this week

California Legalises Driver-Free Autonomous Vehicles

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has approved new rules that allow self-driving cars to operate on public roads in the state without a human behind the wheel. The regulations, which take effect on 2nd April, will allow major driverless car producers, including Waymo and Uber, to commence testing in the state.

Source: Ars Technica

Israel to Eliminate Major Fossil Fuels by 2030

Israel has unveiled a plan to end the use of coal, petrol and diesel fuel by 2030, making the country fully reliant on natural gas and renewable and alternative fuels within 12 years. The plan was unveiled by the Energy Ministry and will be now submitted as a master plan to the government for approval.

Voice Cloning AI Can Swap Accents, Genders

Baidu has unveiled an updated version of its voice cloning AI that can replicate a human voice with only a few seconds of audio and can modify a voice to change both gender and accent. The AI, Deep Voice, was unveiled last year, but had fewer capabilities and far longer training times, making this an impressive advance.

Source: The Next Web

Leading US Lawyers Lose to AI in Competition

A competition between a legal AI platform and professors from some of the US' top law schools saw the AI win by a significant margin. The AI, LawGeex, was able to review five non-disclosure agreements for legal issues in 26 seconds, as opposed to the humans' 92 minutes, with an accuracy rate of 95%, compared to the humans' 85%.

Source: Mashable

Global Seed Bank Hits One Million Crops

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is designed to store the world's most important seeds against natural disasters, climate change and other catastrophic incidents, has passed one million deposits. The addition of 70,000 crops took the number to 1,059,646, ensuring the bank fulfills its role of protecting the world's food supply.

Source: BBC

Bill Gates: Cryptocurrencies have Cause Deaths

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has expressed concern about cryptocurrencies, saying that the anonymity of the technology has resulted in deaths through the purchasing of dangerous drugs such as fentanyl. Making the comments on a Reddit AMA, Gates said the government’s ability identify terrorism funding and money laundering "is a good thing".

Source: The Guardian

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC