewalk.
Artificial Intelligence has now become a priority of the Pentagon. According to the New York Times, the Pentagon is looking to strengthen its relationships with AI researchers in Silicon Valley to advance the nation’s national strategy for artificial intelligence.
The Pentagon fears the U.S. is falling behind in AI compared to other countries such as China. It’s believed AI could be the next technological game changer in warfare.
In June, the Pentagon announced the creation of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC. The organization will begin next month. The Defense Department has also announced that it would be shifting $75 million of its annual budget into the new office.
Defense officials plan to use the center to facilitate dozens of AI projects. One project includes Project Maven, an effort to develop technology capable of identifying people in drone-captured videos.
However, the ideology surrounding this technology doesn’t sit well with those in Silicon Valley. Earlier this year, Google withdrew from Project Maven after thousands of Google employees protested the company’s involvement with the effort.
To some researchers, Artificial Intelligence and technology isn’t meant to be used to create robotic vehicles and robotic weapons. To create autonomous weapons, the researchers say, is to create an unusual threat for humans.
“This is a unique moment, with so much activism coming out of Silicon Valley,” said Elsa Kania of the Center for a New American Security, an organization that analyzes policy related to national security and defense.
“Some of it is informed by the political situation,” Kania said, “but it also reflects deep concern over the militarization of these technologies as well as their application to surveillance.”
Artificial Intelligence and automation have thus far been used for human entertainment and workplace innovation. For instance, the U.S. steel industry has seen significant increases in productivity since automation was introduced.
In 2017 alone, the U.S. produced 82 million metric tons of steel although 17% of the country’s steel is imported from Canada.
Approximately 13% of the world’s steel is used by the automotive industry, which has a major impact on the U.S. economy. As part of the automotive industry, the snowmobile industry brings in $26 billion annually and the global industrial brakes and clutches market is expected to reach $1.7 billion over the next 10 years.
That said, automation’s innovative impact on just one industry has a significant impact on other industries across the nation. It’s this impact that has defense officials hoping the JAIC will help close the gap between researchers and military innovators.
If small changes in AI and automation can help the steel industry, changes in AI technologies may be able to give the U.S. military a greater leg up.
Brendan McCord, a Navy veteran, will lead the JAIC. One of the biggest strengths the U.S. has, McCord says, is the innovation and talent that’s found in the nation’s academic institutions and the private sector.
The Pentagon hopes to overcome the reluctance among AI researchers. Defense officials say the JAIC will have a focus on ethics, humanitarian considerations, and AI safety.
Sophie-Charlotte Fischer, a researcher at the Center of Security Studies at ETH Zurich University, says this focus was an important step to bridge the gap between the military and Silicon Valley. But the focus on ethics may not be enough to convince researchers.
“So far, the plans remain very abstract,” said Fischer. “What kind of systems do they want to allow? Do they want to attach weapons systems to AI?”
Robert Work, the founder of Project Maven and the former deputy secretary of defense, says that the project doesn’t yet involve lethal weapons and that he worries public discussion could stunt how the military technology could evolve.
“We need to have an open debate about AI and its consequences and hear arguments from all sides,” said Work.
If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you know the drill: after you take your seat and the cabin doors are shut, you ready yourself to wait on the runway and tune out the sounds of the boring safety presentation. Unfortunately, that disinterest in those potentially life-saving procedures could put you in real danger if an incident should occur. Airline carriers and flight attendants know it’s a real problem — which is why some are thinking outside the box to appeal to passengers who are too engrossed in their tech to pay attention.
The last time the Federal Aviation Administration amended the airline safety briefing regulations was in 2013, a move that allowed passengers to use portable electronic devices during all phases of airline flights. Because of that change, many industry observers say, passengers are now even less likely to pay attention during these pivotal safety presentations. Although 83% of human learning occurs visually and 11% occurs through hearing, it’s much more appealing to listen to music or play a round of Candy Crush rather than listen to someone drone into a muffled intercom or watch how to fasten a seatbelt for the millionth time.
Unfortunately, flight attendants and other experts have noticed a lot of passengers don’t know the proper emergency procedures. Photographic evidence from airplane evacuations in 2016 showed that passengers took the time to retrieve their luggage before exiting the aircraft — a definite no-no as explained in crash safety information. Many passengers are under the impression that they’ll be told what to do at the time of a real emergency. But considering that 3.8 billion passengers were carried by commercial airlines in 2016 and emergency situations are unpredictable by definition, that’s leaving a lot up to chance.
