Airbnb hosts can get discounts on EV chargers

You might start to see more Airbnb properties with EV accommodations in the future. The online platform is teaming up with ChargePoint to get more Airbnb hosts to install EV chargers, Business Wire reports. The partnership means Airbnb hosts can access an exclusive ChargePoint package and save money. 

ChargePoint is giving Airbnb hosts 25 percent off whichever charger they pick and another $100 off installation fees. Chargers start at $399, meaning customers will get at least $100 off on that purchase alone. However, the installation deal is only available when purchased through the Airbnb page on ChargePoint's website. Airbnb is also giving another $200 off charging hardware for the first 1,000 Airbnb hosts to make purchases.

The partnership could lead to greater success for hosts. According to Airbnb, searches for properties with EV chargers increased by over 80 percent between 2022 and 2023. Also, it claims that, on average, listings with EV chargers get more income and nights booked than those without one. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/airbnb-hosts-can-get-discounts-on-ev-chargers-122954626.html?src=rss

Ember’s Travel Mug 2+ with Find My support drops to a record-low price

Ember’s highly-esteemed Travel Mug 2+ has dropped to a record-low price of $128, which is a discount of $72. The actual sale price is $160, but there’s a clippable coupon for the remaining $32. This is a pretty great deal for those in the market for a tech-heavy travel mug.

To that end, the Travel Mug 2+ integrates with Apple’s Find My technology, so you’ll always know exactly where your beverage is. It even has a built-in speaker that’ll ping when you’re looking for it. Anything can happen while traveling, so it’s good to have a little peace of mind, particularly because the usual price of this mug is $200.

Otherwise, this is a fantastic mug that keeps beverages hot for up to three hours and boasts a 12-ounce capacity. The battery’s on point, allowing for three hours of use on its own and a full day while resting on the included charging coaster. You also get access to the Ember’s proprietary app for setting the temperature, customizing presets and more. The mug does feature a little touchscreen for this, so the app’s not always necessary.

Ember makes great products, which is why we often recommend the company’s mugs. However, the Travel Mug 2+ isn’t perfect. You can hand wash it, but don’t put it in the dishwasher, unless you want to turn it into an expensive mug-shaped thing that doesn’t actually work. There’s also the price. At $200, it’s very hard to recommend this product because, well, it’s a mug for drinking tea and coffee. It’s easier to recommend at $128, and it makes a great gift, but at the end of the day it’s still just a container for liquids. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/embers-travel-mug-2-with-find-my-support-drops-to-a-record-low-price-163054893.html?src=rss

Uber makes its safety tools easier to access and customize

Plenty of women who use rideshare services regularly send details of their trips to loved ones and take other precautionary measures, especially at night. Now, Uber is putting all its safety tools in one place, making them easier to access and allowing users to customize them so that they'd automatically switch on. In the app's new safety preferences section, passengers can choose to schedule when its safety tools should automatically get activated, whether it's for every ride after 9PM, on the weekends or only for rides that begin within 50 meters of a bar or a restaurant. They can also ensure that Uber's safety features are active for every single ride they take if they want to. 

One of the tools passengers can activate in the new portal is audio recording, which the company introduced some time ago. Uber assures users that those recordings are encrypted and can't be accessed by anyone, even by the company. However, if something happens during the trip, passengers can choose to report an incident and share the recording with Uber for proof. Users can also switch on PIN verification so that they can be sure they're getting into the right vehicle, as well as RideCheck, which helps Uber detect if a ride goes off-course or stops unexpectedly. Finally, there's Share My Trip, allowing passengers to automatically share their live location and trip details with trusted contacts. 

At the moment, the new safety preferences page is only live in the US, Canada and Latin American countries, but the company plans to expand its availability to more regions. To access the new portal, users can go to Settings and find a link to it or tap the Safety Toolkit blue shield while on a trip and then tap "Set up safety preferences."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/uber-makes-its-safety-tools-easier-to-access-and-customize-123036849.html?src=rss

Uber makes its safety tools easier to access and customize

Plenty of women who use rideshare services regularly send details of their trips to loved ones and take other precautionary measures, especially at night. Now, Uber is putting all its safety tools in one place, making them easier to access and allowing users to customize them so that they'd automatically switch on. In the app's new safety preferences section, passengers can choose to schedule when its safety tools should automatically get activated, whether it's for every ride after 9PM, on the weekends or only for rides that begin within 50 meters of a bar or a restaurant. They can also ensure that Uber's safety features are active for every single ride they take if they want to. 

