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Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report indicates that the self-driving Uber car that recently struck and killed a woman in Arizona saw the woman in the roadway beforehand but didn’t apply emergency brakes or alert the human operator. Attempting to avoid "erratic vehicle behavior," Uber had disabled the Volvo’s factory-equipped collision-avoidance systems, including automatic emergency braking and driver-alertness detection. Before the collision, video showed that the human operator was looking down. According to Steven Shladover, a research engineer at Berkeley’s California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology, or PATH, Uber’s decision to disable the safety features "implies that they must have a lot of false alarm problems, which means that the system is far from maturity." The report raises several questions, he says, including why the system didn’t at least start to slow down upon detection of the pedestrian, and why it was not programmed to alert the operator. "It’s disturbing that they did not take advantage of the Volvo safety systems … which are among the most sophisticated on any production vehicle," he says. Professor Shladover was also quoted on this in Wired. Another story quoting electrical engineering and computer sciences professor emeritus Pravin Varaiya appeared in the Financial Times.

As tech companies rush to sell machine-learning technology, algorithmic bias is a growing concern. Facebook, for example, has announced that it has created its own tool, called Fairness Flow, to automatically warn if an algorithm is making an unfair judgement based on a person’s race, gender, or age. Weighing in on the topic, statistics and electrical engineering and computer sciences professor Bin Yu says such tools may be a step in the right direction, but not enough. Suggesting that external experts should audit companies’ algorithms to prove they’re not biased, she says: "Someone else has to investigate Facebook’s algorithms — they can’t be a secret to everyone."

A new experimental film by an English graduate student can be controlled by a viewer’s mind when watched with a headset that tracks electrical activity in the brain. With the headset on, scenes, music and animation change every time you watch it, depending on your thoughts. Assistant film and media professor Jacob Gaboury is intrigued by the project’s implications. Making such films could lead filmmakers to create different kinds of stories, images, and sounds than they normally would, he says. "Often, you get bogged down in telling stories in a particular way in the cinema, so it could be interesting to see how that would progress from a director’s perspective."

Weighing in on the ubiquitous problem of freezing office buildings, particularly during the summer when air conditioners are on, associate architecture professor Stefano Schiavon says the situation is complicated, and not just a matter of thermostats being set for the comfort of an average male. First he notes that there’s a lot of variation in how people respond to cold. "Your physiology, your height, your weight, your body mass, how much you are clothed, [and] the type of activity you do all affect your thermal comfort," he says. Air conditioning equipment is also partly to blame, he says, since they’re often oversized and have difficulty balancing air temperature and humidity. "It is like trying to cut your nail with a ribbon cutting scissor," he says. "You don’t have the right machine for the work that you are doing and therefore you tend to overcool. … At the same time you waste energy and you make people uncomfortable," he says. With global warming, finding energy-efficient and affordable ways to cool offices is vital, he adds. He and his colleagues are working on smart fans for shared spaces, with the idea that fans are more energy efficient and cheaper, and air conditioners should only kick in when the temperature has passed a certain point. "There is not one temperature that satisfies everyone; it would be the equivalent of saying there is one clothing size or one shoe size that needs to fit everyone. … We are all different and we need to provide a more personalized environment."

A series of four free speech symposia, held at Berkeley and other campuses that have seen significant protests of conservative speakers, have "underscored that what can appear to be a crisis over campus speech is signifcantly rooted in issues of race and inclusion," writes Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America. Her organization, a nonprofit dedicated to defending freedom of speech, convened the symposia. "Our pitched battles over diversity, inclusion and free speech on campus — a microcosm of our polarized discourse on these issues in society — are not insoluble," she concludes. "The next generation is not dominated by so-called snowflakes or cowards, but rather by young adults determined to advance their notions of equality and justice, just as previous generations have done. One of the greatest, and most often overlooked, dangers to free speech on campus is that it will come to be associated exclusively with those who aim to offend. If that’s the case, we could create a generation of Americans alienated from the principle of free speech, who believe that the protections of the First Amendment don’t belong to them. By working to understand these students’ life experiences, concerns and demands — and by demonstrating how those causes are advanced by robust protections for freedom of speech — we can help ensure that U.S. universities are open to all peoples and to all ideas."

The foreclosure crisis is one of the key drivers of displacement in Richmond, California, says Eli Moore, a program manager for Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. In a report he co-authored in 2015, his team explored gentrification patterns in the city’s neighborhoods, arguing that further displacement could be avoided with anti-displacement protections and policies. To that end, Richmond instituted a "Fair Rent, Just Cause for Eviction and Homeowner Protection Ordinance" in December 2016.

Three peregrine falcon chicks hatched on the Campanile April 23, and the campus is holding a competition to name them before they’re expected to fledge, around June 1. Suggestions can be submitted on Twitter and Facebook. The birds have been banded, and they’ll be tracked. This is the second year in a row that the peregrines have nested on the Campanile. For more on this, see our story at Berkeley News. Another story on this topic appeared in the Sacramento Bee (AP).