<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Tech News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/tech http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Thu, 26 Nov 2015 06:42:19 -0800 Thu, 26 Nov 2015 06:42:19 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Coding Academy Develops Tech Projects By East Palo Alto Residents]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 21:41:39 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/EPA+HACKATHON+PHOTO.jpg

A coding academy in East Palo Alto hosts annual hackathons and coding classes that connect residents with the tech industry.

At StreetCode Academy’s hackathon last week, EPA resident Jose Guzman, 18, created a virtual reality based on his mom’s reality immigrating from Guatemala.

“At first she was scared to drive behind the wheel and that put the thought into me like hey, what if you can practice driving skills virtually?”

He developed a driving simulator after just a few coding lessons. The Academy pairs Stanford students and tech insiders with EPA residents for two days to develop projects.

Jose’s project took first place and won him $500.

“StreetCode is filling that void by offering the East Palo Alto community technology and giving them the exposure that they need,” said Jonathan Bryant, Program Manager at StreetCode.

Second place went to “Everything two dollars dot com,” a website an EPA resident created for his product delivery service.

“I noticed there was something missing and that was a personal delivery service that had quality goods at a reasonable price that people in my community could afford,” said Lavell Russell, CEO of Everything Two Dollars.com.

Fifteen hundred products will be on the site in December for just two bucks. Delivery is also two dollars. A fleet of drivers have already been hired.

“It’s like 99 cent store on steroids,” said Russell. “While you’re studying or while you’re at work I’m doing all the hard work getting the products that you need to your home.”

Home-grown solutions technologically mastered by neighborhood techies is the goal of the organization.

“Everyone is trying to solve problems that they are familiar with and when you come from a community like EPA you’re surrounded by problem that are a lot different than most people are trying to deal with,” said Luke Wilson, Mentor at Streetcode. “It’s absolutely vital that these problems are being solved by the people who live here.”

StreetCode will start more classes four nights a week starting in January.

Photo Credit: Ryann Vargas\NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[New Voice for Mass. Teen]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 21:17:52 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/Max+Plansky+112515.jpg

We all have unique voices - with their pitches and their tones, they belong to us.

But for Max Plansky, a Massachusetts teen who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, the voice he uses is not his own.

"I have 'Perfect Pete' on my device because it was the only American male voice on my device," Max said. "I chose it, but there were not many choices."

It's the voice used by many who are non-verbal - and for Max, it's not him.

"I think my voice sounds like my dad's voice," he said.

But Vocal ID, a new technology, is changing that. Founder Rupal Patel has created a way to make a voice just for Max.

"In the case of someone like Max, he never spoke," said Patel. "So it's sort of what he would have sounded like had he been able to control his tongue and lips and so on."

But Max can make a vowel sound - in this case, "ah."

"There are three 'ahs' that he was able to produce in a row for us, which you can hear," said Geoff Meltzner, the director of research and technology for Vocal ID.

"We're taking that sample and mixing it with a matched donor that we find from our database," said Patel. "The matched donor has to be matched in age, in gender, in acoustic quality, and then we bring those two together."

Patel says Max will have his new voice before Christmas of this year - it's a gift both he and father, never thought they'd have.

"It's very emotional. Thank God he can say 'daddy' and some other words," said Michael Plansky. "But for him then to be able to carry on other conversations, and it be in his voice, we just anticipate that we're going to be able to get away from yes-no questions and actually have conversations."

"I do think I will like the way my new voice sounds more," said Max.

Students in Max's hometown are helping out - Danvers High School held a voice drive to contribute to Vocal ID's database.

Students donated about five hours of their weekend to record sentences which will be broken down into sounds to create someone's new voice.

"I love helping people out," said senior Madison Mucci. "Just the thought of changing someone's life is amazing."

Changing someone's life one sentence at a time is a goal that Patel says will be achieved. Her company is growing, and so is the donor database.

This year, Max will be one of the first with a new voice - a trailblazer for what she hopes will, one day, be the norm.

"We wouldn't give a little girl the prosthetic limb of a grown man, so why would we give her the same prosthetic voice? That's exactly what we're doing," said Patel. "There are little girls around the world that are using voices like the Stephen Hawking voice."

So what does she hope for Max?

"I hope he engages more fully in conversations," she said. "I hope he seeks out more communication partners. I hope he seeks out more opportunities to express who he is.

And that's exactly what Max is hoping for, too.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Martin Shkreli Discusses 'Most Hated CEO' Title]]> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 19:56:37 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/1124-2015-MartinShkreli.jpg

How do you get to be called the “Most hated CEO in America?”

It’s almost tough – scamming investors? Making a Croesus-like salary?

If you’re Martin Shkreli, it happened when he dramatically raised the price of a life-saving drug. His response?

“The spotlight doesn’t matter to me,” he says, as he settles into his newest role, as CEO of San Francisco’s KaloBios.

It should be mentioned, that while web headlines called him (and I quote) an “a**hole,” and even Hillary Clinton chastised him on Twitter for boosting a drug from $13.50 a pill to $750, investors cheered his move to the Bay Area.

When Shkreli announced his plan to buy a majority of the KaloBios (KBIO) shares, and become the company’s new CEO, the stock shot up 4,000 percent.

And, speaking to us from the nearly empty KaloBios HQ (Shkreli says he has plans to “double, maybe triple” the staff of 12 in the next few months), Shkreli remains defiant. “At the end of the day my constituency is not the media, it's my investors, and the patients who we all work for together."
Drug development is expensive. Shkreli says he’ll spend lots of money to help KaloBios’ future drugs, focused on fighting leukemia.

Scott covers tech on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Jeff Bezos' Space Company Successfully Lands a Rocket]]> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:56:43 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Blue-Orgin1.jpg

Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos’ space transportation company successfully landed a suborbital rocket on Monday after launching it earlier that day.

The New Shepard rocket poked the border where earth’s atmosphere gives way to space, at an altitude of 62 miles. Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, recalled the rocket back to earth where it safely landed at its West Texas launch site.

The reusable rocket is designed to carry six passengers and Monday’s feat is one giant leap for the company’s goal to commission commercial space trips. Bezos told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that he expects that Blue Origin will be involved in commercial space operations within "a couple of years."

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Uber Creates Safety Advisory Board]]> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 10:16:08 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/UBER+RUSH+VO+-+00000013.jpg

Saying it "needed to turn to outsiders," Uber on Tuesday morning announced a new Safety Advisory Board made up of a panel of six experts.

