No One’s Going to Stop Using Phones in the Car. Here’s How We Make That Safer – BY TODD GRECO 07.30.14 | 6:30 AM `


 Atsushi Yamada/Getty

My wife’s 10-year-old car has an expensive built-in navigation system, but anytime she drives out of Portland, she uses Waze on her iPhone. Besides being free, this “social driving” app (now owned by Google) is dramatically smarter and more useful than anything her Lexus offers, and proves its worth regularly, as it did when helping us route around a 30-minute traffic jam last month, on our way back from the Oregon coast. The dark screen of the car’s nav system makes a fine backrest for the phone, while Waze gleefully chimes in with accurate, crowdsourced traffic updates over the sound system via Bluetooth.

For all its utility, this is clearly not an ideal situation: It’s redundant, and the interface is far from optimal, or even entirely safe. Recent government regulation efforts are attempting to bring mobile use in cars under some kind of control, but ultimately it’s not a legislative problem. It’s a design problem.

Instead of trying to legislate this kind of behavior away, or pretending it doesn’t happen in the first place, we need to figure out how to make it work, safely and effectively. For interaction and user experience designers, this is a familiar problem of designing for context, except in this case, the context is a car.

Waze is already taking steps of its own to encourage safer use, warning drivers to not use the touch UI when the phone is in motion and–crucially–offering a voice interface instead. Newer aftermarket head units in cars, like those from Pioneer and Alpine, already allow voice control of all major phone activities over Bluetooth, including calling, answering and text messaging. Soon we’ll reach the point where our smartphones can push their screens wirelessly to large format in-car screens, custom-designed for rapid access and low distraction, and integrated with steering wheel controls. Two years from now, I expect technology that makes all of this to look quaint. Designing and developing for smartphones, after all, is far easier than it is for cars, which is why all the interesting things happen there.

American Billionaire Ronald Lauder Is Funding Africa’s Cheapest Car – 5/12/2014 @ 7:12PM

American billionaire Ronald Lauder has reportedly provided start-up capital to Mobius Motors, a startup Kenyan car-manufacturing company that plans to build Africa’s cheapest car.

According to a report by Kenya’s Business Daily, Lauder, who is worth about $3.8 billion, is offering Mobius Motors an undisclosed amount in debt which is convertible to equity. Mobius will use the money to assemble its first 50 units and establish a distribution network in Kenya.

Lauder is making the investment through his New York-based, African-focused investment vehicle, Pan African Investment Co (PIC), which makes impact investments in African companies providing solutions to some of Africa’s social problems.  PIC was founded in the summer of 2012 by Lauder and Dick Parsons, TimeWarner’s former CEO (who was just appointed interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team). The company makes investments in the region of $1 – $5 million and is run by Dana Reed, an investment banker who has done stints at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.



The car, dubbed ‘Mobius’, was developed by 29 year-old Kenyan computer engineer Joel Jackson and will cost $10,000. Mobius, which is devised for off-roading in Africa, cuts down on its production costs by eliminating non-essential parts like power steering and air conditioning. Jackson and his team had initially planned for the car to cost $6,000, but as a result of the increasing cost of procuring steel spare parts, Mobius has had to raise its selling price to $10,000 to make the product commercially viable.  But even at $10,000, Jackson believes his car is a preferable option to acquiring a pre-owned vehicle for the same amount. The start-up claims it has received pre-orders. The cars will be manufactured in a facility in Thika, an industrial town 40 kilometers north east of Nairobi. The company will start by manufacturing 50 units in June and will increase production in 2015. The startup also plans to develop an upgraded version of the Mobius, dubbed Mobius III, which will be produced in 2016.

Dana Reed, the CEO of PIC, told the Kenyan newspaper that the company is investing in Mobius to “help create value in the company while driving job growth and entrepreneurism in Kenya.”

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Written before verdict was announced: ‘Stand-Your-Ground’s Race Problem – Four Blunt Points on the Jordan Davis Shooting By Paul M. Barrett February 13, 2014

Michael Dunn on the stand during his trial in Jacksonville, Fla.

Photograph by Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union via AP Photo
Michael Dunn on the stand during his trial in Jacksonville, Fla.

