About Safety of Self-Driving Cars

Google recently announced their self-driving cars have been in 11 crashes ever? Like… ever. But, I’ve never been in a car accident so does that make me better than them? Last time, the Associated Press reported Google’s self-driving cars were involved in 11 minor crashes in six years. Is that a lot?

Not according to Google. They count it as a win that their cars have driven 1 million automated miles of testing in the six years they’ve been at it, and have only had these few fender benders. By comparison, the human population crashes about 0.3 times for every 100,000 miles, (161,000 km) per driver according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Wait a second… So really, Google’s stats aren’t that much better at 0.6 per 100,000! So why are they spending so much money to develop a self-driving car that doesn’t seem safer? Because many non-fatal crashes go unreported, so it’s very likely that point three crashes per 100,000 miles isn’t even accurate. On top of that, 94 percent of all crashes ever are caused by human failure. We are the absolute worst at driving. Cell phone bans don’t reduce crashes, drunk driving prohibitions, speed limits, and the like don’t stop drivers crashing; instead fatalities are still in the tens of thousands every year.

In fact, for example according Discovery News, the reason there were collisions with the self-driving cars at all was because of driver error! Sources say the car has been rear-ended mostly, but it’s also been sideswiped and hit by a car that ran a red light or stop sign. Since the crash specifics are secret, we can’t be certain, but Google says the car was never at fault, and eight of those crashes were on city streets. If you buy their spin, then yes – the cars probably are safer! And private cars are just the tip of the iceberg.

We’re also gonna be seeing autonomous vehicles in the commercial space. Earlier this month, auto manufacturer Daimler unveiled its self-driving semi-truck. The “Inspiration Truck” can drive itself on the highway, and only needs a human operator in cities. On top of that, they can network on the road and drive in a caravan, getting improved gas mileage as a crew by taking advantage of the slipstream of the truck in front of them. Basically, only the truck in front has to fully cut through the air, the rest “draft” and get a mileage boost.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates commercial freight logged 3.3 trillion ton-miles in 2012, and trucks represented 38 percent of that — or 1.3 trillion miles. That’s a lot of ground to cover for the Inspiration Truck or other similar commercial trucks. Aside from Google and Daimler, Audi and Nissan have also developed self-driving cars. Tesla announced the Model S will have autonomous features within a few months.

So the future is pretty much here. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranks self-driving vehicles, and both the Google cars and the Inspiration Truck as “Level 3” autonomous vehicles; unlike an airplane on autopilot. They can travel autonomously, but quote “The driver is expected to be available for occasional control… sufficiently comfortable transition time.” So the car can’t just toss it to the driver when someone jumps in front… but then who is at fault? If “driver” wasn’t actually driving, and Google programmed the thing; what happens?

At this point, no one knows. California, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and Washington, D.C are the only places that license for self-driving cars, so far, and there are only 48 autonomous vehicles registered in California; 23 of those are Google’s. In the end these laws are still so new, and the technology isn’t entirely proven. Driving a million autonomous miles is small compared to the trillions travelled by truck drivers in the U.S. alone.

Are In Text Ads Relevant to the Content?

Yes, In Text Advertising is a form of Contextual Advertising

I was browsing through a magazine – a real one with paper pages – and noticed a lifestyle article about a new mattress that uses three-dimensions. Well, I wondered, don’t most mattresses have three dimensions? But then, on the next page, a full-page advertisement announced a new 3D mattress. Hmm… was that a coincidence? Of course not. The magazine sold the mattress ad and probably added an editorial article about the new technology. Most magazines try to separate editorial content from advertising, to keep appearance of professional writing. Separation of paid-for ads and actual content is considered ethical. In this instance, they were not that subtle. But wait, what’s so wrong about relevant ads? There seem to be a big difference in our expectations between the offline world and the online arena. While in traditional paper publications we prefer content which is clear of advertising interests, when it comes to the Internet, we actually expect the ads surrounding the content to be highly relevant to the content.

As website publishers we in fact insist of showing the most relevant ads, hoping they will yield higher click-through rates and revenues. The visitors somehow accept this as being supplemental to the content. Google AdSense ads are responsible for this revolution. Since the ads are placed through automated algorithms, we don’t see them as affecting the editorial considerations of the publisher. Moreover, if the ads are not relevant, we usually complain about it.

In text advertising is a form of contextual advertising. As such, in text ads are attached to hooks – highlighted terms within the content – and they are relevant to the terms and the content of the page. So, if your question is simply – are in text ads relevant? The answer is positive. Yes, in text ads are relevant to your content. But since there are examples where they are less relevant, this question calls for some further discussion.

