Posts tagged with "Google"

Way to go: Waymo debuts commercial ride-share service

December 6, 2018

After months of testing and millions of miles developing self-driving vehicle technology, Waymo—a subsidiary of Alphabet that originated as a Google project in 2009—has officially launched the country’s first commercial autonomous ride-share service, CNBC reported on December 5.

Based in Mountain View, California (like Google), Waymo stands for “a new way forward in mobility.” Since testing began, the company’s fleet of self-driving vehicles has included modified Toyota Priuses, Lexus SUVs, a custom-built prototype vehicle (named “Firefly”), and now, fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. In addition, Waymo has partnered with Jaguar to create the world’s first premium electric self-driving car—the Jaguar I-Pace.

The company’s Waymo One program gives riders access to an app that they can use on their smart phones to call its self-driving vehicles, 24/7. Initially, the service will be limited to cities surrounding Phoenix, including Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler, CNBC said. Customers in the Phoenix area include hundreds of people who have been test users of the Waymo self-driving vehicle fleet that has been in development since April 2017.

“Self-driving technology is new to many, so we’re proceeding carefully with the comfort and convenience of our riders in mind,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik told CNBC. One example of Waymo taking a cautious approach rolling out its ride-share service is the company’s use of safety drivers to supervise the rides, at least initially

“For now,” the company says on its website, “Waymo-trained drivers are in the cars to make sure our riders have a great experience and serve as a backup only.” In addition, the company’s app and consoles in the Waymo One vehicles will allow riders to instantly connect with support agents who can assist riders with questions.

Alphabet‘s Waymo One marks the start of the race by automakers, tech companies and other firms to launch autonomous ride-share services, CNBC notes. General Motors subsidiary Cruise plans to launch a similar service using self-driving vehicles next year.

What’s driving the competition? The pursuit of greater profits. Studies of have shown the biggest cost for ride-share operations is the expense of paying a driver. General Motors estimates it costs ride -share companies more than $3 per mile in San Francisco. However, GM believes that cost could drop to roughly $1 per mile by 2025 with driverless vehicles in ride-share fleets.

According to CNBC, Waymo has said it expects the cost to consumers for using Waymo One to be competitive with Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing services.

Research contact:  @Lebeaucarnews

All in the family? DNA doesn’t determine longevity

November 15, 2018

If most people in your family live to a ripe old age, that might just be luck or coincidence. Findings of a study of the family trees of more than 400 million people indicate that the heritability of life span is well below past estimates.

Indeed, the research—conducted by Calico Life Sciences in cooperation with AncestryDNA—has determined that previous investigations into the role of genetics in longevity have failed to account for our tendency to select partners with similar traits to our own.

The new findings have been published in the November edition of Genetics, a journal of the Genetics Society of America.

“We can potentially learn many things about the biology of aging from human genetics, but if the heritability of life span is low, it tempers our expectations about what types of things we can learn and how easy it will be,” says lead author Graham Ruby of San Francisco-based Calico—a Google-funded research and development company that uses advanced technologies to further understand  the biology that controls lifespan.

Heritability is a measure of how much of the variation in a trait—in this case, life span—can be explained by genetic differences, as opposed to non-genetic differences such as lifestyle, sociocultural factors, and accidents. Previous estimates of human life span heritability have ranged from around 15% to 30%.

Starting from 54 million subscriber-generated public family trees representing 6 billion ancestors, Ancestry removed redundant entries and those from people who were still living, stitching the remaining pedigrees together. Before sharing the data with the Calico research team, Ancestry stripped away all identifiable information from the pedigrees, leaving only the year of birth, year of death, place of birth (to the resolution of state within the US and country outside the US), and familial connections that make up the tree structure itself.

They ended up with a set of pedigrees that included over 400 million people—largely Americans of European descent—each connected to another by either a parent-child or a spouse-spouse relationship. The team was then able to estimate heritability from the tree by examining the similarity of life span between relatives.

Using an approach that combines mathematical and statistical modeling, the researchers focused on relatives who were born across the 19th and early 20th centuries, finding heritability estimates for siblings and first cousins to be roughly the same as previously reported. But, as was also observed in some of the previous studies, they noted that the life span of spouses tended to be correlated: They were more similar, in fact, than in siblings of opposite gender.