One of the tools passengers can activate in the new portal is audio recording, which the company introduced some time ago. Uber assures users that those recordings are encrypted and can't be accessed by anyone, even by the company. However, if something happens during the trip, passengers can choose to report an incident and share the recording with Uber for proof. Users can also switch on PIN verification so that they can be sure they're getting into the right vehicle, as well as RideCheck, which helps Uber detect if a ride goes off-course or stops unexpectedly. Finally, there's Share My Trip, allowing passengers to automatically share their live location and trip details with trusted contacts. 

At the moment, the new safety preferences page is only live in the US, Canada and Latin American countries, but the company plans to expand its availability to more regions. To access the new portal, users can go to Settings and find a link to it or tap the Safety Toolkit blue shield while on a trip and then tap "Set up safety preferences."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/uber-makes-its-safety-tools-easier-to-access-and-customize-123036849.html?src=rss

Airbnb to hosts: please stop filming the guests

Have you ever wondered if your visit to an Airbnb included being on candid camera? Well, there's good news for you and your stress levels because you really shouldn't have to worry about it soon. Airbnb has announced new privacy policies that entirely ban the use of indoor cameras. 

Previously, the company allowed hosts to keep cameras in communal spaces but banned them in areas like bedrooms and bathrooms. Hosts were technically supposed to disclose any cameras in the rental location, but this shift removes any ambiguity (or issues for most of us who don't read the entire listing description).

In addition to banning indoor cameras, Airbnb has also limited the use of outdoor ones. Hosts have to disclose any outdoor cameras on the property and these cameras can't point indoors or be in areas with a "greater expectation of privacy," like outdoor showers or saunas. They can also use doorbell cameras and noise decibel monitors. However, the latter also requires disclosure and can only assess decibel levels, not record or send sounds. Airbnb hosts can only place these in common spaces. 

Any host found to violate these policies can have their listing or entire account removed by Airbnb. If you have spring travels planned, remember to read your listing thoroughly to find out about any cameras — the new rules don't go into effect until April 30.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/airbnb-to-hosts-please-stop-filming-the-guests-144537408.html?src=rss

In 2023, Cruise’s robotaxi dreams took a necessary hiatus

The year had started so well for robotaxis. Cruise and Waymo came into 2023 riding high on fresh investments from General Motors and Google, respectively, as well as rapidly growing interest from the general public and a downright rabid rate of adoption by city governments. Things were looking up, very up, for the burgeoning self-driving vehicle industry! Then a driverless Crusie taxi accidentally dragged a hit-and-run victim down a San Francisco street for a few dozen feet and everything just sort of went to shit from there. So fragile, these Next Big Things. Let’s take a look back through the year that was to see how autonomous taxi tech might recover from this catastrophe.

Cruise's compounding problems

Cruise came into this year looking like a nigh-on unstoppable force of transportational change as the core of GM's self-driving efforts. The company received a $1.5 billion investment from the automaker in March 2022 after GM spent $2.1 buying equity ownership for the startup from Softbank Vision Fund. In February the company announced that its test fleet of driverless taxis had traveled a million miles of San Francisco’s streets without a human behind the wheel. The program had only started the previous November.

"When you consider our safety record, the gravity of our team’s achievement comes into sharper focus," Mo Elshenawy, Cruise's EVP of engineering, said in February. "To date, riders have taken tens of thousands of rides in Cruise AVs. In the coming years, millions of people will experience this fully driverless future for themselves."

Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt had been installed at his position in December 2021 after GM CEO Mary Barra ousted Dan Ammann from the spot. Vogt spent the following year laying out a grand vision of “zero crashes, zero traffic, and zero emissions,” though, according to a November report from the New York Times, the company “put a priority on the speed of the program over safety” during his tenure, cutting corners on safety in order to get more vehicles on the road. And expand Cruise did, into Houston and Los Angeles most notably, despite a growing number of traffic incidents and accidents left behind by its vehicles.

In April, the company was given permission to operate its driverless vehicles throughout San Francisco, 24/7 as well as pick up paying passengers during daylight hours. Previously, only Cruise employees were allowed to ride in the robotaxis and they could only operate when the sun was out. In August, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted 3-to-1 in favor of allowing Cruise (and Waymo as well) to to pick up paying passengers at all hours.

Not everybody was fully on board with the robotaxi takeover, mind you. In January 2023, San Francisco officials requested the CPUC slow or even halt the expansion of self-driving vehicle services in the city, arguing that the free-for-all growth OK’d by state regulators was becoming an “unreasonable” burden. In fact, barely a week after the CPUC voted in favor of expansion, the California DMV opened an investigation into an altercation between a Cruise taxi and a fire truck. In response, the DMV had Cruise cut its operating fleet in half — down to 50 vehicles during daylight hours and 150 at night — until it had completed its investigation. Then there was the whole “using robotaxis as love hotels” issue in August.

