Brandon Moak felt as if a freight train had hit him.
It was mid-March, and the cofounder and CTO of the autonomous- trucking startup Embark Trucks had been keeping tabs on the emergence of covid-19. As a shelter-in-place order went into effect throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, where Embark is based, Moak and his team were forced to ground almost all their 13 self-driving semi-trucks (a few stayed on the road moving essential freight but weren’t in autonomous mode) and send home the majority of their workforce, with no idea how long it’d be before they could return.
Moak and Embark weren’t alone. For safety reasons, autonomous vehicles typically have two operators apiece. That’s a no-go in the age of social distancing, and leaders of autonomous-vehicle companies knew they’d have to mothball their fleets. Suddenly the whole nascent industry was in trouble. Autonomous vehicles are still experimental, and real-world testing is the gold standard for collecting data and improving the cars’ ability to operate safely. Unable to get on the road, self-driving operations risked becoming cash-intensive gambits with no path toward fielding a product anytime soon.
As they struggled with this new reality, layoffs rippled through autonomous-driving outfits like Zoox, Ike, and Kodiak Robotics, as well as the autonomous division at Lyft.
But as it turns out, all may not be lost. Several companies have traded road tests for delving deep into their algorithms and simulators, finding new uses for the countless hours of data they’ve collected. They’re doubling down on efforts like detailed data labeling, 3D mapping, and identifying overlooked scenarios from previous road sessions that can be used to train their systems. Some have even helped vehicle operators transition into data labeling, equipping them with new skills that will likely come in handy when they resume their former roles.
To make the best of a bad situation, Moak decided to build a new tool to allow Embark’s operations team to annotate the company’s four years of driving data. For instance, the software serves Embark’s truck drivers with images of different on-road scenarios and then asks them to determine if they’re noteworthy—and how they’d handle each based on their own experience.
Aurora Innovation, a Palo Alto–based company that develops self-driving technology, took a similar approach to finding tasks for underutilized workers. Vehicle operators have joined forces with the triage and labeling teams to mine both manual and autonomous driving data for noteworthy on-road events to turn into tests in a simulated environment.
“This has the additional benefit of increasing the exposure of our operators to how the data they gather is used offline, [which] gives them better context into our overall development process and will help them be even better at their job as we get back on the road,” cofounder and CEO Chris Urmson wrote in an email to MIT Technology Review.
Companies have also found creative ways to overcome the obstacle of being physically separated from their products.
Urmson, who previously led Google’s self-driving-car project, added that his team is using its “hardware-in-the-loop” pipeline to “catch software issues that would manifest on Aurora hardware and not on developer laptops or cloud instances.”
Embark, for its part, invested in software that could test hardware components offline. One test involves the vehicle’s control system—the algorithms responsible for sending physical commands, like how fast to turn the steering wheel. “In the long run, this will be a good investment for us, but in the short term, we had to make a big leap to build all this new infrastructure,” said Moak.
General Motors–owned Cruise has relegated 200 vehicles in San Francisco and Phoenix to the garage. The company is relying on its advanced simulators to keep putting cars’ software through its paces—a regular practice even before the pandemic, but SVP of engineering Mo Elshenawy says they’re improving the detail on how cars are scored during their encounters in the sims as a way to better assess competency in unusual situations, like when dealing with ambulances or delivery trucks.
Alexandr Wang, founder and CEO of data annotation firm Scale AI, works with companies like Lyft, Toyota, and Nuro, as well as Embark and Aurora. During the pandemic, Scale has been working on detailed labeling for companies’ old data via point cloud simulation—using 3D maps of the environment around a vehicle to encode what every point corresponds to (pedestrian, stop sign, window, shrub, stroller). The team is also encoding the behavior of drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists with technology including “gaze detection,” which aims to indicate whether a driver might yield or a pedestrian plans to cross the street.
No matter how much companies invest in their simulators, though, there’s no getting around the need to eventually get back on the road. And as the US reopens, that’s beginning to happen. A Waymo spokesperson wrote in an email that a day of simulated driving is akin to “driving more than 100 years in the real world,” in part thanks to parent company Alphabet’s computing power. Nevertheless, the company got its driving operations in Phoenix up and going again as of May 11.
Still, Wang says he sees a change in how autonomous-vehicle companies are working, shifting toward more innovative approaches and long-term experimentation.
“The ones who are taking this view,” he says, “are the ones who will, at the end of this, come out ahead and be in a better spot.”
Letter-writing staved off lockdown loneliness. Now it’s getting out the vote.
