Michigan Plans

Michigan plans to redesign a stretch of road for self-driving cars – CNN

Washington, DC (CNN)Michigan announced Thursday that it’s teaming with tech and auto companies to attempt to retrofit a roughly 40-mile stretch of two roads outside Detroit exclusively for self-driving vehicles.

Michigan’s partners include Ford and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a company that Alphabet has invested in. Alphabet owns Google (GOOG) and Waymo, one of the companies at the forefront of developing self-driving vehicles.
Both Interstate 94 and Michigan Avenue between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, would be retrofitted to include a dedicated lane for self-driving vehicles. Sensors and cameras added to the roads would help the vehicles better understand their surroundings. Physical barriers may be added as well, which would make it easier for the vehicles to drive safely, as the location of pedestrians and cyclists could be restricted.
Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners has created a subsidiary, Cavnue, which Michigan selected to lead the project. Automakers Ford, GM (GM), BMW, Honda and Toyota will advise Cavnue.
The leaders of the Michigan project haven’t concluded exactly which infrastructure changes will be made, saying that testing is needed first to determine the details. Jonathan Winer, co-founder of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, told CNN Business that cameras and LIDAR, a popular sensor on autonomous vehicles, could be used.
The project’s exact route also hasn’t been determined yet. Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners would pay the still-to-be-determined initial costs to install the new infrastructure, and Michigan is open to the possibility of paying for maintenance costs if the project moves forward.
“We believe this is a transformative project for Michigan, and globally,” Michigan chief mobility officer Trevor Pawl told CNN Business. “Mobility is foundational to our city’s history and critical to our future.” He noted there have been almost 10,000 fatal car crashes in Michigan in the last decade, adding that he expected self-driving vehicles to improve safety.
Hype surrounding self-driving cars has lessened in recent years as companies realize how challenging it is to make a car that can drive safely. Making left turns or gauging the intent of a pedestrian can be difficult. Some companies, including Ford, have pushed back deadlines for deploying the vehicles.
The self-driving industry and governments have shown increased willingness to change city infrastructure to make it easier to deploy the cars quickly. In Las Vegas, traffic lights have been retrofitted to alert the self-driving cars that Aptiv and Lyft are testing when they change colors so the vehicles can more easily navigate intersections.
Winer said it was unclear how much it would cost to retrofit roads for self-driving vehicles, but he said his best guess is $10 million a mile. It could be significantly more or less, he said.
Whether roads could be retrofitted at a cost-effective level is critical to the project being implemented. Following two years of tests, the sides will determine whether to move forward with building the 40 miles. Winer said his company is also considering similar projects nationwide.
Pawl said Michigan was open to paying costs to maintain any new infrastructure, and would look for federal funds to do so.
In the next six months, self-driving vehicles will be tested between Detroit and Ann Arbor on the existing roads.
In the next two years, a one-mile test stretch of modified road would be built at the American Center for Mobility, an organization based outside Ann Arbor that tests self-driving vehicles.
The project leaders say the self-driving lanes will incorporate buses, and they expect it to improve transportation for everyone by offering faster, safer trips. Winer said if transit and congestion weren’t improved in initial tests, the project wouldn’t move forward.
Pawl said Michigan is being careful about the employment impacts of self-driving vehicles. He said new jobs could be created with autonomous buses, such as remote operators and someone to monitor the buses and greet riders.
He said the state is considering other issues as well, such as emergency vehicles and pedestrian crossings.
“Let’s say part of the AV lane [has a barrier]. How does any ambulance or someone that needs to get over immediately do so?” Pawl said. “Those are things we’re really going to have to think about to get this right.”
Pawl said that the state of Michigan would be looking to the federal government for guidelines to determine if a self-driving vehicle is safe enough to operate in the reserved lanes. But Congress has moved slowly on self-driving vehicle regulations amid concerns over safety, privacy and the role of state and local governments. Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said he didn’t expect autonomous vehicle legislation to advance this year.
Earlier this year, the US Department of Transportation released updated guidelines for self-driving cars with the intent to promote American development in autonomous vehicles.

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Plans Theaters

AMC Theaters plans to reopen more than 100 locations in the US starting August 20th – The Verge

AMC Theaters has detailed its plans to reopen movie theaters throughout the US, in addition to a new deadline for its MoviePass-style A-List subscription, in an email sent to customers on Wednesday.

