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Geek News Central
  Updated Sat, 16 May 2015 08:22:11 +0000
Description Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks
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Honor Buddy Authentication Closed After WoW Ban - Geek News Central
Category Gaming, Bot, Honorbuddy
Published:
Description: Blizzard Entertainment, creator of World of Warcraft, recently banned more than 100,000 World of Warcraft accounts because of “botting”. As a result, the maker of a bot called Honorbuddy has decided to close Honorbuddy Authentication. This decision means that people who were using the Honorbuddy bot will no longer be able to do so. Honorbuddy […]  more...

Honor Buddy logoBlizzard Entertainment, creator of World of Warcraft, recently banned more than 100,000 World of Warcraft accounts because of “botting”. As a result, the maker of a bot called Honorbuddy has decided to close Honorbuddy Authentication. This decision means that people who were using the Honorbuddy bot will no longer be able to do so.

Honorbuddy is a bot. Some World of Warcraft players were using it because it automated certain things in the game for them. For example, it was possible to use Honorbuddy to automatically cause your character to gather resources, level the character, and a variety of other things.

Blizzard Community Manager Lore recently posted information about the ban on the World of Warcraft forums. The forum post was titled “Recent Actions Against Botting in WoW”. The key part was this:

We’ve recently taken action against a large number of World of Warcraft accounts that were found to be using third-party programs that automate gameplay, known as “bots”. We’re committed to providing an equal and fair playing field for everyone in World of Warcraft, and will continue to take action against those found in violation of our Terms of Use. Cheating of any form will not be tolerated.

There was no mention of any particular bot in the forum post. However, it appears that Honorbuddy might have been one of the bots that banned players were using. There is a post on the Honorbuddy forum titled “Honorbuddy Bans Statement”. Part of it said:

It seems like Honorbuddy was detected, we are not sure, but looking at BAN THREADS, we think that is the most likely option atm.

We are sorry for all your lost WOW Accounts, hopefully you can use them again after the 6 months ban is lifted. I have read here in the forums a bit, a lot of the accounts where [sic] 10 years old. This is a pity. We always say, do not use your valuable accounts as the risk is always there.

…With Honorbuddy you thought that we are unbeatable, we never thought that, we’ve succeeded since 2010 – Honorbuddy had not a single software detection. It seems there is one now.

…You ask yourself what happens next? For now we closed our Honorbuddy Authentication, when we know more details we will inform you.

The Honorbuddy website has a disclaimer at the bottom that says “This website is not associated with Activision Blizzard Inc. and Honorbuddy may be against their TOS/EULA.”

Reddit Announces New Anti-Harassment Policy - Geek News Central
Category Information, news, anti-harassment, reddit
Published:
Description: In the wake of concerns regarding abuse and harassment on social networking site Reddit, the company has adopted a new anti-harassment policy with stricter rules and consequences for abusive activity. A survey of 15,000 Reddit users in April found that negative and offensive content is the number one reason why users avoid the site and encourage their friends […]  more...

In the wake of concerns regarding abuse and harassment on social networking site Reddit, the company has adopted a new anti-harassment policy with stricter rules and consequences for abusive activity.

reddit-logo-01-674x501A survey of 15,000 Reddit users in April found that negative and offensive content is the number one reason why users avoid the site and encourage their friends to do the same. In a recent statement, interim CEO Ellen Pao said, “The community wants these improvements… We believe less harassment means more participation, leading to more free expression, better conversations, and better communities.”

Since its creation in 2005, Reddit has been a haven for free expression on the web. Although the site’s openness has provided artists, satirists, and enthusiasts of nearly any topic under the sun, this anything-goes nature has also made the site a hotspot for trolling and cyber abuse. Subreddits promoting revenge porn (the practice of getting “revenge” by posting of sexually explicit images of someone without their consent), child pornography, and other illegal activities have popped up, casting a dark shadow over Reddit’s reputation.

Reddit banned child pornography in 2012; they again updated their policy in February to ban “involuntary pornography” such as revenge porn. With these new changes, Reddit has broadened their policy by defining “harassment” as:

Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that Reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.

Under the new policy, users can report abusive content by emailing Reddit moderators, who can remove inappropriate content and ban offending users.

Reddit continues to recognize the importance of free speech, stating that the updated policy “will have no immediately noticeable impact on more than 99.99 percent of our users.” The company hopes to make Reddit a safe, inspiring place to share and interact without the underlying threat of abuse and harassment.

