After a lot of waiting and wondering, Nintendo Switch fans have finally been offered some more solid details on the Nintendo Switch’s online service before it launches in September of this year.
With cloud saves and a Netflix-like library of NES games, Switch owners definitely got some of the things they were looking for from their console. But many were left wondering if the long-called for Virtual Console would be a part of the online package.
It won’t be, Nintendo has confirmed in an email to Kotaku.
No VC, much cry
“There are currently no plans to bring classic games together under the Virtual Console banner as has been done on other Nintendo systems,” the email stated.
Before now, the 3DS, Wii and Wii U have all included the Virtual Console shop which allows players to purchase a selection of classic games from Nintendo’s older consoles such as the NES, SNES and Nintendo 64.
The library wasn’t complete, varying from system to system, and each game was an individual purchase. But the games usually had some useful modern features included and offered a way for Nintendo fans to access the games they loved most from years gone by.
Instead, it seems that any retro games that will come to Switch will be included as a part of the Online service fee, purchasable through the eShop or released as full collections. They won’t, however, fall under the banner of Virtual Console.
“There are a variety of ways in which classic games from Nintendo and other publishers are made available on Nintendo Switch, such as through Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo eShop or as packaged collections,” the Nintendo spokesperson continued in the email.
“Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online will provide a fun new way to experience classic NES games that will be different from the Virtual Console service, thanks to enhancements such as added online play, voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online app and the various play modes of Nintendo Switch.”
At the moment, the only retro games available through the upcoming Online service are NES games, which is slightly more limited than many fans were expecting.
Before the console’s launch it was widely rumored that the Switch’s Virtual Console would include a wider range of titles, including GameCube games. When asked if games from other platforms would join the NES titles currently available through the online subscription, though, Nintendo said it had “nothing to announce on this topic.”
This doesn’t mean, then, that a wide range of retro titles won’t be available to play on Nintendo Switch at some point in the future. It just means that they’re likely to be packaged up and offered in some different ways.
These are the best (not retro) Nintendo Switch games around
Sony’s full-frame A7 series cameras just keep on getting better and better, but its latest two camera launches have given buyers a tough dilemma. The Sony Alpha A7R III combines a high-resolution sensor with an impressive 10fps continuous shooting speed and powerful 4K video features. But the new Sony Alpha A7 III matches it in practically every respect except resolution, has a better autofocus system and buffer capacity in continuous shooting mode, and sells for less than two-thirds the price.
It used to be a lot easier than this! The A7R series cameras have always been the flagship cameras for resolution and image quality, while the regular A7 model was a more modest model with lower specs at an affordable price. However, the latest version of this ‘basic’ model, the A7 III, is extremely powerful in its own right, making this decision a whole lot more difficult.
So we’ve put together this detailed 12-point comparison to explain the differences between the A7R III and A7 III and what they mean and to help you decide which one is right for you. We also have a verdict at the end which sums up our findings and suggests the best choice for different types of photographer.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Resolution
This is the most obvious difference between these two cameras. Both use cutting edge back-illuminated sensor designs combined with Sony’s BIONZ X processor and front-end LSI for their high performance, but the A7R III has 42.4 million pixels while the A7 III has 24.2 million pixels. It sounds like a simple choice – more megapixels is better, right? And so it is, but keep in mind that 24.2 million pixels is still good even by today’s standards and will produce a print 20 inches wide at the typical print setting of 300dpi. The A7R III’s resolution would give you a 26.5-inch wide print at the same settings, but from files that will fill up your storage almost twice as fast. And does your current computer have the processing power for its big 14-bit raw files?
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: ISO
There is an advantage to having a lower resolution sensor. The A7R III offers an ISO range of 100-32,000 in standard mode and 50-102,400 in expanded mode. That’s pretty good, but the A7 III goes higher, with a range of ISO 100-51,200 in standard mode and ISO 50-204,000 in expanded mode. There are fewer photosites (pixels) on the A7 III’s 24.2 megapixel sensor, but this means that each one is larger and gathers more light. For low-light photography, then, the A7 III edges ahead.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Continuous shooting
Both cameras can capture images at 10fps with continuous autofocus and auto-exposure, both offer an 8fps ‘live view’ mode with less viewfinder blackout and faster update, and both can shoot at 10fps in silent mode.