Which is why some carriers are getting creative. Air New Zealand was already known for its adventurous marketing campaigns (one of which featured images of crew members and passengers wearing only body paint to show they had “Nothing to Hide”). They later made an accompanying safety video called “The Bare Essentials of Safety,” which went viral in 2009 — before many other videos ever did. Since then, they’ve filmed safety videos with Richard Simmons, Elijah Wood, and Betty White, all of which have racked up millions of views and have convinced people around the world (even those not on-board) to pay attention.
British Airways has tapped in to the power of celebrity safety videos, as well. Last year, their in-flight safety video featured British stars like Gordon Ramsay, Sir Ian McKellen, and Rowan Atkinson and was viewed nearly 25 million times. Sir Michael Caine and other stars make an appearance in this year’s hilarious release that plays on the concept of making a sequel that doesn’t quite live up to the original.
In a statement, British Airways director of brand and customer experience Carolina Martinoli explained, “The first video was a huge success, making customers laugh all around the world, while also helping them to take in those all-important safety messages pre-flight.”
That’s a concept that will likely need to be embraced by carriers in the United States. While Southwest Airlines is known for its humorous take on in-flight announcements, the realm of safety videos is relatively untouched. That may be the next frontier for airlines that want to engage customers, boost their brand, and actually make sure these safety precautions are heard.
Two New York men have been accused of stealing the identities of minority-owned businesses to obtain construction contracts. According to CBS Albany, the NY Attorney General’s Office has charged Michael Martin, 47, and D. Scott Henzel, 52, with identity theft after allegedly stealing two businesses out from under their owners using illegal means.
The indictment reports that Martin and Henzel allegedly offered Lorice Enterprises, Inc. and Precision Environmental Solutions, Inc. a chance to work with Martin’s roofing company, Eastern and Moisture Barriers, to learn about bidding on construction projects.
Prosecutors claim Martin and Henzel then stole the businesses out from under the owners. Both men came to operate all financial and staffing decisions until the businesses were only minority-owned on paper, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
Martin has been accused of failing to pay into the employee pension system for more than 50 employees and underpaying $400,000.
Both Martin and Henzel have been accused of failing to pay wages. They were both charged with three counts of filing a false instrument, three counts of identity theft, and one count of scheme to defraud.
Additionally, Martin has been charged with two counts of grand larceny and one count of insurance fraud in Schenectady County.
“As we allege, the defendants crafted a shameful and elaborate scheme to line their pockets at the expense of minority-owned businesses, New York taxpayers, and their own employees,” said NY Attorney General Barbara Underwood.
Identity theft in the U.S. is a growing problem.
Cybercriminals have, in recent years, taken to stealing the social security numbers of babies and selling them on the Dark Web. And it’s not an uncommon issue. Studies show that up to 10.2% of American children under the age of 18 have had their Social Security numbers stolen.
What’s more, 2016 saw claims of identity theft at an all-time high. In 2015, approximately 13.1 million consumers were hit by some form of identity theft and that number increased to 15.4 million in 2016.
That’s one out of every 16 people. Last year, that number was still significantly high at 15 million Americans.
Cybercriminals and identity thieves are capable of accessing your information in many ways if your information isn’t secure.
According to the IDC, the digital universe is expected to reach over 40 ZB of data by 2020. That data includes social media information, phone numbers, addresses, credit card information, Social Security numbers, IP addresses, and medical information.
Up to 1 million people suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the U.S. in 2001. Think of the information you include on a medical form and imagine what could happen if it fell into the wrong hands.
Even if the information you have online is secure, your personal documents need to be kept just as safe. Up to 90% of burglaries are never solved and the majority of identity theft cases involve print documents. If possible, keep your personal documents locked in a safe and destroy any paperwork that contains your information before throwing it away.
In addition to the previously mentioned charges, Martin has been accused of using a fake rental scam to steal more than $150,000 from Precision. Martin allegedly also stole $200,000 from Allegheny Casualty by claiming Precision hadn’t been paid for work.
The Attorney General’s Office claims more than $1 million of the potentially stolen money was used to fund trips out of the country and to pay for a vehicle.
“We will continue to aggressively root out fraud,” said Underwood,” and protect New Yorkers from those who seek to game the system.”