Minister to promote NZ as ITS test-bed – Voxy

Transport Minister Simon Bridges will promote New Zealand as a test bed for Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and new investments through a range of meetings in the USA and Japan this week.

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This is great news. New Zealand used to be a centre of Excellence for many companies including telecommunications giants. We are mass early adopters of new technology. We love problem solving and we sure have enough to solve. In a world of increasing micro specialists, you still need people that can see and comprehend the big picture.That isn’t as common as you might think.

ITS is an example of how important that is. Last year I attended an ITS conference and was very impressed with presentations of the comprehensive micro research into tiny aspects of transport technology problems and immediately understood how they applied. I was amazed at how much time and effort went into tiny elements of a problem, yet wondered if so much time went on micro detail, how would they have time to solve the larger problems. I’m totally sold on ITS itself. I read a law in a Scientific American Magazine on a flight home from a conference in London about 30 years ago quoting a law that you can’t build motorways quickly enough to meet the demand, they open, they fill and cities grow. Unfortunately you still have to build them. The return on investment on managing problems with technology is however significantly higher than the return on building the necessary pavement.

We have many smart companies, a lot of whom you would never have heard of, doing amazing things with location based data, especially in areas like fleet management, who are now racing to other parts of the world because while New Zealand is a great country to develop concepts, it is a relatively small market for those companies to grow and prosper in. So names like Blackhawk, Navman, eRoad, International Telematics use the Kiwi smarts and then introduce the technologies to other parts of the world. They often solve problems that they weren’t designed to solve because the Kiwi’s were able to quickly adapt the concepts of the problem and the solution together. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in a number of those as Past President of the New Zealand Wireless Forum, member of the Auckland ICT Cluster and in the ITS industry, the company that developed the highly accurate map data-set that is required for quality ITS solutions.

We have a small population where a large mass live in one sprawling city which is growing at a rapid pace, impacting on urban congestion. Then we have a large land-base with a small population, with significant climate impacts, such as snow and ice in winter and many areas which are subject to flooding and slips.You’re likely to find every form of condition here.

We love innovation and the story used to be, if you want a society to test something new, take it to New Zealand. They will pick it up, understand it and adopt it very quickly if it is a good idea.If it fails, no one will even know you tried.

EFTPOS was a great success example. As any busker or street collector will tell you, not many people carry cash in New Zealand any more. When EFTPOS was launched, our banks and grocers collaborated and we had and maintained the highest use per capita in the world for many years.

Not only did we get it, but we very quickly learned how to solve the issues of trust between consumers and business and between technology companies, banks and business.

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Washington, DC, Would Like to Remind You It’s a ‘No Drone Zone’ – Newsweek

Newsweek Washington, DC, Would Like to Remind You It’s a ‘No Drone Zone’ Newsweek On this annual American holiday celebrating freedom in all its forms, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a statement reminding hill-toppers, aviation…

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This had to happen and expect to see it repeated in cities all over the world, especially around airports and helipads and high volume vehicular traffic areas. It’s simply too dangerous.

I think the biggest problem is that anyone can buy or build these aircraft currently whether its a $100 toy that has a camera on it or can carry a can of beer, or something larger, how do you define what is OK and what isn’t. Expect very small ‘toys’ to be able to carry reasonably large payloads.

The challenge now is for those organizations or businesses that do want to use them, such as real estate and event photography, DOT’s and emergency services, agricultural research businesses, mapping companies and many more. Perhaps the proposed permitting and licensing of operators will come into play, but it will be a difficult subject because of the innate dangers of large numbers of devices intruding on airspace and at risk of crashing into each other, or simply falling out of the sky, let alone any nefarious use.

How do you feel about drones. I live under a frequent flightpath f helicopters and I can tell you that is very annoying. I’d hate to be having a relax on the beach disturbed by drones delivering pizzas, or simply lots of kids toys buzzing around. As a frequent flyer and traveler. the greater risk is that a drone gets sucked into an aircraft jet, or falls out of the sky onto a busy freeway.

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Uber CEO: If Tesla’s cars are autonomous by 2020, we’ll buy all 500,000

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At the recent Top 10 Tech Trends dinner hosted by the Churchill Club, five of the world’s most famous VCs were asked what they think will be the most significant trends over the next five years.

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Just a minor thought, that’s 500,000 ‘taxis’ that don’t need drivers. Or 500,000 unemployed taxi drivers looking for new jobs

I have a blog called The Future Diaries, which has been latent for some time due to other priorities. I had been planning to write a blog which was going to tell the story that Uber had replaced drivers in some markets with fully autonomous cars. It seems they are way ahead of me.

Around the world public transport authorities and providers are not in a hurry to introduce driverless public transport. It is certainly economical and reliable at this point in time. Note I’m not saying autonomous. I’m talking about systems like the driverless airport terminal trains they have had at Narita in Tokyo and other airports in some cases for decades. They don’t have a driver, but they also don’t face hazards such a unknown roads or other vehicles that are not part of the network they operate on.