However, the A7 III’s lower resolution gives it an unexpected advantage here – a larger buffer capacity. The images files have less data, which means they can be processed and saved more quickly and the buffer takes longer to fill. The A7R III can capture 76 JPEGs in a single burst, 76 compressed raw files or 28 uncompressed raw files, which means that although it can capture images very quickly, it can’t keep this up for long. The A7 III does better, capturing up to 177 JPEGs in a burst, 89 compressed raw files or 40 uncompressed raws. This gives it a significant advantage for action photography.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Autofocus
Both cameras have sophisticated hybrid on-chip phase detection and contrast AF systems, but the A7 III’s is more advanced. It’s inherited from the Alpha A9 and offers 693 phase detection points covering 93% of the image area, plus 425 contrast AF points over a smaller area for accuracy. The A7R III has the same number of contrast AF points but only 399 phase detection AF points over 68% of the image area. Unusually, it’s the cheaper camera here that has the better autofocus system.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Image stabilisation
The A7R III and A7 III both use Sony’s 5-axis SteadyShot Inside in-body stabilisation, but where Sony claims a 5-step advantage with the A7 III it quotes 5.5 steps for the A7R III, due we believe to improved algorithms rather than any difference in the hardware. It seems unlikely you’ll notice any difference in everyday shooting. In fact, the A7R III’s higher resolution is likely to make any camera movement more obvious, potentially offsetting any gains.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Pixel Shift Multi Shoot
This feature is unique to the A7R III and does not appear on the A7 III. In this mode, the camera captures four images in succession, shifting the sensor by one pixel each time. In this way, it can record full-colour data for each photosite (pixel) rather than having to interpolate the colour information from neighbouring pixels, which is how sensors usually work. The result is slightly improved ultra-fine detail and reduced colour artefacts like moiré on fine textures and patterns, and its a system used for special high-resolution modes by other camera makers like Pentax, for example. However, the camera and the subject must be stationary, and the images need to be merged in Sony’s desktop image processing software.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: EVF
The A7 III and A7R III both have 1.3cm electronic viewfinders offering the same 0.78x viewfinder magnification, but the A7R III’s has a higher resolution of 3.69 million dots versus 2.36 million dots on the A7 III. Will you notice the difference? In isolation, probably not, but when you compare them side by side the A7R III’s is just a little smoother and crisper.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: LCD screen
Both cameras feature 3-inch tilting touchscreen displays, but the A7R III screen has a higher resolution of 1,440,000 dots versus 921,600 on the A7 III. Images and menus should look just a tiny bit sharper, but in practice even the A7 III screen’s lower resolution hits the point where the individual dots aren’t really visible to the naked eye, so while the higher LCD resolution improves the user experience, it’s hardly enough on its own to swing the decision towards the A7R III.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Video features
There is no real technical difference in video specifications between these two cameras. Both can capture full frame width 4K video using oversampling without pixel binning to maintain high image quality (the frames are captured at a higher resolution and then downsampled to 4K). They share the same maximum 30p frame rate for 4K using the XAVC S format and a bitrate of up to 100Mbps. They also offer Super 35mm mode, HLG and S-Log gamma options.
The only difference is likely to be how the two cameras render their video footage. The A7 III’s lower resolution means larger photosites and hence potentially less noise at higher ISO settings.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Battery life
Battery life has never been a strong point on the Sony A7 series – until now. Both cameras use Sony’s new FZ1000 battery type for a much improved battery life. However, the A7 III ekes it out just a little longer, capturing 610 shots with viewfinder shooting and 710 shots using the LCD. The A7R III can’t quite match that, with a battery life of 530 shots (viewfinder) and 650 shots (LCD).
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Exterior
Externally, the A7 III and A7R III are practically indistinguishable, with identical dimensions of 126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm and an almost identical weight – the A7 III weighs 650g, while the A7R III is just a fraction heavier at 675g. This difference in weight can be put down to the back panel of the A7R III being forged from magnesium, while the A7 III uses plastic instead. The A7R III also adds a flash sync socket. This could prove useful to studio photographers still using direct cable connections to flash units, though many photographers these days have made the swap to wireless flash systems anyway.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Price
Professional photographers are likely to choose between these cameras based on their specifications alone, but for enthusiasts the price is going to be an important factor. The A7 III offers a very good blend of resolution, features and performance at around £2000/$2,000, while the extra resolution of the A7R III raises the cost to around £3,200/$3,200 while offering few other advantages and in fact sacrificing ISO range, autofocus points and buffer capacity in the process.
Sony Alpha A7R III vs A7 III: Verdict
For high-quality commercial photography the A7R III has a clear advantage, and even at the higher price its combination of resolution, speed and video features represents extremely good value compared to professional cameras from other brands.