Banned WoW Player Posts Petition on WhiteHouse.Gov - Geek News Central
Category Gaming, Bot, WhiteHouse.Gov petition, World of Warcraft
Published:
Description: It is not unheard of for players who have been banned from playing a video game, due to their own bad actions, to get online and complain about it. Blizzard Entertainment, maker of World of Warcraft (WoW) recently banned players who were using bots. One of those players felt the need to post a petition […]  more...

We the People logo at WhiteHouse.gov petition websiteIt is not unheard of for players who have been banned from playing a video game, due to their own bad actions, to get online and complain about it. Blizzard Entertainment, maker of World of Warcraft (WoW) recently banned players who were using bots. One of those players felt the need to post a petition at WhiteHouse.gov about it.

It is against the Terms of Use of World of Warcraft for players to use bots. A bot can be described as “third-party programs that automate gameplay.” In short, players who don’t actually want to spend time playing a video game sometimes choose to use a bot that plays it for them. Or, a player might choose to use a bot in order to make certain aspects of the game easier for them. The reason doesn’t actually matter since the use of bots breaks the Terms of Use.

Blizzard Community Manager Lore posted some information about the ban on the World of Warcraft forums. The title of the forum post was “Recent Actions Against Botting in WoW”. It said (in part):

We’ve recently taken action against a large number of World of Warcraft accounts that were found to be using third-party programs that automate gameplay, known as “bots”. We’re committed to providing an equal and fair playing field for everyone in World of Warcraft, and will continue to take action against those found in violation of our Terms of Use. Cheating of any form will not be tolerated.

As I mentioned, it is common for players who have been banned to go online and complain about it. Many will claim they were innocent and that Blizzard should reverse the ban. Others will insist that the ban was “unfair”. This is a fairly typical response.

This time, someone decided to take things a step farther and create a petition on WhiteHouse.Gov about the WoW ban. The petition is titled: “Today on 5/13/2015 The World of Warcraft Population demands unbanning their toon and to change the terms so we can play.” The “toon” they are referring to is the character they use when they play World of Warcraft.

The wording of the petition says: Today over half the pvp community that did not use their fingers to play have been banned. The other half were people who would use a program called T-Morph to do stupid things…Anyways we are demanding Blizzard to change their terms of service and fix this game so we can play again. WE do not want to see any lives lost due to A ban.

Please help us change this

Blizzard you are ruining everything

The rest of the petition is composed of a “ban list so far”. The creator of the petition is listed as “B.P.” who is from Fort Worth, Texas. In order to create a petition on the WhiteHouse.Gov “We the People” website, a person must be an American citizen. Those who sign the petition also have to be American citizens.

WoW petition at WhiteHouse.gov

I find it interesting that the banned players who created or signed the petition think that this is a situation that the Obama Administration should step into. The creator of the petition connected it to the following issues: Economy, Human Rights, Technology and Telecommunications.

I’m fairly certain that being banned from a video game, for using a “bot”, is not actually an infringement upon one’s human rights. The wording of the petition can be read as an admission that the players who were banned did, in fact, use a “bot”, including one called T-Morph.

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me that the creator of the petition failed to follow the Terms of Participation required by those who post petitions. For example, part of it reads “You also agree not to post threats of unlawful violence or harm to any individual or group”. One could interpret the part of the petition that says “WE do not want to see any lives lost due to A ban” to be a threat of unlawful violence that could occur if Blizzard doesn’t reverse the ban.

In order for a petition to be searchable at WhiteHouse.gov, a petition must reach 150 signatures within 30 days. At the time I am writing this blog, the petition has 58 signatures. In order for a petition to receive a response from the Obama Administration, it must reach 100,000 signatures within 30 days.

Robot Underpants: 05.12.15 (202) “We’ve Got Pac Man Fever” - Geek News Central
Category underpants
Published:
Description: Baron Mat “Langley” Luschek, “Starman” Michael Gaines, and “Karaoke” Bob bring you this week’s hottest geekiest topics of the week including: Pacman news, Supergirl, Muppets news, Where’s Biggs? and more! * The Craft Remake * Blast it, Biggs * Muppets * Supergirl * Black Widow Missing from Toy Scene * Jem and the Holograms Trailer * Pacman Anniversary  more...