Those mishaps were bad. The events of October 3 and Cruise’s response to the resulting investigation proved unforgivable. As the company initially explained in the above thread, a human-driven vehicle struck a pedestrian, pushing her into the path of the Cruise taxi in the lane to her right. The taxi ran the woman over, despite aggressively braking, and ended up dragging her 20 feet until coming to a stop. EMS crews were able to extract the pedestrian from underneath the taxi using the jaws of life, and rushed her to medical treatment with critical injuries.Though she has not been identified, the pedestrian was reportedly in serious condition as late as October 25.

If that weren’t bad enough, Cruise then allegedly misled regulators about when the taxi engaged its brakes — telling them that the taxi had stopped immediately, not eventually, after slowly traveling another 20 feet down the block. The company then repeatedly delayed in releasing video of the incident to investigators until October 19.

The company’s cover-up efforts puts Cruise in financial jeopardy with the CPUC, which is currently considering fining it as much as $1.5 million for its obfuscating actions. The Commission's decision will be made in early February at an upcoming evidentiary hearing.

More immediately, the accident itself set off a whole slew of investigations, regulatory and internal alike. The Exponent consulting firm was brought in as an independent investigator and promptly dredged up some rather unflattering data regarding the robotaxis’ difficulties with spotting and reacting to the presence of small children. That revelation wasn’t so bad, at least compared to the company’s decision to keep the vehicles on the road even after being informed of the potentially deadly defect.

The California DMV was not amused and, two weeks after the accident occurred, the department suspended Cruise’s license to operate within the state, effectively shuttering its robotaxi operations. That’s a huge blow to GM, which has sunk billions into the startup and was anticipating the robotaxi service to generate as much as $5 billion annually when operations were to begin in 2025. In mid-November, the company recalled all 950 of its autonomous taxis in operation, and even paused robotaxi rides with human safety drivers behind the wheel a week later, as part of a “full safety review.”

Then things got even worse. On November 18, CEO Kyle Vogt announced his resignation from his position a week after GM installed EVP of Legal and Policy Craig Glidde (who was already a Cruise board member) as Chief Administrative Officer. The following day, company co-founder and Chief Product Officer Daniel Kan also announced his departure.

In response to Vogt's departure, GM promoted Mo Elshenawy from EVP of Engineering to the dual role of President and CTO, leaving the CEO position currently vacant. GM CEO Mary Barra told reporters recently that the company has “a lot of confidence with what the two co-presidents will do,” but will be “leaning in to make sure that it meets our strict requirements from a safety perspective.”

GM suddenly found itself holding the multibillion dollar bag, so it cut off funding near immediately, slashing budgets to the tune of “hundreds of millions” of dollars. As a result, Cruise has since suspended its equity program and begun laying off employees, starting with those in autonomous vehicle operations.

"The most important thing for us right now is to take steps to rebuild public trust," Cruise said in a statement. "Part of this involves taking a hard look inwards and at how we do work at Cruise, even if it means doing things that are uncomfortable or difficult."

But Cruise isn’t entirely dead yet, as Elshenawy explained in a recent email to staff. The company plans to scale back its self-driving ambitions and relaunch with a renewed focus on the current Chevy Bolt AV robotaxi platform, rather than its custom-built Origin vehicle. As such the company is pausing production on the Origin at least through 2024 but does plan to continue the program at some point in the future.

Waymo won by default

Waymo entered 2023 in much the same way as Cruise did: riding high on the hype and promise of self-driving vehicle technology. However it is ending the year in a very different place from its biggest competitor.

Google-backed Waymo had received glowing praise from Swiss RE, a leading global reinsurer, regarding the safety of its vehicles versus human drivers the previous September, and had just launched its second Waymo One taxi service area that December, this time in Phoenix, Arizona, running a route between downtown and the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Los Angeles joined Waymo’s stable of cities in February. Much as it was rolled out in San Francisco, Waymo’s self-driving vehicles were initially made available only to riders who were part of the Waymo Research Trusted Tester program in a limited area (in this case, Santa Monica), always outside of rush hour and only in limited numbers.

The following month the company launched a similar effort in Austin, Texas, a town where it had conducted some of its earliest self-driving tests back in 2015. Austin is a hot town to test self-driving vehicles in, on account of a 2017 state law that prevents cities from locally regulating the technology’s use and deployment on their streets.

Things were going so well for Waymo come summer that the company announced it would shift gears, pushing back plans for its self-driving truck idea to instead focus fully on its expanding robotaxi service.