However, for sports and low-light photographers, the A7 III could be the better buy. It offers the same continuous shooting speeds as the A7R III, but a slightly better buffer capacity for longer bursts, and a more sophisticated autofocus system covering a larger area of the frame. The lower resolution also means larger photosites, which should mean less noise at higher ISO settings.
For amateurs and enthusiasts looking for the best balance of features for the money, the Alpha A7 III could again be the best choice. The only advantage of the A7R III is its higher resolution, which may not often be necessary, which will require the best lenses and perfect technique to exploit, and which will quickly swallow large amounts of space on your memory cards and hard drive.
Best mirrorless cameras: 10 models to suit every budget
Driverless cars are our transportation future, and closer than you may think.
Almost every major car manufacturer, ride-sharing service and tech company has bought into the driverless car industry. And if you take press releases at face value, we’re only a couple years away from a utopian society where your car can steer and park itself and accidents become a rarity.
But as recentfatal accidents involving self-driving cars have shown, the technology that cars use to spot pedestrians and avoid collisions still has lots of maturing to do.
With more and more companies apply for licenses to test driverless cars on public roads, we’re breaking down how companies like Google, Uber, Tesla and others train their cars’ artificial intelligences to see the road—and which AIs might have a blind spot.
We’ve gathered the latest details on which countries allow public driverless car testing, which companies are developing the smartest AI models, and what the future of the driverless car industry could bring in the next few years.
What is a driverless car?
Simply put, a truly driverless car must be capable of navigating to a destination, avoiding obstacles, and parking without any human intervention.
To accomplish this, a driverless car must have an artificial intelligence system that senses its surroundings, processes the visual data to determine how to avoid collisions, operates car machinery like the steering and brake, and uses GPS to track the car’s current location and destination. Without an AI, cars cannot be truly driverless.
Companies like Google’s Waymo put have put its AI inside virtual cars and have the vehicles ‘drive’ billions of virtual miles, throwing every perceivable obstacle at the cars to see how they respond.
The AI learns what actions lead to crashes, and slowly learns how it should drive on real roads.
To perceive the visual surroundings, most self-driving cars have some combination of three visual systems: video cameras, radar and lidar.
The AI synthesizes the data from these different systems to fully map out its surroundings and watch out for unexpected obstacles.
Most driverless cars require all three: AIs require visual cameras and deep learning software to interpret objects like street lights and stop signs, and while radar catches most obstacles instantly, it’s not as good as spotting smaller obstacles as lidar.
See how driverless cars’ cameras can be tricked to ignore stop signs
Still, some vehicles with autonomous capabilities like Tesla’s Model 3 don’t use lidar; Elon Musk famously called it an overly-expensive “crutch”, and that cameras and radar should suffice.
One thing to consider: the Model 3 along with pretty much every other “self-driving car” currently out there, aren’t truly “driverless”.
Most people tend to use terms like “driverless”, “autonomous” and “self-driving” as interchangeable.
But there are significant differences in the tech required for an “autonomous” AI that can only handle highways and a truly “driverless” or “self-driving” car that doesn’t even need a steering wheel or human operator to park or navigate.
Some car companies tend to fog the issue by claiming their cruise control tech for driving straight and avoiding obstacles is “self-driving”.
Mercedez-Benz actually had to pull ads that claimed its 2017 E-Class was a “vehicle that could drive itself.”
But until AI tech is sophisticated enough to drive somewhere like a school crossing without any danger to pedestrians, governments won’t allow cars to drive without a human behind the wheel.
Why should this matter to you? Because some drivers are feeling safe enough to leave the driver’s seat while their car’s in motion, putting pedestrians (and themselves) at risk. It’s vitally important that the autonomous vs driverless distinction become more clear to the public.
So, while we’re covering autonomous cars in this piece, don’t mistake them for being “driverless”; most of them have at least a few years before their AIs can properly navigate the world without a human crutch.
Why driverless cars?
For commuters, the answer is obvious: a chance to catch some extra shut-eye, get work done or watch Netflix instead of spending hours navigating through traffic. But why have companies invested an estimated $80 billion and years of work into this technology?
For starters, it could simply be a case of jumping on the bandwagon. Pretty much every major car company has developed or implemented some kind of autopilot technology into their cars. Not having that tech available could make a brand look out of date.
But at least some companies have bold business plans for self-driving tech beyond just fitting in with everyone else.
Most car brands are very concerned with their crash safety ratings. If driverless car tech will truly reduce the rate of accidents, car companies will want to push this tech forward. AI safety ratings could even become a future metric for prospective car buyers to look at.
Future driverless cars could soften on impact to protect pedestrians
Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, plan to make their taxis driver free, which would eventually mean not having to pay human drivers.