They include former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, former Department of Justice official Margaret Richardson and domestic violence expert Cindy Southworth.

Uber said the board will provide recommendations and advice, but was not immediately clear what safety concerns the board would first address.

"We're in a quest for all aspects of safety at Uber. We're a young company and we are still learning." said Uber security chief Joe Sullivan. "Incidents can be prevented through innovation, hard work and technology."

Ed Davis, the former police commissioner, told reporters "I'm really encouraged this." He oversaw the taxi industry in Boston as part of his duties there. "Uber has a concern for its customers I didn't see in the [Boston] taxi industry. Taxis did the minimum for their customers."

The board is made up entirely of Americans and it will focus on Uber safety in the United States initially, then expand to other countries where Uber operate. Members will meet for the first time early next week, where the team will learn more about Uber operations, then meet quarterly in person, an Uber spokesperson said.

Uber executives said it's not clear how the board will report to senior executives, or how often company executives will receive reports or recommendations from the board.

The other board members are Rob Chesnut, formerly head of eBay safety, civil engineer John Barton, and professor of criminal justice Jessica Eaglan.

Photo Credit: Uber/file]]>
<![CDATA[Tech Bus Drivers Ratify Contract with Higher Pay]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 10:55:20 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GOOGLE+BUS+HEARING+VO+-+00000506.jpg

The holidays just got a whole lot merrier for Bay Area tech shuttle drivers.

Drivers who work for Compass Transportation and operate the shuttle buses for Apple, Yahoo, eBay and several other companies finalized their new contract on Sunday.

The three-year contract calls for 10 paid holidays, including Thanksgiving, affordable benefits, nine days of sick leave.

But, more importantly, Sunday’s vote comes with a big raise. Drivers will earn between $24 and $31.50 an hour. They had been making as little as $17 an hour before they organized into a union.

"This is another big step in bringing middle class wages and benefits to this industry," said Rome Aloise, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7.

In a statement, Aloise called Sunday’s deal "a life-changing contract."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook's Zuckerberg Announces Two Months Paternity Leave]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 17:16:36 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Priscilla-Chan-Mark-Zuckerberg.jpg

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg announced that he will take a two-month paternity leave.

"Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families," he wrote on his Facebook page on Friday. "At Facebook we offer our US employees up to 4 months of paid maternity or paternity leave which they can take throughout the year."

Zuckerberg revealed in July that he and wife Priscilla Chan, who are expecting a baby girl, previously had three miscarriages.

"In our ultrasound, she even gave me a thumbs up 'like' with her hand," he wrote, "so I'm already convinced she takes after me."

Photo Credit: Facebook/file
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Zuckerberg Donates $20M to Schools For Faster Internet]]> Sat, 21 Nov 2015 22:09:23 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/zuck-AP_477661481018.jpg

Some students may soon see faster internet speeds, thanks to a donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg announced Thursday that he's donating $20 million dollars to the Education Super Highway, a nonprofit organization committed to increasing access to high-speed internet in schools.

Zuckerberg says most schools in the U.S. are connected, but less than half have high-speed broadband, which puts both students and teachers at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing learning tools online.

This is not the first time Zuckerberg has donated millions to education causes. Five years ago, he donated $100 million to the public school system in Newark, New Jersey and $120 million last year to Bay Area schools.

Zuckerberg's wife, Priscilla Chan, will head a new private school for under-served children in East Palo Alto, scheduled to open next year.


Today Priscilla and I are giving $20 million to continue our support of Education Super Highway to help them connect all...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Photo Credit: AP/File]]>
<![CDATA[Flying Robot Film Festival Arrives in SF]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 23:37:17 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/1119-2015-Drone.jpg

Drones hit the red carpet at the first Flying Robot International Film Festival held Thursday in San Francisco.

The festival highlights how drones are opening doors for artists and humanitarians. The machines are helping breath-taking shots more affordable for filmmakers.

"It's a tool to tell a story in a cinematic way," said Christopher Saad, aerial cinematographer. "Before you had to rent a helicopter and get aerial shots."

Drones are also helping to monitor land preservation, testing water quality and even flying into war zones.

Humanitarian groups like the Syria Airlift Project are hoping to use drones to deliver life-saving supplies.

Drones have also been the subject of controversy. The Federal Aviation Administration is still developing rules for drone use.

Last week, a drone brought the ferris wheel in Seattle to a stand still when it hit the ride. Firefighters have also grounded air drops because of drone sightings and pilots are concerned about the devices hovering around airports.

Right now, commercial aerial cinematographers must have a pilots license to fly.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Tinder CEO Admits Addiction to Hookup App]]> Sun, 22 Nov 2015 16:35:42 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/140411-tinder-dating-app-mn-1310_6f284758e68894d5f153e1d324a00965.nbcnews-fp-1360-600.jpg

An interview published the day before Tinder's initial public offering found the company's CEO and co-founder admitting that he is addicted to the hookup app.

"Every other week I fall in love with a new girl," the admittedly single Sean Rad told London Evening Standard.

The interview, which talks of turning down supermodels who beg to have sex with him, wasn't enough to swipe away enthusiasm for the first day on the stock market.

According to Associated Press, shares of Match Group Inc., which owns properties including Tinder, Match.com, OKCupid, Vimeo and About.com, rose 18 percent on the first day of trading, increasing from $12 to $14.17 on Thursday.

<![CDATA[SpaceX May Launch GPS Satellites for Air Force]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 15:27:14 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_540376079789.jpg

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously said SpaceX is negotiating to design GPS satellites for the Air Force. We regret the error.

Elon Musk's company SpaceX is negotiating to launch GPS satellites for the U.S. Air Force in 2018.

According to Ars Technica, SpaceX has become the final company in talks with the military branch to provide security-enhancing technology.

Another company expected to bid for the job, United Launch Alliance (a collaboration between Boeing and Lockheed Martin), did not do so because the Russian-made engines that power the satellites have been banned, reported Space News.

Meanwhile, reports have suggested that Musk's Hyperloop project might break ground earlier than the expected date of May 2016.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[New App Helps College Students Report Emergencies]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 23:35:52 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/1118-2015-GUARDIANAPP.jpg

A new smartphone app may change the way college campuses respond to an emergency.

Rave Guardian is an app available for students at San Jose State and Cal State East Bay.

