Tesla under federal scrutiny for ‘phantom braking’ complaints


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reviewing complaints about Tesla’s vehicles that suddenly brake at high speeds. Complaints soared in the past three months after Tesla recalled a version of its full self-driving software in October in response to customer reports regarding the faulty collision avoidance system. The surge of complaints coincides with a period in which Tesla has stopped using radar sensors in its vehicles to supplement the suite of cameras that perceive their surroundings. Phil Koopman, a Carnegie Mellon University professor explained that phantom braking is what happens when the developers do not set the decision threshold properly for deciding when something is there versus a false alarm; with only one sensor type, it is harder for the vehicle to make the correct decision because it cannot cross-check with a different type of sensor. Some drivers experienced instances of phantom braking even when they were not using autopilot, others said in their complaints to NHTSA that they were shaken by the incidents and feared being rear-ended.



Supermarket cameras to guess age of alcohol buyers


In the UK, major supermarket chains have begun testing an automated age-verification system, to avoid the wait for staff at self-checkouts when buying alcohol. Camera will guess customers’ age upon consent, using algorithms trained on a database of anonymous faces. If the algorithm decides that the customer is under 25, he or she will need to show ID to a member of staff. Robin Tombs, chief executive of Yoti, the company providing the technology said this will help supermarkets keep pace with consumer demands for fast and convenient services, and he made it clear that this is not facial recognition that would match individual faces to those on a database and the system does not retain the images it takes.



3G networks are shutting down soon


The major three carriers, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, are moving to shutter 3G technology by the end of the year the latest. The shift will impact people still using 3G Kindles, 3G flip phones, the iPhone 5 and older models, various Android phones and some wearable devices. It will also affect home alarm system and medical devices such as fall detectors. Some in-car crash notification and roadside assistance systems like Onstar will also need to be updated or replaced. The carriers are making efforts to help consumers who are still using 3G networks avoid disruption, but according to companies’ research, only a small portion of wireless customers are still using 3G, about 3 million people. In addition, mobile carriers are mostly not upcharging their customers to switch from 3G to 4G plans to make the transition for people smoother.



Apple’s privacy features are costing tech giants a fortune


According to the earnings report from Meta this Wednesday, the privacy features introduced by Apple last year will cost the tech giant 10 billion in lost sales this year. Apple made significant changes to the privacy settings of its mobile operating system last year, allowing iPhone users to choose whether advertisers could track them. Since Apple introduced the feature, a vast majority of users have opted to block tracking. Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that Apple’s changes and new privacy regulations in Europe represented “a clear trend where less data is available to deliver personalized ads.” Meta’s dropped stock price shows how much power Apple holds amongst the tech giants, especially the internet companies that have spent years building businesses around selling ads: share prices for Snap, Twitter, and Pinterest all dropped after Meta’s earnings report. In addition to Apple, Google has also made similar moves that might cause disruption in the advertising industry. Last month, it announced a proposal that Chrome might eventually eliminate traditional tracking mechanisms for serving ads. On the other hand, Apple’s earnings report has shown privacy to be profitable. Unlike tech giants like Meta that can develop new methods to target people with ads, smaller brands might eventually have to raise prices in order to reach customers in this new privacy model.



Apple wins a new trial in $1.1 billion CalTech patent case


A U.S. appeals court vacated a 1.1 billion verdict CalTech won over patents on Wi-Fi technology against Apple and Broadcom, reasoning that a two-tier damage award of $270.2 million against Broadcom and $837.8 million against Apple based on different royalty rates from each company is legally unsupportable. CalTech argued that it would have negotiated two separate licenses with Broadcom and with Apple, but the court ruled that, absent compelling interests to show otherwise, a higher royalty rate is not available for the same device at different points of supply chain. The fact that the two companies are separate infringers alone is not sufficient. Additionally, the court affirmed the jury finding that Apple and Broadcom infringed two CalTech patents, but ordered a new trial on infringement for the third patent.