Toyota, the world’s largest automaker and a laggard in vehicle electrification, announced two new EVs today that offer a glimpse of what the company’s future battery-powered lineup will look like when it actually gets around to building it.
Yep, that’s right: more concepts from the company that environmentalists accuse of stymying the transition to an all-electric future through its government lobbying.
The two concepts announced were the Urban SUV and Sport Crossover, which Toyota insists will be formally introduced as real cars within the next two years. The EVs are slated for Europe, though, with no word on whether they will eventually be made available in North America.
The compact Urban SUV is “a close-to-production design for a model that next year will enter what’s expected to become one of Europe’s largest BEV market segments,” the company said. Toyota modeled it on the Yaris Cross, which is one of the automaker’s top sellers in Europe.
The Sport Crossover, meanwhile, is a high-riding fastback sedan that’s meant to serve as an alternative to the compact SUV. Toyota said a production version of the model will come out in Europe in 2025.
A total of six EVs are slated for Europe by 2026. The Toyota bZ4X is already on sale there, and a compact SUV concept was revealed last year. The company plans on revealing two additional EVs in the months to come to round out the lineup.
Despite its plans on paper, Toyota is trailing many of its rivals in EV models. The company said it would release 30 electric vehicles and sell 3.5 million battery EVs by 2030. Toyota also plans on transforming the luxury brand Lexus into an EV-only marque by 2035.
Despite its plans on paper, Toyota is trailing many of its rivals in EV models
Despite these big promises, the company has stymied EV adoption efforts, opposing the US’s efforts to slash air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, and pushing for policies that prioritized hybrids over battery-electric vehicles.
Toyota was an early pioneer in electrification, helping pave the way for companies like Tesla and others by proving that vehicles with alternative powertrains could be immensely popular. But the company has since fallen far behind its competitors.
The recent debate over EV demand in the US — is it rising? falling? flatlining? — has given Toyota an opportunity to boast about its strategy. “People are finally seeing reality,” Toyota chairman and former CEO Akio Toyoda told reporters at the Japan Mobility Show recently, according to The Wall Street Journal. “There are many ways to climb the mountain that is achieving carbon neutrality.”
X-planes are a class of experimental aircraft designed to test and demonstrate new innovations in flight—some were created for NASA, others for DARPA or the U.S. military. The first X-plane, X-1, was flown by Chuck Yeager in the 1940s and was the first craft to fly faster than the speed of sound. Over the decades,…
For most markets where DoorDash operates, customers are prompted to tip on the checkout screen, with a middle option already selected by default. If they want to, they can adjust the tip later from the status screen while awaiting their food, or even after it’s delivered. That’s changing today; while blaming New York City’s minimum wage increase for delivery workers, DoorDash announced that for “select markets, including New York City,” tipping is now exclusively a post-checkout option.
The company said the change is intended to “better balance the impact of” new costs resulting from the city’s change. It wrote that the new regulations will “force” it to raise fees, so the move is meant to “ensure our platform remains affordable for all New Yorkers.” The same company recently started testing warning customers their order might take longer when they choose not to tip at checkout.
DoorDash’s new policy and old complaints came after a new law in New York City increased the wages of delivery drivers to a minimum of $17.96 per hour, which a state appeals court upheld last week after the company and others tried to have the law overturned. DoorDash has not been a fan and insisted at a hearing in April and again in June, that it’s on the hook for more than the city’s newly mandated $17.96 per hour, writing that NYC dashers “will now earn at least $29.93 per hour of active time.” The emphasis is mine — the company doesn’t count the time Dashers wait between orders as on-the-clock work. Before the change, those workers earned a base pay rate of $7.09 per hour.
DoorDash pointedly claimed that its specious $30-per-hour rate is “twice NYC’s $15 minimum wage for other workers.” The NYC Consumer and Worker Protection Department explained in its study preceding the new law that the higher rate accounts for the extra tax burden DoorDash’s workers face as independent contractors.