For the past couple of years, Courtney Cochran hosted a Nashville-based meetup group called the Snail Mail Social Club. Before the pandemic, it involved people gathering, pen and paper in hand, to write letters together. “It was a fun social endeavor,” Cochran says. “You got some face-to-face connecting time with people.”
When the coronavirus made meeting impossible, a friend suggested she set up a pandemic version. So she started an Instagram account, offering to connect potential pen pals. Shut In Social Club was born.
It blew up—so much so that Cochran had to create Google sheets and forms to help match up writers. And when the American Association of Retired Persons ran a feature on pandemic pen pal programs in its magazine, she had “a deluge.” She says she has already matched hundreds of people. As we talk, she gasps while she’s scrolling through sheets: “Lord, a lot of people still need to be matched up!”
Of course, there’s nothing new about writing letters. But a combination of social distancing measures and a volatile political year has made the traditional act of putting pen to paper suddenly more attractive than just shooting an email or an emoji-filled text. Beyond Instagram-fueled social projects for people in quarantine, letter writing has become a form of retro-political activism to help get out the vote.
“It’s a thoughtful and generous act”
The isolation we all felt during lockdown has been a central theme for many of the letter-writing projects that sprang up in recent months. For example, Dear Loneliness was brainstormed over Zoom by three students as an interactive art project in which people write letters about their experiences with isolation and upload pictures of them to the site to create a constantly evolving, public-sourced gallery.
Since June, Dear Loneliness has collected about 35,000 letters. “We’ve been really surprised by the similarities between some of them,” Sarah Lao, one of the student cofounders, says. “We’ve read through quite a few letters about Zoom, suffocating family dinners, the role of sound and music, birthdays and anniversaries, and racially charged encounters. When we look at everyone’s nationalities, it becomes clear that we’re all more similar in how we experience loneliness than we might expect.”
While Instagram was home to many mail art accounts pre-pandemic, interest in writing letters—and documenting them online—has grown. In a report published in April about the impact of covid-19 on the US Postal Service, 17% of people reported sending more letters and postcards than usual. More than half of respondents agreed that sending letters gave them a unique connection with the recipient.
“It’s a thoughtful and generous act,” says avid letter writer Caroline Weaver. “You have no control over how long a letter takes to get to someone. You’re putting your faith in the universe to get this beautiful piece of communication out where it’s going.”
Write, stamp, vote
But letter writing is about more than just nostalgia, connection, or whimsy. Weaver—the owner of CW Pencil Enterprise, a pencil shop in New York, and a lifelong lover of stationery—has always been a letter writer. She says she generally sends about 40 letters a month, and she documents mail art frequently on her and her store’s Instagram. But recently, she’s been sending 100 letters a week as a form of activism—to members of Congress about Breonna Taylor’s murder, to family members to urge them to vote, and more. She’s even created a Google doc of addresses to make it easy for people to send letters to politicians.
Letters have an advantage over clicking automated forms online, she says. “They [congressional staff] can’t ignore it,” she says. “They can ignore an email, but they have to open and read and log a letter.”
In the US, even sending mail that’s not explicitly political has become an inherently political act.
The USPS had always been financially strapped, and this year matters got worse. In May, Louis DeJoy—who’d never held a position in the postal service—was appointed postmaster general. Almost immediately, he slashed overtime; coupled with social distancing measures, this led to widespread (and, in many areas, continued) delivery lags. During this election year, that gave rise to questions and worries about mail-in voting in the midst of a pandemic.
One result has been calls to #savetheusps by buying stamps and writing more letters. In April Christina Massey, a Brooklyn-based artist, created Artists for the USPS, an Instagram-driven group that connected amateur and professional artists in pairs, all as part of a move to help support the service. One person would start a piece of mail art and then send it to a recipient, who would finish it. Writing a letter became a patriotic act, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went so far as to propose a (yet to be seen) national pen pal program in her Instagram stories.
Meanwhile other groups have been using organized letter-writing to urge voters to the polls in November. In April, a coalition of progressive organizations organized the Big Send. The idea is that volunteers sign up to write letters, stamp them, and hold them until late October, when they will be sent en masse to battleground-state voters across the country.
That might sound insane in 2020—why not send text messages? Emails? Even flyers? Especially in the midst of mail delivery chaos?
“It’s a noisy information environment,” says Scott Forman, the founder of Vote Forward, one of the organizations behind the Big Send. “Once you open a letter and you see that a fellow citizen cared enough to spend five minutes of their time and 60 cents in supplies to send you this thing and it’s respectful and personal, that’s an entirely different weight, and it feels more significant.”
