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Elon Musk’s Boring Company lands $48.7M contract for underground “people mover” in Las Vegas – TechCrunch

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The Boring Company, Elon Musk’s tunneling and transportation startup, has landed a $48.7 million project to shuttle people in an underground Loop system around the Las Vegas Convention Center.

This is the company’s first commercial contract.

The initial design for the project, dubbed Campus Wide People Mover or CWPM, will focus on the Las Vegas Convention Center, which is currently in the midst of an expansion that is expected to be complete in time for CES 2021. The newly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center will span about 200 acres once completed. The LVCVA estimates that people walking the facility would travel two miles from one end to the other, a distance that prompted officials to find a transportation solution.

In March, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority recommended that the Boring Company be selected. The board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority voted Wednesday to approve the contract.

The approval comes with numerous strings and requires The Boring Company to achieve specific milestones, details of which The Guardian published earlier this month. The contract withholds over two-thirds of payments until construction is complete and requires The Boring Company to meet specific ridership goals.

The LVCVA estimated an initial $1.2 million outlay to TBC in fiscal year 2019, following by $15 million in 2020 and the final $32.47 million in 2021.

While the project is limited for now, TBC has said in the past project could someday connect downtown, the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Las Vegas Boulevard Resort Corridor and McCarran International Airport.

This underground people mover will involve the construction of twin tunnels for vehicles and one pedestrian tunnel, according to contract documents. The twin tunnels are expected to be less than a mile. There will be three underground stations for passenger loading and unloading and an elevator or escalator system for passenger access to each station.

The people mover, once complete is supposed to whisk people between stops at high speeds in modified electric Tesla vehicles. The contract describes these as autonomous vehicles. (Today, Tesla vehicles are not self driving, and instead have an advanced driver assistance system that handles certain tasks on highways such as lane steering and adaptive cruise control.) Before it opens to the public, the contract dictates that TBC test the system for three months.

As Musk’s Boring Company lands one contract, safety concerns have been raised on the design of another more ambitious Loop system from Washington D.C. to Baltimore.

Details of the 35.3-mile system, which emerged recently in a 505-page draft environmental assessment, reveals a design that fails to meet several key national safety standards. The underground system appears to lack sufficient emergency exits, ignore the latest engineering practices and proposes passenger escape ladders that one fire safety professor calls “the definition of insanity.”

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Android 12 might finally have native support for app cloning

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There was a time when it was almost normal to find out that people had two phones in their possession. The need to keep personal and professional lives separate on that level still exists in this age of dual SIM phones, especially since apps don’t always support handling multiple accounts. Different manufacturers have applied different and inconsistent implementations, but it seems that Google is laying the groundwork for having multiple copies of some apps installed on the same Android user profile.

There are times when you want to use the same app or service but for different accounts or use cases. Some apps like Twitter, Gmail, and Telegram support the ability to log into and switch between different accounts. Most, however, don’t, and sometimes users have to look for workarounds to get what they want, often by installing a third-party and sometimes potentially harmful app.

Manufacturers like Samsung, OnePlus, and Xiaomi have “Dual Messenger” features that are limited to a specific set of messaging apps. Some have a sort of secure mode or folder, where they can run separate copies of any installed app, but they have to authenticate each and every time they switch between apps. Finally, Android itself has support for a separate “work profile,” which is complicated to set up and use.

XDA’s Mishaal Rahman discovered hints about a “Clone profile” in Android 12, something that could enable app cloning on an OS level rather than resorting to workarounds. Even better than existing solutions, it might even support having three instances of the same app rather than just two. This could finally put an end to one OEM modification and make those custom Android experiences a bit lighter and easier to upgrade.

Unfortunately, a lot of this Clone profile functionality is still shrouded in mystery and isn’t even working properly. It could simply be the foundation for a future Android future that will hopefully make it easier for users to juggle their digital personas and roles on the same phone.

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Pixel Pass introduces Google’s new way to buy its phones

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Many consumers, especially in the US, prefer to buy their phones from their mobile carriers, not really out of loyalty to the network. More often than not, it’s the subsidies and financing options that soften the blow when buying a new and more expensive smartphone. Manufacturers have, of course, started offering such options to convince people to buy phones directly for them, and Google’s new Pixel Pass takes that idea a bit further by putting Pixel 6 buyers knee-deep in its services for a long time.

As leaked before, Pixel Pass is Google’s answer to Apple One, but it comes with a unique twist. Both subscription programs revolve around each company’s services covering music streaming, gaming, and cloud storage. The difference is that Google is throwing in a Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro with that subscription.

Of course, another way of seeing it is that Google is offering its services as a bundle for buying a Pixel phone under a financing option. Pixel Pass lets you get a Pixel 6 for $45 a month or a Pixel 6 Pro for $55 per month, with an option to upgrade to a new phone after two years. In a way, this mirrors Apple’s own iPhone upgrade program, though, for 24 months instead of Apple’s 12.

The services that are included in Pixel Pass pretty much bundle Google’s most notable subscription offerings. There’s a 200GB Google One tier, both YouTube Premium and YouTube Music Premium, and Google Play Pass (which might be too easy to confuse with Pixel Pass). There’s also device protection courtesy of Preferred Care coverage.

Pixel Pass is available on Google Store, where you can get an unlocked Pixel 6 to use on any network. Alternatively, buyers can also get it through Google Fi with a phone plan and get a $5 discount on the monthly fee. Pixel Pass subscribers can cancel anytime, but they will have to pay the remaining value of the Pixel phone at its regular price.

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Pixel 6 Magic Eraser removes uninvited people from photos

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A few years ago, Google teased the almost magical ability that would allow people to remove “distracting objects” from photos, whether they be a fence or innocent bystanders. While that functionality has been available on some photo editing software like Photoshop, it was far from automatic nor convenient for mere mortals. It took more than four years for that moment to finally come, and Pixel 6 owners can now confidently take photos even when they know there are people or things lurking in the background.

Almost everyone who has tried to take a photo with a smartphone or a digital camera will have experienced the photobombing phenomenon at one point or another. It doesn’t even have to be people, even, as power lines and animals can sometimes get in the way of a perfect shot. A lot of the time, we’re unable to move these objects or wait for them to step out of the frame, but a Pixel 6 can now let you magically remove those after the fact.

It couldn’t be easier than simply loading up the photo in Google Photos and letting the app suggest what objects to remove from the background. You could also manually select the Magic Eraser tool and circle or brush over specific objects you want to be exorcised from the photo. All it takes is a few taps and doesn’t require any photo editing skills at all.

Of course, the secret sauce is Google’s favorite machine learning, which predicts what pixels would have looked like without those obstacles. It then tries to fill those in and erase distracting objects and people to produce what should have been the perfect moment. This seemingly magical ability does require some heavy ML and AI processing, which is why Google had to wait for its Tensor chip to become a reality in order to bring it to its Pixel phones.

That is also why Google Photos’ Magic Eraser is available only the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro starting October 28. The good news is that it will work on any photo you give it, including old ones taken using non-Pixel phones.

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