Posts by Rick Newman

  • Human drivers are still way better than self-driving cars

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 1 day ago

    We speed, tailgate, blow red lights and drift between lanes while juggling cellphones and spilling coffee. Yet the deeply flawed human driver is still superior to a computerized one.

    Self-driving cars piloted by software are clearly on the way, and once perfected, they could dramatically improve auto safety and transform other elements of transportation. But they’re further off than a lot of breathless headlines suggest. “We don’t have any autonomous car yet where the car, on average, is better than a person,” Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, said recently at a conference held at MIT. “People are really good at driving safely. These are the standards artificial intelligence has to beat.”

    Most people know intuitively that the police officer trumps the traffic light, and they’ll do what the cop directs them to do. That’s very hard to build into a computer algorithm, which would basically follow the general rule of doing what the traffic light says. Police presence can be programmed into the algo, but it’s still hard for software to tell if somebody waving their arms at an intersection is a law-enforcement officer or a loon.

  • Trump didn’t cheer the housing bust as Clinton and Warren suggest

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 2 days ago

    You’re likely to hear this a lot during the next several months: Donald Trump “rooted for the real-estate crash” that caused a foreclosure epidemic and forced 5 million families from their homes.

    Trump’s likely Democratic rival in the presidential election, Hillary Clinton, recently produced an ominous 44-second video that makes Trump seem like Voldemort preying on hapless middle-class families for his own gain. And Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren ignited a tweet war with Trump when she said in a recent speech, “What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their house?”

    The controversy stems from these comments Trump made in an obscure audiobook in 2006:

    “I sort of hope that [a real-estate bust] happens because then people like me would go in and buy. If this is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know, you can go in and make a lot of money.”

  • The surprising reason airport delays are suddenly so bad

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 3 days ago

    The number of air travelers hit a record during the summer of 2015, yet there were no major problems with delays at security checkpoints. A year later, hundreds of infuriated passengers are missing flights every week as they wait hours to navigate security.

    What changed? A lot more than most travelers are aware of. Nearly a year ago, teams working for the Department of Homeland Security ran a series of covert tests to see if they could sneak banned and potentially dangerous items past security screeners. It turns out, they could. “We found layers of security simply missing,” DHS Inspector General John Roth testified before Congress last November. The details of the DHS security audit are secret, but such tests are meant to mimic what terrorists and criminals might try to bring onto a flight.

    Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman .

  • Hillary Clinton is set to seriously outspend billionaire Donald Trump

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 4 days ago

    Donald Trump holds his first political fundraiser this week, in Albuquerque, N.M. He’s only a year behind Hillary Clinton.

    Trump, on his way to becoming the Republican nominee for president, has dismissed traditional big-money fundraising since he announced his candidacy last summer, saying he doesn’t want to owe favors to rich people financing his campaign. Up until now, Trump has personally provided about 75% of the money his campaign has spent, with donations of $2,700 or less funding the other 25%. (Fundraising totals are in the chart below.)

    But even billionaire Trump lacks the liquid assets to fund a competitive campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election, which is why Trump changed his financing plan and will now seek six- and seven-figure sums from wealthy donors. His very late start, however, will probably hamper his fundraising all the way through November and lower his election odds.

    Clinton already has far more cash on hand than Trump does. Here are the figures on money raised and spent so far, including traditional campaign committees and super PACs – which can raise unlimited amounts of money – affiliated with each candidate:

  • Trash the reporter: You’re a right-wing twit and a liberal loser

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 5 days ago

    Liberals and conservatives agree on at least one thing these days: the media sucks.

    “You are the penultimate right wing twit,” a reader named Peter emailed me after I pointed out that none of the presidential candidates has a serious plan to address the $19 trillion national debt. The government’s debt payments as a percentage of GDP are lower than “at the end of your idol’s (Reagan) term,” he argued.

    “RickJNewman is biased, all right,” a tweeter named JR declared after I wrote about Donald Trump’s ties with Wall Street donors. “He's a pure liberal and definitely on the losing side come November.”

    So which is it? Liberal? Conservative? Libervative? Readers will obviously decide on their own, but there’s always the possibility a journalist might approach issues from a pragmatic bent rather than a political or ideological one. Maybe the real bias is in the reader’s mind?

