Hashtag Trending Sept. 13 – SpaceX upset at Starlink subsidy rejection; autonomous vehicles and human supervision; credit card companies to add a new code at gun stores to track sales

SpaceX is upset at the FCC for rejecting an $886 million Starlink subsidy, experts say autonomous vehicles may need some form of human supervision, and major credit card companies will implement a code at gun stores to track gun and ammunition sales.  

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That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Welcome to Hashtag Trending. It’s Tuesday, September 13th, and I’m your host, James Roy.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is disappointed in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for rejecting an $886 million subsidy for the company’s Starlink satellite internet service. As part of a $9.2 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), SpaceX had been seeking a subsidy from the FCC to expand Starlink to rural homes and businesses across 35 states. The FCC rejected this bid in August, Insider reported, saying the company had “failed to demonstrate that the providers could deliver the promised service.” In response, through a regulatory filing released last week, SpaceX’s director of satellite policy, David Goldman, said the FCC’s decision to deny the company funding was “flawed as a matter of both law and policy.” According to Goldman, turning down the subsidy for Starlink internet, will digitally divide Americans. 

Autonomous vehicles are growing in popularity, with companies investing billions to develop the car, but experts say remote human supervisors may be needed permanently to help robot drivers in trouble. While the appeal of an autonomous vehicle is that it’s run by AI and computers, making robot cars that can drive more safely than humans is difficult because self-driving software systems lack the human ability to predict and assess risk quickly. This month, GM recalled and updated software in 80 Cruise self-driving vehicles following a crash in the summer that left two people injured. U.S. safety regulators said the recalled software could “incorrectly predict” an oncoming vehicle’s path. Additionally, according to Reuters, the rollout for these autonomous vehicles is taking much longer than originally predicted. In a recent interview, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said developing self-driving cars was “way harder than I originally thought,” but when asked for a timeline, he said Tesla could make it this year. 

Visa, Mastercard, and American Express plan to implement a new merchant code that could improve the tracking of firearm purchases. This move comes just one day after the International Organization for Standardization approved a new merchant category code for gun and ammunition stores to use when processing transactions. A merchant category code is a four-digit number used by credit-card companies to classify businesses. It usually tells companies the types of services or goods being sold to consumers. This new code will apply to all purchases at gun and ammunition stores. After the approval of the code last Friday, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said the move would help financial institutions flag suspicious activity at stores and help save lives. As of now, it remains to be seen how the new code will be implemented by credit card firms as well as other third-party payment processors.

Researchers at Oxford University’s Department of Computer Science have developed an AI system to enable autonomous vehicles (AVs) to achieve safer and more reliable navigation capability, especially through dangerous weather conditions. According to one of the lead researchers, the difficulty for AVs to achieve precise positioning during challenging weather conditions is a major reason why these cars are limited to relatively small-scale trials up to now. Foggy or rainy weather could cause an AV to detect itself in the wrong lane before a turn or stop too late at an intersection due to “imprecise positioning.” The team created a novel, self-supervised deep learning model for ego-motion estimation, a crucial component of an AV’s driving system that estimates the car’s moving position relative to objects observed from the car itself. The model uses information from visual sensors, which can often be disrupted by adverse weather conditions, with data from weather-immune sources, so that the benefits of each can be used under various weather conditions.

That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Hashtag Trending is a part of the ITWC Podcast network. Add us to your Alexa Flash briefings or your Google Home daily briefing. Make sure to sign up for our Daily IT Wire newsletter to get all the news that matters directly in your inbox every day. Also, catch the next episode of Hashtag Tendances, our weekly Hashtag Trending episode in French, which drops every Thursday morning. If you have a suggestion or a tip, drop us a line in the comments or via email. Thank you for listening, I’m James Roy.

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