I’m talking about concepts such as small passenger vans that link up to each other on dedicated bus lanes and form a rail-less train, platooning on the side of motorways or other major routes.

I suspect that for Government, their transport agents and their insurers, this is perceived as too risky at this stage, given that this technology is still in its early days.

However if a company like Uber did it and worked together with Government and the industry to manage safety concerns and with a technology leader like Tesla, there may well be a way forward.

The cons are of course, it jeopardizes the work of a huge number of taxi drivers as do many innovations of scale.

Some pros:

-Tesla’s are of course electric. In countries where electricity is green, this is a great Eco-friendly solution.

-Cost reduction in many areas including councils and government do not have to supply the vehicles, which are effectively a form of public transport.

-A user pay solution that has to fund an run from it’s own resources.

-These vehicles could provide ‘the last mile’ transport taking people to public transport hubs. Something of an issue in many cities around the world, which are dealing with rapid growth.

-Tesla have open sourced their technology. This means that universities, DOT’s, road safety engineers and others can all participate in the development of improving the quality of this technology and it need not be confined to just Tesla branded vehicles.

The taxi industry will have a major problem with this because it is a major work provider supporting everyone from the self employed and small business owners through to people who drive a cab as their second or even third job. This has always been an issue with technology replacing other jobs. I’m sure this type of initiative would in fact create new jobs and this is something that we also need to keep considering, but that is a topic for a future blog.

Your thoughts?

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Google will now tell us when its autonomous cars crash – TechnoBuffalo

Google is now publishing monthly status reports on its autonomous cars, and will alert the public when its vehicles get in accidents.

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This is a good move. While the debate goes on between autonomous cars vs cooperative cars, safety remains one of the biggest concerns, especially where Google proposes the concept of cars that have no controls. Imagine being in the front seat (no longer the driver’s seat) facing an impending hazardous situation such as described in The Future Diaries and you don’t have a steering wheel or brakes!

Whilst these cars may have a very good safety record and the latest (12th) Google car crash was rear ended at “1MPH”, the implication was that the Google car was stationery at the time.

A lot of the research is based on the behavior of the intelligent car and not on the potentially poor driving skills or impaired condition of the driver of the other car/s.

Of course there are mitigations, for example we have long talked about ‘platooning’, even before the word was used with that meaning. We had concepts of small driverless public transport vehicles that started off picking up people on arterial routes and then would ‘link-up’ on a bus-way or special lane, forming a train on wheels, to take up less room, allow slip-streaming and other benefits.

I have blogged about the topic of V2V on many occasions and the conflict between wanting to have the best proprietary features for a competitive car brand (where Volvo only talk to certain other models of Volvo) vs agreed standards.

The autonomous car could in theory go on any road, whereas platooned cars might need to have a special lane or share a priority lane with public transport (which would only work if they were similarly automated). The alternative could work well on motorways, but with unpredictable humans in the non platooned cars there are risks as you will read in an upcoming blog of The Future Diaries.

Connected cars are a great concept. Based on my many visits to Japan, their engineers would suggest though, that the priority for the non-connected cars would be to get better drivers.

Now that’s not as silly as it sounds.

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To catch a Thief: GPS tracking device results in arrests – Porterville Recorder

TULARE – Three area residents were arrested after Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies attached a GPS tracking device to a motorcycle that was stolen and hidden in a walnut orchard near Tulare.

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I read stories about recovered items and arrests made due to GPS tracking all the time. People hide GPS units in everything from bicycles to hay bales and and pretty much anything of value. This story has a slightly different slant.

Police found a stolen motorcycle which was part of a heist, but no sign of the crooks and the rest of the home burglary takings. Instead of expending lots of staff to lie in wait and potentially spook the crooks, they put a GPS unit on the stolen motorcycle and monitored.

Before too long, the motorcycle was found to be on the move, albeit on the back of a Chevrolet pickup and three arrests were made.

Congratulations to the Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies who had the foresight to use GPS to save time and resources through the smart use of technology which resulted in locating both the crooks and the property and the evidence they needed to link them.

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Why people speed in passing lanes – Hanlon’s Law

OPINION: You’re stuck behind a car. You get to the passing lane. Then they speed up. Why?

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I hadn’t heard of Hanlon’s Law before, but it certainly gels with what I see and what we all experience regularly. We see a certain behavior on the road and interpret it, frequently incorrectly.

So, to quote this excellent article from Stuff, “that in the absence of proper understanding, human frailty often appears indistinguishable from malice.”

When we drive, we are in a cocoon, our own little world where our key focus is our own journey to our own destination. That is important to us. We have a set of behaviors that we believe are appropriate and when people behave differently, particularly if you are in peak congestion, or perhaps traveling with time constraints, to get to  meeting, to catch a plane, or perhaps to get to the hospital to deliver a baby, or to go to someone’s aid who has just had an accident.