"With the increase desire for safety, we had to find a way that reaches our students," said Sheryl Boykins, Cal State East Bay police chief.

Desi Calzada, an administrative manager at Cal State East Bay, said there are four components to the app.

"There's a safety timer component that allows people to set up a guardian as they travel from point A to point B," Calzada said.

The app sounds an alert if a student user does not make it to a destination in a certain amount of time. It is up to the student to deactivate the app when you they reach their destination.

The app also features a one-button 911 option on the phone. Students also can text the police department through the app.

"This is an opportunity for parents to be onboard," Boykins said. "For students to have a sense of safety they can control."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Drone Expo Discusses Photographs, Movies and Privacy Concerns]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 18:54:47 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/drone+in+flight.jpg They're coming to a wedding and a skyline near you. Get ready for the age of the drone. Scott Budman reports.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[SF Payment Service Square Prices IPO Below Range]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 17:02:55 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SQUARE-IPO-VO---00000000.jpg

Once the hottest of startups, Square has now officially cooled down.

On the eve of its initial public offering, we now know that Square – co-founded by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey - has lost some of its value, and along with it, some of its luster.

Square, after pricing its IPO in the $11 - $13 range, didn’t even get that much enthusiasm from potential investors, and lowered its price.

Square will IPO Thursday morning, launching with a $9 a share price.
Once valued at $6 million, the IPO price now values the company at a shade below $3 billion.

We’ll let you know how it does when the public gets a shot at owning shares, Thursday morning.

Scott, an early user of Square, is on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Anonymous Accuses Startup of Helping ISIS Websites]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 15:37:18 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/217*120/AP_488488149961.jpg

Anonymous has repeatedly called out a San Francisco startup for allegedly protecting the security of ISIS-related websites.

The hacker collective has been warning CloudFlare, an Internet security firm, to stop providing its security filter to websites deemed to be affiliated with ISIS activity.

CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince told Business Insider the threats aren't to be taken seriously, especially from a collective that employs the company.

"I'd suggest this was armchair analysis by kids — it's hard to take seriously," he said. "Anonymous uses us for some of its sites, despite pressure from some quarters for us to take Anonymous sites offline."

Prince told the publication that CloudFlare has no plans to stop supporting these websites unless compelled through U.S. legal channels.

Anonymous has been posting missives to CloudFlare all year, including videos posted to YouTube in April and June.

Photo Credit: AP
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Activates 'Safety Check' After Deadly Nigeria Bombing]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 16:37:28 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/196*120/safetycheck.PNG

A bombing attack in Yola, Nigeria that killed at least 32 people and wounded dozens more on Tuesday prompted Facebook to activate its Safety Check feature – the second time in less than a week the check-in tool has been used after a terrorist attack.

Though no group took immediate responsibility for the killings In Nigeria, Al Jazeera reports that officials will likely point to armed group Boko Haram as the culprit. The group has prior connections to a slew of suicide bombings in the city, the news site reported. 

The use of Safety Check, which allows users to alert friends of their safety, garnered criticism when it was activated for the Friday attacks in Paris but not for the Beirut bombings that left 43 dead and many more wounded.

Critics argued that the decision showed a preference for the lives of people in westernized countries – a claim Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied.

“After the Paris attacks last week, we made the decision to use Safety Check for more tragic events like this going forward,” he wrote in a post on his Facebook wall. “We're now working quickly to develop criteria for the new policy and determine when and how this service can be most useful.”

Prior to the Paris attacks, Safety Check was only triggered after a natural disaster. When the feature first launched, he said its creation was inspired by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan.


We've activated Safety Check again after the bombing in Nigeria this evening.After the Paris attacks last week, we...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Bay Area Corporations Earn Perfect LGBT Quality Scores]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 19:29:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/N11A+GOOGLE+SJ+EXPANSION+VO+-+00000000.jpg

A new report issued by the Human Rights Campaign awarded perfect scores for LGBT workplace equality to dozens of Bay Area corporations.

The Corporate Equality Index gave a top rating of 100 to 407 companies nationwide. Local companies include Adobe, Airbnb, Apple, Dropbox, eBay, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Gap, Genentech, Google, Intel, Levi Strauss, Oracle, PayPal, Tesla, Twitter and Uber.

Corporations were evaluated based on non-discrimination policies, employment benefits, demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity and inclusion, public commitment to LGBT equality and responsible overall citizenship. 

<![CDATA[Woman Named Isis Had FB Account Deactivated]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 15:10:05 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/isis_2_768540d655e86cf3ed6c65bdb249dc06.nbcnews-ux-600-480.jpg

Facebook said an error in how fake or offensive accounts are reported led to a woman's social media account being suspended.

Her name is Isis.

"Why would you disable my personal account? MY REAL NAME IS ISIS ANCHALEE," she complained Tuesday in a tweet directed at Facebook. Over the next day, she expressed further frustration over the process of getting the account reinstated — though eventually things returned to normal, after she sent over a scan of her passport to prove her identity.

It's not like Isis Anchalee was an unknown on social media. She is the female engineer who started the #ILookLikeAnEngineer viral hashtag campaign earlier this year to challenge bias and sexism in the tech field.

In a statement sent Wednesday to NBC News, Facebook offered an explanation for the account suspension: "This was an error made as part of a fake account reporting process and we're sorry for the trouble it caused."

Photo Credit: Isis Anchalee / Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[Social Media Gets the Word Out During Paris Attacks]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 19:09:36 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/N5P+PARIS+TERROR+ATTACK+PKG+-+00013323.jpg

The world was notified of the terrorist attacks in Paris largely through social media.

Platforms such as Periscope, Twitter and Facebook all helped millions of people reach out and learn about the deadly attacks in real time.

"I would be announcing something or telling something happening," said the Periscoper known as EuroMaestro. "And they'd say it's not on CNN and the networks. Then they'd report it five minutes later."

Sunnyvale-based PhatChat is a social app. Its growth has jumped as people discuss issues of the day online.

"Yeah, this is the way that I find information, especially young people," PhatChat CEO Jason Harrison said. "This has become our primary source."

But the company is also aware that social media is spreading misinformation too, like the tweet about the Eiffel Tower going dark because of the attack. The tweet's claim was not true because the tower goes dark every night.

"Sometimes it will linger," Harrison said. "But eventually the community will correct itself and identify what's not true or most accurate."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Disgruntled AirBNB Users Inspire KinkBNB Startup ]]> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 15:49:40 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/253*120/kinkbnb.jpg

Travelers in search of accommodations that are open-minded to the practice of sex now have an online rental community tailored for their pursuits.

