Going driverless

I used to watch Knight Rider on TV when I was a junior high school student. Knight Rider is an American TV series where a hero, Michael Knight, together with a talking self-driven car, KITT, beats the evil and sometimes has romantic experiences with a heroine of each episode. I thought that such a car was just a pipe dream at that time, but the dream will probably come true in a decade or two.

The development of autonomous cars, or driverless cars, is widespread. Google started testing of the developing autonomous cars on public roads as Nevada state law allowed to do it and issued license plates to them in 2011. Following Google, Audi obtained the road testing license as well from the state government of Nevada in 2013. In the same year, the United Kingdom also permitted road testing of automated cars. In China, Baidu is also planning the similar testing.

Automated driving is categorized into five levels. Level 1 (hands on) means that driver and system shares control over the vehicle, such as adaptive cruise control where the driver controls steering and the system controls speed, and parking assistance where steering is automated and speed is manual. Level 2 means hands off, where the system takes full control of the vehicle, including accelerating, braking and steering, but driver must still keep an eye on the vehicle’s movement in case of unprecedented failures. At level 3 (eyes off), driver can text or watch a movie while the system is driving. At level 4 (mind off), driver may go to sleep or leave the driver’s seat while driving. In a level 5 (steering wheel optional) autonomous car, no human interaction is required for driving.

Some car manufacturers are releasing level 2 or 3 cars to the market. Tesla Motors, one of the leading car manufacturers, released level 2 cars with Tesla Autopilot capability in 2015. Those cars can act automatically on limited-access highways, requiring the full attention of the driver. Mercedes will add automated driving features such as an active brake assist, a steering pilot, a parking pilot, a cross-traffic assist system and braking assist on production cars by 2017. No car manufacturers today succeed in making level 4 or 5 cars.

There are some hurdles to achieve the development of level 4 or higher. Possible software bugs may lead to sudden malfunction and put driver and passengers at risk of a traffic accident. Crackers may hack the system and do some destructive actions. Laws and regulations should be properly arranged by politicians knowing well about autonomous driving system to cope with possible problems it may cause.

In spite of these hurdles, the progress is ongoing step by step. The development of artificial intelligence, or AI, also helps the automated driving system evolve. AI is being wiser and wiser over time. AI being installed in the system will dramatically quicken their pace of evolution. I think some car manufacturers will achieve the development of level 4 cars or higher in a few years. We know the rapid growth of the internet and smartphones. We know that the world was changed to what nobody had even imagined 15 years before. That will be true to automated cars.

In the world where cars are fully automated, traditional cars will be removed from the roads, because such cars that cannot follow the new order of the traffic will be nothing but obstructions. Driving such cars manually will be totally banned. Driving (or letting car drive) will be just a means of moving, not fun.

What should such people who love maneuvers of a traditional, manual-driven car do? Such cars will be parked at dedicated paddocks to play them within a restricted area such as circuits or off-road trails, just as today’s motorsport drivers do. Driving a car will be just one of hobbies like hiking, hunting, yacht sailing, golfing or fishing. The day when you can handle your car anywhere by yourself will be over.

Autonomous cars will change the world a great deal. You will think the change might be strange or uncomfortable, but you will have to adapt to it, since nobody haven’t stopped any changes of the times ever before.

Where will America go?

America’s recession seems to begin. US stocks are falling down every day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell from $13,500 in December 2007 to less than $12,000 right now, and the NASDAQ Composite was at around 2,700 in the end of December but now at about 2,300. For these five weeks, I’ve LOST more than 1/3 of the total amount of money that I’ve invested!

I’ve believed in the strength and the wealthiness of the United States, and invested American stocks and mutual funds instead of hopeless Japanese stock market. America’s economic growth was stable for over 50 years and the stock prices rose every year. You could get richer and richer as long as you buy and hold the American stocks or mutual funds.

However, the situation has changed completely for the last two months. America is no longer what it was before. What the hell happened to America? And what will happen in the future?