The pay increase came after labor groups like Los Deliveristas Unidos and the Worker’s Justice Project spent years advocating for higher pay. In their petition for the pay increase, the Deliveristas point to the danger of delivery work, as well as its associated expenses, which they said can be as much as almost $17,000 per year.
DoorDash says it’s also pausing its “Dasher Priority Access” incentive program that feeds higher-paying work to the best-rated delivery workers. Because of the NYC minimum wage guarantee, the company says “the benefits offered by this program will not apply.”
DoorDash says the new tipping approach is effective today, just days after NYC Mayor Eric Adams issued a release saying “the apps should immediately pay delivery workers the minimum pay rate, as the New York State Supreme Court ruled on September 28, 2023.”
After all that writing, I’m famished. Maybe I’ll order some General Tso’s chicken tonight — with an extra tip for good measure.
The battle over newspaper-style puzzle games is intensifying. Hearst — which publishes the likes of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and the San Francisco Chronicle — has announced that it has acquired Puzzmo, a puzzle gaming platform led by indie developers Zach Gage and Orta Therox. The move puts Hearst directly up against the gaming efforts of TheNew York Times. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. As a comparison, in 2022 TheNew York Times acquired Wordle for “an undisclosed price in the low seven figures.”
Puzzmo launched in a limited beta form in October and is billed as a reimagining of the classic newspaper games page. It features a number of notable Gage-designed titles like SpellTower, Really Bad Chess, and Typeshift, along with a streamlined daily crossword puzzle. The site also features community features like leaderboards and multiplayer options. “There’s great stuff out there,” Gage told me in October of the newspaper games space. “But there isn’t this holistic place where people can go and build a community around these games.”
As part of the deal, Gage and Therox will continue to develop Puzzmo, which currently operates as a website, with a mobile app in the works. But Puzzmo will also begin rolling out to readers of more than 50 Hearst publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle and Popular Mechanics.
Additionally, Hearst will be licensing out Puzzmo games to other publishers. According to the company, these deals “are structured as rev-shares on both subscription and advertising revenue.” Each publisher gets a branded version of the Puzzmo site, complete with the same library of games. (In a press release, Hearst explains that “The platform includes zero-code tools for publishers outside of Hearst’s network to tailor Puzzmo’s look and feel, settings, games, and paywall to their unique needs.”)
To start, the list of publishers licensing the service include the likes of Digg, Postmedia, and Polygon (which, disclosure, is part of Vox Media alongside The Verge).
“The power, flexibility, and scalability of what we’ve built makes it a smart choice for publishers, and we’re excited to reach so many players across Hearst’s audience,” Therox said in a statement.
According to Gage, the success of Wordle was important for showing just how big these newspaper-style puzzle games can be. “It’s actually great to have something out there that has proven the scale of the market,” he told The Verge in October. “Because right now, everyone is trying to do it. For us, as a really small company, it’s amazing: we have the exact product for this market.”
With shifting release dates and mandated radio silence due to the Hollywood strikes, the buildup to Dune: Part Two has been nothing short of eventful. While there’s still a few more months before audiences can see it, Warner Bros. is getting the promo ball rolling again with footage screened at CCXP to join the first looks for its other 2024 blockbusters, Furiosaand Kong x Godzilla: The New Empire.
Picking up where the last Dune left off, Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica have been taken in by Arrakis’ native people, the Fremen. With Chani at his side, Paul endeavors to become a capable fighter among the Fremen to prevent the visions he saw during Part One and to bring down the Harkonnen family working to overthrow House Atreides. Along with the surviving cast from the first film—which includes Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Dave Bautista—the sequel features new cast members in Austin Butler, Christopher Walken, and Florence Pugh. The major players in the principal cast have also gotten character posters, which we’ve helpfully assembled for you.
Dune: Part Two arrives in theaters on March 1, 2024.
I like a fancy pair of headphones or a gorgeous TV as much as the next nerd, but these days what really gets me going is European Spa Source’s Eucalyptus Shower Spa Mist…
No, I’m serious. It’s not a new piece of tech, but have you ever wondered why fancy hotel spas smell like the inside of God’s armpit but your bathroom smells like dirty washcloths? It’s this stuff. A few spritzes of spa mist before I hop in the shower, and my entire brain feels like it’s getting a massage while the steam builds up around me.