Starting August 20th, AMC plans to have more than 100 theaters open, and it says it will continue opening locations “such that about two-thirds of our theatres across the country should be open no later than September 3.” AMC has repeatedly delayed its reopening as spread of the coronavirus has caused massive spikes in positive cases in parts of the US that have started to ease restrictions.

The company, the largest theater chain in the country, operates around 600 theaters in the US. But AMC has faced significant challenges to its business throughout the COVID-19 pandemic due to forced closures and a near-standstill in Hollywood releases, causing AMC to furlough large swaths of its corporate workforce as it edged close to bankruptcy.

“The remaining AMC locations will open after we get further clearance from state and local authorities that it is safe to do so,” the company writes in an email sent to AMC A-List members. As part of its new safety measures, AMC says all staff and customers must wear masks, following a controversial remark from AMC CEO Adam Aron in June in which he suggested mask-wearing among customers would be encouraged but not mandatory.

The email says customers “can expect continuous extra cleaning and disinfecting of high traffic areas,” that hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes would be widely available, and that AMC will “significantly limit seating capacity in our auditoriums.” The company claims it will use “high-tech HEPA vacuums” and “upgraded MERV 13 air filters wherever possible .”

Among the movies AMC plans to screen as part of its reopening include Disney’s The New Mutants starting August 28th and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet starting September 3rd. “As for library titles, we will be showing all of these beloved movies on the big screens of AMC: Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast, Black Panther, Bloodshot, Ghostbusters, Goonies, Grease, I Still Believe, Jumanji: The Next Level, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.”

As for A-List, AMC’s subscription service that lets customers see up to three movies per week, the company says current subscribers who have had plans put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic now have until December 1st, 2020 to reactivate or cancel the membership. Starting on that day, AMC says it will begin charging customers again.

“Now, we have created the ability for you to control when your A-List membership is reactivated. You can choose to resume your A-List membership any time between now and December 1, 2020. We will send you an email when your favorite theatre is open and then, and only when you feel ready to return to our theatres, simply visit your account on our mobile app or website to reactivate your membership. Then, you will be able to start making A-List movie reservations immediately,” the email reads.

AMC says its customers can cancel at any time, and that it plans to communicate any changes to the subscription, including its plan to begin charging again, “well in advance.” The company says it is making a number of other changes to its A-List subscription designed to give the company more control over pricing changes.

For one, AMC says it is reducing the window in which it can make “program changes,” in other words price increases, from 90 days to 30 days starting December 1st. It’s also removing the ability to earn rewards points on the monthly subscription fee for A-List on that date, too. But AMC is guaranteeing that it will not raise the price of A-List, which costs anywhere from $19.95 to $23.95 a month depending on the market, until spring of next year.

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headquarters Plans

REI plans to sell new headquarters in Bellevue and focus on remote working –

REI Co-op is pursuing the sale its newly completed campus in Bellevue while the company puts more focus on remote learning.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — REI Co-op is looking to sell its newly completed corporate campus in Bellevue’s Spring District.

REI announced Wednesday it will “lean into remote working” for employees, with smaller headquarters spread across Puget Sound.

“The dramatic events of 2020 have challenged us to reexamine and rethink every aspect of our business and many of the assumptions of the past. That includes where and how we work,” said REI President and CEO Eric Artz in a video call with employees. “As a result, our new experience of “headquarters” will be very different than the one we imagined more than four years ago.”

REI transitioned most of its headquarters staff to remote work in early March.

The outdoor retail giant announced its plans for a new headquarters in 2016. Construction began in 2018 for a mid-summer 2020 transition from its headquarters in Kent.

The sale will have financial benefits, according to REI, enabling “important investments in customer innovations, REI’s network of nonprofit partners, and the co-op’s carbon goals.”

“I am confident that the sale of the Spring District campus would have a positive impact on REI’s future—and yours,” Artz told employees. “This year has shown us our home is not a building. Our home is wherever we find ourselves doing our best work, pursuing our outdoor passions, serving our communities. Serving each other. That is what we will build around as we move forward—and as we accelerate into what’s next.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan addressed the impact of coronavirus on Puget Sound businesses, including REI. 

