Posted Sep. 13, 2017 at 5:32 a.m.

Tech wrap: Autonomous car rules; Google appeals $2.9B fine; Toshiba chip sale; Balzan Prize winners

Published: 2017-09-13 05:32:14
Updated: 2017-09-13 05:32:14

Bulldog Bulldog

In today's Bulldog wrapup of technology and science news:

  • US updates self-driving car guidelines as more hit the road
  • Google appeals $2.9 billion EU fine even as it plans fixes
  • Toshiba agreement on sale to Bain-led consortium protested
  • 2 US scientists awarded Balzan Prize for cancer research

The details:

  • US updates self-driving car guidelines as more hit the road

The Trump administration on Tuesday unveiled updated safety guidelines for self-driving cars aimed at clearing barriers for automakers and tech companies wanting to get test vehicles on the road.

The new voluntary guidelines announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao update policies issued last fall by the Obama administration, which were also largely voluntary.

Chao emphasized that the guidelines aren't meant to force automakers to use certain technology or meet stringent requirements. Instead, they're designed to clarify what vehicle developers and states should consider as more test cars reach public roads.

"We want to make sure those who are involved understand how important safety is," Chao said during a visit to an autonomous vehicle testing facility at the University of Michigan. "We also want to ensure that the innovation and the creativity of our country remain."

Under Obama administration, automakers were asked to follow a 15-point safety assessment before putting test vehicles on the road. The new guidelines reduce that to a 12-point voluntary assessment, asking automakers to consider things like cybersecurity, crash protection, how the vehicle interacts with occupants and the backup plans if the vehicle encounters a problem. They no longer ask automakers to think about ethics or privacy issues or share information beyond crash data, as the previous guidelines did.

The guidelines also make clear that the federal government — not states — determines whether autonomous vehicles are safe. That is the same guidance the Obama administration gave.

  • Google appeals $2.9 billion EU fine even as it plans fixes

Google is appealing a $2.9 billion fine imposed by European Union regulators.

The EU had dinged the search giant for favoring shopping listings it gets paid for. Google's appeal comes even as it is working to comply with an order to give equal treatment to rival shopping services.

The appeal filed Monday was not made public. But Google's argument is expected to follow its June blog post in which it maintained that consumers expect to be taken directly to pages where they can buy products rather than to other online retailers where they may have to repeat searches.

Google also claimed it faces fierce competition from eBay and Amazon. It also submitted plans in August to give these rival online shopping services equal treatment to meet a second EU condition.

  • Toshiba agreement on sale to Bain-led consortium protested

Toshiba's long meandering sale of its computer memory business took another turn Wednesday, as the Japanese nuclear and electronics company's announcement of a deal with a consortium was immediately met with opposition from U.S. joint venture partner Western Digital.

Embattled Toshiba Corp. needs the sale of its lucrative NAND flash-memory SanDisk joint venture to survive. But Western Digital has begun legal action, opposing the sale to anyone else.

Toshiba sank into the red for the fiscal year through March. Its money-losing nuclear business in the U.S., Westinghouse Electric Co., filed for bankruptcy protection in March.

In the latest move, Toshiba said it entered a memorandum of understanding with Bain Capital Private Equity, which leads the consortium that also includes South Korea's SK Hynix, and hoped to enter a final decision by the end of this month.

But Western Digital protested within hours of the announcement.

"We are disappointed that Toshiba would take this action despite Western Digital's tireless efforts to reach a resolution that is in the best interests of all stakeholders," it said in a statement, stressing that it has also offered many proposals.

Toshiba said it was talking with two others bidders — Western Digital's consortium and another that includes Hon Hai.

  • 2 US scientists awarded Balzan Prize for cancer research

Two U.S. scientists whose work has contributed to creating immunological treatments for cancer are among the winners of this year's Balzan Prizes, announced Monday, recognizing scholarly and scientific achievements.

James Allison of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Robert Schreiber of the Washington University School of Medicine were cited for their work on antibody treatments that has increased the survival of patients with metastatic melanoma.

The Balzan Foundation awards two prizes in the sciences and two in the humanities each year, rotating specialties to highlight new or emerging areas of research and sustain fields that might be overlooked elsewhere. Recipients receive 750,000 Swiss francs ($790,000), half of which must be used for research, preferably by young scholars or scientists.

Nobel Prize-winner Jules Hoffman, a presenter of the awards, said the work focusing on using the immune system to fight cancer, expanding from the traditional treatments of removal, radiation and chemotherapy, has already had success in 25 to 30 percent of melanoma patients in a study who had previously gone through the traditional battery of treatments. It is now being developed for small cell lung cancer and rectal cancer.

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