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08.10.16 | 12:42 pm

Chinese driver blames Tesla for autopilot crash

A Tesla driver in China who crashed his car while in "autopilot" mode is blaming the automaker for promoting it as "self-driving" when it actually doesn't have that capability and only takes control of the car in certain conditions, reports Reuters. It's the company's first known crash in China and is in the wake of a fatal accident in Florida, which has prompted federal regulatory probes. 

A 33-year-old programer at a tech firm, Luo Zhen, was driving to work and admitted to looking at his phone or in-car navigation when his blue Tesla Model S hit a parked car, scraping both vehicles but resulting in no injuries. "The driver of the Tesla, whose hands were not detected on the steering wheel, did not steer to avoid the parked car and instead scraped against its side," a Tesla spokeswoman told Reuters.

Luo, who filmed the accident with a dashboard camera and then posted his video and photos on Weibo, blamed Tesla for overselling the auto-pilot function: "They use this immature technology as a sales and promotion tactic…but they don't take responsibility for the safety of the function," he said.

03.24.17 | an hour ago

Do customers want virtual makeup try-on tools? Smashbox has some data

If you're shopping for makeup online, with no way to test if a product works, buying is always a risk. Makeup companies are now trying to mitigate these risks with virtual try-on tools. But are customers into it?

Two weeks ago, Smashbox launched a program that allows customers to upload a picture of themselves to see how every single product they sell–lipstick, foundation, blush, eyeliner–will look on their face. Smashbox makes the platform available directly on the website so customers don't have to worry about downloading an app. The brand worked with ModiFace, a face visualization company, to create the platform. Ginny Chien, the brand's executive director of global digital and consumer marketing, says they picked this company because it most accurately represented colors on the face, which was crucial to the tool's effectiveness.

Smashbox's customers, which largely consists of millennials, have quickly adopted the technology. In the first two weeks of launching, the tool was used more than 20,000 times, and a significant percentage of customers visiting Smashbox's homepage gave it a go. 

03.24.17 | 2 hours ago

Amazon adds more discounted phones—if you can handle the ads

Amazon Prime members can now get a couple more unlocked Android phones at a discount, provided they're willing to endure lots of advertising. The new handsets in Amazon's "Prime Exclusive" range include the Moto G5 Plus for $185 (a $45 discount) and the Alcatel A30 for $60 (a $40 discount). Both phones put ads or special offers on the lock screen, and come pre-loaded with various Amazon apps and widgets.

Although the discounts are significant, the barrage of lock-screen ads can get mentally exhausting, as I discovered while reviewing the first two Prime Exclusive phones last year. People check their phones dozens of times a day, and when an ad is the first thing you see, it has a way of searing itself into your brain, which of course is the point. At least Amazon lets users pay off the subsidy to stop the ads once they've had enough.

03.24.17 | 3 hours ago

Google Hangouts will probably lose standard text messaging soon

Google is reportedly stripping SMS message support from Hangouts for Android as the app pivots toward enterprise use. According to a GSuite user on Reddit, SMS supprt in Hangouts will go away on May 22, and all users will start getting notified of the impending change in a few days. (Google has not yet confirmed the news.)

Removing SMS from Hangouts would leave Google without an app that unifies standard texts and internet-based messages, akin to Apple's iMessage. The company is instead pushing users toward the default Android Messages app, while asking the industry to adopt RCS, a more feature-rich text messaging standard that Google already supports. Yet Google also expects consumers to use Allo, its virtual assistant-infused messaging app, and is positioning Hangouts as a workplace collaboration tool. Choose wisely.

03.24.17 | 3 hours ago

Watch an Amazon Prime drone make its first delivery in the U.S.

In a video uploaded to YouTube, the drone is seen delivering a small box containing a few bottles of sunscreen in southern California on Monday, where the MARS 2017 conference was taking place. Last year, Amazon made some drone deliveries in the U.K.

03.24.17 | 3 hours ago

Comcast’s new plan for cord cutters is taking shape

For the legacy cable business, there are two ways to address cord-cutting: Try to win customers back with sweeter pay-TV packages or let them cut the cord and offer them your own streaming service. Comcast's strategy for option B appears to be taking shape, as Bloomberg reported this week. The Philly cable giant has negotiated key streaming deals with cable TV owners to offer their networks across the country. Conceivably, that could mean a Comcast-run streaming service that rivals Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. For now, there don't seem to be any immediate plans to release a product, but I wouldn't be surprised if we heard rumblings of one soon. Read more from Bloomberg

03.24.17 | 9:10 am

Here’s the State Department’s announcement authorizing the Keystone XL Pipeline

The controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project got the go-ahead from the State Department this morning with a permit allowing TransCanada to "construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the U.S.-Canadian border in Phillips County, Montana, for the importation of crude oil." The move comes after a 60-day review period that began with an order from President Trump during his first week in office. It reverses a decision from former President Obama, who rejected the permit in 2015

It's not over yet, though. As we wrote this morning, the project is still facing the harsh economics of the oil industry, with lower production forecasts and oil and shipping firms wary of a potential border tax. Read the State Department's announcement here.