“It is going to be really difficult for our downtown core to recover if we don’t have the workers coming back to our downtown core,” Durkan said. “And so every time I see one of these companies adjusting and right-sizing, I know that it affects our economy.”

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Microsoft Plans

Microsoft Has ‘No Plans’ to End Xbox Live Gold Service – IGN

Microsoft has said that it has “no plans” to bring an end to its Xbox Live Gold service, despite having discontinued 12 month subscription options.In a statement sent to The Verge, Microsoft said: “We have no plans to discontinue Xbox Live Gold at this time. It is an important part of gaming on Xbox today, and will continue to be in the future.”Xbox Live Gold refers specifically to the paid subscription service that provides access to online multiplayer, as well as monthly free games, on Xbox consoles. The recent discontinuation of 12 month Gold subscriptions, as well as the announcement that Halo Infinite will feature a free-to-play multiplayer suite, fueled speculation that paid-for Xbox multiplayer was soon to be discontinued. However, Microsoft’s statement suggests the Xbox Live Gold service will continue.

The same statement also states that “There are no changes being made to the experience of the service or Xbox Live Gold,” which means we shouldn’t expect Microsoft to pivot Gold into a slightly different service. It would be easy to speculate that perhaps free-to-play multiplayer may not require a Gold subscription, but that seems to not be the current case. All that we can say at the moment is that Xbox Live Gold will continue, but paid for via monthly or 3-month payment plans.

Confirmed Xbox Series X Games

With that in mind, it looks like PC players will be able to take advantage of free Halo Infinite multiplayer, as a Gold subscription is not required for Microsoft’s PC games. Xbox players, meanwhile, will likely need a Gold subscription to play a few rounds of Slayer.

Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer.

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change Plans

DHS plans to change military-style camouflage uniforms seen in Portland – The Washington Post

The United States continues to grapple with the reckoning spurred by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, as the Department of Homeland Security says it is swapping out the military-style camouflage uniforms that U.S. border agents wore on the streets of Portland, Ore., last month.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) said the city is working to pair new police officers with “the right individuals” for training, while Aurora, Colo., which has faced scrutiny after the death of Elijah McClain last year, has chosen Vanessa Wilson as its new police chief, the first woman to permanently lead the agency.
  • Tulsa officials temporarily suspended an order to remove a Black Lives Matter display after protesters placed symbolic tombstones bearing the names of Black people shot by police or killed in the city’s 1921 race massacre.
  • The House Intelligence Committee is opening an investigation into the activities of the Intelligence and Analysis Office at DHS, which compiled “intelligence reports” on journalists.
  • The second-ranking official at DHS, Ken Cuccinelli, told lawmakers Tuesday that the department will change its uniforms after complaints about their “militarylike appearance” at protests.

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Back-to-College Plans

Back-to-College Plans Devolve Into a Jumble of Fast-Changing Rules – The Wall Street Journal

Spelman College announced on July 1 that the Atlanta campus would welcome back students to dorms and classrooms for the fall semester. Last week it reversed course. Classes would be online only.

In Waterville, Maine, Colby College plans to open most of its campus to students and faculty with one of the more ambitious testing protocols in higher education. The small school expects to administer about 85,000 Covid-19 tests this fall, including testing students, faculty and staff at least three times during the opening weeks…

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defer Plans

NFL plans to defer to the lawyer Daniel Snyder has hired – NBC Sports – NFL

Getty Images

The stage is set for Daniel Snyder to emerge from the biggest scandal of his two-plus decades years of ownership without facing serious scrutiny from the league office.

The inescapable clue appears smack dab in the middle of the league’s statement in response to the Washington Post article regarding 15 former female employees who claim that they were the victims of sexual harassment while working for the Washington franchise: “Washington has engaged outside counsel to conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations. The club has pledged that it will give its full cooperation to the investigator and we expect the club and all employees to do so. We will meet with the attorneys upon the conclusion of their investigation and take any action based on their findings.”

Washington has engaged outside counsel, not the NFL. Outside counsel always has a duty to outside counsel’s client. Here, outside counsel’s client is Washington. More specifically, the client is Snyder. Outside counsel undoubtedly will not make findings that include, for example, placing significant blame on Snyder for creating, tolerating, encouraging, and/or failing to rectify a toxic culture that resulted in these allegations.

