Uber, US Army To Test Quiet Aircraft Technology

Uber Technologies said Tuesday that it would work with the U.S. Army to advance research on a novel, quiet aircraft rotor technology that could be used in future flying cars, or military aircraft.

The alliance highlights stepped-up efforts by Uber and other companies to transform flying cars from a science fiction concept to real hardware for residents of mega-cities where driving is a time-consuming bore.

Uber and the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering command said in a statement that they expected to spend $1 million to develop and test prototypes for a rotor system that would be used on a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle.

The system would have two rotors, one stacked atop the other, moving in the same direction under the command of sophisticated software. This approach, which Uber and the Army said had not been deployed in a production aircraft, could lead to quieter operation than conventional stacked rotor systems.

“Achieving ultra-low noise is one of the critical obstacles” to deploying aerial taxis in urban areas, Rob McDonald, head of vehicle engineering for Uber Elevate, the company’s flying car operation, said in an interview.

The Army wants to develop a new generation of unmanned drones that do not need runways and are quieter than current drones, said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.

The Army is increasingly turning to partnerships with private companies to research advanced technology, Riddick said in an interview.

Uber is planning more alliances with government agencies as it aims to launch prototype airborne taxis by 2020, Mark Moore, Uber’s director of engineering and aircraft systems and a former NASA researcher, said in an interview.

Uber already has a partnership with NASA, the U.S. government space agency, to develop software for managing large numbers of aircraft over cities, Moore said.

Uber is one of several companies, including aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus SE and a venture backed by Alphabet co-founder Larry Page, that are investing in the concept of small, automated and electrified aircraft that could be used to ferry passengers or cargo across congested cities.

Uber said it would develop its low-noise rotor system in collaboration with Launchpoint Technologies Inc., a Goleta, California, engineering company focused on electric and hybrid aircraft technologies.

Uber will hold a conference on flying vehicles this week in Los Angeles.

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Uber, US Army To Test Quiet Aircraft Technology

Uber Technologies said Tuesday that it would work with the U.S. Army to advance research on a novel, quiet aircraft rotor technology that could be used in future flying cars, or military aircraft.

The alliance highlights stepped-up efforts by Uber and other companies to transform flying cars from a science fiction concept to real hardware for residents of mega-cities where driving is a time-consuming bore.

Uber and the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering command said in a statement that they expected to spend $1 million to develop and test prototypes for a rotor system that would be used on a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle.

The system would have two rotors, one stacked atop the other, moving in the same direction under the command of sophisticated software. This approach, which Uber and the Army said had not been deployed in a production aircraft, could lead to quieter operation than conventional stacked rotor systems.

“Achieving ultra-low noise is one of the critical obstacles” to deploying aerial taxis in urban areas, Rob McDonald, head of vehicle engineering for Uber Elevate, the company’s flying car operation, said in an interview.

The Army wants to develop a new generation of unmanned drones that do not need runways and are quieter than current drones, said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.

The Army is increasingly turning to partnerships with private companies to research advanced technology, Riddick said in an interview.

Uber is planning more alliances with government agencies as it aims to launch prototype airborne taxis by 2020, Mark Moore, Uber’s director of engineering and aircraft systems and a former NASA researcher, said in an interview.

Uber already has a partnership with NASA, the U.S. government space agency, to develop software for managing large numbers of aircraft over cities, Moore said.

Uber is one of several companies, including aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus SE and a venture backed by Alphabet co-founder Larry Page, that are investing in the concept of small, automated and electrified aircraft that could be used to ferry passengers or cargo across congested cities.

Uber said it would develop its low-noise rotor system in collaboration with Launchpoint Technologies Inc., a Goleta, California, engineering company focused on electric and hybrid aircraft technologies.

Uber will hold a conference on flying vehicles this week in Los Angeles.

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Zimbabwe Parliament Delays Mugabe’s Questioning on Diamond Revenue

Former President Robert Mugabe will not appear before Zimbabwe’s parliament as scheduled on Wednesday to answer questions on diamond mining operations, a legislator said.

Temba Mliswa, who leads the parliamentary committee on mines, said the clerk of parliament hadn’t written to Mugabe to invite him to appear.

“It has been delayed but that resolution still stands,” Mliswa said. “He will have to appear before the committee whether he likes it or not.”

The committee had ordered the 94-year-old Mugabe to face legislators over his previous pronouncements that the state had been deprived of at least $15 billion in diamond revenue by mining companies.

