NY ‘Text Stops’ Drive Home Safety Message

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday unveiled a plan to identify existing Park-n-Ride facilities, rest stops and parking areas on the state’s highways as “Texting Zones.”

There’s nothing now — other than impatience — preventing drivers from pulling off the road into those areas to read and send text messages, but with the new initiative, appropriate signs will coax them to do so.

Andrew Cuomo texting zones

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveils ‘texting zones’ along New York State Thruway and highways.

Under the program, a total of 298 signs will be located along major highways across the state, notifying motorists of 91 Text Stops.


Issued Tix Jump 365 Percent

“New York State is continuing to use every tool at its disposal to combat texting-while-driving,” said Cuomo.

“In addition to tougher penalties, new detection methods for State Police and ongoing public outreach efforts, we are now launching special Texting Zones to allow motorists to pull over and use their phones,” he continued.

“With this new effort, we are sending a clear message to drivers that there is no excuse to take your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road because your text can wait until the next Texting Zone,” Cuomo added.

In conjunction with the Texting Zone announcement, Cuomo released the state’s latest distracted driving enforcement statistics. They showed a 365 percent increase in tickets issued — 21,580 in the summer of 2013 from 5,208 in the summer of 2012.

During a period from July 4 to Sept. 2, the state issued 16,027 cellphone tickets and 5,553 texting tickets. Only hands-free cellphone use is allowed in New York. That compares with 4,284 cellphone write-ups and 924 texting citations during the same period in 2012.

Crackdown on Distractions

“Our top priority is keeping motorists and pedestrians safe on New York’s roadways, and the new distracted driving law has helped us to do our job better,” said New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico.

“We told motorists we would be out there looking for violators and we found far too many,” he continued. “The accidents that result from the use of handheld devices are completely avoidable, which is why we will continue to target distracted drivers who engage in this dangerous activity.”

Earlier this year, New York adopted tougher measures to curb distracted driving by increasing the penalty for the practice from three to five points on a driver’s license and increasing the license suspension and revocation periods for young and new drivers cited for distracted driving.

2012 was the safest year ever in the 60-year history of the highway system, noted New York State Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison.

“We are always looking at new and better ways to make the highway even safer,” Madison said, “and Gov. Cuomo’s Text Stops initiative is an excellent way for drivers to stay in touch while recognizing the dangers of using mobile devices while driving.”

Most Dangerous Task

New York’s attempt to induce drivers to pull off the road before texting may be a first.

“To my knowledge, this is the first state that’s tried to repurpose its existing rest zones and other parking areas along its freeways to reinforce with people that they should wait before sending or reading a text,” Bill Windsor, associate vice president for consumer safety at Nationwide, told TechNewsWorld.

“Of all the things you can do with a cellphone, everyone agrees that texting while driving is the most dangerous,” Windsor said.

There are three major distractions while driving — taking your hands off the wheel, taking your eyes off the road, and taking your mind off your driving.

“Texting encompasses all three of those distractions,” Windsor observed. “If someone is taking their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road, it increases crash risk 23 times.”

Will repackaging rest areas as Texting Zones lure texters off the state’s highways?

“The signage alone will be a helpful reminder to people,” Marissa Shorenstein, New York State President of AT&T, told TechNewWorld. “The concept of saying to people, ‘You rest for a lot of things — to use a rest room, to take a break from driving — this is just another reason to rest,’ is a good one.”




Facebook adds auto-play to videos ahead of inevitable video ads

Facebook has introduced “an easier way to watch video” by having clips automatically play in the News Feed of its Android and iOS apps. Why? To be more like Vine and Instagram – and prepare users for ads.

An update for Facebook is rolling out in stages that will support auto-playback of videos. The setup is similar to Instagram in that the videos will only start playing once a user stops scrolling and settles on the clip. However, that won’t be enough to fully enjoy the video because the app still won’t play audio. Facebook users must tap on the screen to launch the clip in full-screen with audio.

Only videos from individuals and musicians are currently allowed to play, but it’s a forgone conclusion that brands will eventually be able to use this feature to post video ads in the News Feed. A limited number of Pages for musicians already have access to it, and Facebook won’t pass up the opportunity to increase its revenue by charging companies to post video ads, something Instagram is also expected to do. In response to questions about advertisers playing video in the News Feed, Facebook says:

“At first, this feature will be limited to videos posted by individuals, musicians, and bands. We?re doing this to make sure we create the best possible experience. Over time, we?ll continue to explore how to bring this to marketers in the future.”



Apple iPhone 5S makes big advancements in camera and adds finger-print scanner

The Apple iPhone 5S is now official and falling in line with exactly what onlookers have expected based on numerous leaks, along with a few surprises that will be unique to the latest iPhone. Apple made its predictable bumps in camera, battery, and processing power, but it also introduced a new Touch ID feature that uses fingerprints to authenticate users, something that should make entering a password less of a chore. (Click here for more information on TouchID).

Apple went with a new A7 SOC that is 64-bit that better fits iOS 7, which is designed to run in 64-bit. The iPhone 5S will predictably be the best smartphone to run iOS 7 at launch because it can still run older 32-bit apps but is engineered to be twice as fast in performance, have a 40 percent jump in CPU, and a 56 percent increase in graphical performance.

There’s also a CoreMotion API that works with the device’s accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope to introduce sensor-based features. In other words, apps will be able to tell when someone is walking, driving, or not moving. Developers will then be able to apply that information to their apps, so Nike can offer Fuel Points integration based on user movement. The battery can support 10 hours of 3G or LTE talk time, Wi-Fi or LTE web browsing, or watching video. It also can handle 40 hours of music playback and 250 hours of standby time.