This correlation between spouses could be due to the many non-genetic factors that accompany living in the same household—their shared environment. But the story really started to take shape when the authors compared different types of in-laws, some with quite remote relationships.

The first hint that something more than either genetics or shared environment might be at work was the finding that siblings-in-law and first-cousins-in-law had correlated life spans—despite not being blood relatives and not generally sharing households.

The size of their data set allowed the team to zoom in on longevity correlations for other more remote relationship types, including aunts and uncles-in-law, first cousins-once-removed-in-law, and different configurations of co-siblings-in-law. The finding that a person’s sibling’s spouse’s sibling or their spouse’s sibling’s spouse had a similar life span to their own made it clear that something else was at play.

If they don’t share genetic backgrounds and they don’t share households, what best accounts for the similarity in life span between individuals with these relationship types? Going back to their impressive data set, the researchers were able to perform analyses that detected assortative mating.

“What assortative mating means here is that the factors that are important for life span tend to be very similar between mates,” says Ruby. In other words, people tend to select partners with traits like their own—in this case, how long they live.

Of course, you can’t easily guess the longevity of a potential mate. “Generally, people get married before either one of them has died,” jokes Ruby. Because you can’t tell someone’s life span in advance, assortative mating in humans must be based on other characteristics.

The basis of this mate choice could be genetic or sociocultural—or both. For a non-genetic example, if income influences life span, and wealthy people tend to marry other wealthy people, that would lead to correlated longevity. The same would occur for traits more controlled by genetics: If, for example, tall people prefer tall spouses, and height is correlated in some way with how long you live, this would also inflate estimates of life span heritability.

By correcting for these effects of assortative mating, the new analysis found life span heritability is likely no more than 7 percent, perhaps even lower.

The upshot? Choose your mate wisely. How long you live has less to do with your genes than you might think.

Research contact:graham@calicolabs.com

Beauty shoppers spend 80% of ‘purchase experience’ looking at ads, articles, social media

July 17, 2018

A relatively self-serving study sponsored by Condé Nast—publisher of such magazines as Allure, Glamour, Self, Vogue, and W—has found that, in the beauty category, consumers spend 80% of their time in the “pre-search” or “influence” phase of shopping, with a spate of publications, social media, advertising, and celebrities affecting their final purchases.

The study, fielded by the research firm Tapestry and posted on Retail Dive on July 16, found that, similarly, fashion consumers spend 69% of their time in the pre-search stage and are most motivated by advertising; as compared to tech consumers, 65% of whom are influenced by ads “outside of their buying needs.”

Interestingly enough, both beauty and fashion buyers say a couple of brands are “top of mind”—even before they start looking. Fully 79% of respondents admitted they had brands in mind before their search—and 69% pay more attention to ads from sources they know and trust. In fact, more than half of shoppers (52%) spend their full decision time deciding between just two brands.

The outliers? Fifty-three percent of fashion consumers and 64% of 13- to 17-year-old shoppers purchase the brand they first considered.

With influential beauty and fashion publications in its inventory, Condé Nast found that its brands have three times more influence on consumer decisions than Google and Facebook, with three in four respondents saying they trust Condé Nast brands to recommend products. More than 90% trusted Glamour, GQ and Vogue for fashion recommendations; as well Glamour and Allure for cosmetics. Indeed, Consumers were 50% more likely to list a Condé Nast brand in the pre-search phase and think more highly of brands that advertise with Condé Nast, compared to Google and Facebook. Specifically, Condé Nast is 26% more likely to drive purchase intent than tech giants Facebook and Google, based on the study findings.

Other research has revealed that social media plays a major role in driving purchases, especially among younger consumers. A Yes Lifecycle Marketing report released last year found that 57% of consumers across different generations say social media influences their shopping decisions; while 80% of Gen-Zers and 74% of Millennials said social channels influence their shopping. Instagram was a key driver of fashion, beauty and style-focused purchase for 72%, a 2017 Dana Rebecca Designs survey found.

Research contact: @CondeNast