Mugabe said in March 2016 the country was robbed of the revenue by diamond companies, including joint ventures between Chinese companies and the army, police and intelligence services, whose operations were shielded from public scrutiny.

Specifically, he said Zimbabwe lost $15 billion from the Marange gem fields, more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital. He later expelled the companies and replaced them with a state-owned diamond company.

Mliswa said a new date for Mugabe to testify would be set.

The questioning on Wednesday would have been Mugabe’s first public appearance since the army deposed him last November in a de facto coup.

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Zimbabwe Parliament Delays Mugabe’s Questioning on Diamond Revenue

Former President Robert Mugabe will not appear before Zimbabwe’s parliament as scheduled on Wednesday to answer questions on diamond mining operations, a legislator said.

Temba Mliswa, who leads the parliamentary committee on mines, said the clerk of parliament hadn’t written to Mugabe to invite him to appear.

“It has been delayed but that resolution still stands,” Mliswa said. “He will have to appear before the committee whether he likes it or not.”

The committee had ordered the 94-year-old Mugabe to face legislators over his previous pronouncements that the state had been deprived of at least $15 billion in diamond revenue by mining companies.

Mugabe said in March 2016 the country was robbed of the revenue by diamond companies, including joint ventures between Chinese companies and the army, police and intelligence services, whose operations were shielded from public scrutiny.

Specifically, he said Zimbabwe lost $15 billion from the Marange gem fields, more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital. He later expelled the companies and replaced them with a state-owned diamond company.

Mliswa said a new date for Mugabe to testify would be set.

The questioning on Wednesday would have been Mugabe’s first public appearance since the army deposed him last November in a de facto coup.

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US China to Meet for Round 2, But Big Differences Remain

Trade negotiations between China and the United States continue early next week in Washington D.C., but analysts say after the first round, the differences between the two sides are huge. Some believe the differences are so fundamental and big that an escalation of tariffs is unavoidable.

According to a widely circulated copy of Washington’s demands, President Donald Trump’s delegation not only asked Beijing to cut its trade deficit with the United States by $200 billion by 2020, but to also sharply lower tariffs and government subsidies of advanced technologies.

Beijing wants the United States to no longer oppose granting China market economy status at the World Trade Organization, amend an export ban against Chinese tech company ZTE Corp and open American government procurement to Chinese technology and services among other demands.

View to escalation

 

Scott Kennedy, a China scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the first round made it clear just how far apart the U.S. and China are in their views of what’s fair, what they want and expect the other side to do.

 

“I think we’re still headed toward escalation with both sides adopting tariffs in the next few weeks, but at least now we know what the fight is about,” Kennedy said. “It’s about whether or not China should be a market economy, or what you know whether it should be able to maintain its state capitalist system without any constraints.”

 

China joined the WTO in December of 2001 as a non-market economy and after 15 years it was expected the granting of the status as a market economy would naturally follow — along with its opening up.

 

But that is not what has happened, and the United States and European Union have refused to grant China market economy status.

Beijing insists it should be regarded as a market economy regardless of whether other countries believe it fits the definition. Under Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has moved to assert greater control over business and the economy.

Competition vs. compensation

 

It has also become increasingly clear that China’s definition of reform and that of the West are strikingly different.

 

In an interview with VOA earlier this year, William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce, said that while many used to assume China would continue to carry out Western style economic reforms initiated in the early 2000s, that is no longer the case.

 

“In the last four or five years, we’ve seen that reform has taken a different direction, that the Chinese economy is on a different trajectory and that is more support for state-owned enterprises,” Zarit said. “And when I hear reforms now, it is more about making state-owned enterprises more efficient and not necessarily competitive in a fully market-based economy.”

But Song Hong, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argues that China has fulfilled its WTO obligations and it is the United States and European Union that have broken their promises to grant the country market economy status.

He said Washington’s demands to slash the trade deficit by $100 billion a year does not make economic sense. He also said the demand for China to lower tariffs and put the two countries on equal footing is impossible.

 

“The market in China is of course not as open as the U.S. market because China remains a developing country, which is no match to the U.S.,” Song Hong said. “The per capita income level in China around $10,000 vs. the U.S.’s some $50,000. How can both countries be equal?”

Talks as clock ticks

 

Some Chinese state media reports have tried to sound upbeat about the meetings focusing on the two sides agreed to keep talking, despite their differences.

