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Toyota says selling full-electric vehicles is less eco-friendly

Image: AFP/Getty Images


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The car industry is in a state of flux at the moment due to a slow transition away from gas-guzzling engines to full electric alternatives with hybrids in the middle. Toyota, which currently doesn’t sell a fully-electric vehicle in the US, believes electric vehicles are actually less eco-friendly than hybrids, and it has a valid reason to back up that claim.

As Popular Mechanics reports, Toyota’s Gerald Killmann, vice president of research and development for Europe, explained the thinking behind the company’s focus on hybrids over full-electric vehicles during the Geneva Motor Show 2019. The problem is one of battery production and allocation.

According to Killmann, Toyota’s battery manufacturing capacity is currently 28,000 units per year if the batteries are required to power full-electric vehicles. However, if instead that manufacturing is dedicated to batteries for use in hybrids where they sit alongside a more conventional gasoline engine, then Toyota can produce 1.5 million vehicles.

Toyota therefore views hybrids as having the more positive environmental impact because replacing 1.5 million gas guzzlers with hybrids means a much lower carbon footprint than 28,000 full electric vehicles would.

In the short term this makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons. Having an inventory of 1.5 million low carbon vehicles to sell will generate more profit than 28,000 full electric vehicles. By embracing hybrids, Toyota is giving itself time to steadily increase battery production without massive investment being required upfront.

This way of thinking also suggests we could see Toyota move to offer all hybrids as a priority before refocusing to transition to all electric eventually. We also can’t forget that Toyota is pushing for hydrogen-powered vehicles, with the Mirai being a prime example.

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Philadelphia just banned cashless stores. Good.

What a novel idea.
What a novel idea.

Image: Paul Bradbury / getty

Cash hasn’t been dethroned, yet. 

In the age of Square, Apple Pay, and Amazon Go, buying a sandwich or beer with paper money may feel like a throwback to simpler, neolithic times. But on Feb. 27, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney signed into law a bill requiring that stores accept cash. So those times are guaranteed at least a temporary reprieve from an otherwise looming extinction. 

That is a very good thing.

The bill, which takes effect July 1, represents the first time a major U.S. city has codified into law the requirement for most businesses to accept cash. It seeks to counter a move to cashless stores, which critics have called out as both an invasion of privacy and a form of discrimination against the poor and unbanked. 

“Most of the people who don’t have credit tend to be lower income, minority, immigrants,” Philadelphia city councilman William Greenlee, who introduced the bill, told the Wall Street Journal. “It just seemed to me, if not intentional, at least a form of discrimination.” 

Greenlee isn’t the only one who’s troubled by the encroachment of a cashless society. As the New York Times reports, the governments of New Jersey, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington are all debating similar bills. 

The move by businesses away from cash — exemplified by the likes of the upscale Blue Bottle coffee chain, which is trying out a cash-banning experiment starting this month — is a boon for data-hungry credit card companies. Visa went so far as to, in the words of spokesperson Andy Gerlt to the Associated Press, officially “[declare] war on cash” in 2017.

In the age of surveillance capitalism and nonstop data breaches, this should worry you. Having every single transaction you make recorded and sent to several third parties, where that record lives on in perpetuity, sets the stage for a time when every questionable purchase — like buying drinks at a credit card company flagged bar, or, say, a chrome skull — can come back to haunt you.

Having the option to pay in cash allows people to spend their money how they want, without the very real fear that their purchases might be used against them in some presently unforeseeable way.  

But back to the more tangible idea of cashless societies discriminating against the poor. Mayor Kenney’s spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that 26 percent of Philadelphia residents are below the poverty line. Many of those, he told the paper, are unbanked. 

Seeing a “no cash accepted here” sign might, for those without access to credit cards or other forms of digital payment, read as the equivalent as a warning telling them to stay away. Philadelphia, and many other cities, are attempting to head that future off at the pass. 

Time will tell if they succeed. 

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This backflipping mini ‘cheetah’ bot sure is a goddamn show off

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Look, we get it. Robots are here and they’re totally awesome and everything. But do they have to be so goddamn cocky about it? 

MIT’s new backflipping “mini cheetah robot” is the latest addition to a long line of electronic showoffs reminding us that we’ll never be as agile as something cooked up in a lab. 

“At only 20 pounds the limber quadruped can bend and swing its legs wide, enabling it to walk either right side up or upside down,” writes MIT — definitely not rubbing it in that we can’t walk upside down — in a description of the Feb. 28 video. 

But wait, there’s more. “The robot can also trot over uneven terrain about twice as fast as an average person’s walking speed.” 

Oh gee, great. Getting away from this four-legged reminder of our own inadequacy now requires jogging

Sigh. If there’s one thing this new cheetah bot makes clear, it’s that the robot apocalypse will be heavy on the shame factor. 

Instagram is the most used platform for grooming crimes, report finds

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Image: Getty Images

The most used platform for groomers is Instagram, according to an NSPCC report based on police data

Grooming is defined by the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) as the act of building an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purpose of sexual abuse or exploitation. The NSPCC report found that grooming cases involves one major social media platform or another in 70 percent of cases where the method is revealed by police, with Instagram being the most popular. 

The NSPCC found that Instagram was used in 32 percent of those instances, Facebook in 23 percent, and Snapchat in 14 percent, citing data obtained from police under Freedom of Information laws. The data shows that the use of Instagram as a tool for grooming has seen a 200 percent increase from 2017 to 2018 (over a period of approximately 18 months). 

Sexual communication with a child has been a criminal offence since 2017, in the period since then more than 5000 instances have been recorded, the NSPCC found. The data also shows that girls aged 12 to 15 were most likely to be targeted by groomers. 

“These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks.”

“Keeping young people safe on our platforms is our top priority and child exploitation of any kind is not allowed,” a spokesperson for Facebook and Instagram said in a statement emailed to Mashable. “We use advanced technology and work closely with the police and CEOP (The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) to aggressively fight this type of content and protect young people.” 

Facebook and Instagram also said that it removes 99.2 percent of content relating to child exploitation or nudity before it’s reported, and that it works hard to block users searching for known child exploitative terms. 

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said in a statement that politicians must step in to help combat grooming, since platforms are still failing to protect its youngest users, after “10 years of failed self-regulation.” 

“These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks,” Wanless said. 

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