In January, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he wanted to have self-driving taxis picking up passengers by 2019, and that 20% or more of Uber’s fleet could be driverless.
Other companies like Ford hope to incorporate their cars into city-wide networks that will track traffic conditions and available parking, so the company’s self-driving cars will reach destinations faster than other cars.
Then, of course, Ford will sell their self-driving cars as a service to delivery or ride-sharing companies; Ford has already partnered with Domino’s and Postmates to deliver packages and pizza in a car that’s not actually self-driving, but pretends to be in order to gauge the public’s reaction.
Most of these companies don’t want consumers actually buying their self-driving cars.
But, at least one car industry expert claimed that car companies want their driverless tech to be a “regularly recurring subscription model”, where customers, even used-car buyers, have to keep paying for the right to not drive.
Whatever the reasons, these companies have invested too much money in driverless car AIs to stop now, despite the fact that many countries haven’t fully approved the use of self-driving cars yet yet. Businesses clearly seem to think it’s only a matter of time before driverless cars are on the road.
Where are driverless cars?
While self-driving car companies have convinced many state and national governments to let them test their AIs, nearly all governments strictly limit the cars from driving outside of testing tracks.
In the United States, 33 states have enacted legislation to allow for limited self-driving tests, but only a few states and cities let AIs be in control on public roads—and even then almost always with strict human oversight at all times.
The exception to this rule is Phoenix, Arizona, where Waymo has been testing self-driving cars without safety drivers on public roads.
Uber was also testing self-driving cars in Arizona until a high-profile fatal accident led to the state’s governor suspending Uber’s testing privileges there indefinitely.
California is another hot spot for self-driving cars, both because Silicon Valley hosts so many tech companies and because California no longer requires a human behind the wheel if companies can prove their AI is up to the task.
Cities in the US where you’re most likely to spot driverless cars include Mountain View and San Francisco, California; Phoenix, Atlanta, Pittsburg, Miami, Austin, Detroit and New York City.
Europe, home to several huge car manufacturers, has many receptive countries that allow for limited driverless testing.
Germany recently approved Volkswagen to begin testing self-parking cars at the Hamburg airport.
Volvo is testing driverless cars and buses in Stockholm, Sweden. In the Netherlands, Amber Mobility plans to launch a Zipcar-like service of electric driverless cars in several Dutch cities in mid-2018.
In the United Kingdom, however, the government recently initiated the UK Autodrive initiative to push autonomous innovation, but, at the same time, the government is also conducting a three-year review of self-driving technology’s safety implications, and haven’t approved testing on public roads yet.
Australia, by contrast, has begun some public testing, but some reports say the country is lagging behind other countries in scale.
In Asia, countries like China, Japan and Singapore have enabled companies to begin testing self-driving taxis, but always with a human behind the wheel. Uber rival Didi Chuxing is one company leading China’s push for driverless tech.
As for autonomous tech found in cars like Tesla? You can find that in pretty much every nation, although most road laws dictate that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times.
So, who’s making driverless cars?
The answer: Everyone!
Okay, that’s not entirely true, and you probably want more details than that.
Almost all of the top-selling car brands in the US—Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Nissan, Volvo, BMW and more—have been working on driverless cars for years, often in collaboration with tech developers like Nvidia and Intel.
These companies are also selling their cars to dedicated self-driving companies, like Google’s Waymo and Uber’s Advanced Technology Group (ATP), which then install their own AI tech.
We’ve got the breakdown on the biggest players in the driverless car space today, and which of them look most likely to achieve truly driverless cars in the near future.
Google’s driverless cars
Waymo, the self-driving division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was formally launched in late 2016, but its self-driving tech has been in development since 2009.
And that near-decade of work has paid off in arguably the most reliable driverless car we’ve seen to date.
Disengagement—when a human driver has to take control of a self-driving car—is the primary metric by which automakers gauge their AI’s technical skill. And Waymo’s cars lead the pack: Waymo self-driving cars disengage 0.18 times every thousand miles.
For context, if a Waymo car drove across the United States and back, a human would on average have to intervene one time. Only GM’s self-driving cars come close to that level of disengagement, averaging about 1,000 fewer miles per disengagement.
How has Waymo’s team achieve this level of reliability? With a powerful system of six lidar sensors that instantly detect any potential hazards, and a deep learning system sophisticated enough to respond instantly to obstacles and weather hazards.
Waymo collects its lidar, radar and camera feed information into an aggregate map of the surrounding road, which the company calls x-view.