  • Self-driving cars? Nobody wants one

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 5 days ago

    It’s probably the most revolutionary thing to happen in the automobile industry in a century. And apparently nobody’s interested.

    Self-driving cars could change everything about transportation in America, if you believe the visionaries working on the technology. Commuting could become productive instead of wasteful. Trucks could move goods much faster, since there would be no breaks for drivers to eat or sleep. The motor-vehicle death toll would plummet.

    In the Michigan survey, 38.7% of drivers said they’d prefer a “partially self-driving” car, while 45.8% said they’d want no self-driving capability at all. The biggest perception problem seems to be safety, with 66.6% of drivers saying they’d be very or moderately concerned about riding in a self-driving car. Only 9.7% said they’d be unconcerned.

    The research shows a huge gap in the perception of self-driving cars between the technical experts creating them and the ordinary folks who would presumably buy them. The gap doesn’t mean self-driving cars are doomed. What it does mean is that there are major misapprehensions about autonomous vehicle technology, with a lot of consumer education still required.

  • The department store of the future? Think Disney

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 8 days ago

    Contrary to some reports, traditional retail isn’t dead. But there’s a lot more painful retrenchment to come before chains such as Macy’s (M), Target (TGT), Gap (GPS) and Walmart (WMT) are likely to thrive again.

    It’s no secret that Amazon (AMZN) and other online retailers are gobbling up dollars consumers used to spend at physical stores. Some activists want chains such as Macy’s to offload real estate and sharply downsize their physical footprint. “I look at it differently,” Tom Andrews of consultancy SY Partners explains in the video above. “You turn it into a destination. You make it an experience.”

    “What you’re looking at,” says Andrews, “is a future that’s part retail as we know it, part entertainment… and partly educational. It’s going to be this great mashup.”

  • 2 things everybody missed in the Fed’s latest release

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 9 days ago

    Investors squealed when the Federal Reserve suggested recently that it might raise interest rates in June, after all. They shouldn’t have.

    The minutes from the latest meeting of the Fed’s policy-making committee contained some unusually aggressive language (for the Fed), suggesting investors have become too complacent about the Fed maintaining super-easy monetary policy. Here are a couple of the key phrases that sent stocks reeling in the aftermath of the latest announcement:

    Most participants judged that if incoming data were consistent with economic growth picking up in the second quarter, labor market conditions continuing to strengthen, and inflation making progress toward the Committee's 2 percent objective, then it likely would be appropriate for the Committee to increase the target range for the federal funds rate in June…. Market participants may not have properly assessed the likelihood of an increase in the target range at the June meeting.

  • Donald Trump’s speaking fee: Half what Hillary Clinton commands

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 9 days ago

    Donald Trump likes to measure things and gauge how he sizes up, which usually gives him plenty to brag about when the topic is money.

    But Hillary Clinton handily outdoes him on one measure of stature: The amount people are willing to pay to hear her speak.

    Clinton’s standard rate for giving a speech is $225,000, with one group, the Jewish United Fund, paying her $400,000 for an appearance in 2013. Yahoo Finance tallied all of her speeches from 2013 to 2015 and found her speaking fees averaged $234,484.

    Trump’s average fee for four speeches delivered in 2015 – before he declared his candidacy for president – average $200,000, according to a financial disclosure form just released by the Federal Election Commission. But one of those was a $450,000 fee paid by a company called ACN Inc., which has had various business deals with Trump over the years and may have been paying for more than one speech. Excluding that outlier, Trump’s average speaking fee is a mere $117,000, or half of Clinton’s average fee.

  • This CEO says every kid needs to study coding

    Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance 10 days ago

    Kids growing up today are known as “digital natives.” But that doesn’t make them tech experts – or guarantee they’ll have the skills to soar in the digital economy.

    Just about everybody knows that someone with a “STEM” background – experience in science, technology, engineering or math – is likely to find rich opportunities and a rewarding career. But the United States as a nation doesn’t do a lot to help with that. “We’re one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t talk about a digital agenda,” Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture North America, says in the video above. “Our schools are not doing what they need to do.”

    Accenture, the large consulting firm, has partnered with Code.org, the nonprofit that promotes better computer science education, especially among women and minorities. But that leaves many individuals out of the technology loop. When asked if every student today ought to study coding, Sweet says, “Absolutely. Not because they all need to be computer scientists, but because coding is a basic skill required to be digitally fluent.”