Tesla agrees to stop letting drivers play video games in moving cars.
A federal regulator said the electric vehicle maker agreed to disable the feature after an investigation was opened.
A driver demonstrates how to play video games on the touch screen in his Tesla.Credit…Will Matsuda for The New York Times
Tesla has agreed to modify software in its cars to prevent drivers and passengers from playing video games on the dashboard screens while a vehicle is in motion, a federal safety regulator said on Thursday.
The agreement comes a day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a formal investigation of the game feature, which is known as Passenger Play. The investigation was announced after The New York Times reported this month on the potential safety risks the games posed.
“Following the opening of a preliminary evaluation of Tesla’s ‘Passenger Play,’ Tesla informed the agency that it is changing the functionality of this feature,” the safety agency said in a statement. “In a new software update, ‘Passenger Play’ will now be locked and unusable when the vehicle is in motion.”
Safety experts had criticized Tesla for allowing the games to be accessible while cars were in motion. “There is no argument that can be made that this isn’t dangerous,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.
The company has been adding video games to its cars for several years. Most can only be played when the car is in park but this summer it made available three via over-the-air software that can be played on the large touch screens mounted in the center of Teslas. The games are solitaire; a jet fighter game, Sky Force Reloaded; and the Battle of Polytopia: Moonrise, a conquest strategy game.
A warning that appears before the solitaire game starts indicated Tesla expected it to be played while the car is moving: “Solitaire is a game for everyone, but playing while the car is in motion is only for passengers.” Players are asked to confirm that they are not driving the car, but nothing prevents drivers from clicking through that question and playing the games.
“The Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with defects posing unreasonable risks to safety, including technologies that distract drivers from driving safely,” the safety agency said.
Stocks on Wall Street rose on Thursday as investors considered the latest inflation snapshot, which showed prices rising sharply in November.
The S&P 500 ticked up 0.6 percent, its third straight day of gains, while the Nasdaq composite rose 0.9 percent. The S&P 500, the benchmark index, closed the week 2.3 percent higher after posting a nearly 2 percent slump last week. The U.S. stock market will close on Friday as Wall Street observes Christmas.
Consumer prices climbed by 5.7 percent in the 12 months through November, the fastest pace level since 1982, according to the Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge. To combat the surge in inflation, Fed officials announced earlier this month that they would pull back more quickly on their efforts to support the economy.
In the central bank’s December meeting, officials voted to cut their purchases of bonds — a measure meant to keep cash flowing through the financial system — by twice as much each month as they had previously announced. Ending those purchases would pave the way for interest rate increases, the Fed’s most powerful tool to cool down the economy.
The government also reported on Thursday that weekly claims for state unemployment benefits remained at 205,000, unchanged from last week. The number comes at a time when many employers report that they are having trouble filling jobs and Omicron-fueled coronavirus case rates climb rapidly, bringing renewed pandemic restrictions.
“The data can be noisy during the holidays, but filings continue to trend down on strong demand for workers amid a labor shortage,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a note. “The risk now is from new virus variants, which are forcing businesses to voluntarily close in response to rising infections.”
Wall Street has been facing several tumultuous weeks as the emergence of Omicron started to weigh on the outlook for the economic recovery, bringing a wave of sell-offs. The latest policy move from the central bank helped markets rally initially, but drove stocks lower after investors fully considered the decision. Despite the recent volatility, the S&P 500 is up more than 25 percent for the year.
In Europe, stock indexes rose, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up about 1 percent. Asian markets closed mostly higher.
Oil prices rose, with West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, settling up 1.4 percent at $73.79 a barrel.
Jurors are deliberating for a third day on Thursday in the fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the failed blood testing start-up Theranos.
Ms. Holmes, 37, faces two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud for allegedly lying about Theranos’s technology to land money and fame. If convicted, she could serve up to 20 years in prison.
A jury of eight men and four women began deliberations on Monday and continued their discussions on Tuesday. Their sole question to the court, on Tuesday afternoon, was whether they could take jury instructions home. (The response was no.) They had Wednesday off.
If deliberations do not conclude on Thursday, they will resume at a date to be determined by the judge.
In Silicon Valley, start-up founders are rarely prosecuted for their truth-stretching claims. Ms. Holmes, who stood out as a female founder in the male-dominated industry, intentionally molded herself after Apple’s Steve Jobs. She started Theranos in 2003, dropped out of Stanford University to in 2004 and spent the next decade raising nearly $1 billion from venture capitalists and wealthy family offices.