Amazingly, the league has decided both to allow and to embrace this approach. Did the Saints get to hire their own lawyer to investigate the bounty scandal? Did the Dolphins get to hire their own lawyer to investigate the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin situation? Did the Patriots get to hire their own lawyer to investigate the Tom Brady air-pressure allegations? Far more relevant to the current situation, did the Panthers get to hire their own lawyer to investigate the allegations of misconduct that eventually forced team founder Jerry Richardson to sell?

The table in this case already is set for the outside counsel to find Snyder blameless, primarily because none of the 15 former female employees made accusations against him. Yes, it may take some smart lawyering to insulate Snyder without making him look like a nincompoop for not knowing what was happening under his nose, but he has hired a smart lawyer.

Tied closely to whether the lawyer hired by Snyder will conclude that Snyder has significant responsibility for the workplace environment in the workplace he owns comes the question of whether and to what extent the investigation will feature transparency. If/when (when) the league and/or the team decide to provide little or nothing by way of details because the situation deals with “personnel matters,” there will be no way to check outside counsel’s work in order to determine whether a fair, even-handed investigation and analysis occurred as it relates to Snyder’s role, responsibility, and accountability.

But the answer already is known. Washington, not the NFL, has hired outside counsel. The NFL has accepted and endorsed that approach. The chances of Snyder himself ultimately being responsible for anything that happened during his 21 years of owning the team are, at this point, very small.

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Plans Prescott

Dak Prescott plans to sign franchise tag by Monday, source says – ESPN

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott plans to sign his $31.4 million exclusive franchise tender by Monday, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The two sides still have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. The Cowboys had placed the franchise tag on Prescott on March 18.

By signing his franchise tender, Prescott will be contractually obligated to report to training camp on time, whether or not he and the Cowboys can figure out a long-term deal.

Prescott’s decision to sign the franchise tender is not an indication that a long-term agreement is close, league sources told ESPN’s Ed Werder.

The fact that Prescott will be one of the highest-paid players in the NFL — and the potential his franchise tag increases by a mandatory 20% next season to $37.7 million with a flat or lower cap in 2021 — is incentive for Dallas to secure a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline.

Said one source of the pressure on the Cowboys: “Their problem is the second year, because this salary cap is going to crash unless there’s an intermediate deal. They would have to gut their team to keep him then. So there’s even more incentive for the Cowboys to do a long-term deal with Dak because of the coronavirus and where the cap might be next year.”

This offseason, the Cowboys made a long-term offer to Prescott that would put him among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, ESPN’s Todd Archer previously reported. Seattle‘s Russell Wilson is the highest paid at $35 million per season, followed by Pittsburgh‘s Ben Roethlisberger at $34 million.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones have repeatedly expressed their belief that Prescott is the team’s quarterback of the future and capable of leading the franchise back to a Super Bowl. Prescott, who turns 27 on July 29, has said on multiple occasions that he never wanted to leave the Cowboys.

The Cowboys had hoped to sign Prescott to an extension last offseason that would have guaranteed him nine figures, but the quarterback bet on himself, willing to play for $2.02 million in 2019.

Prescott completed 388 of 596 passes for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdown passes last season. Despite career highs in yardage and touchdowns, Prescott had his worst record as a starter (8-8) as the Cowboys missed the playoffs. His growth as a passer, however, was obvious as the Cowboys had two 1,000-yard receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

The Cowboys took Prescott with their second pick of the fourth round in the 2016 draft — a compensatory pick at No. 135 overall. When Tony Romo went down in the 2016 preseason with a back injury, the Cowboys were forced to turn to Prescott, and he has started each of Dallas’ 64 games since.

Prescott was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 2016 after throwing 23 touchdown passes to four interceptions as Dallas went 13-3. The Cowboys had home-field advantage in the NFC but lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Green Bay Packers on a last-second field goal.

In 2018, Prescott guided the Cowboys back to the playoffs after a 3-5 start and won his first postseason game in the wild-card round against the Seahawks. The Cowboys lost in the divisional round to the Los Angeles Rams.