On Monday, the White House announced a Chinese delegation led by Liu He, China’s vice premier and a top aide to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, will visit the United States early next week.

 

At the same time, however, the clock is ticking on U.S. threats to implement up to $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. A day after Liu arrives in Washington, there will be a public hearing to discuss tariffs and the Trump administration’s investigation into China’s trade policies and practices.

If no agreement is reached by May 23, Washington would be well within its right to go ahead with the tariffs, analysts note. To which, China has promised to promptly reply.

 

Kennedy said that while the United States has used unilateral penalties in the past, this time around the chances of escalation are a lot higher.

 

“Not only are the disagreements deeply fundamental, China is much more powerful and ambitious than it used to be. And so it’s not likely to cave easily,” he said.

Brian Kopczynski contributed to this report.

 

 

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US China to Meet for Round 2, But Big Differences Remain

Trade negotiations between China and the United States continue early next week in Washington D.C., but analysts say after the first round, the differences between the two sides are huge. Some believe the differences are so fundamental and big that an escalation of tariffs is unavoidable.

According to a widely circulated copy of Washington’s demands, President Donald Trump’s delegation not only asked Beijing to cut its trade deficit with the United States by $200 billion by 2020, but to also sharply lower tariffs and government subsidies of advanced technologies.

Beijing wants the United States to no longer oppose granting China market economy status at the World Trade Organization, amend an export ban against Chinese tech company ZTE Corp and open American government procurement to Chinese technology and services among other demands.

View to escalation

 

Scott Kennedy, a China scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the first round made it clear just how far apart the U.S. and China are in their views of what’s fair, what they want and expect the other side to do.

 

“I think we’re still headed toward escalation with both sides adopting tariffs in the next few weeks, but at least now we know what the fight is about,” Kennedy said. “It’s about whether or not China should be a market economy, or what you know whether it should be able to maintain its state capitalist system without any constraints.”

 

China joined the WTO in December of 2001 as a non-market economy and after 15 years it was expected the granting of the status as a market economy would naturally follow — along with its opening up.

 

But that is not what has happened, and the United States and European Union have refused to grant China market economy status.

Beijing insists it should be regarded as a market economy regardless of whether other countries believe it fits the definition. Under Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has moved to assert greater control over business and the economy.

Competition vs. compensation

 

It has also become increasingly clear that China’s definition of reform and that of the West are strikingly different.

 

In an interview with VOA earlier this year, William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce, said that while many used to assume China would continue to carry out Western style economic reforms initiated in the early 2000s, that is no longer the case.

 

“In the last four or five years, we’ve seen that reform has taken a different direction, that the Chinese economy is on a different trajectory and that is more support for state-owned enterprises,” Zarit said. “And when I hear reforms now, it is more about making state-owned enterprises more efficient and not necessarily competitive in a fully market-based economy.”

But Song Hong, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argues that China has fulfilled its WTO obligations and it is the United States and European Union that have broken their promises to grant the country market economy status.

He said Washington’s demands to slash the trade deficit by $100 billion a year does not make economic sense. He also said the demand for China to lower tariffs and put the two countries on equal footing is impossible.

 

“The market in China is of course not as open as the U.S. market because China remains a developing country, which is no match to the U.S.,” Song Hong said. “The per capita income level in China around $10,000 vs. the U.S.’s some $50,000. How can both countries be equal?”

Talks as clock ticks

 

Some Chinese state media reports have tried to sound upbeat about the meetings focusing on the two sides agreed to keep talking, despite their differences.

On Monday, the White House announced a Chinese delegation led by Liu He, China’s vice premier and a top aide to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, will visit the United States early next week.

 

At the same time, however, the clock is ticking on U.S. threats to implement up to $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. A day after Liu arrives in Washington, there will be a public hearing to discuss tariffs and the Trump administration’s investigation into China’s trade policies and practices.

If no agreement is reached by May 23, Washington would be well within its right to go ahead with the tariffs, analysts note. To which, China has promised to promptly reply.

 

Kennedy said that while the United States has used unilateral penalties in the past, this time around the chances of escalation are a lot higher.

 

“Not only are the disagreements deeply fundamental, China is much more powerful and ambitious than it used to be. And so it’s not likely to cave easily,” he said.

Brian Kopczynski contributed to this report.

