Timothy B. Lee
Timothy B. Lee
Timothy B. Lee began his journalism career writing for Ars in 2007. He then spent time at the Washington Post and Vox before returning home to Ars in 2017. Today he covers technology policy, artificial intelligence and the future of transportation. He holds a master's degree in computer science from Princeton. He lives with his family in Washington, DC.Source
Washington, D.C., Virginia
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Nvidia developed a radically different way to compress video calls

Nvidia developed a radically different way to compress video calls

Last month, Nvidia a new platform called Maxine that uses AI to enhance the performance and functionality of video conferencing software. The software uses a neural network to create a compact representation of a person's face. This compact representation can then be sent across the network, where a second neural network reconstructs the original image—possibly with helpful modifications.Nvidia says that its technique can reduce the bandwidth needs of video conferencing software by a factor of 10 compared to conventional compression techniques. It can also change how a person's face is...

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Timothy B. Lee
4d ago
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TikTok says it’s been waiting weeks for a Trump response on US ban

TikTok says it’s been waiting weeks for a Trump response on US ban

ByteDance on Tuesday  to a federal appellate court seeking to overturn a sweeping Trump administration order requiring the company to divest itself of its popular TikTok platform—at least in the United States. The order is scheduled to take effect tomorrow. But ByteDance says that it has been weeks since it has heard from the government's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States about ByteDance's plan to address the government's concerns without shutting TikTok down.ByteDance has proposed selling a share of TikTok to Oracle and giving the company's US division more autonomy....

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Timothy B. Lee
Nov 11
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Tesla raises “full self-driving” price from $8,000 to $10,000

Tesla raises “full self-driving” price from $8,000 to $10,000

Tesla is wasting no time cashing in on excitement over the company's forthcoming "full self-driving" software release, which was to a small number of customers last week. Tesla has now raised the price of the FSD upgrade from $8,000 to $10,000.Tesla has tinkered with pricing for the full self-driving package repeatedly over the last two years. In 2018, the package cost $3,000 at vehicle purchase time or $4,000 when purchased later. In 2019, Tesla briefly , angering customers who had paid higher prices. Then Tesla revamped its price structure, making basic Autopilot features standard and...

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Timothy B. Lee
Oct 30
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Consumer Reports: Tesla Autopilot a “distant second” to GM Super Cruise

Consumer Reports: Tesla Autopilot a “distant second” to GM Super Cruise

Cadillac Super Cruise has retained its title as the best driver assistance system on the market, Consumer Reports declared in a . Super Cruise also won in 2018. While Super Cruise started out as a Cadillac-only feature, GM is planning to bring it to 22 vehicles by 2023.Tesla's Autopilot came in second place—a "distant second" according to Consumer Reports. The group says it saw "minor improvements in lane keeping performance" from Tesla's offering since the system was last evaluated in 2018.Those minor improvements were enough for Autopilot to get the top spot in the "lane keeping and...

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Timothy B. Lee
Oct 28
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Wisconsin blames Foxconn, says $3 billion factory deal is off

Wisconsin blames Foxconn, says $3 billion factory deal is off

The state of Wisconsin was supposed to provide Foxconn with $3 billion in subsidies over the next few years to support the construction of a massive LCD display factory in the state. The deal was negotiated in 2017 by Gov. Scott Walker and  at a White House event. It was part of Trump's strategy to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.In a Monday letter, the that the company wouldn't get the first installment of the $3 billion because Foxconn wasn't holding up its end of the deal. Under Foxconn's 2017 agreement with the state, Foxconn would be eligible for the first round of...

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Timothy B. Lee
Oct 13
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Waymo finally launches an actual public, driverless taxi service

Waymo finally launches an actual public, driverless taxi service

After covering Waymo for several years, I've learned to take the company's announcements with a grain of salt.In 2018, for example, Waymo said it would launch a fully driverless commercial service by the end of the year. Waymo did release a service called Waymo One in December 2018, but it came with a couple of : every vehicle had a safety driver, and the service was only open to a small group of people.But today Waymo finally seems to be launching the taxi service it promised two years ago: one that's fully driverless and open to the public. Waymo told Ars that the service will initially...