The video above shows a glamorized version of how x-view can detect people and avoid accidents.
Waymo’s cars have driven 5 million miles on public roads thus far, along with 2.7 billion virtual miles inside of traffic simulators. And Waymo hopes to add to the first number in the next couple of years, as it rigs 20,000 new Jaguar I-Pace cars and thousands of Fiat Chrysler minivans with Waymo AI tech built in.
Waymo’s bold goal is to launch a “driverless ride-hailing service” in Phoenix this year, and eventually expand nationwide. We’ll have to wait and see if Uber’s recent fatal accident in Arizona halts Waymo’s plans, however.
Uber’s driverless cars
Uber’s late start (2015) to the self-driving game hasn’t stopped the ride-sharing company from zealously testing its AI tech on public roads, hoping to beat Waymo to the punch and start its own driverless taxi service.
After purchasing Otto, a self-driving truck company in 2015, Uber’s ATP developed its own system of cameras, radar and lidar to track obstacles, using a Nvidia GPU to power its AI tech.
ATP reportedly settled on just one lidar sensor, compared to Waymo’s six, to install on its 24,000 Volvo XC90 SUVs.
Uber’s self-drivings car have driven over 1 million miles on public roads thus far, though its disengagement statistics don’t stack up to Waymo’s: Uber apparently only makes it 13 miles on average before a human must intervene.
This inconsistency has led to several high-profile accidents and, most recently, after a fatal accident in Arizona earlier this year, governor Doug Ducey suspended Uber’s ability to test self-driving cars in the state, and Nvidia voluntarily suspended its own separate self-driving tests.
In light of the accident and subsequent fall-out, Uber’s contributions to the driverless car industry have been overshadowed.
Work that Uber had done included patenting a way to prevent motion sickness in passengers with a “Sensory Simulation System” that would adjust seats, air flow and in-car lighting to make riders more comfortable.
In another patent, Uber outlined how its cars could signal pedestrians or cyclists with flashing lights or a bumper text display—”intention outlets” that would help cars feel less inscrutable and difficult to predict.
What’s more, Uber has developed an autonomous truck service that will making freighting goods across the country much easier for truck drivers.
Despite the work that it’s done in the self-driving car space, Uber has a big uphill battle before the public trusts its autonomous vehicles again.
Tesla’s driverless cars
Tesla’s Model S, X and 3 cars all feature the latest version of Autopilot, a sensor system of cameras, sonar and radar built for autonomous driving on highways.
Tesla’s AI can perform tasks like preemptively shift lanes before an exit or to avoid slower traffic, and can autosteer around more windy highways. Once you leave the freeway, your car will warn you to take control of steering.
As of early 2016, Tesla owners had allegedly driven hundred of millions of miles in Autopilot mode. And because Tesla scrapes data from all of its cars, it’s able to gather information on apparent errors to improve Autopilot over time. That dwarfs the mere millions of public road miles that most self-driving cars have achieved.
Of course, Tesla’s miles are autonomous, not driverless.
Tesla does sell models with “full self-driving capability” on its website, but these models apparently have only double the cameras as a regular Tesla and no other major changes.
Moreover, Tesla admits that enabling this mode would require “extensive software validation and regulatory approval” that isn’t yet available.
Still, many drivers tend to treat Autopilot like a self-driving mode, which has led to serious accidents in the past. Recently, a Tesla Model X driver was killed when his car crashed after he ignored the Autopilot’s warnings to assume control of the vehicle. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash.
Aside from some other high-profile crashes, Tesla insists that its Autopilot and Autosteer tech generally lead to a 40-50% reduction in accidents. The below tweet shows how its tech can pick up on potential hazards most humans might miss.
For now, Tesla hasn’t announced any recent news on true driverless tech, and no one has spotted any self-driving patents by the company, either.
It’s unclear if Tesla playing things close to the chest, or if it’s content sticking with what it’s done so far while other companies duke it out over more challenging AI goals.
The other major players
Outside of these three major players, many other companies are maneuvering to start public testing, or even launch for-profit driverless car services, in the next few years.
General Motors, the runner-up to Waymo in AI reliability, plans to start testing its cars in Manhattan this year.
New York is something of an Everest for self-driving companies to climb: building an AI capable of navigating the city’s traffic and hoards of pedestrians is no easy task.
GM’s fully automated Chevy Volts each have a $5 million insurance policy for any potential crashes, and can’t enter any school or construction zones. If the cars can pass this gauntlet, GM’s AI could be powerful enough for the Chevy Cruise AV, a truly driverless car without a steering wheel or gas pedal.