 

 

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Technology Revolution Can Help or Harm Societies

As artificial intelligence is used in an increasingly connected world, experts say inherent risks need to be addressed now as societies become more and more dependent on the technology for everyday tasks.

“It’s quite explosive what we’re seeing,” said Tom Siebel, chairman and chief executive officer at computer software company C3 IoT, during a recent Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

The experts discussed the benefits and dangers of technologies that allow machines to gather and analyze large amounts of data from connected devices. 

Dangers of a connected world

“Well, I think there are very serious concerns that we need to be aware of as it relates to the aggregation of all these data. A lot of this is personal identifiable data, economic data, health history data, human genomic data,” said Siebel, in discussing how the technology is applied to daily life.

Technology experts also said artificial intelligence has the potential to put people out of work.

“When we have autonomous vehicles, what are the taxi drivers in New York City going to do? This idea that we’re going to retrain them to be data scientists, this is crazy,” Siebel said. “What’s happening in the corporate world is corporations are facing a mass extinction event. Since the beginning of this century, 52 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared from the planet.”

In their place are new types of firms such as Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, and even car company Tesla. They exist because of artificial intelligence and big data. These technologies are not only affecting the corporate world, but they also pose a threat to national security, said the technology experts.

“As the most developed country in the world, we are at the most risk. We are connected the most, and our grid can be hacked,” said Usman Shuja, whose company, SparkCognition, works with industrial and defense clients.

“When the physical world gets connected to the internet, it’s not about stealing data, and IP. It’s also about causing a lot of damage. A turbine can be turned into a bomb, and a pump can be turned into something explosive. So, a lot of physical damage can also happen with cyberwarfare,” Shuja said.

Not moving forward with the technology, however, also poses risks, he noted.

“Today, the challenge with AI is if we don’t do it, somebody else can do it, so it’s become a race. If we don’t do it, China could do it. Russia could do it. Iran could do it,” said Shuja.

Technology experts said societies and governments need to prepare for what technology will bring and anticipate how it will change industries and society.

“Somebody needs to legislate. Somebody needs to regulate. These are important issues, and if we don’t do something about it, we’re going to be sorry,” warned Siebel.

The technology has implications for wealthy and developing countries, the experts said.

“AI, on the dangerous side of it, it can widen the gap. It can widen the gap so big that the poor countries can be left out; however, this is also the chance for poor countries and developing countries to skip the industrial revolution and make up for the lost time,” said Shuja.

Benefits of machine learning and AI

The experts predict the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning will be seen across industries.

“We can save lives. We can identify illnesses in a predictive way. We can use fitness health data to be able to detect health issues long before they occur,” said Tom Bianculli, Zebra Technologies’ chief technology officer. 

Artificial intelligence can also help the planet, the experts said.

“Energy and power systems will be more environmentally efficient,” noted Siebel.

Technologists said the key is to find ways of minimizing the dangerous side of artificial intelligence while maximizing the benefits to society.

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Technology Revolution Can Help or Harm Societies

As artificial intelligence is used in an increasingly connected world, experts say inherent risks need to be addressed now as societies become more and more dependent on the technology for everyday tasks.

“It’s quite explosive what we’re seeing,” said Tom Siebel, chairman and chief executive officer at computer software company C3 IoT, during a recent Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

The experts discussed the benefits and dangers of technologies that allow machines to gather and analyze large amounts of data from connected devices. 

Dangers of a connected world

“Well, I think there are very serious concerns that we need to be aware of as it relates to the aggregation of all these data. A lot of this is personal identifiable data, economic data, health history data, human genomic data,” said Siebel, in discussing how the technology is applied to daily life.

Technology experts also said artificial intelligence has the potential to put people out of work.

“When we have autonomous vehicles, what are the taxi drivers in New York City going to do? This idea that we’re going to retrain them to be data scientists, this is crazy,” Siebel said. “What’s happening in the corporate world is corporations are facing a mass extinction event. Since the beginning of this century, 52 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared from the planet.”

In their place are new types of firms such as Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, and even car company Tesla. They exist because of artificial intelligence and big data. These technologies are not only affecting the corporate world, but they also pose a threat to national security, said the technology experts.

“As the most developed country in the world, we are at the most risk. We are connected the most, and our grid can be hacked,” said Usman Shuja, whose company, SparkCognition, works with industrial and defense clients.

