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Today In The World

Dated: 26 Nov 2013
Posted by Thomas McIntyre
Category: Autonomy, New Markets, Technology

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The Top Line

French Government Spending: While having a young workforce is seen as a tool for boosting industrial output and revitalizing an economy, financing the expansion of the necessary infrastructure to nurture this demographic is a key variable that governments should not overlook.  France, who boasts one of the highest birthrates in the EU, is increasingly struggling to pay for the costs of their baby surge due to deficit ridden budgets.  Indeed, welfare spending (including programs for youth, the unemployed, and elderly) is set to reach 31.7% of GDP, the highest ratio among OECD countries.   With low growth and massive entitlements, expect their central government to do more with less while continuing to spend beyond their means.   

China’s Stealth Drone: The Chinese military conducted a test flight of its Lijian stealth drone, also known as “Sharp Sword”, last Thursday.  Designed by the Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute and built by Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, China now joins the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia in an elite group of countries that are making stealth drones.  Coincidentally, Sharp Sword’s design bears a close resemblance to the design of the X-47B drone currently being developed by Northrop Grumman.

Hydropower: With IEA forecasting that from 2010 to 2035, hydropower generation is expected to expand by two-thirds while maintaining a roughly 15% share of the world’s electricity supply, environmentalists, non-profits, and organizations like the World Bank are now advocating for expansion of this energy source, as sustainable methods can be applied in order to mitigate damage to the local environment.  Indeed, even private equity firms such as Blackstone, best known for corporate takeovers, are moving into the space as evidenced by the firm pursuing dam projects in Uganda, Tanzania and along Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Advantages of Driving With Your Cell Phone

Dated: 1 Apr 2013
Posted by Cameron Mehin
Category: Autonomy, Technology


While driving around using your cell phone is dangerous, there are some tempting new reasons to keep them close by while navigating the streets. The bane of every commuters morning trek is running into a traffic jam, day in and day out. We all know there are those few intersections you avoid like the plague, and others that your willing to gamble on on days that your feeling lucky. There have been a few advancements made in predicting traffic in recent years, mainly traffic information on either Google Maps or on your GPS device. Those same devices may be the key that city planners have been waiting for, data on driving patterns from the commuters themselves.

MIT and UC-Berkeley got their hands on that information for the Boston area and were able to construct a map detailing all of the pain points in the city. Well I am sure many Bostonian’s could have point those out themselves, but what they couldn’t have done until now is pin point which neighborhoods and intersections are the cause behind the cities gridlock. Specifically, by cancelling or delaying the trips of 1 percent of the commuters they were able to reduce the travel time in the metro area for everyone else, by 18%. While this won’t necessarily solve any of today’s problems, it’s likely have a large impact on future models used the development of roadway additions or reworks.

If reducing traffic wasn’t enough, your smartphone is likely going to help you find an open parking spot in the near future as well. With programs in the works in Pittsburgh, LA and San Francisco, wireless low-power sensors in the city’s parking lots and garages are giving real time updates of availability to drivers. San Francisco’s SFPark Program already covers nearly 20 thousand spaces in the city. The standalone apps have the ability to pay for the parking as well, but we can easily see how utilizing NFC as the payment technology in one of the more generic apps would increase adoption greatly.

While these are both great examples of how we can utilize technology to decrease the hassle of traveling, these are minor to how autonomy in vehicles will completely disrupt how we currently commute. Taking the two above ideas and embedding them directly into routing software of future vehicles will be just some of the ways we will be eliminating the burden of travel in the future.