No Perfect Guarantees

One of the publishers I’ve been working with has integrated in text ads for the first time. During the first month, we served ads to no less than 20 million unique visitors. When summarizing the first month’s results, the publisher was generally very happy with the revenues and feedback, but he highlighted one email from a frequent visitor, who complained about an ad that was not relevant. My first response to the complaint was – Great, this is good news! How come? Simple. It’s true that an irrelevant ad is not a good user experience. But, if we had one complaint out of 20 million visitors, we have a very good success ratio. There are no guarantees that any contextual advertising technology would be perfect. There’s nothing like a bullet-proof method with perfect relevance, not even Google AdSense, and as long as the vast majority of ads are relevant, this should suffice.

Is it really not relevant?

In text ads can be less relevant when the content is not focused. Any contextual algorithm, as smart as it can be, would have problems with pages that are a mix of issues. In such cases, the ad should at least be relevant to the hook – the highlighted term.

Another factor that can reduce relevancy is geography. When the visitor comes from a country with less online advertising, it could be difficult to match the ads with high relevancy. To improve this, make sure with your provider that he has enough advertising coverage in the countries where your most important visitors come from, and be tolerant to less relevant ads in other regions.

Last but not least, relevancy is in the eye of the advertiser. While you may think that an ad is not relevant, take into consideration that the advertiser has specifically chosen to match the ad to the term and context. A professional in text ads provider only places ads with direct response to advertising campaigns which target context and terms. For example, if the chosen term was “London Hotel”, you would probably expect a travel ad. But then, if you see an ad for a t-shirt website, don’t be alarmed. It could be that this t-shirt website is now selling new Madonna merchandise, and Madonna is on her way to a big concert in London; hence, the advertiser is trying to target tourists who head to London for the show.

Are your Hooks Relevant?

In addition to measuring the relevancy of the ads to the content, another important factor would be the relevancy of the highlighted terms to the content. Before any visitor hovers over an ad, visitors show interest in links which are relevant to the content. When the highlighted terms are relevant, you should see higher rates of hovers. Matching the ads themselves comes next. So first, ask yourself – are the terms relevant? This should be a good start.

You can improve In Text Ads Relevancy

In these cases when you still feel that the in text ads on your website are not relevant enough, consider the following options. First, calculate how serious this issue is. If you’re thinking about just a few ads out of thousands, then it’s probably not a serious problem. Second, consider the context and the geography – the more focused the content, and the bigger the market for online advertising in this country, the higher the relevance should be. If the market is not that big and the content is not very focused, achieving high relevancy would be difficult. Third, look from the advertiser’s point of view – he thought the ad is relevant, so try to understand it.

If, after considering these options, you still feel that the ads are not relevant, then it’s time to contact your in text ads provider. There’s much you can do together. Your provider can work with you to improve the algorithm and customize it to your website, direct specific advertisers to your website, and assist you with monitoring and analyzing results. After all, it is contextual advertising.

Getting An Oil Tank Removed

Are you a property owner and worried about oil tanks? Well, as undesirable as they are, they are not something to worry about, as the removal process is actually quite simple and not as inconvenient as you might have previously thought.

First things first, is to know the background of underground storage tanks (USTs). Some properties have USTs buried on their grounds due to the fact that oil as a fuel was overtaken by natural gas in the 1950s. This meant that there was no longer a need for these tanks so many of them were buried underground and thought to be out of harms way. This method, in fact, was harmful, as even though the oil was drained from the tank, there was some residue left over in many that could leak into the soil and damage the environment around it. Since then, to avoid, or stop what has already happened in terms of contamination, it has become the law in British Columbia for property owners to have the USTs removed from their land. There are very few exceptions to this rule, so if you know you have an oil tank, you should starting planning to have it removed as soon as possible.

One problem that many people imagine is, if the fuel tank is buried, then how do I know if I have one on my property? There is actually a very simple way to find out. If you call an oil tank removal firm that operates in the region, they will be able to inspect the premises and let you know. There are many companies that use special scanning equipment that utilizes radar technology and this can tell you whether or not there is a UST buried on the property without invading the land at all. Then, if a tank is found, arrangements can be made for its removal.