The jury is out on whether Michael Dunn committed first-degree murder when he shot and killed Jordan Davis at a Florida gas station in November 2012. Whatever conclusion jurors reach, though, the Jacksonville “loud music” case ought to be seen as a reckoning for “stand your ground” laws such as Florida’s, which allow people to use deadly force in response to a reasonable fear their lives are threatened.

Davis’ pointless death—whether or not it’s ultimately deemed the result of premeditated murder—illustrates the need to rethink whether stand your ground encourages racially tinged paranoia likely to lead to the killing of young black men.

1. Dunn’s legal fate should turn on particular facts, not ideology. The deadly encounter began when the 47-year-old software developer asked four black teenagers to turn down the music thumping from their car. They complied, then cranked the volume back up. Davis, 17, cursed at Dunn. The older man claims he thought Davis was armed with a shotgun. Dunn reached into his glove box, pulled out his pistol, and fired 10 times at the teenagers’ car, killing Davis. Police did not find a shotgun or other weapon in the victims’ car.

In crucial testimony, Dunn’s fiancé contradicted him and said Dunn never mentioned to her after the shooting that Davis was armed. Dunn’s behavior after the incident doesn’t help his defense. He and his fiancé drove back to their hotel room, walked his dog, ordered pizza, had a drink, and went to sleep. Dunn learned from a news report that he’d killed someone at the gas station, but still didn’t call police. Instead, he and his companion drove two-and-a-half miles home to Brevard County, where he was finally arrested as the result of a witness having written down his license plate number.

2. Based on those facts, Dunn clearly and unnecessarily precipitated the violence, whatever verdict the jury reaches. Recall the Feb. 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, which also occurred in Florida. Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was acquitted in Martin’s death. I stand by myassessment of that case: Zimmerman bore moral responsibility for Martin’s death, even though the jury had ample reason, based on the murky facts of that case, to find reasonable doubt about the severe criminal charges prosecutors brought. There is a difference between fault and criminal liability. Zimmerman recklessly got out of his vehicle and initiated the confrontation that ended with Martin’s pointless death.

Dunn is at fault in the death of Jordan Davis, regardless of whether the jury has reasonable doubt about whether Dunn committed premeditated first-degree murder. Dunn initiated an unnecessary confrontation at the gas station. He could have ignored the loud music. He could have stepped out of his car and joined his fiance in the convenience store. Once the teenagers defied his demand that they reduce the volume, Dunn again had an opportunity to take the high ground and just suffer what he considered unpleasant noise. Once he chose violence, Dunn’s conduct suggests a man entirely out of control: He fired a lot of rounds—10—into the adjacent car, and kept firing even after the teenagers pulled away. His bizarre failure to notify the authorities—the dog walking, pizza munching, alcohol imbibing, hotel sleeping, and driving home—undercuts his claim to have been so severely traumatized by the gas station encounter that he felt compelled to blast away with his pistol.

3. However the Dunn case turns out, Florida and other states need to rethink their stand-your-ground laws. What unfolded between Dunn and Davis suggests strongly that gun-toting civilians, as well as society at large, would benefit by an obligation to retreat, if possible, in the face of a perceived–and I stress perceived–threat. Leave to one side the debate about concealed-carry laws that allow gun owners to drive around with their weapons in their glove compartments. Let’s assume for the sake of this discussion that concealed carry is legal (as in fact it is in most of the country). It stands to reason that someone like Dunn would be much less likely to reach for his pistol–as opposed to walking or driving away–if there were no stand-your-ground statute in place to encourage him to escalate a dispute over music volume to a life-or-death confrontation. Surely in his heart of hearts, Dunn today wishes that he’d merely overlooked the sounds from the adjacent car. And obviously Davis’ grieving family wishes he had. Civilization requires tolerance for non-threatening behavior we don’t relish.

4. The Dunn case underscores the unavoidable racial subtext of stand-your-ground. Dunn was annoyed by what he described to his fiance as “thug music.” The word “thug” has become thinly veiled code for black. Can any dispassionate observer contemplate this interaction between a white middle-class man and four arguably rambunctious black teenagers and not see that some combination of fear and animosity on Dunn’s part contributed to the deadly outcome?

Given American history, unease about racial differences is inevitable. Disliking hip-hop or resenting rude behavior by a group of teenagers seems perfectly reasonable. Reaching for a semiautomatic handgun does not. As stand-your-ground has become the justification for deaths such as those of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, the law undermines decades of hard-earned progress on civil rights.