In his four seasons, Prescott ranks among the top five quarterbacks in wins (40), passing touchdowns (97), rushing TDs (21) and Total QBR (68), becoming one of the NFL’s biggest bargains. He earned $4 million in salary and signing bonus the past four seasons.

Prescott has thrown for 15,778 yards with 36 interceptions in his career. He has 12 300-yard passing games, one behind Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman for second in team history. Prescott’s 21 career rushing touchdowns is one more than Hall of Famer Roger Staubach for the most by a quarterback in team history.

ESPN’s Todd Archer contributed to this report.

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Company Plans

Company plans space tourism flights in high-altitude balloon – CBS News

Researchers, armchair astronauts and even brides and grooms looking for an out-of-this-world wedding experience will be able to celebrate, collect data or simply enjoy the view from an altitude of 100,000 feet in a balloon-borne pressurized cabin, complete with a bar and a restroom, a space startup announced Thursday.

“Spaceship Neptune,” operated by a company called Space Perspective from leased facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, will carry eight passengers at a time on six-hour flights. The passenger cabin, lifted by a huge hydrogen-filled balloon, will climb at a sedate 12 mph to an altitude of about 30 miles high. That will be followed by a slow descent to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean where a recovery ship will be standing by to secure the cabin and crew.

Test flights carrying scientific research payloads are expected to begin in 2021. The first flights carrying passengers are expected within the next three-and-a-half years or so, with piloted test flights before that.

Space tourists enjoy the view from 100,000 feet in this artist’s impression of a ride aloft in Space Perspective’s balloon-borne “Neptune” crew cabin.

Space Perspective

While the company initially will operate out of the Florida spaceport, the system could be launched from multiple sites around the world, with Hawaii and Alaska near-term possibilities.

Ticket prices for crewed flights have not yet been set, but company officials said Thursday the initial cost will probably be in the neighborhood of $125,000 per passenger. That’s about half what space tourists can expect to pay for sub-orbital flights aboard rocket-powered spaceplanes like those being developed by Virgin Galactic, which are designed to reach altitudes of more than 50 miles.

Spaceship Neptune will fly well under that altitude and passengers will not experience weightlessness, but they will still be above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere, nearly twice as high as the supersonic Concorde once flew. And unlike shorter sub-orbital rocket flights that only spend a few minutes at the top of their trajectory, Neptune passengers will enjoy two hours at peak altitude, taking in the view through large, wrap-around windows.

“One of the amazing things about the design we’e been able to work up is the ability to have events, things like weddings, corporate events. I can’t wait to see spiritual leaders flying with political leaders,” said Space Perspective founder and co-CEO Taber MacCallum.

“I think we’re going to see a wide variety of flights. Science flights are going to be really interesting, mixing tourism and science. The imagination runs wild. We’re getting lots of interest in all types of great ideas.”

Space Perspective has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA and the company has arranged to lease a facility at the 3-mile-long runway once used by returning space shuttles. Neptune flights will be regulated by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Spaceflight.

An artist’s impression of a Space Perspective balloon and crew module high above Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. The company plans to begin test flights from the Kennedy Space Center next year.

Space Perspective

“Space Perspective is bringing a fundamentally new capability to the Cape, which will enhance the offering we have in Florida for space-related research and tourism,” Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said in a statement. “Its presence here in Florida creates not just job and supply chain opportunities, but opportunities for civilian astronauts to experience this planet Earth from the edge of space, a privilege previously available to only a few.”

MacCallum and co-CEO Jane Poynter said extensive market research showed untapped interest in such flights across a broad spectrum of users.

“When we take all the people that we want to take to the edge of space, we want them to really be able to experience what astronauts talk about, seeing the Earth in space (and) doing it comfortably, gently and accessibly,” Poynter said during a teleconference.

“There’ll be eight people at a time, with a crew member in the capsule. And of course, you’ll be able to connect with your friends on the ground. And we’ll have some really great communication systems so that we can have all kinds of live events up there as well. The whole capsule has been designed to be really flexible to allow for all kinds of things to go on and up in the space environment.”

As for weddings, she said Neptune will provide “the best place to get married, ever.”

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Apple Plans

Apple Plans to Announce Move to Its Own Mac Chips at WWDC – Bloomberg

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