Volkswagen, conversely, is braving the chaotic battleground known as parking garages for its testing.
At the Hamburg Airport in Germany, VW car owners can simply drop off their cars in front of the garage and activate a smartphone app; the car then self-drives to a free parking space, using its GPS and cameras to navigate.
Eventually, VW has designs to make your driverless car maintain itself, and even do your chores. The company stated how its cars will be able to speak with city systems to find free parking, or drive themselves to gas stations or car washes for service.
Other big name car companies haven’t made their plans public for driverless cars, but do have dates in mind for when their AI tech will be ready.
Hyundai hopes to have its cars fully driverless on the road by 2021, and Ford also aims to have its driverless AI and traffic-tracking technology up and running in the same year.
Meanwhile, Google’s rivals in the smartphone industry also have aspirations to take the search giant on in the self-driving industry.
Apple has been keeping its self-driving car tests under wraps, but a recent patent showed Apple’s plans to install VR devices into their driverless cars to entertain passengers.
However, when people spotted Apple’s driverless Lexuses in action, the vehicles had no proprietary or custom technology visible; so it’s unclear how close Apple is to taking its driverless cars public.
Samsung also recently got permission from the California DMV to test autonomous vehicles. And even Huawei has jumped into the game, showing off a self-driving car earlier this year that ran entirely off of camera data from a smartphone.
Finally, Lyft hopes to beat Uber at its own game. Lyft launched its own self-driving division last year, and have since teamed up with Ford and acquired the help of an automotive parts supplier, Magna, for its self-driving car machinery.
With so many companies hoping to launch self-driving services and ramp up testing in the next couple of years, driverless car tech must be up to the challenge to avoid a rise in accidents as a result.
Both Uber and Tesla have recently been embroiled in scandals surrounding their self-driving AI after two fatal accidents this year. Any more major accidents, and trust in driverless cars could dissipate.
Below, we’ve laid out the most high-profile accidents to take place in the driverless car industry so far.
After this, you’ll find our predictions how the industry could grow in the next few years—if accidents don’t derail it entirely.
Self-driving car accidents
In 2016, when Autopilot was still newly implemented technology, a Tesla enthusiast fatally crashed into a trailer while Autopilot was engaged.
At the time, there was awareness that Autopilot had trouble picking up trailers on its cameras, but nothing had been done to fix the issue before the crash.
The incident was investigated by the US’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which initially said Tesla’s AI wasn’t at fault but eventually claimed in 2017 that Autopilot’s “operational limitations” played a role in the accident.
The agency warned that drivers using the system became too complacent to respond to any potential threats.
That pattern would somewhat repeat itself in a fatal 2018 accident, when a Tesla Model X driver crashed into a concrete barrier while using Autopilot.
According to Tesla, “The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision”.
The NTSB is also investigating this incident, and expressed displeasure that Tesla released its own results of the crash before the NTSB could publicly make its own statement. Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed he had a duty to tell his customers the truth for safety reasons.
Prior to this accident, an Uber car with driverless technology struck a pedestrian as she walked outside of a crosswalk. This fatal collision led to Uber suspending all of its self-driving operations indefinitely.
As with Tesla, the NTSB investigation of the crash is still ongoing.
As for Google’s most high-profile incident, it happened in March 2016 when a self-driving Lexus SUV attempted to make a turn in front of a bus, with the car’s AI assuming the bus would slow down to allow it to do so.
However, the bus didn’t stop, and the Google self-driving car struck the bus’s side at 2 mph.
In its monthly DMV report, Google detailed the crash, and said it had adjusted its AI’s parameters to recognize that bus drivers are less likely to give right-of-way.
Speaking with Forbes following Uber’s fatal accident, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that, “We’re very confident that our car could have handled that situation.”
Waymo will probably face significant backlash if it does face a serious accident of its own after Krafcik’s bold claim.
Of course, we’ll have to wait until authorities conclude their investigations into the recent self-driving car accidents before we can fully assess how safe the tech is and what steps need to be taken to avoid future accidents.
What does the future hold?
The history of the driverless car industry has been one of bold promises, high-profile fiascos, and general uncertainty about the future.
It’s truly unclear whether governments will ever let self-driving cars operate without a human operator on a national level, though it seems we are steadily moving in that direction.
A research team found that deep learning networks found in self-driving cars are prone to make thousands of incorrect choices when faced with tricky scenarios.
The researchers are hoping to develop a more complete test for self-driving car companies to check whether their AIs can navigate these problems. But, in the meantime, more high-profile accidents could be in store.