KinkBNB is a startup service for renting out sex-forward properties such as dungeons and porn studios inspired by a perceived void at AirBNB, which has been known to remove listings deemed offensive or vulgar. The Bay Area based site has listings for properties in 20 countries.

“It’s virtually impossible to travel if this is something that you do and it’s part of your lifestyle,” KinkBNB's Matias Drago told KQED. “You go across the country to your cousin’s wedding and you don’t know anyone else there who would understand. When you stay with one of our hosts, they’re very likely to know the community and connect you to people that would be on the same wavelength.”

KinkBNB is currently accessible by invitation only; a current user must provide an invitation code in order to gain entry to the community.

The site has allowed users to market their properties to an adult audience on social media.

"Book your kinky vacation," tweeted a Los Angeles user named Master Hercules.

Locally, KinkBNB sponsors a monthly event called the Dirty Talk Game Show at San Francisco's Cat Club.

Photo Credit: KinkBNB]]>
<![CDATA[YouTube's New Music App Draws Mixed Reviews]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 14:47:05 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/YouTube+Music+App.jpg

YouTube launched its very own music app Thursday, entering the ever-crowded pool of streaming apps.

Simply titled YouTube Music, the company's latest brainchild hopes to compete with the likes of Spotify and Pandora in a way that its predecessor, YouTube Music Key, never quite could.

Rather than making an app that is almost a mirror image of its better-selling competitors, the Bay Area techies behind YouTube sought to create one that primarily helps users find new music.

"With YouTube Music, you’ll get a completely new type of experience, designed to make discovering music on YouTube easier than ever," officials for the powerhouse streaming site said in a statement.

The app, which is free, includes ads unless a user is also a subscriber to YouTube Red, the newly unveiled subscription service that costs $9.99 per month.

So far, reviews of the app have been mixed, with users flocking to social media to offer both stinging critiques and praise.

YouTube reports that it has more than one billion users, and that the number of hours people spend watching videos on the streaming site is up 60 percent this year. The company, which is owned by Google, was created in 2005 in San Mateo.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Mech Warrior Throwdown: USA v. Japan in Giant Robot Brawl]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 18:06:26 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/robot-th-AP_89716360508.jpg Making every 14-year-old's dream come true, an Oakland startup has challenged Japan to a duel between two giant mechanical gladiators, in an international battle for robot supremacy.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Enables 'Safety Check' for Paris Attacks]]> Sat, 14 Nov 2015 13:52:26 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/paris-AP_254892328086.jpg

Worried friends and family turned to social media to see if loved ones were caught up in the barrage of attacks in Paris that forced the area into a state of emergency. Others used social networks to show solidarity with France.

Knowing the frantic concern people were feeling for those in the city, Facebook enabled its safety check feature, its CEO said Friday.

Facebook users in Paris can mark themselves as safe, and the app notifies their friends on the site. The feature also allows friends who have made contact with the person to mark him or her as safe.

"My thoughts are with everyone in Paris tonight. Violence like this has no place in any city or country in the world," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Friday announcing the change.

On Saturday, the social network launched a feature that would apply a French flag filter to a user's profile picture, so Facebook users can show solidarity with victim's of the terrorist attack with a red, white and blue profile pic. "We stand together. ‪#‎JeSuisParis‬," Facebook wrote in the post introducing the feature.

The Safety Check feature is typically used during natural disasters like September's Chilean earthquake

At least 129 people died Friday in shootings and explosions at multiple sites throughout Paris, French officials said. Eighty-nine people were killed inside the Bataclan concert hall alone, where Southern California band Eagles of Death Metal was playing a sold-out show.

Americans were among the 352 wounded, the State Department said. French President Francois Hollande vowed a "merciless" response against the perpetrators, as ISIS claimed responsibility.

Eight attackers targeted at least six locations in the French capital, authorities said. Police said they killed one of the terrorists and the others blew themselves up.

Many in Paris posted to their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profiles to spread the word that they were not among those killed or wounded in the devastating attacks.

San Diego resident Caroline Farwell said she let her loved ones know she was OK through the social medium What'sApp.

As she and her friends walked along the Paris streets Friday evening, they heard about the attacks and ran into the lobby of a nearby hotel.

They waited there until it was safe enough for them to return to their rented apartment, she said.

"We're just sitting here trying to get new information. They don't have a TV in the lobby. The Internet is down. They won't let us use an access code," Farwell said. "So we're kind of just waiting for people that we know to call us or tell us or email us that the police reports are to stay inside."

Despite the terrifying experience, Farwell said everyone around her is doing a good job of staying calm.

Around the world, social media has been flooded with offerings of love, support, thoughts and prayers for everyone touched by the violence.

People in the U.S. looking to contact their friends and loved ones in France are also getting some help from Verizon. The company is offering free calling from the U.S. to France for it's customers through the weekend.

Photo Credit: AP
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Airbnb Conference Attendees Describe Chaos in Paris]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 10:01:40 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/paris-ataques-terrorismo-7.jpg

Airbnb employees and hosts tweeted from Paris about the deadly attacks during the hospitality company's first conference ever held outside of San Francisco.

They described the chaos and the horror, including how many of them were barricaded in restaurants, some lying on the floor.

The company canceled all events for Saturday, according to a tweet from Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO and co-founder. "We are heartbroken and our thoughts are with the people of Paris, the victims of this terrible attack and their families," Chesky wrote.

More than 6,000 attendees from over 100 countries are at Parc dela Villete, the third largest park in Paris from Nov. 12 to 14 as Airbnb announces new features and services for hosts. Airbnb is working to account for all employees and event attendees who are in Paris right now. The company did not immediately return calls requesting comment.

Airbnb employee and occasional Airbnb host Scott Raymond rushed back to his apartment in the 10th arrondissement in the middle of all the chaos.

“I was at dinner with my wife near Place Sainte-Catherine and got a text from a co-worker,” Raymond told NBC Bay Area from Paris. “Uber was unavailable — a taxi told us he could not take us past a blockade. We took the Metro through Republique — without stopping — and got back to our listing safely.”

Raymond said he could hear sirens in the distance everywhere. “Some Metro stations around Republique were not allowing stops as we came home,” he said.

