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Waymo, Cruise get green light from California's DMV for self-driving taxi services

Plus: Experts dubious of Apple's AI algorithm being able to detect depression and anxiety

In brief Self-driving car startups Cruise and Waymo are one step closer to launching commercial autonomous taxi fleets in California after the US state’s Department of Motor Vehicles granted them both relevant permits.

Cruise has been given permission to operate “light-duty” self-driving cabs on San Francisco’s roads between the hours of 2200 and 0600 PT. They can only drive at a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour and when the rain and fog aren’t too heavy.

Waymo can also drive its self-driving taxi fleet in San Francisco plus San Mateo; its cars are allowed to go faster, up to 65 miles per hour, meaning they can drive on highways. Again, they can only operate up to light rain and light fog, and no hours of operation were specified.

The vehicles have to be capable of performing with Level 3 autonomy or higher. Both upstarts still need to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission before they can roll out their self-driving taxi services, according to the DMV.

Can Apple's iPhone detect depression?

Apple and academics at the University of California, Los Angeles are working on algorithms capable of detecting if an iPhone user has depression or anxiety. Experts aren't convinced the technology works, though.

It's difficult for software to understand and classify something as complex as human emotions, Jorge Barraza, assistant psychology professor at the University of Southern California and CTO of Immersion, a neuroscience tech vendor, told TechTarget.

Even if AI algorithms can detect if we're happy or sad, it's difficult to tie that with diagnoses of mental health. "It's unclear how much meaning [emotion] has in order for us to understand what people's psychological experiences are. Different types of expressions or emoting might have different meanings whether it's in a social context or whether it is not," he said.

Undeterred, Apple and UCLA are pushing on with enrolling people to test its software. About 150 human guinea pigs joined in the study in 2020 and the number is expected to expand to about 3,000 people by the end of 2023.

Facial recognition and cloud-operated computer systems coming to GM next year

General Motors cars will operate and run AI applications from a Linux-based software platform known as Ultifi by 2023, the company said.

Ultifi will act as a central hub controlling internet-of-things devices that power all sorts of abilities like facial recognition to recognize drivers or automatically closing sunroofs when raining is predicted, according to The Verge.

Scott Miller, VP of software-defined vehicles, said the company was undergoing a “transformation... from an automaker to a platform innovator.” Ultifi will be cloud-connected; all updates will be pushed out over the air. Companies will be allowed to develop third-party apps on Ultifi.

Carmakers like General Motors will charge customers a subscription fee for using top-end features in Ultifi. Buying a car will no longer be a one-off purchase; it’ll be an expense that users will have to take into as the car-as-a-service provides a way for automakers to keep extracting money from its customers. ®

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