However, while accidents will play a big role in the industry’s prospects, perhaps the most important issue will be whether self-driving cars prove to be safe not just from AI malfunctions, but also malicious AI attacks.
A recent report called The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence, written by academic researchers and Elon Musk’s OpenAI watchdog group, detailed how hackers could infiltrate the AI of a self-driving network and cause cars to ignore safety laws.
Without protections in place, driverless cars could even become weaponized for potential attacks. The researchers recommended that companies work with one another and with lawmakers to preempt potential hacking vulnerabilities.
Will economic rivals like Waymo and Uber be willing to share such data, or will they hoard it? One can hope that companies will see the benefits of working together for the well-being of all.
If self-driving cars do take off, though, we can expect a future where companies rely more and more on autonomous tech, potentially at the expense of jobs. Amazon, for example, hopes to lower shipping costs by employing driverless delivery vehicles.
If anything is uncertain, it’s whether you or I will own self-driving cars of our own. A collection of ride-sharing companies—ZipCar, Uber, Citymapper, Lyft and BlaBlaCar—all released a policy document recommending that “autonomous vehicles (AVS) in dense urban areas should be operated only in shared fleets.”
It’s possible that self-driving car companies will continue to lobby governments for “shared fleet” exclusivity, so that you can only subscribe to their self-driving services instead of owning your own vehicle.
Of course, car manufacturers like GM and Ford will likely want to sell their self-driving cars to consumers directly, so they might lobby against such proposals.
Ultimately, with billions of dollars invested, we believe these companies will likely make driverless cars a commonplace reality within the next decade—though the road there might be littered with legislative speed bumps and public distrust.
Regardless, get ready for future generations to roll their eyes when you talk about how, back in your day, you had to drive to work yourself.
If you’re not keen on spending money on subscription-based streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu, there’s a growing number of alternative options that provide free, ad-supported movies and TV shows. Crackle and Tubi are two of the biggest current options, and you can also add Pluto TV to that pile.
With all three, you get something for nothing – even if that something isn’t always necessarily the most exciting or current shows or flicks out there.
That said, Pluto TV does things a bit differently than those other services by bringing together a wide array of content, including web-based and bespoke channels curated from licensed TV shows, as well as movie “channels” with on-demand films.
Despite the unique approach, the end result is the same: Pluto TV offers a large amount of streaming content, it’s available to watch on a lot of different devices, and it’s completely free of charge.
Here’s a full look at what Pluto TV is all about and why it’s worth a look.
How much does Pluto TV cost?
Nothing! It costs nothing at all. You don’t even need to sign up for an account to start using Pluto TV: the first time you click over to Pluto TV’s website or load up one of the apps, you’ll have a channel up and running right away.
Pluto TV is entirely ad-supported, and you’ll encounter these commercials in different ways while watching. At times, I’ve fired up the website and watched 2-3 minutes’ worth of ads before the content started – or occasionally after flipping channels. In other cases, the streams started right away without any sort of commercials preempting the movie or TV show.
The streaming TV channels have their usual commercial breaks every so often, and if you’re watching something and click to go back earlier in the content, you might be forced to watch a couple minutes of ads before playback resumes.
The ads themselves are usually short, between 15-30 seconds apiece, but you’ll see several of them – and quite often, the same handful of ads over and over again.
How can I access Pluto TV?
Quite likely, the device you’re reading this article on can access Pluto TV. It’s pretty widely available across desktop, mobile, and set-top box devices, as well as smart TVs, even if it’s not as ubiquitous as something like Netflix.
First and foremost, you can access the Pluto TV website from a web browser. There’s also a desktop app available for Windows and Mac computers, if you plan on using Pluto a lot and would rather have something native installed.
If you’re on an iOS or Android phone or tablet, you can download the official app from each respective store. Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV devices all have apps available, as well, plus smart TVs from Vizio, Samsung, and Sony offer up a Pluto TV app. There’s also a Pluto TV app on PlayStation 4.
What are Pluto TV’s key features?
…have we mentioned its free streaming movies and TV channels? That’s the main thrust of it, obviously. But Pluto TV isn’t the only ad-supported service out there, so what makes this one distinct?
The way the Pluto TV presents its offerings is rather unique. Rather than just open up access to a vault full of on-demand stuff, Pluto is set up like a cable or satellite package, with a channel guide full of various channels to flip between. However, these mostly aren’t the same kind of channels you’ll find on any pay service or even over the air.
There are a few familiar live channels in the mix, such as Bloomberg and CBSN. But some channels feature familiar names and content, but aren’t like – like an NBC News/MSNBC hybrid that airs repeat episodes from past days, and a Fox Sports channel that does much the same.