Photo: Flickr user Shannon Ramos

03.24.17 | 7:35 am

This is the world’s earliest known video game Easter egg

The Easter egg can be found in the 1977 game Starship 1 and was uncovered by ex-Microsoft exec Ed Fries, who played a big role in creating the original Xbox. Fries details his journey in discovering the earliest video game Easter egg in an amusing blog post. Using a special sequence of input commands, the Easter egg makes the phrase "Hi Ron!" appear on-screen. The message is a reference to Atari game programmer Ron Milner, who coded Starship 1.

03.24.17 | 6:38 am

Apple says not to worry about iPhone and Mac CIA exploits

The exploits were reported by Wikileaks and detail how CIA agents could break into a Mac or iPhone if they had physical access to it. But after taking a look at the leaked documents, Apple told TechCrunch people shouldn't worry—those exploits are old and have been fixed years ago:

We have preliminarily assessed the Wikileaks disclosures from this morning. Based on our initial analysis, the alleged iPhone vulnerability affected iPhone 3G only and was fixed in 2009 when iPhone 3GS was released. Additionally, our preliminary assessment shows the alleged Mac vulnerabilities were previously fixed in all Macs launched after 2013. We have not negotiated with Wikileaks for any information. 

We have given them instructions to submit any information they wish through our normal process under our standard terms. Thus far, we have not received any information from them that isn't in the public domain. We are tireless defenders of our users' security and privacy, but we do not condone theft or coordinate with those that threaten to harm our users.

03.24.17 | 6:31 am

Theranos will give investors double the shares if they promise not to sue

The beleaguered company is already being sued by major partners like Walgreens over its faulty blood tests, and now hopes offering investors from Theranos's latest funding round in 2015 double the shares will help stem more lawsuits, reports the Wall Street Journal. If the investors take the deal, they'll get two shares for every share they purchased—but they have to promise not to sue the company. Some of their extra shares will reportedly come from founder Elizabeth Holmes's own shares.

03.24.17 | 6:24 am

Twitter wants to start charging you for a slightly better Tweetdeck experience

The new Tweetdeck app would include new premium tools including alerts, trends, and activity analysis tools; advanced analytics; advanced composing and posting tools; advanced audience analytics and insight tools; and tools to monitor multiple timelines from multiple accounts across multiple devices, reports Andrew Tavani. The reported cost for the new app? A monthly subscription fee of $19.99.

03.23.17 | 6:12 pm

Here’s your first look at Netflix’s “thumbs up” ratings system. (Buh-bye, stars.)

When a star burns out, it becomes a white dwarf. And as Fast Company reported last week, Netflix is about to have many white dwarves on its hands when the streaming service replaces its current star-based rating system with a thumbs-up option. At the time, the company had not provided any preview of what its icon would look like, so here's your first chance to gaze upon Netflix's new symbol of approval.

Photos Courtesy Of Netflix

03.23.17 | 6:00 pm

The Silicon Valley startup that wants to help build Trump’s wall is backed by Beijing

A new Department of Defense white paper has some in Washington concerned that the U.S. government isn't doing enough to back tech startups, and that China is rushing in to cover the deficit, according to the New York Times. That means the Chinese military, conceivably, could gain access to advanced U.S. technologies. 

One company that has taken investment from a state-backed investor is Quanergy, which last summer raised funds from the partly state-backed Chinese venture fund GP Capital. It's also said to be the only Silicon Valley startup that has expressed interest in President Trump's border wall, Dan Primack noted in his newsletter recently. Along with the spinning-laser sensors it makes for military driverless vehicles, Quanergy touts a security system billed as "the most complete and intelligent 3-D perimeter fencing and intrusion-detection system." 

While the technology may be compelling, the relationship to Chy-na is likely to rumple Trump's oversized suit. The Defense Dept. has sought to invest more money in startups, through entities like the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental. But if the government declines to partner with smaller innovative tech companies like Quanergy, China very well could. 

Image: Quanergy on YouTube