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Timothy B. Lee
Oct 8
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Sixty Coinbase employees take buyout offer over “no politics” rule

Sixty Coinbase employees take buyout offer over “no politics” rule

Sixty Coinbase employees have accepted a buyout offer after CEO Brian Armstrong announced a controversial new policy curbing political activism inside the company. Armstrong disclosed the figure in a to employees.Armstrong  last week after a summer when many technology companies faced pressure from their employees to become more outspoken on issues of social justice."While I think these efforts are well-intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction, and by creating internal division,"  in a September 27 blog post. "We've seen...

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Timothy B. Lee
Oct 9
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Google’s Supreme Court faceoff with Oracle was a disaster for Google

Google’s Supreme Court faceoff with Oracle was a disaster for Google

The Supreme Court's eight justices on Wednesday seemed skeptical of Google's argument that application programming interfaces (APIs) are not protected by copyright law. The high court was hearing oral arguments in Google's with Oracle. Oracle argues that Google infringed its copyright in the Java programming language when it re-implemented Java APIs for use by Android app developers.The stakes in the case are high for Google, which could owe Oracle billions of dollars in damages. More importantly, an Oracle win could reshape how copyright law treats APIs, giving incumbents the power to lock...

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Timothy B. Lee
Oct 8
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Tesla delivers 140,000 vehicles, smashing previous records

Tesla delivers 140,000 vehicles, smashing previous records

In recent months, Tesla skeptics have argued that the company's growth had stalled. After delivering a record-breaking 83,500 vehicles in the third quarter of 2018, the company's deliveries grew only modestly in the next few quarters: , for example, and .But Tesla's , released Friday morning, put those concerns to rest. Tesla says it shipped 139,300 vehicles in the third quarter of 2020. That's up 53 percent from last quarter and up 45 percent from a year earlier. It's also up 24 percent from Tesla's previous best quarter—the .The number slightly exceeded the of Wall Street analysts, but...

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Timothy B. Lee
Oct 2
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Coinbase doubles down on anti-politics stance with exit package offer

Coinbase doubles down on anti-politics stance with exit package offer

In the last few years, big technology companies have faced growing pressure from employees to become involved in social justice issues. This pressure intensified this summer with the George Floyd protests. But this week, CEO Brian Armstrong of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase staked out a contrarian stance. "While I think these efforts are well-intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction, and by creating internal division,"  in a blog post. "We've seen what internal strife at companies like Google and Facebook can do to...

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Timothy B. Lee
Sep 30
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How Internet-connected voter check-in devices can create election chaos

How Internet-connected voter check-in devices can create election chaos

A federal judge in Georgia has ordered election officials to print paper backups of voter data so that voting can proceed even if the digital system for checking in voters fails. This is a win for plaintiffs who have argued that flaws in Georgia's electronic-poll-book (EPB) system hampered voting in the June primary and could do so again in November.Over the last 20 years, a lot of discussion has revolved around the risk that electronic voting machines pose to the security and integrity of elections. But there has been less attention paid to electronic poll books—another digital system that...

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Timothy B. Lee
Sep 29
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Tesla wins key ruling in legal battle against former employee

Tesla wins key ruling in legal battle against former employee

A federal judge in Nevada has thrown out a defamation case by former Tesla employee Martin Tripp against his former employer. At the same time, Judge Miranda Du refused to dismiss Tesla's charge that Tripp had violated Nevada's computer crime law when he provided confidential Tesla information to a reporter.Tripp came to public attention in the spring of 2018 when he told several news organizations——that he had evidence that Tesla was wasting raw materials and exaggerating its progress toward producing 5,000 Model 3 cars per week. When someone claiming to be a friend of Tripp's called Tesla...