A number of camera enhancements are include in iOS 7 software, but Apple has also made large updates to its hardware as well. The camera follows the “bigger pixels rather than more pixels” trend introduced by Nokia and HTC. The camera pixels are 1.5 microns, f 2.2 aperture, HDR, autofocus, and a fast camera that actually takes several photos at once and auto-selects the best of the bunch. There are dual LED flash that recognizes the scene of the photo and select 1 of 1,000 different combinations to use the best combination of the flash tones to best capture the subject.

Apple will sell the iPhone 5S in a dark “Space gray” color option that is almost black, gold, or silver. The phone is made of aluminum and treated in a way to make the materials have its unique colors and coating. The phone will sell for $199 (16GB), $299 (32GB), or $399 (64GB) on a two-year agreement. The iPhone 5S purchase period begins September 20 in: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, China, France, Germany, Japan, and Singapore. By December, the phone will be available in 100 countries.

iPhone 5S Specs

– 4-inch display (1136 x 640-pixel, 326 ppi)
– 500 cd/m2 max brightness (typical)
– Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating on front
– Height: 4.87 inches (123.8 mm)
– Width: 2.31 inches (58.6 mm)
– Depth: 0.30 inch (7.6 mm)
– Weight: 3.95 ounces (112 grams)
– 8-megapixel camera with 1.5 micron pixels
– f/2.2 aperture, BSI, Hybrid IR, True Tone flash
– 1.2-megapixl front camera with 720p HD
– 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
– Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology

Apple iPhone 5S
Apple iPhone 5S

Instagram buys camera app Luma to strengthen video offering

Instagram’s first acquisition under parent company Facebook is Luma, the 18-month-old company behind the camera application by the same name. Terms of the deal were not disclosed although we are told the agreement is for the company’s talent and technology.

In a message on the company’s website, the Luma team said they embarked on a mission to make capturing and sharing beautiful videos easy without expensive software or heavy equipment. By joining the team at Instagram, they are taking another big step towards realizing that mission.

Luma’s app specializes in cinematic video stabilization, effects and filters – all of which could be useful as Instagram continues to battle with Vine in the short video clip niche. Despite the competition, however, both services are taking a different approach as they aim to provide what they believe customers value the most.

Vine is all about simplicity and spontaneity as its app enables quicker processing and publishing of its six-second clips. Users are required to shoot video from within the app and there’s also no need to select a cover frame – both being time-savers.

Instagram, on the other hand, wishes to offer a powerful and flexible service. Users can add filters, enable stabilization and even upload previously shot (and edited) videos which gives a much more professional final product. Under this model, Instagram will need to employ the best technology and techniques available which explains their reasoning for purchasing Luma.

They just have to be conscious of not adding too many features as it could quickly turn into a full-on mobile video editing service.

T-Mobile to sell LG G2 for $99.99 down payment starting Sept. 18

The LG G2 heading to Verizon was officially announced today, and T-Mobile has also revealed details on its launch plans for the Android smartphone with power and volume buttons on the back of the device rather than the side. T-Mobile says that it will sell the G2, in black or white color options, for $99.99 down and 24 monthly payments of $21. The phone will go on sale online on September 18 but will not be available in stores until September 25.

AT&T LG G2 launching Sept. 12 for $199.99

Now AT&T has joined the chorus of carriers announcing plans to release the LG G2. The carrier has just revealed that it will begin selling the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-sporting G2 tomorrow, September 6, but only online. In-store purchases will not start until September 13. The phone will cost $199.99 with a two-year agreement or an additional $27 added to a monthly bill through the AT&T Next program. More information will be available at ATT.com/G2.


Asus teases new Transformer tablet for IFA launch

Asus is busily teasing a new device on its Facebook page, which will be announced on September 4, just before the start of the IFA tech show in Berlin. It all started late last week, when a post appeared saying, “Get ready as Asus unveils exciting new products at IFA,” accompanied by a picture showing a notepad and pencil, a desktop computer, and a tray of drinks. The image was titled, “We transform your possibilities,” and hinted we’re going to see a tablet device complete with a keyboard accessory and a waterproof chassis. 

The day after, Asus said, “A new generation is coming, but of which product?” The picture showed a tablet-like slate being taken out of a sleeve, linking it with the successful Asus Transformer product line. Asus then changed its tactics, as yesterday, a new picture was posted with the title, “We transform your perception, get ready for the evolution of an iconic notebook design.” Sure enough, the picture shows the back of a laptop case complete with Asus branding. A new Zenbook, perhaps, or is it the rear view of a Transformer tablet? 

Asus Transform IFA Teaser

Today, it has returned to more obvious imagery, as it shows a close up of what could be the rear of a slate and its speaker grille, plus a stylus. “Prepare for a new format and endless possibilities,” cries the blurb.

Asus last launched a new Transformer tablet, the Transformer Pad Infinity, during Computex 2013, which boasted Nvidia Tegra 4 power, a processor which could also be used in the device being outed at IFA. Asus also revealed the FonePad Note, a smartphone/tablet hybrid, which came with a stylus.

We’ll find out exactly what Asus is hiding very soon, on a day which is lining up to be very busy indeed, as Sony and Samsung have new hardware to show off too. Judging by previous Asus teaser campaigns, a video could follow these pictures, and we’ll update here if any more information is revealed prior to launch.