“Given the tremendous momentum and substantial commercial opportunity we’re seeing on the ride-hailing front, we’ve made the decision to focus our efforts and investment on ride-hailing,” Waymo co-CEOs Tekedra Mawakana and Dmitri Dolgov wrote in a July blog post. "We’re iterating more quickly than ever on our technology by pushing forward state of the art AI/ML, and seeing significant business growth and rider demand in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.”

By August, Waymo announced that Austin would be joining those towns as the fourth city to host its autonomous taxi service, with the program rolling out through the Fall. That same month, Waymo received its driverless deployment permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), enabling the company to begin charging passengers for its robotaxi rides as well as expanding the service to additional customers. Previously, the company could only charge for rides if a human safety driver was behind the wheel. The company acknowledged at the time that demand was “incredibly high” (signups had already reportedly passed 100,000 users) but that it was working to make its fully autonomous trips "available to everyone over time."

“Things are growing… The ridership is increasing in both Phoenix and SF,” he continued, noting that the company provides more than 10,000 trips per city each week. Overall, it would have been a pretty great year for Waymo — especially after chief rival, Cruise, effectively imploded over the course of Q4 — had the company’s workforce not been subject to not one, not two, but three rounds of layoffs impacting over 300 employees.

The Road Ahead for Robotaxis

As we head into the new year, Waymo is effectively the only game in town, now that Cruise isn’t a viable commercial entity for the foreseeable future.

Midway through the year, analysts predicted the robotaxi market, valued at just over $1.1 billion in 2022, could rise to anywhere from $45.7 billion in 2030 to $118 billion in 2031 citing, “increasing demand for shared transportation, advancements in vehicle technology, growing interest in fuel-efficient public transportation, and improved infrastructure.”

Those outlooks have been tempered in recent months, at least for short term estimates, with Cruise temporarily out of the picture. Forrester Analytics, for example, now expects drone delivery services to become the dominant self-driving vehicle segment in 2024 as pushback from regulators slows development of robotaxi transit tech.

“Expect a booming year for self-driving forklifts, curbside delivery robots, and drone delivery, driven by the increasing popularity of e-commerce, the need for last-mile delivery solutions, and more sophisticated autonomous technologies,” wrote Craig Le Clair, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester.

We are, of course, still waiting on those million robotaxis Elon Musk promised us back in 2019.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/2023-was-the-year-cruises-robotaxi-dream-came-to-a-crashing-end-153002522.html?src=rss

Cruise co-founder resigns following CEO exit

Cruise, the self-driving car company owned by General Motors, confirmed to Reuters that its co-founder and chief product officer Daniel Kan has resigned. Kan’s departure comes just a day after the company’s CEO Kyle Vogt announced his resignation on X after a 10-year tenure. Kan is said to have announced his resignation over Slack, however, the reasoning for his departure has not been made clear by the company.

The company’s executive reshuffling follows a public relations nightmare that started last month when a Cruise robotaxi hit a pedestrian in San Francisco and pinned them under the vehicle. The parent company, GM, is still conducting a safety probe on the accident and both autonomous and manual vehicle operations at Cruise remain suspended. The company’s public image has been reeling from the accident ever since, and about 950 robotaxis had to be recalled by GM. The California DMV suspended Cruises’ driverless permits shortly after, and that ruling has remained in place.

In a recent tweet, Cruise said that the company is focused on taking steps “to rebuild public trust.” Things have yet to look up for the company, especially after an expose by The Intercept revealed that the company knew its self-driving cars have trouble recognizing children and large holes in the roads. Furthermore, the former CEO said that the company would have to lay off an undisclosed number of employees and staff members in a memo.

Cruise has not made any statements about finding replacements for either its CEO or chief product officer as of yet. The New York Times reports that “instead of installing a new chief executive” General Motors has appointed two new members to the company board and Mo Elshenawy, Cruise’s executive vice president of engineering, will take up the role of President.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/cruise-co-founder-resigns-following-ceo-exit-214747271.html?src=rss

Cruise is reportedly planning to lay off employees after weeks of crises

Cruise, General Motors’ driverless car subsidiary, will soon lay off employees. According to Forbes, the company’s CEO Kyle Vogt told staff of the decision in an all-hands meeting earlier this week. Cruise hasn’t yet decided who or how many people will lose their jobs, Vogt said, but promised to provide more details in the next three weeks. The company will also conduct internal “listening sessions”, and explore building websites detailing collisions Cruise cars are involved in, Forbes said.