It really is that good. Pair it with my brand new dual shower head and some nice-smelling soaps, and my entire bathing experience has been overhauled. I highly suggest you give it a try if you value your shower time.
Into the Mist
Shower sprays are nothing new to aromatherapy nuts, but for normies like me they are a revolution. The small bottles come in a variety of sizes and aromas from various brands. My family found this one when my Dad asked a fancy spa he went to in the American Southwest what their special flavor was. The way he gifted everyone in my family a bottle for Christmas last year, it felt like he was like Indiana Jones sharing a relic he found in an ancient temple. I didn’t understand why he was so excited until I tried it.
This particular aroma is one of the most joyous and uplifting scents I’ve ever smelled. The eucalyptus is bright and almost minty when you spray it in a confined space like my small bathroom, with a hint of citrus or lemongrass that lingers in the air. It’s a lovely way to wake up your sinuses (and your outlook) on a dark Portland, Oregon morning.
At this point, when I shower without it (on vacations, at the gym), I genuinely feel like I have a worse day afterward. I’ve started bringing it with me places I can’t fly, like a much lamer Beyoncé with her hot sauce.
I am a reviewer at heart, so I’ve tried a number of recommended shower scent options on Amazon. So far, European Spa Source is the only brand I can trust for the full Armpit Of God effect. None have come close to the brightness and striking cool that comes into my sinuses with a few sprays of European Mist. However, I am interested in trying other scents from the brand; they have one with Lavender that I think I’ll snag when this bottle runs out.
They last a while, though. The $30 price is a lot for something that just smells good, but I have been getting months out of each bottle, even with extra sprays to make my house smell better during off-shower times (I may have a problem). The stuff is also oddly good at cutting off bad scents; you can lean on it after a particularly stinky number two, or when the rest of your house smells like it’s had two dogs snoring in it all day.
It doesn’t have wires, and it can’t play my favorite songs, but pair this with a shower speaker and some Spotify, and this shower spray is easily on my list of Gear of the Year.
The whole family can channel their favorite Marvel characters with gifts inspired by the heroes and villains of the MCU, Spider-Man films, Disney+ shows like Loki and Ms. Marvel, and ‘90s X-Men cartoon throwbacks.
This holiday season, be merry and Marvel with collections available online and in select stores from retailers like BoxLunch, RSVLTS, Loungefly, Chewy, and Heroes & Villains. From accessories to baby outfits to pet gifts—io9 has you covered in this and every timeline.
Check out our Marvel style gift guide in this gallery!
It’s been over a full year since the last season of The Boys, and while Gen V’sdefinitely kept the franchise going, it teed up some interesting developments for the mothership show’s return. While the next season is still a couple of months out, Prime Video’s released a first look at what’s coming next for their superhero universe.
“Even AI Rappers are Harassed by Police” | AI Unlocked
Last season ended with Homelander (Anthony Starr) getting applauded for publicly lasering a guy to death, with the public now openly taking sides on whether or not he’s the hero he claims to be. With fans of Starlight (Erin Moriarty) on the other side of the argument, and still continuing to blackmail presidential candidate Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), he’s got no problem using the Supes divide to his own ends. And it helps that appears to have a kindred spirit in Sister Sage (Susan Heyward), a new recruit joining The Seven along with Firecracker (Valorie Curry).
The Boys – Season 4 Official Teaser Trailer | Prime Video
Meanwhile, on the Boys side of the equation, Billy Butcher’s (Karl Urban) only got a few months left to live. While he’s tracking down the Supes virus from Gen V, it’s also as good a time as any to reconnect with his old pal, played by Supernatural alum Jeffrey Dean Morgan. (He’s not the only actor from that show joining this season: Rob Benedict, who played Chuck/God on the show, is set to turn up as well.) While this trailer isn’t as bombastic as the one for season four, it’s still as biting and gnarly as The Boys often is, with dudes splitting themselves in half and discussions about how “fucking stupid” the masses are.