Baron Mat “Langley” Luschek, “Starman” Michael Gaines, and “Karaoke” Bob bring you this week’s hottest geekiest topics of the week including: Pacman news, Supergirl, Muppets news, Where’s Biggs? and more!

* The Craft Remake
* Blast it, Biggs
* Muppets
* Supergirl
* Black Widow Missing from Toy Scene
* Jem and the Holograms Trailer
* Pacman Anniversary

GNC #1031 Who do you Trust? - Geek News Central
Category Podcast
Published:
Description: It seems the younger generations are much more trusting of companies with their digital data, as compared to those 50+. Maybe as we get older we get more cynical, thus less trustworthy. I have a mission for you on today’s show I hope you will help me out. Also seriously consider becoming an insider today. […]  more...

It seems the younger generations are much more trusting of companies with their digital data, as compared to those 50+. Maybe as we get older we get more cynical, thus less trustworthy. I have a mission for you on today’s show I hope you will help me out. Also seriously consider becoming an insider today. Become a GNC Insider Today!:

Download the Audio Show File

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Show Notes:
Who do you trust.
Facebook headed the YouTube route.
FCC Moving forward with Title II.
Don’t carry cash.
Self Driving Car Report.
Mompreneurs.
Mars Sunset.
Diagnostic Part Hands Off!
Heat + SSD = Trouble.
Verizon gives up on Low end.
Mercury Mystery Unlocked.
Good Reviews not always Best.
NYT Now Free.
Motel 6.
Xbox Message Update.
No more Remote Searches .
6TB SSd.
DOT Drone Killers.
IL. Police Drone State.
Hanging out with Apollo 15 Astronaut.
Comcast Says Sign or no Money.
Worker fired for protesting off hour tracking.
ISP Speeds in Australia.
Slow down your Drinking.
iOS Enterprise use slips a Little.
BBC Fee Staying for Now.
Google Maps Shutdown.
Domain Trolling.
A Fence that takes on Game of Thrones.
Bag.
More fiber for Google.
Presidents Tech Adviser actually knows Tech.
Windows 10 RTM.
Spotify Income.

New GoDaddy Customers - Geek News Central
Category Information
Published:
Description: New GoDaddy Customers can save 30% (CJCGNC30) on their hosting accounts or Opt for a $1.00 (CJCGNC1HS) a month for the first year GoDaddy hosting plan. New GoDaddy Customers save the most on their initial product buy and should maximize savings by using special codes designed to get them started at a great price. Customers […]  more...

New GoDaddy Customers can save 30% (CJCGNC30) on their hosting accounts or Opt for a $1.00 (CJCGNC1HS) a month for the first year GoDaddy hosting plan. New GoDaddy Customers save the most on their initial product buy and should maximize savings by using special codes designed to get them started at a great price.

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Is Your Facebook Feed an Echo Chamber? - Geek News Central
Category Facebook
Published:
Description: Facebook recently did some research in order to discover exactly how much individuals could be, and are, exposed to ideologically diverse news and information in social media. People are increasingly turning to social media for news. Is it your selection of friends, or Facebook’s algorithms, that have the most influence on what you see in […]  more...

facebook-logoFacebook recently did some research in order to discover exactly how much individuals could be, and are, exposed to ideologically diverse news and information in social media. People are increasingly turning to social media for news. Is it your selection of friends, or Facebook’s algorithms, that have the most influence on what you see in your News Feed?

The Facebook researchers looked at individuals who use Facebook and who self-identified as either a liberal or as a conservative. They found that 9% of Facebook users in the United States classified themselves as either a liberal or a conservative.

The researchers wanted to find out how much people were being exposed to “hard news” (articles about politics, world affairs, and the economy), rather than “soft news” (stories about entertainment, celebrities and sports). They also wanted to know whether the information in the articles were aligned primarily with liberal or conservative audiences.

The researchers found that, on average, 23% of people’s friends claim an opposing political ideology. They found that 29% of the hard news content that people’s friends share cuts across ideological lines. It turned out that 28.9% of the hard news that Facebook users saw in their News Feed cut across ideological lines. The researchers also found that 24.9% of the hard news content people actually clicked on cut across ideological lines.

What does all this mean? Facebook says that the composition of a person’s social network is the most important factor affecting the mix of content encountered on social media. Individual choice also plays a large role. Facebook says the News Feed ranking has a smaller impact on the diversity of information a person sees from the opposing ideological viewpoint than does who they have selected as friends.