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Timothy B. Lee
Sep 18
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Nikola patented a stolen truck design, Tesla claims in legal response

Nikola patented a stolen truck design, Tesla claims in legal response

Two years ago, hydrogen-truck startup Nikola claiming that the was a knockoff of Nikola's own truck design. On Wednesday, Tesla in the case accusing Nikola of basing its own truck on a 2010 concept by designer Adriano Mudri. Mudri is now director of design at the Croatian automaker Rimac."Adriano Mudri is the designer of the Road Runner concept truck," Tesla writes in its legal filing. "The Road Runner concept truck was entered into the 2010 Michelin Design Challenge, and was selected for display at the 2010 North American International Auto Show."According to Tesla, Nikola founder Trevor...

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Timothy B. Lee
Sep 24
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Bill to tear down federal courts’ paywall gains momentum in Congress

Bill to tear down federal courts’ paywall gains momentum in Congress

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the Open Courts Act—legislation to overhaul PACER, the federal courts' system for accessing public documents. The proposal would guarantee free public access to judicial documents, ending the current practice of charging 10 cents per page for many documents—as well as search results.The bill must still be passed by the full House and the Senate and signed by the president. With Election Day just seven weeks away, the act is unlikely to become law during this session of Congress.Still, the vote is significant because it indicates...

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Timothy B. Lee
Sep 16
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Nikola admits prototype was rolling downhill in promotional video

Nikola admits prototype was rolling downhill in promotional video

When Nikola Motor Company founder Trevor Milton unveiled a prototype of the Nikola One truck in December 2016, he it as fully functional."We will have a chain on the seats to prevent people from coming in just for the safety. I don't want someone to end up doing something and driving this truck off the stage," Milton said. "This thing fully functions and works, which is really incredible."In January 2018, Nikola to YouTube and other social channels called "Nikola One Electric Semi Truck in Motion." It showed the Nikola One truck moving rapidly along a two-lane desert highway.But last week,...

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Timothy B. Lee
Sep 14
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Why online voting is harder than online banking

Why online voting is harder than online banking

For a , I talked to a number of election experts and computer security researchers who argued that secure Internet voting isn't feasible today and probably won't be for many years to come. A common response to this argument—one that came up in comments to last week's article—is to compare voting to banking. After all, we regularly use the Internet to move money around the world. Why can't we use the same techniques to secure online votes?But voting has some unique requirements that make secure online voting a particularly challenging problem.Every electronic transaction in the conventional...

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Timothy B. Lee
Sep 12
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Trump vows not to extend TikTok deadline beyond September 15

Trump vows not to extend TikTok deadline beyond September 15

ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, is facing a looming September 15 deadline to sell its US operations or have them shut down by the Trump administration. On Thursday evening, President Trump that the deadline wouldn't be pushed back."We'll either close up TikTok in this country for security reasons, or it'll be sold," Trump said just before boarding a flight to Michigan. "I'm not extending deadlines. No. It's September 15. There will be no extension of the TikTok deadline."Reports indicate that both Microsoft and Oracle have made offers for ByteDance's US operations. The...

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Timothy B. Lee
Sep 11
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NJ Supreme Court: No 5th Amendment right not to unlock your phone

NJ Supreme Court: No 5th Amendment right not to unlock your phone

New Jersey's Supreme Court has ruled that compelling a suspect to unlock his or her cell phone doesn't violate the Fifth Amendment. The courts continue to be deeply split on this question. Back in June, Indiana's Supreme Court the opposite conclusion, and several other state and federal courts have reached divergent positions on the issue over the last few years.This case focuses on an allegedly corrupt cop named Robert Andrews. Andrews is a former Essex County Sheriff who allegedly tipped off a suspect named Quincy Lowery about a pending police investigation. Under police questioning,...

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Timothy B. Lee
Aug 11
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Appeals court rules 10¢-a-page charge for court documents is too high

Appeals court rules 10¢-a-page charge for court documents is too high

A federal appeals court has that the federal judiciary has been overcharging thousands of users for access to public court records. PACER, short for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is an online system that allows members of the public (including Ars Technica reporters) to download documents related to almost any federal court case. For PDF documents, the site charges 10 cents per page—a figure far above the costs of running the system.In 2016, three nonprofit organizations  over the issue. The class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of almost everyone who pays PACER fees, argued...