Forman carried out his own experiment to see if it worked. In 2017, he accessed public voting records and hand-wrote 1,000 letters to Alabama voters, urging them to vote in a special election for a US Senate seat. He compared voter turnout rates with a control group of 6,000 people who didn’t get letters. Forman’s informal analysis showed that people who got the letters were more likely to vote.
Forman tried this method again in 2018’s midterm elections. This time, he worked with colleagues and volunteers to write letters from home. Letter receivers voted at rates of “one to three percentage points higher,” he says, “which might not sound like a ton, but that’s pretty competitive with get-out-the-vote initiatives.”
After this voting cycle, he’ll have a lot of data points to play with. “We have tens of thousands of users, and volunteers are writing exponentially now, at about 140,000 letters a day over the last two months,” Forman says. On September 9, the Big Send announced they’d reached 5 million letters, with about a month to reach their goal of 10 million in all. Forman is confident they will.
Much of this type of activity has been driven by Instagram, where stories and posts encourage young people to sign up and write letters to get out the vote.
It’s not only letters. Postcards are also fast gaining popularity as Instagrammable activism. The Sunrise Movement, a youth climate-change initiative, is aiming to send 1 million postcards to voters (as of this writing, the postcards are sold out).
Postcards to Voters is a similar effort, with a bot that sends voter addresses to volunteer writers. According to the founder, Tony McMullin, 660,000 postcards have been sent so far, and the group is well on its way to exceeding the 2 million postcards sent in 2018.
For him, postcards have clear advantages. “They’re only 35 cents [per card, compared with 55 cents for a standard letter],” he says. “I think of postcards as an open-face sandwich: You know what’s inside without any effort. You [the postcard] won’t be eyed with suspicion [as a piece of junk mail]. It’s less intimidating. It’s short—it doesn’t take a long time to read.”
Like Vote Forward, the group is heavily female. It leans older but has a wide spectrum of ages, from teens to the elderly. Zoom marathon sessions are common, and users are encouraged to Instagram their work.
Linda Yoshida—arguably Instagram’s most prominent calligrapher, with 19,000 followers—has been sending postcards to representatives since 2017, embellishing them with gorgeous calligraphy and documenting them on her Instagram account.
That’s partly a strategy. “I hope my calligraphed envelopes stand out in the Capitol Hill mailrooms and make staffers open them first, and my postcards to voters get a second glance rather than being tossed into the junk mail pile,” she says.
And that’s ultimately what makes snail mail possibly more powerful than an email or text. During a divisive election season amped up by a pandemic, the ability to connect is valuable. It’s universally available, it’s affordable, and it can be as simple as a note scrawled on a postcard or as complex as a work of calligraphy. And with a quick upload onto Instagram, it’s an easy, effective way to push for policy change while stuck at home.
As Weaver says, “Never underestimate the power of a written letter. It’s a bigger thing than just letter writing.”
Closely Examining How A PG&E Transmission Line Claimed 85 Lives In The 2018 Camp Fire
In 2018, the Camp Fire devastated a huge swathe of California, claiming 85 lives and costing 16.65 billion dollars. Measured in terms of insured losses, it was the most expensive natural disaster of the year, and the 13th deadliest wildfire in recorded history.
The cause of the fire was determined to be a single failed component on an electrical transmission tower, causing a short circuit and throwing sparks into the dry brush below – with predictable results. The story behind the failure was the focus of a Twitter thread by [Tube Time] this week, who did an incredible job of illuminating the material evidence that shows how the disaster came to be, and how it could have been avoided.
Mismanagement and Money
The blame for the incident has been laid at the feet of Pacific Gas and Electric, or PG&E, who acquired the existing Caribou-Palermo transmission line when it purchased Great Western Power Company back in 1930. The line was originally built in 1921, making the transmission line 97 years old at the time of the disaster. Despite owning the line for almost a full century, much of the original hardware was not replaced in the entire period of PG&Es ownership. Virtually no records were created or kept, and hardware from the early 20th century was still in service on the line in 2018.
In the hours after the Camp Fire began, investigators working to establish the cause found a broken C hook beneath Tower #27/222 on the Caribou-Palermo line. The C hook is responsible for supporting an insulator, which holds the high-voltage jumper conductor in position. When the C hook broke, the jumper conductor fell, striking the tower, with the resulting short circuit throwing sparks into the vegetation below, starting the Camp Fire. With a PG&E helicopter spotted in the area, investigators worked fast to secure the area as a crime scene, with evidence collected and sent for further analysis.