In other words, Facebook says that the friends you choose have more of an influence on what you see on Facebook than does the News Feed algorithm. You could be, intentionally or unwittingly, creating an echo chamber by only friending people who match your ideological viewpoint.

On the other hand, there’s an interesting article on Medium that takes a look at Facebook’s study. Eli Pariser points out that the Facebook research was done on just 9% of Facebook users (a small number of overall users), and that those users could behave differently on Facebook than people who don’t identify themselves as either liberal or conservative. He also notes that since this was done by Facebook scientists, the study is not reproducible – at least, not without Facebook’s permission to reproduce it.

Setting Up A Projector Room - Geek News Central
Category Android, Apple, audio, hifi, Netflix, PVR, Aliexpress.Com, Amazon.Com, home cinema, Home Theater, media room, projector, WiFi projector
Published:
Description: Over the years I’ve spent a fair amount of money on different types of electronics. Back in the 1980’s much of that money was spent on a never-ending succession of high fidelity amplifiers and speakers. I still have most of that equipment and it still functions quite well to this day. In the 1990’s my […]  more...

Projector MountedOver the years I’ve spent a fair amount of money on different types of electronics. Back in the 1980’s much of that money was spent on a never-ending succession of high fidelity amplifiers and speakers. I still have most of that equipment and it still functions quite well to this day.

In the 1990’s my purchasing patterns shifted to a voracious appetite for personal computers, peripherals and software. Though I seemed to derive enjoyment at the time, I have comparatively little that remains useful today with the exception of a fairly massive 25-year-old computer desk.

From the mid-2000’s forward my computer-buying habits slowed somewhat, but I partially shifted from Windows to Apple machines. In the past couple of years my adoption of Android smartphones has mostly usurped my computer usage, completely freezing any urge to acquire new computer equipment. The computers I have – two older Apple laptops, two Mac Minis, a Compaq machine running Vista, and an Asus Netbook running Windows XP, all work remarkably well after equipping most of them with modern SSD’s. I record podcasts, write occasional articles, and do my taxes once a year and that is now the extent of my computer usage. Barring some unforeseen disaster, these older machines should last well in to the foreseeable future.

Of all of those consumer electronics purchases, few things stand out as being really enjoyable. Though I enjoyed the computers at the time, the investment in stereo equipment still delivers satisfaction, some of it 30 years on.

Today, I derive the most use and gratification from my smartphone. It is always with me and it ably handles most functions.

However, that doesn’t stop me from looking at and experimenting with consumer electronics. Back in the early 2000’s, I briefly considered buying a projector. At the time I didn’t think I had a good place to put it or use it, and the idea quickly got pushed aside. As it turns out, I’m glad that I didn’t buy one then, because consumer video technology was still standard definition and projectors of the era were expensive and primitive by today’s standards.

Fifteen years later, projector technology is radically better and far less expensive. Don’t get me wrong – it is possible to spend a fortune on modern projection equipment if you want the latest and greatest and your budget allows. However, it is possible today to get really great bargain projectors that can offer great value and performance.

When I bought my house 20 years ago, for whatever reason one of the extra bedrooms ended up as a junk room. I have no one to blame but myself – it was easy to just pile stuff in the room, close the door, out of sight, out of mind. Over the years I had given little thought about what to do with that extra room. It is fairly small – 9 and ½ feet by 13 and ½ feet, but nonetheless it could be made into a useful space.

A few months ago I started thinking about projectors once again. I purchased an Android-powered pico projector from Amazon to bring with me when I travel. I then realized a great use to put the junk room to – clean all of the junk away, and set up a larger wall-mounted projector capable of projecting about a 95” inch diagonal image on the opposite wall.

Projection ScreenI just happened to have plenty of extra speakers and an old surround sound receiver that had been lying around in the junk room for a few years. After a bit of research I purchased an inexpensive $350 dollar LED-powered Android 720p Chinese projector from Aliexpress.Com. After doing how-to video research on YouTube I purchased lumber and a friend helped me make a large wooden 16 x 9 format frame. I purchased Carl’s Place blackout cloth via Amazon, and with the same friend’s help I now have a large homemade projector screen that cost me a total of about $75 dollars in materials.