We have no idea what is going on inside the head of our fellow motorists or what their purpose is for being on the road, nor their behavior.

I have frequently been baffled why people don’t drive in the same rational way that I do.

For example, I will drive on the highway using cruise control at 100kmph. I overtake a slower car at a passing lane and move back into the left lane (we drive on the left in New Zealand). A little farther up the road (and I haven’t touched the cruise control and am still doing 100kmph) I arrive at another passing lane and the same person overtakes me doing about 120kph.

Just a mere km or two and I arrive at a couple of corners, and get stuck behind, yep, you got it, that same car which is now doing 90kmph.

Don’t get me started on merge lanes. I’ll leave that to another day and just be happy that Tom Vanderbilt in his excellent book TRAFFIC: Why We Drive The Way We Do,  tells me that the same things happen around the world.

Some people merge early and sit in an orderly queue whilst others race up the now empty merge lane and when they get to the merge point, have to battle drivers who move across to stop them passing (frequently before the actual merge point), because they feel aggrieved that they queued nicely while the other guy pushed past.

The people who feel they are driving in an orderly manner, vacating the merge lane early feel very strongly about the people who take advantage of their good manners; and this frequently results in road rage, tailgating and other reactions.

In fact both parties (by New Zealand law, where you can legally stay in the ‘fast lane’ of the motorway and drive below the legal speed, whilst people who want to go faster can legally undertake) are obeying the law. In my humble opinion, if people merged correctly, like a zip, at the same speed as the people in the lane they are merging into, traffic would flow more smoothly and congestion would be slightly eased.

The problem occurs because the now empty lane which almost everyone has vacated is moving at three times the speed at which the polite motorists are. When they merge with the slower traffic who close the gap, it causes a concertina effect where a whole line of vehicles slows down to let them in and then slowly speeds up until the next merge lane.

So having identified that we still need more driver education, I’d also like to remind us all (including myself) that you do not know what is going on in the car next to you. They may be rushing off to a family emergency, it may be a learner driver, she may have just had a quarrel, they might be foreign tourists coming to grips with driving on the other side of the road. They might be happy, sad, sick, tired, under the influence of something, or they might just be bad drivers.

Chances are though, that whilst you are taking their behavior personally and want to let them know that you are not impressed, they probably don’t even know you exist. They are not trying to get one up on you, not trying to annoy you, they are just going about their own way and would probably be totally astonished that you have an issue with their driving. I think Hanlon is mostly right.

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Tracking a cell phone location – iPhone GPS Tracker Click the link and get the 15% discount that Highster Mobile is having for it’s mobile spy app. Best Mobile Tracker – Powerful cell phone …

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It’s very clear by the way this advertisement has been put together, that their target market is NOT keeping your children safe, or people who have health conditions that put them at risk, such that you might need to locate them. For example someone who could go into a diabetic coma.

The tagline is “They will NEVER know!”

As far as I know this is highly illegal in most countries without the knowledge of both parties, certainly for citizens to track each other. There has been a market for this type of technology for years and for people at risk, this is a real worry, for example marital disputes, situations where people are at risk from someone who means them harm and even from unscrupulous employers.

If people are being tracked for their own safety, which I fully endorse, such as emergency services, health or security people who visit clients in their own homes, people who work in hazardous situations, people on call or at risk children are good examples. But not only should those people have this technology, they should know they have it and have functions such as a panic button.

It’s disturbing to me that given the illegality and inherent risk of abuse of this technology without approval of both parties, advertisements like this are allowed to be shown.

If anyone can buy this software or software like it, what can you do to protect yourself? Have a strong password on your mobile and don’t let anyone else know what it is. So often I see something as simple as someone having a stranger enter their phone number on their mobile, ‘to make it easier for them than doing it themselves’.

Maybe it’s that hot guy or girl you recently met, but don’t know from a bar of soap. What if they turned out to be a stalker? You have just given them your mobile and depending on your security settings, you’ve given them time to install their software and chances are it doesn’t have an icon (or it looks benign) so you wouldn’t even see it to wonder what it was.

In today’s world where every mobile phone has a GPS device, there are risks. As I said, this advertisement was clearly not targeted at someone with a legitimate reason for installing the software, in fact quite the opposite. That means people are buying the software for nefarious purposes and this is another thing you need to be weary of.

I note the advertisement also shows they sell keyloggers and other technology. The same rules apply on your PC. Do you pay bills from your credit card or banking software? This technology is a simple way for a stranger to be able to access all of your credit card details, so they can start spending your money.They don’t need to borrow or see your credit card if you use it online. They just need to copy what you are entering when you are buying something or paying a bill.

Want that stranger’s phone number? Enter it into your phone yourself.

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