Raymond describe the situation as tense: “Everyone in our small restaurant was suddenly staring at their phones as the news began to break. The subways were fairly empty and sober."

The death toll in Friday's attacks across Paris rose to 129, the Paris prosecutor said Saturday during a news conference. The coordinated series of blasts and shootings come just 10 months after the Charlie Hebdo carnage.

French police had control of the hostage situation at a Paris concert hall, which was scheduled to play host to a band from California on Friday night. Officials described “carnage” inside the building.

Michael Endelman, who does content strategy for Airbnb was also tweeting updates.

“In #paris, terrorist incidents around the city, hostages at Eagles of death metal concert, bombs at a bar, more tk,” he tweeted at 1:54 p.m. PST.

Then a few minutes later: “Hunkered down with fellow #airbnb coworkers, hope that the 4k @airbnb in the city this week are safe.”

His last tweet was at 2:17 p.m. PST which described the scene: “Police cars everywhere, many @airbnb friends barricaded in restos, some lying on the floor. Word is 35 dead @EODMofficial show #Paris”[[347990661, C]]

If you are concerned about a US citizen in Paris you can call 1-888-407-4747 (from the US) or 202-501-4444 (from overseas) for assistance.

Photo Credit: EFE
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Protect That Boarding Pass]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 05:30:59 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/protect-borading-pass.jpg Millions of Americans will take a flight somewhere this holiday season, and they'll each have boarding passes, either traditional paper ones or ones sent to mobile devices. Security experts warn sharing images of those passes could put you at risk.]]> <![CDATA[Google Self-Driving Car Pulled Over by Police]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 11:56:38 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Google+Car+Pulled+Over.JPG

When a Northern California police officer pulled over a slow moving car Thursday, he wasn't greeted by a driver.

That's because he pulled over one of Google's Autonomous Vehicles.

The Google car was going 24 mph in a 35 mph zone, which caused traffic to back up, according to the Mountain View Police blog

The officer asked the vehicle's operators how they were choosing speeds and informed them of the congestion. 

"Bet humans don’t get pulled over for that too often," the Google Self-Driving Car Project group said on a Google+ post. 

Google's self-driving cars are allowed to operate on roadways with speed limits at 35 mph, according to police. California law requires that autonomous vehicles to have a driver in the vehicle with the ability to immediately take control at all times. The company put out a statement on Thursday to explain its cars do not operate over 25 mph for safety reasons.

"We want (our cars) to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighborhood streets," the Google Self-Driving Car Project group said.

Google is proud to say that they have never been ticketed to date after 1.2 million miles of autonomous driving. Had the officer decided to issue a citation, Mountain View Police Department spokesman Sgt. Saul Jaeger says the person in the position to be in control of the car would have been ticketed.

Photo Credit: Zandr Milewski
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Marissa Mayer's $70K 'Wizard of Oz' Yahoo Shoot Gets Bashed]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 10:59:12 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/yahoo3.jpg

A photo shoot organized by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has spawned online mockery after reports of an exorbitant price tag emerged online.

Re/code received word that a "Wizard of Oz" themed photo shoot for Yahoo execs promoting the company holiday party, in which Mayer portrayed the lead character of Dorothy — complete with a stuffed toy as Toto — allegedly cost $70,000.

The shoot took place during a company offsite at the Cavallo Point Lodge in Marin County.

“It was very embarrassing," the publication quoted an anonymous source, "but Marissa thought that it was the way to make employees in Silicon Valley happy. We really could not argue.”

Other online reactions include:

  • "Guess you can't fire a pregnant lady. But really, how much longer can this last?" asked Kevin Kingsbury.
  • "Come for the bizarre Wizard of Oz dress-up story, stay for the skepticism about Mayer's vision of Yahoo's future," wrote Jillian D'Onfro.

Yahoo recently teamed up with Google on internet search and advertising after a disappointing third-quarter performance. Mayer promised to trim Yahoo's expenses in light of the declining revenue. She remains hopeful things will take a turn for the better.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Apple CEO Says Cash Is Out, Cards and Apps Are In]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 23:28:28 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tim-cook-apple-fortuna.jpg

The next generation of children will look at money the same way millennials look at pagers and phone books, according to Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook.

Cook was addressing a crowd of students at Trinity College Dublin when he candidly told one student that her “kids will not know what money is.” The off-hand quip was made during a discussion about the declining use of cash and coins in favor of bank cards and apps such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

While Cook is obviously a biased supporter of Apple Pay, there have been recent studies that provided support to his claim. In the United States, fewer people each year report using cash as their primary means of spending, and even less people report using checks. Online payments and e-commerce is also on the rise, thanks in part to online shopping sites such as Amazon, Business Insider reports.

But the uptick in the number of people using electronics to make every day purchases could leave room for an increase in certain types of crime – specifically, hacking – and that’s something Cook also addressed during his appearance at Trinity.

“[Apple] plans to continue to encrypt end to end with no back door,” he said. “We will productively work with the governments to try to convince them that it’s also in their best interests in the national security sense.”

Photo Credit: NBC NEWS]]>
<![CDATA[Social Media Reacts to Uber's Veterans Day Donation Fee]]> Thu, 12 Nov 2015 16:35:13 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/100715+uber+app.jpg

Uber is under fire for charging a processing fee for donating to the company on behalf of homeless ex-servicepeople on Veterans Day.

SFGate noted that the company took 25 cents from each $5 donation made on Wednesday and social media users aren't pleased.

"The people at Uber are shameless, really," tweeted Matt Milsap.

"Is there no end to the depth of UBERS depravity?" asked Taximassive MM.

"Can't even do charity w/out being greedy," wrote Soul Cab. "Military discount everyday in my cab."

"#Ubergivesnothing," retorted Robert M. Alexander.

Uber had a few voices of quasi-support on Reddit, including a user named scsibusfault who wrote, "Should they be eating that cost? Yes. But at least they're being upfront about the fact that it's being charged."

<![CDATA[Tech Companies Use Tools of Trade to Help Veterans ]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 19:06:30 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/N6P+VIRTUAL+VETS+PARADE+PKG+-+00011807.jpg

Tech companies across the Bay Area are using tools of the trade to make Veterans Day all the more special for those who have served in the American armed forces.

Veterans in Palo Alto were treated to a special Veterans Day treat on Wednesday, courtesy of Google. The tech giant sent over a bundle of its virtual reality glasses to the VA hospital, allowing for all vets – whether they could physically march or not – to take part in the annual New York Veterans Day parade, which is the country’s largest annual tribute.