I purchased a projector wall mount from Amazon that was under $50 dollars, plus a few other odds and ends. From Walmart I purchased an inexpensive Sony BluRay player for under $50 dollars that even includes WiFi support and the important apps I need – Netflix, Amazon Videos, Hulu Plus and YouTube. I purchased a 5 input HDMI switcher from Amazon for under $20 dollars as well as well as a $15 dollar 25’ foot long HDMI cable to run up the wall to the projector. I even purchased an HDTV tuner that includes an HDMI output from Amazon for about $25 dollars. On the more expensive side, I purchased a 10” inch Klipsch subwoofer from my local Best Buy store for $300 dollars.

All together, I’ve spent less than $1,000 dollars. The resulting projector system for that price is impressive. I can stream HD content from the Internet, I can play BluRay discs, or I can watch local over-the-air digital TV. The digital TV tuner even has a USB port that will accept up to a 2 gigabyte hard drive if I wish to utilize its HD DVR functionality! All sound is routed through the surround sound receiver.

One Man Theater ChairBest of all, that once-upon-a-time useless junk room now has a great use. I have 100% control over the light so the resulting projected 95” inch 720p image is crisp and clear.

Some people might scoff at my purchase of what is essentially a no-name Chinese projector as opposed to spending a few hundred dollars more and getting a name-brand projector such as an Epson or one of the other brands of HD projectors. My reason for going with the no-name Chinese 720p LCD projector is simple – it uses a Cree LED lamp that will likely last 30,000 hours or more. Most name brand projectors use conventional bulbs that must be replaced after only 3,000 to 5,000 thousand hours and can cost $150 and up – way, way up in some cases, more than I paid for the no-name 720p Chinese projector. Especially for a first-time purchase, why not go with a projector using an LED bulb? I’m willing to spend money on electronics – if I didn’t like it, I could always go with another more expensive machine later.

It turns out that I really like the no-name Chinese projector. It has two HDMI inputs along with various analog inputs, outputs, USB and even an SD card slot. It runs Android 4.2.2 and even came equipped with a wireless mouse, along with a remote control. If I wish, I could easily also pair it up with a wireless keyboard and use it as a computer with a large projected display. The Android 4.2.2 comes with the Google Play Store so that means it has access to all the Google Play Store apps. At $350 dollars, I consider it a true bargain.

This has also been a learning experience. I’ve found over the years that regardless of how much I research something, I never really know about it until personally taking action. The only thing I would change about the room setup at this point would be to go with the so-called “Flexigray” screen material from Carl’s Place as opposed to their black-out cloth which is bright white and the most commonly used projection screen material. Because the room is so small and has light colored walls and ceiling, when the projector is on in the otherwise pitch black room it lights up the room enough to create enough stray bounce light from the side walls and ceiling to slightly interfere with the projected image. At this point I could either take steps to darken the walls, or re-cover the screen with the Flexigray material which has superior stray side light rejection properties, thus creating better black levels. I probably won’t make any changes anytime soon – the current projected image really is just fine. But, it’s something I learned and something to keep in mind for future reference.

For under $1,000 dollars, I’ve managed to create an amazingly enjoyable experience. That same money could have easily been spent on the latest gadget being pushed – say an overpriced smart watch – a dubious solution in search of a problem that comes packaged with planned obsolescence for your spending convenience.

Even though it has only been a couple of months, I already know that setting up this projector room is one of those rare things that offers genuine satisfaction and enjoyment, as opposed to all of those things that soon enough ended up unused and obsolete in a pile of dusty junk.

Satechi’s USB Charging Station Powers 7 Devices at Once - Geek News Central
Category Accessory, Satechi
Published:
Description: Satechi has a 7-port USB Charging Station Dock that is available now. It is a compact 7.4 x 5.5 inches and is designed to reduce clutter and to avoid taking over valuable desk space. It can charge multiple devices at once without causing a mess of wires. The Charging Station Dock has a total of […]  more...

Satechi 7 Port USB Charging StationSatechi has a 7-port USB Charging Station Dock that is available now. It is a compact 7.4 x 5.5 inches and is designed to reduce clutter and to avoid taking over valuable desk space. It can charge multiple devices at once without causing a mess of wires.

The Charging Station Dock has a total of 7 USB ports. Four of them provide 5 volts / 1 amp. The other three each provide 5 volts / 2.4 amps of power. It is easy to plug each device directly into the side of the Charging Station Dock. Plug the Dock itself into a wall outlet. This reduces cord clutter.