In 2015, a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that Ms. Holmes had overstated the capabilities of Theranos’s blood testing technology, as well as its relationships with pharmaceutical companies and the military. The company shut down in 2018.
The case boils down to whether Ms. Holmes meant to deceive investors, patients and others, or whether she acted in good faith.
Prosecutors called 29 witnesses, seeking to prove that Ms. Holmes “chose fraud over business failure” through misleading validation reports, faked demonstrations, inaccurate marketing materials and other false claims.
Ms. Holmes took the stand for seven days, anchoring her defense. She recast herself as a na?ve entrepreneur led astray by those around her. In emotional testimony, she accused Ramesh Balwani, Theranos’s former chief operating officer, of emotionally and physically abusing her during their secret, decade-long relationship. Mr. Balwani, who is known as Sunny, has denied her allegations.
Capital One has agreed to pay $190 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by customers of the bank after a hacker stole the personal data of more than a 100 million people in 2019.
The settlement would cover 98 million customers who were affected by the breach, which was one of the largest data thefts from a bank. Capital One and its cloud services provider, Amazon Web Services, denied liability but said they would settle “in the interest of avoiding the time, expense and uncertainty of continued litigation,” according to a filing this week in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Last year, the bank agreed to pay $80 million to settle regulators’ claims that it lacked proper cybersecurity procedures as it began to use cloud storage technology.
The hacker, Paige Thompson, left an online trail for investigators to follow as she boasted about the breach, according to court documents in Seattle at the time. She was arrested and charged with one count of computer fraud and abuse.
Capital One has set aside funds for the settlement and is investing in its cybersecurity program under new leadership, it said in a statement.
Despite consumer worries over supply chain problems, carrier delivery delays (of which there turned out to be very few), soaring inflation and a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus dampening holiday festivities, one tradition still endures: last-minute Christmas shopping.
Retail sales rose in November, the Commerce Department reported this month, as many consumers got a jump on their holiday shopping. But some waited until the final days to make their purchases.
We sent the photographer Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet around Queens and Herald Square in Manhattan this week to capture the retail holiday spirit and mad-dash hunts for this year’s must-have items. Here’s what she saw.
Intel apologized on Thursday after a letter in which the chip maker said it would avoid products and labor from Xinjiang set off an outcry on Chinese social media, making it the latest American company caught between the world’s two largest economies.
The chip maker apologized to its Chinese customers, partners and the public in a Chinese-language statement on Weibo, the popular social media site. The company said that the letter, which had been sent to suppliers, was an effort at expressing its compliance with United States sanctions against Xinjiang, rather than a political stance.
China has pushed back against accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang, and Intel’s letter made the chip maker a target of widespread condemnation. “Intel bites the hand that feeds it,” read a headline of one commentary in a nationalist newspaper. A celebrity dropped the brand.
Intel is the latest example of a multinational firm that has found itself in the middle of rising tensions between China and the United States. In this case, Intel has struggled to balance compliance with United States sanctions against Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of minorities have been interned, and Chinese nationalist sentiment.
For Intel, China is both a major marketplace and a center of operations. In 2020, the company employed more than 10,000 people there, and made more than $20 billion in revenue, about one-fourth of its global total.
As China’s government has grown more aggressive in defending itself overseas, it has used domestic state media to guide nationalist anger at some foreign companies. This year, China’s government-controlled media helped fuel a boycott campaign aimed at multinational clothing brands like Adidas and H&M, which had signaled they would stop using Xinjiang cotton because of evidence of forced labor in the region.
Responding to Intel’s apology, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, again denied there was any forced labor in Xinjiang. “The people in Xinjiang are hardworking and brave. Xinjiang’s products are of high quality. If individual companies choose not to use them, it will be their loss,” he said.
Online, the backlash was big enough to force public figures to take a stance on Intel’s initial letter. The Chinese singer Karry Wang, a member of the band TFBoys and an Intel brand ambassador, said on Thursday that he had terminated his contract with the brand. “National interest exceeds everything,” he wrote on China’s Twitter-like Weibo explaining his decision.
A New York Times investigation last year revealed that Intel-made chips have powered a supercomputing center in Xinjiang, aiding the Chinese government’s campaign of surveillance against the Muslim minorities in the region. It also found that police in Xinjiang were able to buy surveillance systems that ran lower-level Intel chips, even though the police were on a United States government list that cut their access to American technology. Intel said it was not aware of what it called a misuse of its technology.
Dozens of people aboard a Royal Caribbean International cruise ship tested positive for the coronavirus after it set sail from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday, according to the cruise line.