The resulting grand jury report released in June of 2020 as PG&E entered their guilty plea is damning in its conclusions. The failed left-side C hook, along with the insulator and jumper conductor that started the fire, were all determined to be original components in continuous service since 1921. Additionally, PG&E were found to have virtually no information or records of the equipment on Tower #27/222. Pictures taken of the hook showed significant wear over time, before finally failing on November 8, 2018.
Further evidence suggested serious negligence on the part of Pacific Gas and Electric. Despite a lack of records, recovered components of Tower #27/222 indicated prior knowledge of a need for maintenance on the line. Both the left and right side C hooks were mounted on plates bolted to the tower, through holes that showed significant wear. These plates had been installed as the original holes for mounting C hooks on the tower were almost entirely worn through with similar keyhole wear. The wear was caused over many years, as the C hook moved back and forth in the slot due to wind. The fact that the plates had been installed indicated that PG&E knew the C hook attachments needed attention over time. Despite this, PG&E were unable to field any records of when, why, or by whom the plates had been fabricated and installed.
The investigation also goes further, revealing a “Run To Failure” ethos within the company, with no regard for potential negative outcomes. It bears remembering that Pacific Gas and Electric were found guilty of six felony charges for the 2010 San Bruno gas line explosion. In both cases, investigators found a radically inadequate approach to safety and maintenance, with fatal results. In the case of the Caribou-Palermo line, largely untrained workers were used to perform trivial inspections by helicopter, that fundamentally consisted of a visual check as to whether or not the tower was still standing. Cost cutting was endemic as far as inspection and maintenance was concerned, aiming to increase the operation’s profitability, with little regard to the possible consequences of an equipment failure.
Overall, the failures of Pacific Gas and Electric in the running of the Caribou-Palermo line were multitude and varied. At the very first instance, with almost no records of the infrastructure’s hardware or condition, it was simply not possible for the company to have any idea if there was a problem in the first place. Additionally, with an approach of saving costs on inspections in order to avoid finding problems that need costly solutions, the company all but guaranteed an expensive and dangerous failure. The fact that it took a full 88 years to happen since the company purchased the line is perhaps more down to sheer luck than anything, and the foresight of whoever did an interim replacement of hanger plates at an unknown point in the past. Fundamentally, the company’s active efforts to cut costs and maximise profits, as well as a total disregard for proper engineering practice, resulted in the deaths of 85 innocent people. It’s a disaster we would do well to learn from.
7 Fastest Cars In GTA 5 Online 2020: Top Speed Cars In GTA Online
GTA 5 is one of those Rockstar’s games that refuses to die even after seven years of its release. Of course, the story mode of Grand Theft Auto is absolutely amazing. However, what’s keeping the game alive is the online version of the game, that is Grand Theft Auto Online.
Now, in GTA Online and even in GTA 5, players just love riding supercars throughout the city at light-speeds. However, finding the fastest cars in GTA 5 isn’t that easy, especially when there are so many options. Also, when it comes to selecting the fastest car for a drag race in GTA 5, there are so many aspects to consider. For instance, other than the speed, the handling of a car also determines its overall performance.
Now, we know that you don’t have enough time to test out every car in GTA 5 to figure out which is the fastest one. That’s why, we’ve done research on your part and in this article, we’re going to mention 7 fastest cars in GTA 5 in 2020.
Fastest Cars In GTA 5 Online 2020
|S.NO||Fastest Cars In GTA 5 (2020)||Top Speed|
|1||Ocelot Pariah||36mph (218.87km/h)|
|2||Pfister 811||133mph (213.24km/h)|
|3||Principe Deveste Eight||132mph (212.03km/h)|
|4||Bravado Banshee 900R||131mph (210.82km/h)|
|5||Invetero Coquette D10||130mph (209.215km/h)|
|6||Overflod Entity XXR||128mph (206km/h)|
|7||Grotti Itali GTO||127.75mph (205.59 km/h)|
1. Ocelot Pariah-The Fastest Car In GTA 5 Online (136mph)
Hands down, the fastest car in GTA 5 is Ocelot Pariah with a speed of 136mph. Generally, players underestimate Ocelot Pariah because of its underwhelming looks; however, this car is an absolute beast in terms of performance. When you take Ocelot Pariah to its full speed, you feel like the car is flying.