There is no need to remove protective cases before putting a device into the Charging Station Dock. A blue LED light will indicate that the Dock is powered on and ready to charge.

There are a variety of devices that are compatible with the 7-Port Charging Station Dock.

Apple: iPhone 6 Plus, 6, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, 4, 3, iPad Mini, iPad, iPod
Samsung: Galaxy S5, S4, S3, S2, Note 2, Note
Blackberry: Playbook, Torch
HTC One, SV, Flyer, Inspire 4G, Sensation, First, Desire
Motorola: Droid, Razr
Nokia: Lumia
LG: Optimus, Ludic
Google: Nexus

Satechi’s 7-Port Charging Station Dock is now available for $59.99. Charging cables are not included.

Uncanny Valley Fever - Geek News Central
Category automotive, google, autonomous, Benz, car, Damlier, Freightliner, long haul, Mercedes, self-driving, truck, trucking
Published:
Description: For the past few years we’ve been periodically hearing about autonomous vehicles; both cars and trucks. Most of the stories have been positive, yet vague on when we might actually see them. The nebulous “10 year” catch phrase always seems to make it’s way into these stories. Most of the stories about the Google self-driving […]  more...

2015-05-08 16.44.00For the past few years we’ve been periodically hearing about autonomous vehicles; both cars and trucks. Most of the stories have been positive, yet vague on when we might actually see them. The nebulous “10 year” catch phrase always seems to make it’s way into these stories.

Most of the stories about the Google self-driving car seem to have been carefully managed. The Google car has driven hundreds of thousands of miles without causing an accident. However, that hasn’t stopped other human driven vehicles from plowing into it.

Automation theory demands closed systems, where all variables are known, without the possibility of new or unknown variables being introduced into the system. For example, it has long been possible to create 100% robotic warehouses. However these storage and retrieval warehouses are completely closed systems, closed in the same way that electronic circuit boards are closed that run smartphones, televisions or computers. There are automated garages in New York City that make it possible for every resident of incredibly expensive apartments to park their cars in marvelously automated and efficient parking garages, maximizing the expensive New York City real estate. These automated car storage systems are totally closed systems, where all variables are known 100% of the time.

Few of the glowing stories about the Google self-driving car seem to mention how Google has managed to achieve such an amazing feat as a self-driving car. The vast majority of these miles have all been in the relatively tiny city of Mountain View, California. Google has had to meticulously scan and map out every square inch of Mountain View, and come up with specific software to deal with each and every quirk that makes Mountain View, California unique. In other words, Google has managed to recreate a high-resolution virtual version of Mountain View, California for the car to follow.

In other words, Google has managed to turn Mountain View into a closed system, with every possible address known, every parking space known, and every variable the car might encounter known and accounted for. Think of it in terms of how a roller coaster makes a closed loop. The only thing that remains open-ended in Mountain View for the Google self-driving car is the presence of other pedestrians and traffic.

Contrast that with the real world, where the number of open-ended variables are frequently vast. I use Google Maps multiple times a day on a daily basis. Even though Google Maps is probably the best mapping database available, it is only accurate about 90% of the time. If I put in an address of a large business complex, Google Maps or any other GPS system can only take me to the main address, which most times can be a block or more away from the location of the drive I actually need to turn in to. A self-driving car in the open system of the real world would likely not know where the front entrance of any given business actually was or where vehicles should even park. Each one of these things would have to be specifically programmed in for each of literally millions and millions of locations, and there would still be unacceptably large database errors. Sometimes Google Maps and other GPS systems will say an address is on the left when it is actually on the right or vice versa. It may say that the address is actually out in a field.

A self-driving car might work if you live in Disney Land, but in the real world probably not so much.

In recent months Daimler has demonstrated both in Germany and Nevada so-called self-driving semi trucks. The systems demonstrated are what are in essence best described as a “super cruise control” where once the truck is being driven down a freeway the driver can press a button and the truck will steer itself with the cruise control engaged. Big trucks have had conventional cruise control systems for quite a few years. In the past few years, radar systems have been integrated into the throttle and braking systems making adaptive cruise control a reality.

Adaptive cruise control systems can be handy for maintaining adaptive speed on a busy road. However, the system quickly breaks down with vehicles that are traveling slower than the rest of the traffic. The truck’s radar-based adaptive cruise control will simply match the speed of the vehicle in front of it, unless the driver overrides it by accelerating or getting into the passing lane.