The Boys’ fourth season comes to Prime Video in 2024. And there’s more from the franchise in the coming years—along with Gen V’s second season, a Mexico-bound spinoff was recently revealed to be in the works.
In the aftermath of last week’s shocking OpenAI power struggle, there was one final revelation that acted as a kind of epilogue to the sprawling mess: a report from Reuters that revealed a supposedly startling breakthrough at the startup. That breakthrough allegedly happened via a little known program dubbed “Q-Star” or “Q*.”
“Even AI Rappers are Harassed by Police” | AI Unlocked
According to the report, one of the things that may have kicked off the internecine conflict at the influential AI company was this Q-related “discovery.” Ahead of Altman’s ouster, several OpenAI staffers allegedly wrote to the company’s board about a “powerful artificial intelligence discovery that they said could threaten humanity.” This letter was “one factor among a longer list of grievances by the board leading to Altman’s firing,” Reuters claimed, citing anonymous sources.
Frankly, the story sounded pretty crazy. What was this weird new program and why did it, supposedly, cause all of the chaos at OpenAI? Reuters claimed that the Q* program had managed to allow an AI agent to do “grade-school-level math,” a startling technological breakthrough, if true, that could precipitate greater successes at creating artificial general intelligence, or AGI, sources said. Another report from The Information largely reiterated many of the points made by the Reuters article.
Still, details surrounding this supposed Q program haven’t been shared by the company, leaving only the anonymously sourced reports and rampant speculation online as to what the true nature of the program could be.
Some have speculated that the program might (because of its name) have something to do with Q-learning, a form of machine learning. So, yeah, what is Q-learning, and how might it apply to OpenAI’s secretive program?
In general, there are a couple different ways to teach an AI program to do something. One of these is known as “supervised learning”, and works by feeding AI agents large tranches of “labelled” data, which is then used to train the program to perform a function by itself (typically that function is more data classification). By and large, programs like ChatGPT, OpenAI’s content-generating bot, were created using some form of supervised learning.
Unsupervised learning, meanwhile, is a form of ML wherein AI algorithms are allowed to sift through large tranches of unlabeled data, in an effort to find patterns to classify. This kind of artificial intelligence can be deployed to a number of different purposes, such as creating the kind of recommendation systems that companies like Netflix and Spotify use to suggest new content to users based on their past consumer choices.
Finally, there’s reinforced learning, or RL, which is a category of ML that incentivizes an AI program to achieve a goal within a specific environment. Q-learning is a subcategory of reinforced learning. In RL, researchers treat AI agents sort of like a dog that they’re trying to train. Programs are “rewarded” if they take certain actions to affect certain outcomes and are penalized if they take others. In this way, the program is effectively “trained” to seek the most optimized outcome in a given situation. In Q-learning, the agent apparently works through trial and error to find the best way to go about achieving a goal its been programmed to pursue.
What does this all have to do with OpenAI’s supposed “math” breakthrough? One could speculate that the program that managed (allegedly) to do simple math operations may have arrived at that ability via some form of Q-related RL. All of this said, many experts are somewhat skeptical as to whether AI programs can actually do math problems yet. Others seem to think that, even if an AI could accomplish such goals, it wouldn’t necessarily translate to broader AGI breakthroughs. The MIT Technology review, speaking with :
Researchers have for years tried to get AI models to solve math problems. Language models like ChatGPT and GPT-4 can do some math, but not very well or reliably. We currently don’t have the algorithms or even the right architectures to be able to solve math problems reliably using AI, says Wenda Li, an AI lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. Deep learning and transformers (a kind of neural network), which is what language models use, are excellent at recognizing patterns, but that alone is likely not enough, Li adds.
In short: We really don’t know much about Q, though, if the experts are to be believed, the hype around it may be just that—hype.
Question of the day: Seriously, what the heck happened with Sam Altman?