Google organized the virtual march for those who were unable to make it due to physical handicap or distance, so organizers sent hundreds of virtual reality glasses – sometimes referred to as cardboard viewers -- to VA hospitals across the country.

In Palo Alto, the virtual parade was a success.

“I saw New York, the statue of liberty…just the whole thing,” said Randall Furman, who served with the U.S. Navy. “It was amazing.”

The company also donated a whopping $235,000 to help veterans find jobs within the tech sector.
In addition to Google, Santa Clara based company Intuitive Surgical is also helping veterans through employment opportunities.

The company, which creates robots used in medical procedures, often hires military women and men for its field operations. According to company officials, more than 70 percent of its field team is comprised of veterans of the armed forces.

“Military brought that level of technical expertise to us that fits really well with our technology,” said one Intuitive Surgical official.

Some veterans agree, insisting that their time in service and working in the tech industry are far more compatible than one might assume. According to Brian Dardar, his military oath carries over quite well.

“If I was to summarize it, what you would hear is: I promise to serve something greater than myself,” he said. “That doesn’t end when the uniform comes off.”

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[In-N-Out Sues DoorDash to Block It From Delivering Its Grub]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 15:49:09 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/163*120/in-n-out-burger.png

A Double Double and Animal-Style fries delivered to your doorstep?

San Francisco delivery startup Doordash has been doing just that much to the delight of In-N-Out fans, but not In-N-Out itself.

The Irvine, California-based burger chain — which boasts a cult-like following — filed a lawsuit against DoorDash last week in order to try and stop it from delivering its food,

"DoorDash is using our food and trademarks in a way that implies we have some kind of partnership or agreement with them, when that is not the case," In-N-Out general counsel Arnie Wensinger said. "We have asked DoorDash several times to stop using our trademarks and to stop selling our food. Unfortunately, they have continued to prominently use our trademarks and serve our food to customers who believe that we are responsible for their delivery. Prior to filing the lawsuit, we tried contacting them several more times but they never responded to our phone calls or letters."

In the complaint filed Nov. 6, In-N-Out Burger is seeking a permanent injunction against DoorDash, accusing it of copyright infringement and unfair competition.

“Despite the fact that [DoorDash] is in no way affiliated with [In-N-Out], [DoorDash] has advertised, and continues to advertise, that it delivers food from [In-N-Out]’s restaurants,” as well as use an “imitation logo” on its promotional materials, In-N-Out’s lawsuit claims.

Citing its penchant for fresh food and other high standards of quality, In-N-Out says in its lawsuit that the company is worried about the quality of food DoorDash is delivering. “The quality of services offered by [DoorDash] does not at all comport with the standards that consumers expect from [In-N-Out’s] goods and services,” the lawsuit says.

DoorDash responded to the lawsuit via a statement: "DoorDash uses its innovative logistics technology to deliver the very best food and products in neighborhoods across the country. While we have various relationships with different merchants, we are proud to help people get their favorite food delivered directly to their door."

According to the lawsuit, In-N-Out is concerned about DoorDash’s delivery time of its food, the temperature at which goods are kept during the delivery and DoorDash’s food handling and safety practices.

Founded in a Stanford dorm room in 2013, DoorDash recently raised $40 million in Series B funding and like other new delivery services, delivers millions of meals with the help of a fleet of drivers and bicyclists. The company — which has a reported valuation of nearly $600 million — got into trouble with some New York restaurants for inflating menu prices.

The lawsuit, first reported by TMZ, says that DoorDash stopped delivering In-N-Out products after receiving a letter from them in May, but broke its promise in June.

In-N-Out’s lawyer contacted DoorDash several times since then asking them to discontinue delivering In-N-Out products, but to no avail, the lawsuit said.

Photo Credit: Kellyn Curtis/The Feast
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Holiday Gift Guide: High-End Tech Toys]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 11:50:35 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lilycameradrone.jpg Big tech gift ideas for the holidays.

Photo Credit: Lily]]>
<![CDATA[Taxi Drivers to Strike After Council OKs Ridesharing at SJC]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 11:59:16 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/cabbies2.JPG

A taxi drivers strike in San Jose will continue at least another day after the city council unanimously voted late Tuesday to allow ridesharing services to pick up passengers at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The San Jose City Council said it would like to give taxi drivers a level playing field with ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, but its hands are tied by state law.

Councilman Raul Peralez represents the district that includes the Mineta San Jose International Airport and said ridesharing companies are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission except at the airport.

"We want to go to the state and advocate with the CPUC to improve their requirements for background checks," Peralez said. "That way we will affect more than the airport, it will affect the entire city.

The council's plan required 1 percent of the rideshare drivers to be randomly checked for criminal backgrounds and warrants each month. Meanwhile, all taxi drivers have to be checked.

"We are really disappointed in our leaders that they take this stand," San Jose Airport Taxi Driver Association president Shakur Buni said. "It's really an issue of safety."

Drivers are calling for all ridesharing service drivers to be fingerprinted and undergo background checks and to be charged the same fees as taxi drivers, Buni said.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of taxi drivers did not pick up passengers as part of the protest calling for equal regulations for ridesharing service drivers. About 300 drivers also continued to halt service at the airport, where they drove today between terminals A and B but did not pick up or drop off passengers.

Taxi drivers said they plan to continue the strike on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Marianne Favro]]>
<![CDATA[SF Luxury Condo Now Comes With Audi Access]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 13:23:50 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/178*120/sothebyslumina.PNG

Need further incentive to bid on San Francisco's most expensive condominium for sale?

The 3,800 square foot duplex penthouse on the 41st and 42nd floors of the new Lumina building at 201 Folsom Street is still on the market for $49 million.

According to the listing, the unit, which will be available to move into in summer 2016, has five bedrooms, five "entertaining rooms," six bathrooms, two half bathrooms, a gym/massage room, and family lounge. The windows are 20-foot high "shimmering walls of glass" that offer 360-degree views and there are eight exclusive-use outdoor spaces including a private rooftop terrace.

Add to those amenities Audi's new At Home car service, which will be available onsite for all Lumina residents — even the ones who paid just $2 million to live there. According to a company press release, the Lumina and a luxury property in Miami are the first in the country to get the service.