There is an occasional problem with false positives. Driving trucks with adaptive radar based systems I have had the truck slam on the brakes because of a false positive from an overpass or even from a slowing vehicle in an off ramp. On a rain or snow slickened surface slamming on the brakes could cause a jackknife or even collision from behind from someone following too close.

Another problem with radar-based cruise control and braking systems is that the sensor in the front bumper of the truck can become covered with bugs or ice and snow and the system simply stops working. Sometimes it stops working anyway for no reason, requiring the truck to be stopped and the motor turned off and back on, rebooting the cruise control electronics to try to get it to function properly again.

The Self-Driving Truck

Aside from these mechanical problems, there’s another problem having to do with security. Have you ever wondered why in this day and age of high-resolution cameras and ubiquitous electronic surveillance systems there are still so many human security guards? There’s a very simple reason for this. The physical presence of a human being security guard scares off would-be thieves much more effectively than cameras or other surveillance devices. If something is apparently unattended by a human presence, psychologically it is much easier for would-be crooks than it is if a human being is around watching.

I expect the same thing would happen with would-be highjackers of self-driving trucks. All they would have to do to make the automated truck come to a complete stop would be to completely block its path. Then it would be a simple matter of breaking into it and stealing the cargo. The would-be thieves would likely not be deterred by the presence of cameras or even automated no trespassing warning messages broadcast over integrated speakers. There would be no human witness to injure or kill, making it an easy, even desirable target from the criminal mind’s point of view.

If you have never been a long-haul truck driver, then it is easy to look at the job from the outside and think that it consists of just driving down the freeway. While driving does constitute a considerable amount of the job, there are hidden parts of the job that are not readily apparent to someone passing a truck on a freeway.

To get an idea of what the more hidden, complicating parts of the job entails, it is helpful to think of it in terms of would it be possible for someone confined to a wheelchair to autonomously drive a long-haul truck. The truck itself could easily be modified so that a wheelchair-bound individual could drive it in much the same way that conventional automobiles can be modified. However, there’s more to the job of moving freight around than simply driving.

A fair amount of face-to-face business negotiation has to take place to set up the loading and unloading processes. With every load, the driver has to figure out how how to get to a customer’s facility, where to park the truck out of the way, and figure out where the shipping or receiving entrance is located at to take the load information or paperwork to the shipping or receiving clerk. There are virtually ALWAYS stairs involved, occasionally a lot of them, and most do not have wheelchair ramps. Upon being given a door to back into, the trailer doors must be opened and once loaded or unloaded the same doors have to be closed. The trailer wheels frequently must be adjusted to meet weight law limitations in order to make the overall weight legal. A person in a wheelchair would also have to be able to fuel the truck, check its oil and inspect it each day for potential mechanical and tire problems. They would have to devise a way of getting into the back of the trailer to sweep it out, or even load and unload on occasion. Certainly all of these problems could be overcome with vast effort and great expense, but it’s just not practical.

A self-driving truck would be even more handicapped than a person in a wheelchair. It would not be able to fuel itself, nor could it handle face-to-face negotiations. It would just be a dumb piece of equipment, easy to rob from or just ignore.

The face-to-face business negotiation aspect is far more important than it appears at first blush. This aspect is one reason that 70% of long-distance freight is moved by truck and not by rail.

The Uncanny Valley

As owners of Google Glass know, there is a fundamentally important real-world aspect that Google Glass engineers failed to take into account – the so-called “uncanny valley.” Human beings are creeped-out by a camera placed directly next to human eyes. On paper it must have looked great in the closed world of Google engineers. In the real world, it’s quite creepy and produces extremely negative reactions from all kinds of different people. Why not combine it with a Twilight Zone ventriloquist dummy face for the full effect?

The concept of self-driving vehicles may also look great on paper. I think there’s another so-called “uncanny valley” problem when it comes to the self-driving vehicle. I believe the average person is going to be creeped-out when they look over and see a driver with his or her super cruise control engaged either snoozing in the driver’s seat or playing with their smartphone, or perhaps not in the driver’s seat at all.

Super cruise control is close to being here. Whether it will be accepted or not remains to be seen.

As for 100% autonomous vehicles, I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime, I want and would be willing to pay good money for a 100% autonomous toilet-cleaning robot!

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