The news comes on the heels of multiple crises facing the company since October after a Cruise robotaxi dragged a San Francisco pedestrian thrown into its path more than 20 feet before braking to a halt. That incident caused California’s DMV to revoke Cruise’s operating permit in the state. In a statement, the DMV said that Cruise’s vehicles “are not safe for the public’s operation”, and said that Cruise had “misrepresented” information relating to the safety of its autonomous vehicles.

Weeks after the incident, Cruise, which operated in San Francisco, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Miami, and Phoenix, fully paused its driverless operations. This week, General Motors recalled Cruise’s entire fleet of 950 robotaxis.

Other reports, based on Cruise's internal safety documents, showed that the car’s algorithms had trouble identifying children, something that Cruise employees knew about.

On Wednesday, Cruise published a blog post responding to the recent events. The company said that it was looking to hire a Chief Safety Officer who would report directly to Vogt. Cruise will also hire a third-party law firm to review its response to the October incident. The firm, Quinn Emmanuel, is known for its work for Tesla and Elon Musk, CNBC noted.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/cruise-is-reportedly-planning-to-lay-off-employees-after-weeks-of-crises-195546324.html?src=rss

Airbnb will let hosts send you smart lock codes through its app

Winter is almost upon us and Airbnb has announced a new feature that could help folks avoid fumbling for keys while wearing a bunch of layers. Starting in the US and Canada later this year, Airbnb hosts who are in the invite-only Early Access program will be able to link compatible smart locks to their Airbnb account and automatically generate a unique code for each reservation. The code will be activated at a guest's check-in time and deactivated at checkout. 

Guests will be able to see their smart lock code in the Airbnb app. At the outset, Airbnb will support some models from Schlage, August and Yale.

This could make some Airbnb pain points much easier to deal with. Hosts won't have to worry about bad actors sharing entry codes with other people after they check out, and guests should find it more straightforward to find and enter their code without having to search for their reservation email.

Airbnb is making a string of other changes as part of its winter update. You'll be able to access a collection of the 2 million most-loved homes on the platform. These Guest Favorites all have an average rating of above 4.9 with high marks for things like value, the check in process, cleanliness, listing accuracy, host communication and location. Hosts of Guest Favorites will all have strong track records of reliability and almost two-thirds of the listings are from Superhosts.

You'll soon start seeing a badge denoting a listing as a Guest Favorite on the listing page and in search results. There'll also be an option to filter results by Guest Favorites.

Elsewhere, you'll be able to sort reviews by recency or rating, while a new chart should make the distribution of reviews on the five-star scale easier to grok. When you leave a review, you'll be able to include more details that may be useful for context, such as where you're from, how long you stayed and whether you traveled with family, another group or pets. Airbnb is starting to roll out the reviews and Guest Favorites updates this week.

Since last year, Airbnb has been making its pricing more transparent. To that end, service fees will now be included in the prices that hosts set. According to Airbnb, that will give hosts a better idea of how much guests are paying overall. It should be easier for hosts to compare their prices to similar listings through the calendar too.

Hosts will have access to other new listing tools, such as an AI-powered photo tour. Airbnb says its AI engine can recognize photos and assign them to up to 19 rooms to help guests better understand the layouts of properties. Hosts will be able to edit the photo tour whenever they like and pinpoint amenities in each room.

Correction 11/8 4:15PM ET: A previous version of this story and its headline indicated that guests would be able to open smart locks from the Airbnb app, but that's not the case. We apologize for the error.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/airbnb-will-soon-let-you-open-smart-locks-in-its-app-192753343.html?src=rss

The best travel gifts for 2023

Be it for work or play, people are taking trips again, so now is a great time to upgrade their kits with new travel must-haves. If someone you love is taking their first serious trip in a few years, some of the things they used in the past to make shuffling through airports and hopping on and off trains easier may not serve them as well today. Below, we’ve curated a list of tech (and regular) items that all frequent travelers will appreciate. A good bag and a portable charger are essentials, while noise-canceling headphones and a good ereader can make the hectic parts of traveling a bit less stressful. These are the 15 best gifts you can get a traveler this year.

Sony WH-1000XM5

Kobo Libra 2

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Nestout Outdoor Battery

Bellroy Toiletry Kit Plus

Newvanga travel power adapter

JBL Clip 4 Eco

Retroid Pocket 3+

Loop Quiet Earplugs

NuPhy Air75 V2

Logitech MX Anywhere 3S

Peak Design Packable Tote

Huckberry x GoRuck GR2 Slick Backpack

Sunski Seacliff Polarized Recycled Sunglasses

ExpressVPN subscription

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-travel-gifts-for-travelers-140015772.html?src=rss