Despite the fact that he’s back at OpenAI, it bears some consideration that we still don’t know what the fuck happened with Sam Altman last week. In an interview he did with The Verge on Wednesday, Altman gave pretty much nothing away as to what precipitated the dramatic power struggle at his company last week. Despite continual prodding from the outlet’s reporter, Altman just sorta threw up his hands and said he wouldn’t be talking about it for the foreseeable future. “I totally get why people want an answer right now. But I also think it’s totally unreasonable to expect it,” the rebounded CEO said. Instead, the most The Verge was able to get out of the OpenAI executive is that the company is in the midst of conducting an “independent review” into what happened—a process that, he said, he doesn’t want to “interfere” with. Our own coverage of last week’s shitshow interpreted it according to a narrative involving a clash between the board’s ethics and Altman’s dogged push to commercial OpenAI’s automated technology. However, this narrative is just that: a narrative. We don’t know the specific details of what led to Sam’s ousting, though we sure would like to.
Other headlines this week
Israel is using AI to identify suspected Palestinian militants. If you were worried that governments would waste no time in weaponizing AI for use in modern warfare, listen to this. A story from The Guardian shows that Israel is currently using an AI program that it’s dubbed Habsora or, “The Gospel” to identify apparent militant targets within Palestine. The program is used to “produce targets at a fast pace” a statement posted to the Israeli Defense Forces website apparently reads, and sources told The Guardian that the program has helped the IDF to build a database of some 30,000 to 40,000 suspected militants. The outlet reports: “Systems such as the Gospel…[sources said] had played a critical role in building lists of individuals authorised to be assassinated.”
Elon Musk weighed in on AI copyright issues this week and, as per usual, sounded dumb. Multiple lawsuits have argued that tech companies are essentially stealing and repackaging copyrighted material, allowing them to monetize other people’s work (typically authors and visual artists) for free. Elon Musk waded into this contentious conversation during his weird-ass Dealbook interview this week. Naturally, the thoughts he shared sounded less than intelligible. He said, and I quote: “I don’t know, except to say that by the time these lawsuits are decided we’ll have Digital God. So, you can ask Digital God at that point. Um. These lawsuits won’t be decided on a timeframe that’s relevant.” Beautiful, Elon. You just keep your eyes out for that digital deity. Meanwhile, in the real world, legal and regulatory experts will have to contend with the disruptions this technology is continually causing for people way less fortunate than the Silicon Valley C-suite.
Cruise robotaxis continue to struggle. Cruise, the robotaxi company owned by General Motors, has been having a really tough year. Its CEO stepped down last week, following a whirlwind of controversy involving the company’s various mishaps in San Francisco. This week, it was reported that GM would be scaling back its investments in the company. “We expect the pace of Cruise’s expansion to be more deliberate when operations resume, resulting in substantially lower spending in 2024 than in 2023,” GM CEO Mary Barra reportedly said at an investor conference Wednesday.
Amazon is enlisting the help of one of its biggest rivals to shuttle its Project Kuiper internet satellites into space. The company will use SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket for three launches beginning in 2025, Amazon announced on Friday.
Project Kuiper is Amazon’s low Earth orbit satellite program that could eventually provide users across the globe with internet connectivity. Amazon launched its first two Project Kuiper test satellites into space in October, where it managed to connect to the internet and conduct a two-way video call. However, it still has to do some serious catching up to SpaceX’s Starlink, which has already deployed around 5,000 satellites.
Despite the rivalry between the two companies, it doesn’t exactly come as a surprise that Amazon has chosen SpaceX as a future launch provider. Satellite companies and government agencies have become increasingly reliant on SpaceX’s reusable rockets for consistent — and cheaper — launches, as pointed out by an earlier report from The Wall Street Journal. The Elon Musk-owned company powered 88 percent of flights in the first six months of 2023 alone.
Most of Amazon’s satellites will still be ferried by Arianespace, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA), though. Amazon secured up to 83 launches with the three companies last year, which it says “provides enough capacity to launch the majority” of its planned 3,236 satellite constellation. It will deploy more Project Kuiper satellites in the first half of 2024, with beta testing starting toward the end of next year.