To start the process, a small area or land around the tank site will be cordoned off. If you go with a well reviewed and professional oil tank removal service, you will be amazed at how little disruption is caused and how not very much space is taken up while removing the oil tank. The team will operate as quickly as possible by digging up the tank and cutting it down into smaller pieces. By doing this, it will be easier to remove the oil tank through smaller spaces away from the property, for example, through the back garden gate.

10 Steps To Reduce Your Debt: Do-It-Yourself Debt Reduction

Getting into debt is easy and worrying about it won’t do much in relieving you from your debt. The best you can do when you have already run into debt is to start working towards reducing or clearing the debt and staying out of debt in every possible way. You can find your own strategy to deal with the debt, but there are several DIY debt reduction strategies and tips you can use to get over your financial woes.

1. Evaluate the debts. Start by collecting all financial documents and printing credit reports so you know exactly where you are with the debts. Most times people get scared just thinking of how hefty the debts are but you will never know until you take the courage to evaluate the debt so you can start somewhere with the recovery. Include all personal loans, auto loans, credit cards and payday loans in this evaluation.

2. Check your current earnings and budget. With the clear debt information, you then must start working towards debt reduction. Calculate the monthly income you get after taxes and basics like mortgage or rent, groceries, utilities and insurance. This way, you will get to find out how much you can spare for paying off the debt.

3. Find ways to increase pay off amounts. Sometimes when you subtract all basics from your income, you might find that you have very little amount left you can use on the debts. If the amount is too small, try and come up with ways through which you can reduce spending. Carpooling is one of the temporary methods you can use to cutback the expenses.

4. Create a plan. Now that you have some money to use on the debts, create a plan of how you are going to handle the debts and pay off. Will you start with one debt or pay a little every month for every debt you have? You might find it helpful to start with debts with highest interest rates or highest balance.

5. Negotiate repayment with your lenders and creditors. Agreeing to negotiate terms will be a plus to your credibility and your lenders or creditors will be more than willing to strike a deal with you.

6. Keep up with the debt reduction plan. Commitment is your only ticket out of debt so keep up with the plan.

7. As you continue with the repayment plan, avoid adding any more debts on top of what you already have.

8. Find better ways to deal with your financial issues besides getting loans. You can for instance, avoid making purchases for those that are not urgent.

9. Leave your credit card at home when going out unless you are going shopping. It will keep impulse buying at bay. In case you are going to shop, make a list of everything you need and stick by it no matter how tempting things in the store appear.

10. In case you take up a loan again, be consistent with your repayment and avoid piling loans. Try and have one loan at a time.

Preparing For A Flood: From Flood Insurance To Keeping Your House Safe

Nobody expects to find 10 inches of water in the living room. Did you know that floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States? Unfortunately, it can happen to anyone, and the best thing you can do to protect your family and home is to be prepared. Read on to find out some things you can do before this natural disaster strikes.

Plan Ahead

-Buy flood insurance: Believe it or not, a regular home insurance does not cover water damage. This is why it’s highly recommended that business owners and homeowners purchase flood insurance. Just remember that it takes 30 days after your purchase for your flood insurance protection to become valid.

-Build your house on the right place: Avoid building your home and business on low-lying land next to a river. These areas extend from the banks of the river to the walls of the enclosed valley walls. Even when these areas remain dry for many years, when there’s abundant rain, your house can be in great danger.

-Take care of electrical appliances: You should elevate your HVAC and electrical systems, including the wiring, at least one foot. Doing this will help you prevent short circuits and potential fires. Also, take into consideration that any electrical components inundated, even if it’s just a short period of time, must be replaced.

-Build a barrier: In order to prevent water coming into your home, you can also build a barrier. You can either build a levee out of compacted earth or masonry. Masonry is a structure made of individual components that are bound together. Besides protecting your home, the greatest advantage of these types of barriers is that they won’t change the appearance of your house.

-Seal your house: Install water shields over the windows, doors, and any other openings. Also, coat the walls with waterproof sealant. Remember to seal all the lower areas of your house.

During A Storm

-Be alert: watch or listen to the news. Get updated information constantly, in case you need to leave your house.

-Move to a safe place: You don’t need to wait for instructions to move to higher ground. However, if you decide to stay home, and at some point the authorities determine that an evacuation is necessary, you must leave! If you have time, before you leave bring the outdoor furniture inside your house, and move important stuff to the upper floor. And don’t forget to lock your house!

-Be safe: Know what areas fill with water faster and try not to drive or walk near them. In addition, avoid all contact with floodwater. It’s dangerous because it contains chemical waste or sewage. If for some reason you come in contact with it, wash yourself right away with clean water and soap.