Photo Credit: sothebyshomes.com]]>
<![CDATA[Holiday Gift Guide: Bay Area Tech Toys, Accessories]]> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 17:45:51 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/timbuksleeve.jpg

There is no shortage of locally-invented tech toys and accessories to consider for gifts this holiday season. Here are some suggestions to help wade through the options:

Tablet love: If your gift recipient totes around an iPad or other tablet, consider creating a Custom Envelope Tablet Sleeve at the Timbuk2 store in San Francisco or online ($39 and up). Extensive options include water-resistant fabrics.

Listen up: San Francisco's Boombotix makes colorful cube Bluetooth speakers ($59.99 and up). Available in a variety of themes from basic black to Grateful Dead psychedelic, or build a bot to your exact specifications.

Apple Watch expander: Apple Watch owners might appreciate the gift of an Elevation Lab NightStand ($29.95). It's a little perch that effectively turns their fancy watch into a high tech clock radio.

Storage solutions: Everyone needs a little extra room. San Francisco tech culture website Laughing Squid has a 70 percent off sale on a two-pack of pink Monster Digital Super Speed Flash Drives ($24.99, regularly $84.98).

Tech in action: Imagineers in training could thrive from the inspiration garnered by using a one-year membership to San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation ($50, or $35 for college students).

Photo Credit: Timbuk2]]>
<![CDATA[FCC Can't Stop Google, Facebook From Tracking Online Usage]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 18:33:28 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-109439725.jpg

The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that it can't force Internet companies like Google, Facebook and ad providers from tracking users online. The commission had been petitioned by the privacy advocacy group Consumer Watchdog to make the "Do Not Track" setting in many browsers illegal to ignore.

Though the FCC enacted strong Net Neutrality rules earlier this year, which also provide consumer protections, it explained in a written decision that enforcing "Do Not Track" falls outside its jurisdiction.

"The Commission has been unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers," reads the order. Edge providers are companies like Microsoft and Twitter that provide Internet-related services but not actual Internet connections. "We therefore find that the Consumer Watchdog Petition plainly does not warrant consideration by the Commission."

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Tetra images RF]]>
<![CDATA[YouTube Launches Ad-Free Subscription Service]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 17:25:30 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/youtube_red.jpg

YouTube Red is a new subscription service that allows viewers to look at ad-free videos.

Professional and social media critics alike say that using an app like AdBlock is already an effective way to watch YouTube videos ad-free without paying. To counter that argument, the new service, which likely arose in response to AdBlock and its ilk, also allows users to download videos, includes a subscription to Google Play and has a feature allowing users to keep playing music even when launching other apps.

The service will also include original programming under the banner YouTube Originals in 2016.

YouTube Red costs $9.99-12.99 per month

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[De Niro Sticks It to 'Condescending' Tech Guru]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 17:10:10 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MAYWEATHER-PACQUIAO-ROBERT-DENIRO.jpg

Robert De Niro channeled one of his tough guy characters during a celebrity-studded awards gala on Wednesday, lashing out at Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield for making "condescending" comments about actors.

The San Francisco tech guru apparently offended the Oscar winner during his speech to accept the Wall Street Journal’s Technology Innovator Award.

Butterfield accepted the award in front of the star-studded crowd, joking that he felt "a long way from San Francisco" with all the "supermodels and "movie stars" in the audience.

He then addressed De Niro directly, saying, "I watched Godfather II on the plane… and when you killed Don Fanucci, I liked that."

His remarks drew laughs from the audience, but not from De Niro. 

"Whoever the last speaker was… I thought you were a bit condescending to us actors… celebrities," the acting legend quipped at the podium moments later. "I’m going to go on record with you just to say that. And I don’t give a f— who you are."

The rest of the evening went off without another altercation. In fact, De Niro’s verbal lashing seemed to flatter Butterfield.

"I just literally got trash-talked by Robert De Niro," tweeted the entrepreneur. "#lifegoals."

Photo Credit: Getty/file
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Keyless Car Starts Endanger Drivers, Lawsuit Alleges]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 15:55:51 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/090110+keyless+car.jpg

Joel Pitt misses his father, especially on game day.

“You know, if I’m sitting in the stands. Just not having him there,” he said.

He aches for the time his daughter won’t have with her grandfather.

“She’s excelling in school in a really phenomenal way that he would have appreciated,” he said.

Dr. Harry Pitt died four years ago. The 80-year-old retired school superintendent was still entering weightlifting competitions, golfing and traveling. His sons insist he had a lot of life left in him.

“I think my dad is up there saying ‘Please don't let this happen to someone else,” said Jeff Pitt, Joel’s brother.

In December 2011, Harry Pitt came home, parked in his garage and accidentally left the car running all night long.

“Went to bed and didn’t wake up,” Jeff Pitt recalled.

Harry Pitt died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Colorless, odorless toxic fumes were rising from the garage to the bedroom two floors above throughout the night because of the car that was left turned on.

It is an accident his sons say never should have happened.

“It’s completely senseless,” said Jeff Pitt.

Harry Pitt drove a car with a keyless ignition.

“Millions of Americans are driving automobiles that have a deadly safety defect, and they don’t know it,” said attorney Martis Alex, who filed a class-action lawsuit against ten automakers of keyless ignition vehicles.

The lawsuit accuses them of false advertising and deceptive practices.

"They represented that the cars were safe. The cars are not safe," Alex said.

Long time auto safety advocate Sean Kane consulted on the lawsuit.

“What we’re seeing here is really an inherent design flaw,” Kane said.

Kane said manufacturers failed to take human behavior into consideration.

Drivers expect if they exit the car with their key, the engine is off. That’s how traditional keys work.
But keyless ignition vehicles generally keep running, even if the key has walked away.

Further complicating the problem is the trend of quiet engines.

Kane, founder and president of Safety Research and Strategies, said this combination has made it far too easy to walk away from a running car.

The lawsuit demanded carmakers install an auto-off feature to kill the engine if the car idles for an extended period.

“If they can put auto-off on your interior lights to save you an inconvenience, why can’t we put auto-off on the engine to save your life?” Alex asked. “It is a simple software fix.”

She compares it to the Chevy Volt recall from earlier this year

“It took about 30 minutes per car to install the auto-off, and dealers were reimbursed by less than $5 a fix,” she said.

Some say carmakers are not to blame, and argue that if a driver is responsible enough to drive, then he or she should be responsible enough to turn off the car.