“When the physical world gets connected to the internet, it’s not about stealing data, and IP. It’s also about causing a lot of damage. A turbine can be turned into a bomb, and a pump can be turned into something explosive. So, a lot of physical damage can also happen with cyberwarfare,” Shuja said.

Not moving forward with the technology, however, also poses risks, he noted.

“Today, the challenge with AI is if we don’t do it, somebody else can do it, so it’s become a race. If we don’t do it, China could do it. Russia could do it. Iran could do it,” said Shuja.

Technology experts said societies and governments need to prepare for what technology will bring and anticipate how it will change industries and society.

“Somebody needs to legislate. Somebody needs to regulate. These are important issues, and if we don’t do something about it, we’re going to be sorry,” warned Siebel.

The technology has implications for wealthy and developing countries, the experts said.

“AI, on the dangerous side of it, it can widen the gap. It can widen the gap so big that the poor countries can be left out; however, this is also the chance for poor countries and developing countries to skip the industrial revolution and make up for the lost time,” said Shuja.

Benefits of machine learning and AI

The experts predict the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning will be seen across industries.

“We can save lives. We can identify illnesses in a predictive way. We can use fitness health data to be able to detect health issues long before they occur,” said Tom Bianculli, Zebra Technologies’ chief technology officer. 

Artificial intelligence can also help the planet, the experts said.

“Energy and power systems will be more environmentally efficient,” noted Siebel.

Technologists said the key is to find ways of minimizing the dangerous side of artificial intelligence while maximizing the benefits to society.

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Google to Showcase AI Advances at Its Big Conference

Google is likely to again put artificial intelligence in the spotlight at its annual developers conference Thursday.

 

The company’s digital concierge, known only as the Google Assistant, could gain new abilities to handle tasks such as making restaurant reservations without human hand-holding.

 

Google may also unveil updates to its Android mobile operating system, enable better AI-powered navigation suggestions in Google Maps, and push further into augmented reality technology, which overlays a view of the real world with digital images.

 

The search giant aims to make its assistant so useful that people can’t live without it — or the search results that drive its advertising business. But it also wants to play up the social benefits of AI, and plans to showcase how it’s being used to improve health care, preserve the environment and make scientific discoveries.

 

CEO Sundar Pichai probably won’t emphasize privacy or data security concerns, which have put companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google in the crosshairs of regulators. But Google could also give parents new tools to manage how children access video and other material on different devices.

 

The company is also expected to unveil a new app for news that combines elements of its Google Play Newsstand app and YouTube.

 

It’s too early in the year for Google to showcase any new hardware, which it tends to do ahead of the Christmas shopping season. Last week, however, it said its partner Lenovo will sell a $400 stand-alone virtual reality headset that doesn’t require inserting a smartphone. (Facebook last week announced a competing $199 device called the Oculus Go.)

 

Google also last week updated actions that its assistant can perform on smartwatches powered by its Wear OS software. For instance, it can tell you about your day if you’re wearing headphones instead of making you read your calendar.

 

 

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Google to Showcase AI Advances at Its Big Conference

Google is likely to again put artificial intelligence in the spotlight at its annual developers conference Thursday.

 

The company’s digital concierge, known only as the Google Assistant, could gain new abilities to handle tasks such as making restaurant reservations without human hand-holding.

 

Google may also unveil updates to its Android mobile operating system, enable better AI-powered navigation suggestions in Google Maps, and push further into augmented reality technology, which overlays a view of the real world with digital images.

 

The search giant aims to make its assistant so useful that people can’t live without it — or the search results that drive its advertising business. But it also wants to play up the social benefits of AI, and plans to showcase how it’s being used to improve health care, preserve the environment and make scientific discoveries.

 

CEO Sundar Pichai probably won’t emphasize privacy or data security concerns, which have put companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google in the crosshairs of regulators. But Google could also give parents new tools to manage how children access video and other material on different devices.

 

The company is also expected to unveil a new app for news that combines elements of its Google Play Newsstand app and YouTube.

 

It’s too early in the year for Google to showcase any new hardware, which it tends to do ahead of the Christmas shopping season. Last week, however, it said its partner Lenovo will sell a $400 stand-alone virtual reality headset that doesn’t require inserting a smartphone. (Facebook last week announced a competing $199 device called the Oculus Go.)

 

Google also last week updated actions that its assistant can perform on smartwatches powered by its Wear OS software. For instance, it can tell you about your day if you’re wearing headphones instead of making you read your calendar.

 

 

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