Ocelot Pariah was introduced in GTA Online back in December 2017 with the 1.42 The Doomsday Heist update. So, it’s been three years, and no other car in GTA Online has ever managed to dominate Ocelot Pariah. That’s why, to own this supercar in GTA Online, you have to pay a heavy price of $1,420,000. If you have that much money, then you can buy Ocelot Pariah from Legendary Motorsport.
Top Speed: 136mph (218.87km/h)
2. Pfister 811 (133mph)
After Ocelot Pariah, Pfister 811 is the fastest car in GTA 5 Online in 2020. When you compare Ocelot and Pfister in terms of appearance, you automatically think Pfister to be faster; however, it’s the other way around. Even then, Pfister 811 is the second fastest car in GTA 5 Online with a maximum speed of 133mph.
Pfister 811 is based on Porsche 918 and was introduced in GTA 5 Online as a part of Further Adventures in Finance and Felony update on June 28th, 2016. Of Course, Pfister 811 doesn’t take the first spot in terms of speed, but it is still far cheaper than Ocelot at a price of $1,135,000.
So, if you manage to save a ton load of money in GTA Online, then you can go for the beast Pfister 811 that can be bought from Legendary Motorsport as well.
Top Speed: 133mph (213.24km/h)
3.Principe Deveste Eight (132mph)
If you’re a sports car enthusiast, then you can’t deny the fact that Principe Deveste Eight is one hell of a car in GTA 5. Deveste Eight is based on the real-life Devel Sixteen, a Hypercar to give nightmares to Bugatti. The supercar was included as a part of the Arena War update on February 21, 2019.
Principe Deveste Eight is a beast when it comes to looks and even in terms of performance. Riding this car throughout Los Santos will make other players envious of you; however, you’ll have to pay a massive amount to get your hands on this beauty. With a maximum speed of 132mph, Deveste Eight is the third-fastest car in GTA 5 online 2020 with a price tag of $1,795,000.
Top Speed: 132mph (212.03km/h)
Price: $1, 795,000
4. Bravado Banshee 900R (131mph)
You’d often see rich players in GTA 5 Online riding Bravado Banshee 900R at lightning speed throughout Los Santos. Banshee 900R boasts an incredible speed of 131mph, taking the fourth spot on our list of the fastest car in GTA 5 Online 2020. The supercar was introduced in GTA 5 Online back in 2016 and is still considered one of the best cars in the game.
The best thing about the beast, that is Banshee 900R, is that it comes at a really cheap price when compared to other supercars in GTA Online. You can get Banshee 900R standing in your garage by paying just $565,000 at Legendary Motorsport.
Top Speed: 131mph (210.82km/h)
5. Invetero Coquette D10 (130mph)
GTA 5 Fans must agree that buying Invetero Coquette D10 is everyone’s dream when starting out with GTA Online. This supercar looks like a blessing with insane looks and performance. Coquette D10 boasts a top speed of 130mph with incredible handling around corners. So, if Coquette D10 is in the right hands, then it could even defeat the fastest car in GTA 5 online.
However, you’d have to be ultra-rich to own a Coquette D10 in GTA 5 Online. That’s because the supercar comes at a whooping price tag of $1,510,000, which is an insane amount of money, especially for new GTA Online players.
6. Overflod Entity XXR (128mph)
The Southern San Andreas Super Sports series update introduced the Overflod Entity XXR in GTA 5 Online. Entity XXR is one of the fastest cars in GTA 5 Online and is based on the Koenigsegg One:1. The powerful hypercar boasts a top speed of 128mph with stunning appearance and handling.
Several GTA 5 Online players don’t want to spend millions of in-game dollars on supercars. If you’re one of those players, then Entity XXR isn’t for you because the car comes with a price tag of $2,305,000.
Top Speed: 128mph (206km/h)
7. Grotti Itali GTO (127.75mph)
GTA 5 Online introduced Itali GTO in the game on December 26, 2018, as part of the Arena War update. The supercar is based on Ferrari 812 Superfast. That’s why it comes as no big surprise that it is one of the fastest cars in the GTA Online universe.
Itali GTO comes with a top speed of 127.75mph, and when it comes to appearance, the supercar feels like a dream. However, if you wish to own Itali GTO in GTA 5 Online, you’ll have to make a hole in your virtual pocket by paying $1,965,000.
Top Speed: 127.75mph (205.59 km/h)
That’s it; these are the top 7 fastest cars in Grand Theft Auto 5 Online. Of course, there are other fast cars in GTA Online; however, the cars mentioned in the list definitely takes the first five spots.
The post 7 Fastest Cars In GTA 5 Online 2020: Top Speed Cars In GTA Online appeared first on Fossbytes.
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