Friday Five: Uber promises all-electric fleet by 2040
Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. Uber promises electric-only fleet by 2040
Uber has pledged that all taxis available through its app will be electric by 2040 — and by 2030 in US, Canadian and European cities. During its disputes with regulators, Uber had already promised that all rides in London would be electric by 2025. The company says it will spend £614m to help drivers switch to electric cars.
Uber and Lyft have faced criticism for contributing to traffic pollution, with research showing that many rides replace greener options such as walking, cycling or taking public transport. Uber also announced that it will be expanding the option for users to request an electric or hybrid vehicle to 65 cities globally by the end of 2020.
2. China launches and lands secret rocket
If a secret Chinese reusable spacecraft takes off, orbits for two days and safely lands back on Earth without the rest of the world even knowing, does it make a sound? Did it even happen? Well, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency, the spacecraft launched in Inner Mongolia last Friday and returned two days later.
Why so secretive? Well, apparently it’s a new spacecraft with a new launch method, although a Chinese source said “take a look at the US X-37B”, which is the US’s top-secret space plane developed by Boeing (pictured), which doesn’t require an onboard crew and even lands like a normal plane. Come on guys, spill the beans!
3. An app that tells your colleagues to back off
A social-distancing app which alerts someone when a colleague is too close is being used by Network Rail. The tech uses audio and Bluetooth signals to detect if users are getting a bit cosy. Normally this would seem incredibly sinister and intrusive, but as one or two people have pointed out, these are in fact unprecedented times.
The app makes a noise if someone gets too close, which helps to avoid awkward conversations with colleagues who aren’t social distancing. Reassuringly, the Mind The Gap app doesn’t track people or collect any sensitive data, so employers won’t be able to monitor employees’ movements. Maybe not so sinister, then.
4. Facebook goes back to start with college app
Facebook is getting back to its roots with the launch of a new product called Campus, which is specifically designed for college students in the US. Only people who attend the same school can see and interact with each other, with a Campus-only news feed, groups, events and group chat rooms called Campus Chats.
Although Campus is walled off from the main Facebook app, if a student has blocked someone on Facebook that setting will apply on Campus too. It looks like this is a tactic for Facebook to keep students and young people on the original app for longer, although interestingly there is no Instagram integration in the Campus pilot.
5. The terrifying dress that reads your mind
So you arrive at the swanky party, you’re incredibly nervous about saying the wrong thing but you’re holding it together well, no one would ever know… Except, what’s this? Your fancy new dress, which was a soothing purple colour, is flickering like mad and the little motor-driven wings are flapping frantically. Damn treacherous clothes!
This is because you’re wearing Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht’s latest creation, a dress that moves and lights up according to your brainwaves. The 3D-printed robotic dress, called the Pangolin, requires wearing a computer cap that sends the brain’s electrical signals to actuators on the dress. Maybe stick to jeans next time…