“You know, the driver absolutely has a responsibility, but when you look at a design, and you see people continuing to make an error. You have a problem with your design. It’s not so much with the human,” Kane countered.

“Anecdotally, virtually every owner of a keyless ignition car that we’ve had any contact with has indicated they’ve left their car running one place or another,” Kane said.

The lawsuit cited 13 deaths nationwide, but in the weeks since it was filed Alex said she has learned of another fatality.

”How many more deaths are we waiting for?,” Alex asked.

NBC4 reached out to all the carmakers named in the lawsuit.

Most declined to comment. However, Ford sent a statement that “the keyless ignition system has proven to be a safe and reliable innovation …” adding that its cars “alert drivers when the driver’s door is opened and the … engine’s running.”

The Pitts have found their own “workarounds” to feel safe.

Jeff keeps his radio on — all the time. It’s his way of knowing if the engine is running.

Because Mercedes offers the option, Joel swapped out the keyless feature for an actual key.

All of this has motivated Harry Pitt’s granddaughter Lindsay, who now plans to study engineering.

“In terms of all the incredible things that they do with cars, you know, they’re making self-driving cars, they should be able to make cars that can turn themselves off,” she said.


Statements from automakers named in the class-action lawsuit:

Toyota - “We have no statement or comment to share at this time.”
Aaron S. Fowles - Corporate Communications

Ford – “Ford takes the safety of our customers very seriously; the keyless ignition system has proven to be a safe and reliable innovative feature that has been well-received by customers. Ford vehicles equipped with keyless ignition alert drivers when the driver’s door is opened and the vehicle’s engine is running.”
Kelli Felker - Safety Communications Manager

Nissan – “Nissan cannot comment on the subject of current litigation, so we respectfully decline comment on the topic at this time.”
Steve Yaeger - Specialist, Safety & Customer Service Communications

Honda – No response.

GM - “GM is deferring comment to the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers. “
Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers - “Current keyless ignition system designs generally follow the recommended practices of the Society of Automotive Engineers, which includes recommendations that deal with operating logic, indication of vehicle ignition/control status and the physical control characteristics of keyless ignitions systems. The recommendations also address uniform labeling – all of this so consumers can have an even better understanding of keyless systems functions. “ Wade Newton - Director of Communications

BMW – No response.

Volkswagen and Bently - “Volkswagen Group of America and its brands consider the safety and satisfaction of its consumers and passengers as a top priority. All brands within the Volkswagen Group are engineered to meet or exceed all government regulations. We are unable to comment on specific litigation.”
Erin Bronner - Communications Manager, Bentley Motors, Inc.

Mercedes Benz – “Our vehicles contain the latest in safety features. In fact, unlike many of the other keyless start systems on the market, ours can be operated as a normal keyed ignition system simply by removing the Stop/Start button or using the standard ignition switch (depending on the model). So customers can essentially choose how they wish to operate the system.”
Robert Moran - Director, Corporate Communications Mercedes-Benz USA

Hyundi – “We are cooperating with NHTSA on their research.”
Jim Trainor - Sr. Group Mgr., Product Public Relations

Kia – No response

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Right Out of 'The Jetsons:' SJSU Students Demo Futuristic Pods for Silicon Valley]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 17:48:39 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/pod.PNG

Exciting things are happening in a repurposed warehouse in downtown San Jose.

Remember those crazy park-cruising hamster balls in Jurassic World? A group of San Jose engineering students are working on getting Silicon Valley commuters their own pods to roll down Highway 101. The Spartan Superway isn't quite a hamster ball, but it's still pretty cool.

“Our goal right now is to have this system implemented in San Jose,” said Jon David De Ocampo, president of Spartan Superway. “We are creating a model to show off to buyers … Spartan Superway is pretty close to becoming its own company.”

De Ocampo describes Spartan Superway as a legacy project — one that was started by SJSU seniors four years ago and is now gaining some traction. De Ocampo – who is studying mechanical engineering — believes that personal rapid transit systems are the future. The design for the pods comes from Beamways, a Swedish startup that came up with the concept of individual cabins.

As De Ocampo explains it, the cabin will be suspended high above streets with bidirectional travel capable of speeds up to 50mph.

The cabin prototype displayed in the company’s workshop Wednesday can accommodate a maximum of six passengers, but is yet to be tested with people inside it. “The connection between bogey and car is not the strongest,” De Ocampo said, adding that when it’s ready, the pod will be able to carry people, bikes and luggage.

“What’s cool is that the whole thing is powered by solar panels,” project team leader Augustine Soucy said. “The idea is to put these into cities in Silicon Valley to interconnect them – so people can jump in and out of the pods whenever they need to. We hope this will take some of the congestion off roads.”

When asked whether the group has thought of taking their idea to Tesla and Space X founder Elon Musk, who is pushing for Hyperloop, the futuristic high-speed transportation system that promises to take you from San Francisco to LA in just 30 minutes, Soucy said no.

“We appreciate his ideas, but the Hyperloop is on a totally different scale than ours,” he said.

Personal rapid transit networks are currently in use in Suncheon Bay, South Korea and London's Heathrow Airport, where little four-person cars shuttle people to their airport connections.

This week, the Pod Car City convention in Mountain View is helping raise awareness about alternate modes of transportation and pod car technology.

As for the Spartan Superway team, they don’t know when the pods will be out in the world yet, but they hope it won’t be too long.

Photo Credit: Riya Bhattacharjee]]>
<![CDATA[Spotted at Netflix HQ: 'Netflix AND CHILL']]> Wed, 04 Nov 2015 15:49:38 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/194*120/netflixmainOCT.PNG

Someone is taking the "Netflix and chill" thing to the next level.

A passerby snapped this photo of the graffiti spray-painted outside Netflix's headquarters in Los Gatos and sent it to NBC Bay Area.

For the uninitiated, "Netflix and chill" is slang for hooking up. As Fusion explains: "It began as a plain, descriptive phrase ('Can’t wait to leave work so I can watch Netflix and chill!'), and stayed that way for several years before acquiring a loose sexual connotation ('Wanna come over for Netflix and chill? ;)') and, eventually becoming a known code phrase ('He said he loves me, but I know he just wants to Netflix and chill')." (Here's a video of Seth Myers explaining what it means).

The photo generated a lot of excitement on Twitter, but the sign itself was shortlived.

According to Elite Daily, the "And Chill" part was taken down pretty fast. The photo however lives on.

Photo Credit: Contributed Photo]]>