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Timothy B. Lee
Aug 7
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Emails detail Amazon’s plan to crush a startup rival with price cuts

Emails detail Amazon’s plan to crush a startup rival with price cuts

Emails published by the House Judiciary Committee this week confirm an accusation that critics have long leveled against Amazon: that the company's aggressive price-cutting for diapers in 2009 and 2010 was designed to undercut an emerging rival.That rival, Quidsi, had gained traction with a site called Diapers.com that sold baby supplies. Amazon had good reason to worry. As journalist Brad Stone wrote in his , Bezos' company didn't start selling diapers until a year after Diapers.com did. At the time, diapers were seen as too bulky and low-margin to be delivered profitably.But Quidsi's...

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Timothy B. Lee
Jul 30
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Zuckerberg wrote “Instagram can hurt us” days before acquisition

Zuckerberg wrote “Instagram can hurt us” days before acquisition

In a 2012 email six weeks before acquiring Instagram, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that one of his motivations for the acquisition was to "neutralize a potential competitor." The emails were revealed during today's hearing before the House antitrust committee featuring four technology moguls: Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai, Jeff Bezos, and Zuckerberg. The emails were first by the Verge.Facebook was one of the Internet's biggest social networks in 2012, but its dominant position was not as secure then as it is today. There were a lot of rival social networks, and Zuckerberg worried his...

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Timothy B. Lee
Jul 29
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French parliament passes porn age-verification legislation

French parliament passes porn age-verification legislation

The French parliament has agreed to pass a new law requiring age verification on pornographic websites to prevent access by children under 18, . The initiative has the support of President Emmanuel Macron, who in January.The French law gives sites discretion to decide how to perform age verification. Requiring users to enter a credit card number seems to be one of the most popular options.According to Politico, the law gives French regulators the power to create a blacklist for overseas sites that don't comply with the new rules. If a site doesn't respond to a warning from French officials,...

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Timothy B. Lee
Jul 10
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FBI nabs Nigerian business scammer who allegedly cost victims millions

FBI nabs Nigerian business scammer who allegedly cost victims millions

The US government has gained custody of a Nigerian man who is accused of participating in a massive fraud and money laundering operation. The defendant, Ray "Hushpuppi" Abbas, has amassed , where he flaunts his access to luxury cars, designer clothing, and private jets. The feds say that he gained this wealth by defrauding banks, law firms, and other businesses out of millions of dollars. He was arrested last month by authorities in the United Arab Emirates, where he had been living.The FBI's details how the government obtained a wealth of information tying Abbas to his alleged crimes....

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Timothy B. Lee
Jul 6
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Supreme Court says generic domains like booking.com can be trademarked

Supreme Court says generic domains like booking.com can be trademarked

The US Patent and Trademark Office erred by finding the term booking.com was too generic for trademark protection, the Supreme Court on Tuesday.Trademark law prohibits anyone from registering generic terms that describe a class of products or services. Anyone can start a store company called "The Wine Company," but they can't use trademark law to stop others from using the same name. When the online travel giant Bookings Holdings sought to trademark its booking.com domain name almost a decade ago, the US Patent and Trademark Office concluded that the same rule applied.Booking Holdings...

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Timothy B. Lee
Jun 30
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Detroit police chief cops to 96-percent facial recognition error rate

Detroit police chief cops to 96-percent facial recognition error rate

Detroit's police chief admitted on Monday that facial recognition technology used by the department misidentifies suspects about 96 percent of the time. It's an eye-opening admission given that the Detroit Police Department is facing criticism for arresting a man based on a bogus match from facial recognition software.Last week, the ACLU with the Detroit Police Department on behalf of Robert Williams, a Black man who was wrongfully arrested for stealing five watches worth $3,800 from a luxury retail store. Investigators first identified Williams by doing a facial recognition search with...

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Timothy B. Lee
Jun 30
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