Muni Wants Facial Recognition Technology for its “Traffic Cameras”

By : sfweekly – excerpt

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has been busy adding to its stock of surveillance equipment.

The agency, which oversees Muni and the myriad street closures currently in effect to make way for the Super Bowl, has set up new “traffic cameras” in the areas along Market Street that will be closed to traffic for all the big deal surrounding the big game.

That set off alarms among privacy advocates — why do you need a traffic camera in an area closed to traffic? — who also pointed out that the SFTMA was, for some reason, also seeking “traffic” cameras with “face detection” technology.

Bids are due today for prospective entrepreneurs to supply Muni with an additional 150 high-tech Samsung security cameras. In addition to the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom, the $1,700 cameras also have the face recognition ability, as the Chronicle noted today.

So why do you need a traffic camera with face recognition technology — if it’s only for traffic, never to be shared with police, and does not have the ability to record, as Muni officials continue to insist?

That’s actually a very good question that’s been answered only with varying versions of “trust us.” Muni spokesman Paul Rose, in comments to the Chronicle today, noted that fancy software is also required to use the face recognition technology in the cameras — and that’s not something Muni has or plans to obtain, he said.

The cameras are supposedly going to be viewed by a traffic supervisor stationed at a Muni building on Market Street who will view the feeds in real-time only, and direct traffic or resources to a particular area after, say, an accident, Rose says.

There are already other cameras positioned around town doing that job right now, he notes…

Trust us? This is the outfit with the $1 billion budget that is in the red. “Trust us” doesn’t work. No way do we want to be surveilled by the SFMTA . Take that one off the table.

Can Fractional Car Ownership Work?

Connie Loizos : techcrunch – excerpt

A couple of weeks ago, Ford Motor Company somewhat quietly announced that next month, it’s beginning a leasing pilot program in Austin that will enable three to six people to lease a Ford Vehicle together.

It’s not alone in thinking about fractional car ownership. Audi is similarly trying out a fractional car ownership program called Audi Unite that allows up to five people to own a car together. (It launched, and remains exclusively available, in Stockholm, Sweden.)

A nascent startup in London called Orto is also entering the business of fractional car ownership.

The big question, of course, is whether the concept – which has been enormously successful when it comes to hotel time shares and private jets – can work when it comes to cars…

In fact, that foregone conclusion explains why GM, along with Ford, Audi and BMW, have recently begun testing out their own car-sharing services. They haven’t gone terribly well to date, though. While GM’s service is about to launch, BMW’s pilot program, called DriveNow, was suspended in its pilot city of San Francisco last November. The company cited the city’s parking policies as too big a hindrance…(more)

Sorry, Google: California’s self-driving car bill would prioritize unknown rival

the Mark Harris : guardian – excerpt

The bill, AB1592, would permit autonomous vehicles ‘not equipped with a steering wheel, a brake pedal, an accelerator, or an operator inside the vehicle’

A California lawmaker has introduced a bill that would legalise autonomous vehicles without human drivers for the first time in the US.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla wants to change California’s rules so that GoMentum Station, a testing ground for autonomous vehicles located in her district near San Francisco, can test completely driverless vehicles on public roads.

The bill, AB1592, would permit self-driving cars “not equipped with a steering wheel, a brake pedal, an accelerator, or an operator inside the vehicle”. However, only GoMentum Station would be allowed to conduct the pilot tests, and the trials would be limited to a specific business park and top speeds of 35mph.

California law currently requires all autonomous vehicles on public roads to have a human safety driver and manual backup controls… (more)