But I won’t give up yet. I’ll keep trusting America, because I love America and America will be still alright and won’t lose its presence in the world as long as it has the strongest military power and global standards in many fields. I have confidence that America will make it by any means.

多重債務問題について

[貸します詐欺]リストラ生活苦に追い打ち…40代男性自殺

 リストラで生活苦に陥った関西の40代男性派遣社員がこの春、多重債務を一本化しようとして「貸します詐欺」に遭い、自ら命を絶った。「もう これまでかな……」。その後、遺族はパソコンに残された文章を読み、初めて自殺の理由を知った。国会では貸金業規制の関連法改正案の審議が続くが、多重債務を防ぐセーフティーネット作りを急がなければ、被害はなくならない。【多重債務取材班】
 男性は大手メーカーの下請け会社をリストラされ、派遣社員として工場を転々とした。離婚して一人で公営住宅に住み、月給が20万円を切るようになっても、妻子が住むマンションのローンを月11万円払っていた。「家族には住まいを残したかったようだ」と、兄(48)は言う。
 5月2日。山中に止めた車内で、練炭を燃やし亡くなっているのが見つかる。車内に妻子あての遺書があり、高校生の長男には「社会人になって お母(さん)をたすけてやれ 借金はするな」と書かれていた。
 動機に心当たりのない親族は遺品のパソコンを開いた。そこには自殺までの経緯が克明に記されていた。
 仕送りや生活費が足りず、男性は消費者金融4社に170万円の債務を抱えていた。返済に行き詰まった時、新聞の折り込みチラシで超低金利の融資をうたう業者を知る。東京都知事への貸金業登録番号も書かれている。電話をかけると「年5.2%で200万円融資するので、保証金として消費者金融から70万円を借りて送金するように」という。これで月々の返済を6万円から2万円に減らせるはずだった。
 4月28日。送金したのに約束した融資の入金はない。業者への電話は突然、通じなくなった。
 翌29日。男性は警察署に駆け込んだが、「なぜそんな言葉を信じたのか。第三者に相談したら、それはおかしいだろうと誰でも言うはずだ」と言われた。
 パソコンの文章は次の言葉で終わっていた。「私は信じました。誰にも相談しなくても、うまく(債務一本化の)契約が出来たら良いなあと思っていました。もう これまでかな……」
 ■解説 貸金業規制法など関連法改正案は衆院を通過し、上限金利は09年末までに年29.2%から20%に下がることがほぼ確実となった。しかし、非正規雇用者や高齢者ら低所得層にとっては、依然として高い金利だ。
 国民生活センターによると、多重債務者が消費者金融から借り入れを始めた理由のトップは「収入の減少」で、その時の年収は3人に1人が200万円に満たない。
 岩手県消費者信用生活協同組合では、自治体、弁護士会、金融機関と連携した低利ローンを行っている。年9.25%で上限500万円。債務整理などの無料カウンセリングには年5000人が来る。だが、こうした取り組みはまだ一部地域にとどまっている。
 借金の問題は誰にも相談できない人が多い。詐欺やヤミ金融はそんな多重債務者の心理につけ込み、自殺にまで追い込んでいる。政府は内閣官房に「多重債務者対策本部」を設ける方針だが、公的融資や相談態勢の拡充など新たな施策を早急に打ち出さなければならない。
2006年12月02日15時31分 毎日新聞

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Firstradeでオンライントレード

アメリカのミューチャルファンドを買ってみたくて、1ヶ月半ほど前にFirstradeというネット証券会社の口座開設してみました。
アメリカのネット証券会社としてはE*TRADEとかAMERITRADEなどが有名どころなのですが、日本人でもミューチャルファンドを買えるところはFirstradeぐらいしかなく、またFirstradeだと申し込み時にパスポートの認証が要らないなど申し込みの敷居が低いので、ここに申し込んでみることにしました。

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