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Gov. Brown Signs Legislation At Google HQ That Allows Testing Of Autonomous Vehicles

The first trio of companies looking to test self-driving cars on California's public roads got newly required permits from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles last week. Google nabbed paperwork for taking a fleet of 25 Lexus SUVs to the streets, while Audi and Mercedes-Benz also secured written approval that's now a must for trials amongst regular automobiles. The Guardian reports that other automakers are working on getting the proper approval for testing as well, so long as vehicles have a way for the driver to take control if needed. Of course, California has welcomed autonomous vehicles since 2012, but the state announced new rules for testing on public roads earlier this year that went into effect this month.

[Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

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Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Good news: if you want Samsung's slimmer, ritzier Galaxy Alpha in the US, you won't have to beg your Canadian friends to ship an unlocked unit across the border. AT&T has revealed plans to carry the Alpha starting on September 26th, the same day it launches up North. Be prepared to pay a premium for this compact yet speedy Android phone, though. The Alpha will cost $200 on a contract, or $613 contract-free. That's not much different than what you'd pay for the larger, slightly more powerful Galaxy S5 -- you'll have to really value the Alpha's metal-clad design for AT&T's pricing to make sense.

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Over the past few months, BlackBerry has been putting a lot of effort into building some buzz around its newest, oddly-shaped smartphone, the Passport. Today, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, company CEO John Chen revealed one of the most important aspects of the device: the cost. Chen told the publication that the BlackBerry Passport will be hitting shelves in the US this Wednesday for $599, contract free, adding that such price tag is expected to vary from country to country -- depending on sales tax and the like. Chen also said that BlackBerry's new Passport is betting on reaching and appealing to people who need to be productive, pointing to the wider screen as an example of how the device could help users. "You really are seeing a more entire picture than seeing a sliver [of screen]," Chen stated to WSJ, likely in reference to some of the most popular phones out there at the moment, such as the iPhone 6, Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8.

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DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg

If you've been using DuckDuckGo's privacy-focused search engine to get around China's stringent censorship while also hiding your tracks, you'd better start looking for an alternative. The company's Gabriel Weinberg (above) has confirmed that China blocked DuckDuckGo at some point in recent memory; GreatFire suggests that the crackdown came on September 4th. No matter when it happened, the move makes it that much harder to search the full internet when you're in the country. Given that Google is already blocked, you're now largely relegated to censored versions of Bing, Yahoo and domestic sites like Baidu. That's a particularly sore point if you're traveling to China with an iPhone -- Apple added DuckDuckGo as a default search choice in iOS 8, but you won't get to use it while you're sojourning in Shanghai.

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In Iowa, there's a 3,000-acre farm that uses machines to accomplish most tasks, from seeding to fertilizing and chemical application. This land, owned by the Mitchell family, is known as one of the most mechanized farms in the United States, and it's far from being unique. The Mitchells and their equally high-tech neighbors are some of the top corn producers in the US, thanks to their machines. But more and more farmers in the country are also turning to agricultural robots, as laborers start dwindling in number and demands for crops and produce continue to grow. After all, they need all the help they can get to feed millions of people, since it's just not feasible to farm by hand anymore as it was a hundred years ago. Seeing as the US population has grown by 22.5 percent between 1990 (an estimated 250 million) and 2010 (310 million), and the Census Bureau expects it to balloon to more than 420 million in 2050, you can expect to see more robots doing the dirty work on more American farms.

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Libyan schoolgirl uses a PC

The Xprize organization has inspired people to take on some pretty lofty goals, ranging from sequencing genomes to literal moonshots. Today, though, it's focusing on a very practical objective: improving education for hundreds of millions of kids. Its new Global Learning Xprize will offer a total of $15 million to teams that build open source, easily scaled software that lets young ones in developing countries teach themselves math, reading and writing. Anyone hoping to join in will have 18 months to craft their tools, which will be tested in at least 100 villages. The top five entrants will get $1 million each, while the winning entry will get a hefty $10 million. It may not be the flashiest competition, but it could go a long, long way toward tackling the chronic shortages of schools and teachers that ultimately hurt kids' futures.

[Image credit: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images]

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Friends ("The One Where the Monkey Gets Away") is on TV, Alanis Morissette is angrily screaming "You oughta know" on the radio, your bff messages you on WhatsApp. What's the misfit in this picture? Nothing if you're rocking LG's Wine Smart -- a rare smartphone flip phone. Nostalgia from the 90s (or, really, 2007) aside, the Wine Smart isn't all that unusual. Flip phones are still popular in certain markets, and why wouldn't you want one with the latest version of Android, a 1.2GHz processor, 8-megapixel camera and expandable memory? Well, that's exactly what the Wine smart has, although if you were hoping LG's 2K display might filter down from the G3, you'd be fresh outta luck (3.5-inch, 480 x 320 is what you'll have to settle for). The inclusion of a "safe keeper" function that alerts friends or family if you fall suggest this is pitched at an older crowd. But, then there's a dedicated button for a instant messaging app, too. We're sure LG knows its market though, so who are we to question? Oh, there's an FM radio too. Perfect for that Morissette revival, whenever and wherever LG decides to release it.

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Whenever NASA achieves something, row after row of neatly-dressed mission controllers all begin whooping and clapping. The reason for today's jubilation is the news that, after nearly a year, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution probe has successfully entered orbit around the red planet. MAVEN began its tour of duty at 10:24pm EDT Sunday night, and after a six-week test phase, will analyze the upper atmosphere of Mars in an attempt to understand how its climate has influenced the surface below. In addition, the information will help other white shirt-and-pocket-protector-wearing analysts to determine if, when, and how best to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. You never know, maybe MAVEN will be able to find some Methane in the atmosphere and make David Bowie very happy.

[Image Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center]

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Remember when IKEA started selling solar panels in the UK despite its famous lack of sunshine? It must have been successful, because company CEO Peter Agnefjäll has just pledged that eight more nations will get the service in the next 18 months. First up is the Netherlands, which will begin offering the gear on October 28th, while Swiss stores will launch just before Christmas. The company's remaining tight-lipped on the other six locations, but we'd imagine the bulk of them will be in neighboring European countries. At the same time, Agnefjäll also pledged that, by 2020, all of IKEA's plastic products will be sourced from recycled plastic or renewable materials as part of a pledge to save 700,000 tons of CO2 each year. Clearly someone's been listening to those clever folks down at the UN.

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We're no strangers to projects that try to capture the power of the human body, but here's one with a peculiar twist. A pair of researchers from Montreal's École de Technologie Supérieure have cooked up a headset that, while extremely goofy-looking, can harness the power of your mighty jaw muscles while you chew, gab on the phone and stress-grind your teeth into a fine powder.

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