Fifty-five fully vaccinated passengers and crew members on the ship, the Odyssey of the Seas, tested positive, the cruise line said in a statement on Thursday, noting that the number represented 1.1 percent of those on board.
The ship, which was on an eight-night cruise, will not sail to Cura?ao and Aruba as planned and will remain at sea until it returns to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, Royal Caribbean said.
“The decision was made together with the islands out of an abundance of caution due to the current trend of Covid-19 cases in the destinations’ communities as well as crew and guests testing positive on board,” the company said. All of the people on the ship who tested positive “are fully vaccinated and mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic,” the cruise line added.
The Odyssey of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s newest ships, made its maiden voyage in July. It can carry more than 5,500 guests and more than 1,600 crew members.
The health episode was reported shortly after a similar one on another Royal Caribbean ship, the Symphony of the Seas. The cruise line said this week that 48 people on that ship tested positive for Covid-19 after it set sail from Miami on Dec. 11. The ship returned to port in Miami on Dec. 18 after a seven-night Caribbean cruise.
Those cases were identified because of contact tracing after a guest tested positive, the cruise line said, adding that 95 percent of the passengers aboard the Symphony of the Seas were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and 98 percent of the people who tested positive were fully vaccinated.
Royal Caribbean requires travelers 12 and older to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and to test negative before boarding. Younger children who are not vaccinated must provide a negative P.C.R. test result before sailing and test negative at the terminal before boarding.
The company said that all of its crew members were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and were tested weekly.
At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, outbreaks on cruise ships sickened people and upended the tourism industry.
Since the cruise industry restarted operations in the United States this June, efforts to keep the coronavirus at bay have been largely successful. Most companies require full vaccination for crew members and most passengers, and they put strict health and safety protocols in place.
But as the highly contagious Omicron variant drives up coronavirus cases in much of the United States and Europe, and criticism of cruise lines has mounted over a lack of transparency in reporting positive cases to passengers and crew members, many lines have adjusted their rules for masking, testing and vaccines.
The Supreme Court said on Wednesday evening that it would hold a special hearing next month to assess the legality of two initiatives at the heart of the Biden administration’s efforts to address the coronavirus in the workplace.
The court said it would move with exceptional speed on the two measures, a vaccine-or-testing mandate aimed at large employers and a vaccination requirement for certain health care workers, setting the cases for argument on Friday, Jan. 7. The justices had not been scheduled to return to the bench until the following Monday.
Both sets of cases had been on what critics call the court’s shadow docket, in which the court decides emergency applications, sometimes on matters of great consequence, without full briefing and argument. The court’s decision to hear arguments on the applications may have been a response to mounting criticism of that practice, Adam Liptak reports for The New York Times.
The more sweeping of the two measures, directed at businesses with 100 or more employees, would affect more than 84 million workers and is central to the administration’s efforts to address the pandemic. The administration estimated that the measure would cause 22 million people to get vaccinated and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations.
The second measure requires health care workers at hospitals that receive federal money to be vaccinated against the virus. It “will save hundreds or even thousands of lives each month,” the administration wrote in an emergency application.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld state vaccine mandates in a variety of settings against constitutional challenges. But the new cases are different, because they primarily present the question of whether Congress has authorized the executive branch to institute the requirements.
The answer will mostly turn on the language of the relevant statutes, but there is reason to think that the court’s six-justice conservative majority will be skeptical of broad assertions of executive power.
The last time the Supreme Court considered a Biden administration program addressing the pandemic — a moratorium on evictions — the justices shut it down.
“Our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends,” the court said in August in an unsigned opinion, over the dissents of the three liberal justices.
The vaccination-or-testing requirement for large employers was issued in November by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.
Employers are allowed to give their workers the option to be tested weekly instead of getting the vaccine, though they are not required to pay for the testing. The rule makes an exception for employees who do not come into close contact with other people at their jobs, like those who work at home or exclusively outdoors.
Under a 1970 law, OSHA has the authority to issue emergency rules for workplace safety, provided it can show that workers are exposed to a grave danger and that the rule is necessary.
States, businesses and religious groups challenged the measure in appeals courts around the nation, and a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, had ruled in favor of some of the challengers, blocking the measure.
Last week, after the challenges were consolidated before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, a divided three-judge panel reinstated the measure.
Almost immediately, more than a dozen challengers asked the Supreme Court to block the measure. READ THE FULL ARTICLE ->
Today in the On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide writes that technology is in a liminal phase where the promise of what might be coming next coexists with the complicated reality of what is happening now.