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Cruise is doubling down on shared autonomous rides with new COVID protocols

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Cruise, the self-driving car company owned by General Motors, is doubling down on the Origin, its steering wheel-and-pedal-less autonomous people mover introduced late last year. With the COVID-19 pandemic discouraging many people from using shared ride services, the company unveiled new safety protocols intended to keep people socially distant during trips and the vehicle sanitized between fares.

Cruise is also applying for permission from the federal government to mass-produce the Origin. The vehicle’s lack of traditional human controls means that the company will need an exemption from the federal government’s motor vehicle safety standards, which require vehicles to have a steering wheel and pedals. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) only grants 2,500 such exemptions a year. (There is legislation to increase that number to 25,000, but it is currently stalled in the Senate.)

In 2018, GM submitted a petition for permission to deploy a fully driverless Chevy Bolt but never received a final response from NHTSA. That exemption will now be withdrawn in favor of the petition related to the Origin, Cruise says.

The new protocols, as well as the exemption, are also meant to send a message that Cruise is still committed to safely launching a shared robotaxi service in the near future. The coronavirus pandemic has jolted the transportation world, leading to a steep drop in ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Those companies are now trying to mount a comeback based mostly on strict rules requiring masks and cleaning supplies.

Cruise hasn’t launched its ride-hail service yet, nor has it revealed an actual working version of the Origin. But the company wants to get ahead of any speculation that COVID will destroy any demand for shared mobility service in the future.

“COVID-19 changed everything, including the way many people think about shared vehicles,” Robert Grant, VP for global government affairs at Cruise, writes in a blog post. “Sharing anything, it now feels, is a threat to our health.”

Grant says that the Origin’s cabin will be fitted with a plastic partition running down the center. Only two passengers will be allowed in the vehicle at a time, and the company’s venting system will keep the air circulating. Masks will be required, and hand sanitizer and wipes will be made available. The vehicle won’t have a driver, so these protocols will only apply to passengers.

Cruise has a beta ride-hailing service, but it’s only available to employees, and the company won’t say when it will be available to the broader public. Cruise also won’t say when the Origin will roll out, but promises to share more information about its production plans in the future. The vehicle will be manufactured at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which was recently renamed Factory Zero.

Cruise is under pressure from its investors, namely Softbank, to launch a commercial taxi service. The company recently received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test fully driverless cars, without human safety drivers, in San Francisco.

The company’s safety drivers have been complaining about a lack of safety standards during the pandemic and subsequent wildfires. They accuse Cruise of deploying its self-driving cars during the spring lockdown in defiance of public health orders banning nonessential travel. And they say Cruise isn’t doing enough to keep them safe during these public health crises.

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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