Elsewhere, some of the channels are themed, original Pluto TV creations that cobble together existing content from other sources. For example, sports channels like Fight, Impact! Wrestling, and Stadium show sometimes years-old events. Anime All Day, meanwhile, really does show anime all day.
There are channels for the World Poker Tour and Rifftrax, as well as channels that curate web content from places like The Onion, IGN, GameSpot, Nerdist, and CNET. None of that content appears to be exclusive to Pluto TV, but it’s another way to check in on your favorite sources for web video – or find new favorites by channel flipping, of course.
All told, there are more than 75 different channels spread across categories like News, Sports, Comedy, Geek + Gaming, Chill Out (mostly music and nature-themed stuff), Entertainment, Life + Style, Curiosity (science and documentaries), and finally a chunk of music and radio channels at the bottom.
There are themed movie channels, as well, with names like Pluto Movies, Flicks of Fury, and Horror 24/7 that deliver a mix of options. They function differently based on which platform you’re watching from, curiously enough.
Watching from a web browser, the movies start from the beginning like on-demand content, even when the listing shows them nearly completed. You can click “live” to jump ahead to that spot.
On the other hand, when watching from the iPad app, the movie channels would just drop us in at the current spot in the schedule. But that’s seemingly because the app has a separate “Free Movies + TV” on-demand section, where you can load up those movies whenever you please. It’s an odd discrepancy between platforms, even if the end result is ultimately the same.
As of this writing, the movie selection features major flicks like Shutter Island, Hugo, True Grit, and The Fighter, along with a mix of older fan-favorites (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Teen Wolf), lots of documentary films, and a large number of horror options.
Why choose it over Netflix?
It all boils down to cost, of course. Comparing their content libraries, it’s a clear slam dunk for Netflix. Not only does Netflix have a massive and ever-swelling library of completely original and exclusive content, but it also has more recent films on offer, a large selection of great television shows, and other fun curiosities to discover. Netflix also has an excellent selection of kids’ content, while Pluto TV has bits and pieces.
Pluto TV, on the other hand, cobbles a lot of its content together from other disparate free sources, and has a lot of stuff you’ve probably never heard of beyond its small, headline layer of noteworthy films. But it’s free, and it’s something to watch if you’re not choosy. It can complement a Netflix subscription, too, if you just want another option for stumbling onto something you might not have queued up yourself.
Watch these channels
Cats 24/7: Now here’s something you won’t find amidst the 700 channels of a cable subscription. Cats 24/7 is, quite literally, an all-day channel about cats: documentary shows, YouTube-like cute kitty clips, and even “Cats Gone Wild” (watch if you dare).
Anime All Day: As mentioned above, Anime All Day really lives up to its name, flitting between English-subtitled episodes of shows like Bleach, One-Punch Man, and Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold. It’s probably not the best way to follow storylines, but the shows can be pretty entertaining all the same.
Vibes 24/7: Vibes 24/7 seems like a nicely random bit of nonsense. While watching, Vibes went in one moment from odd short films backed by thumping electronic tunes, then segued to a few minutes of The Little Rascals, and then ultimately showed adults riding homemade tricycles down steep hills. This might be our new favorite channel anywhere, to be honest…
Best shows on Netflix: The 40 best TV series you need to watch
Update: Fortnite: Battle Royale will debut Thanos as a new playable character in a few hours. We’ll have the first trailer and images of the Avengers villain soon. We’ve updated this story with the official tweet from Epic Games.
Thanos is ready to commandeer Fortnite starting tomorrow, after having already conquered global box offices last month as the supervillain in Avengers: Infinity War.
The ‘Mad Titan’ of Marvel will become a playable character Tuesday, May 8 in what’s being billed as a limited-time mash-up in the game’s Battle Royale mode, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Epic Games says there will be Fortnite downtime in preparation for the Fortnite v4.1 update starting May 8 at 4:00am ET (8:00 GMT). Brace yourself for that (and then brace yourself again for Thanos).
The ‘Infinity Gauntlet Limited Time Mashup’ drops 100 players onto a Fortnite map along with the six Infinity Stones so coveted in the movie. If you find all six stones, you’ll transform into Thanos and wield his Infinity Gauntlet powers.
There’s no timetable on how long Thanos will be a part of the Fortnite world, but the Epic Games-Marvel mash-up will be free on all Battle Royale mode-supported platforms, including PS4, Xbox One, PC, macOS and iOS 11.
PS4 vs Xbox One: an epic mash-up battle of its own