iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Federal vehicle safety agencies have routinely worked with private companies to pave the road for autonomous vehicles.
So U.S. officials will now allow the artificial intelligence system responsible for piloting self-driving cars to be considered the driver, according to a letter dated from last week from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
One obstacle autonomous vehicle manufactures have faced is what federal law calls the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs). These standards outline the safety requirements applied to all vehicles on U.S. roadways.
Since 1967, when the first of these safety standards became effective under federal law, a driver has been considered a human piloting the vehicle from the front seat.
With manufacturers trying to break this mold, they needed U.S. Department of Transportation approval for their artificial intelligence systems to qualify as a driver.
A November request from Google’s Self-Driving Car Project asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to interpret a number of provisions within federal vehicle safety law, including for their Self-Driving System to qualify as or replace the driver.
The Feb. 4 response from NHTSA gives Google and all other manufacturers approval to design and operate under the interpretation that their artificial intelligence systems qualify as the driver under federal law.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said today his department is committed to embracing innovations that improve safety and efficiency on U.S. roadways.
“Our interpretation that the self-driving computer system of a car could, in fact, be a driver is significant,” Foxx said.
“But the burden remains on self-driving car manufacturers to prove that their vehicles meet rigorous federal safety standards.”
Foxx revealed last month that part of the president’s budget proposal would include a 10-year, nearly $4 billion investment to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects.
Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Burger King may get a new nickname in the coming weeks: Hot Dog King.
The fast-food chain will make the taste of a summer barbecue available year-round by adding two hot dogs to its permanent menu, it said in a press release Wednesday. The all-beef franks will be available nationwide starting Feb. 23.
Burger King plans to use the same flame-grilling technique it uses for its burgers for its hot dogs, as opposed to the more traditional method of boiling them.
“The introduction of Grilled Dogs just made sense to our guests and for our brand,” said Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America.
The chain will offer two varieties of hot dogs: the classic grilled, which will be topped with ketchup, mustard, chopped onions and relish and served on a "fluffy baked bun," and the chili-cheese, topped with chili and shredded cheddar cheese.
Americans eat more 20 billion hot dogs per year, Burger King estimates. Once it makes the new items available in its 7,100 U.S. stores, Burger King will become the largest restaurant chain in the country to offer hot dogs. Smaller chains that feature hot dogs on their menus include Sonic Drive-In and Dairy Queen.
The classic hot dog will cost $1.99 and the chili-cheese dog will cost $2.29. Burger King will also be offering combo deals with fries and a fountain drink for $4.49 and $4.79, respectively.
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey struck a hopeful tone for the year ahead in a call Wednesday with investors as the social media company revealed its user base remained stagnant in the last quarter.
Growing its number of monthly active users has been a challenge for Twitter. Dorsey reported Wednesday the site has 320 million monthly active users -- the same number the company reported in the third fiscal quarter. Daily users also remained flat for the fourth fiscal quarter.
"We saw a decline in monthly active usage in Q4, but we've already seen January monthly actives bounce back to Q3 levels. We're confident that, with disciplined execution, this growth trend will continue over time," the company wrote in a letter to shareholders.
Twitter reported fourth quarter revenue of $710 million, with advertising revenue for the quarter up 48 percent from the same time one year ago.
Dorsey, 39, one of the founders of the site, took over for the second time as chief executive last year. While the site has tremendous reach, it has lagged in attracting and retaining new users, who in turn entice businesses to advertise on Twitter and drive revenue.
The company reported having 130,000 active advertisers in the fourth quarter -- up 90 percent from the same time one year ago, as well as a 153 percent increase in user engagements with advertisements.
What investors have been wanting to hear from Dorsey is a clear vision for the path ahead, and he delivered it at the start of the call by emphasizing a commitment and focus to live events, which Dorsey said is where Twitter excels.
“We’re focused now on what Twitter does best -- live. Twitter is live -- live commentary, live conversations and live connections,” Dorsey said. “Twitter has always been considered a second screen for what is happening in the world and we believe we can become the first screen” for everything happening in real-time.
The social media company has had several victories in the past year, including the launch of video streaming app Periscope and the announcement it has suspended more than 125,000 terror-related accounts, but it's also faced its share of challenges.
Twitter laid off 8 percent of its workforce -- 336 people -- in October, lost four key executives last month, has experienced slumping stock prices and even a revolt from some users who protested a controversial change to the site's timeline feature with the #RIPTwitter hashtag.
Early Wednesday, Twitter announced it would show users an algorithm-generated timeline of tweets, with the usual, real-time reverse chronological stream being shown toward the bottom the page.
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Whether authorities should be given a so-called backdoor to access encrypted smartphones has been an ongoing tug-of-war between many Silicon Valley power players and government officials, but a pair of lawmakers are hoping their new bill will have the final word when it comes to protecting smartphone security.
The ENCRYPT Act of 2016 -- short for the "Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications Act" -- is a proposed federal law that has the stated purpose of overriding "data security vulnerability mandates and decryption requirements" at the state level.
Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican who is one of the sponsors of the bill, said on Twitter he was spurred to act following proposals at the state level in New York and California that he said would create "hackable" backdoors to smartphones. The Argument for Loosening Encryption
At issue is whether the government should be pushing technology companies to implement so-called back doors to their operating systems, allowing law enforcement a way to bypass encryption and get information to track down terrorists and other criminals.
Supporters of loosening encryption say it can be a matter of national security.
Case in point: FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday that two months after the San Bernardino massacre, the FBI and the intelligence community cannot open one of the smartphones used by the couple who perpetrated the attack. Not having access to the encrypted messages in the phone would prevent authorities from knowing who they were talking to, texting or what they might have been viewing on that particular device. The Argument for No 'Backdoors'
Those supporting encryption -- the ENCRYPT Act of 2016 -- say creating a so-called backdoor for law enforcement would leave devices open to hackers.
In a letter to President Obama last year, Google, Apple, Facebook and dozens of cyber-security experts and trade groups said giving the government the master key to decode encrypted data could leave billions of people vulnerable to cyber criminals and deal a detrimental blow to information security.
Apple turns on encryption by default, meaning law enforcement would have to have a person's passcode to access any data on an iPhone. Google also offers users encryption options with the recent Lollipop and Marshmallow versions of the Android operating system.
iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Warner Music Group and others arguing they held the copyright on the popular song "Happy Birthday to You" have agreed to drop their claim, according to the terms of a proposed settlement deal obtained by theLos Angeles Times.
The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by a group of filmmakers who believed the song should be in the public domain. The proposed deal, released on Monday, reportedly offers up to $14 million for those who paid licensing fees to use the song.
If U.S. District Judge George H. King signs off on the agreement, Warner/Chappell Music would no longer collect fees to use the song, which brought the company somewhere as much as $2 million per year in royalties.
The tentative settlement allows those who paid for use of the song as far back as 1949 to recoup some or all of their money, according to court papers.
Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred J. Hill wrote the tune, originally titled "Good Morning to All," in 1893 and included it in a children's music book. The "Happy Birthday" lyrics were added sometime later. The sisters left the copyright with their publisher.
In 1988, Warner began collecting royalties for "Happy Birthday" after it purchased the company that held the copyright.
However, King ruled in September that Warner/Chappell and other prior companies never had the right to charge for use of the song.
Two other groups related to the Hill family also joined the settlement: the Association for Childhood Education International, a designated charity of the Hill family that receives a third of the song's licensing profits, and the Hill Foundation.
A hearing on the preliminary approval of the settlement is scheduled for March 14 in Los Angeles.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission(NEW YORK) -- IKEA is recalling about 840,000 ceiling lamps worldwide over a faulty clip that can lead to a laceration injury.
The recall affects two products: HYBY and LOCK ceiling lamps. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, "The plastic retaining clips that secure the glass shades to the lamp housings can break and allow the glass shades to fall, posing a laceration hazard."
So far, IKEA has received 224 reports of clips breaking and lamp shades falling, resulting in 11 injuries. In the U.S., the Swedish furniture chain has been notified of three incidents, none of which resulted in injuries.
Both products in question were sold in IKEA stores worldwide and online. The HYBY lamp retailed for about $13 between October 2012 and January 2016, while the LOCK lamp sold for about $5 between November 2002 and January 2016.
Affected customers are advised to immediately stop using the lamps and return them to any IKEA store for a full refund.
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It's a new era for Twitter.
The social media company, which has long shown an endless stream of tweets in reverse-chronological order, announced today it will now serve users with an algorithmic timeline that will show tweets out of order.
In the coming weeks, Twitter users can turn on the feature in their settings. When logging onto Twitter, they'll see the tweets that Twitter's algorithm believes they're most likely to care about at the top of their timeline, going in reverse chronological order as they scroll down the new timeline.
Twitter's real-time stream will then be displayed underneath in the same reverse-chronological order, allowing users to also keep track of real-time discussions on Twitter.
In a blog post announcing the change, Mike Jahr, a senior engineering manager a Twitter, said the change would serve users who follow hundreds or thousands of people with a better experience, ensuring they don't miss the tweets that may matter most to them.
"We've already seen that people who use this new feature tend to Retweet and Tweet more, creating more live commentary and conversations, which is great for everyone," Jahr wrote.
To check the feature out now, go to the timeline section of settings and choose "show me the best tweets first."
Twitter's team will be turning on the feature for everyone in the coming weeks, Jahr said, and will make it clear with a timeline notification.
"We love it and think you will too. If you don't, send your thoughts our way, and you can easily turn it off in settings," Jahr said.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- All those long nights of lost sleep will finally pay off for moms and dads when it comes time to filing their taxes.
New York tax accountant Janice Hayman says kids can be helpful, "especially if they're young."
Each child you claim as a dependant earns you a tax credit of up to $1,000. That's called the Child Tax Credit -- and there are even more savings if you've been paying for child care.
"If they're under age 13 and both parents are working, there is a child and dependent care credit if you are spending $3,000 per child with after school or other dependant care expenses," Hayman explains.
You can also claim an in-law or your own mother or father if you're responsible for their housing.
"If you do have an aging parent living with you and they are your dependent, there can be some variety of tax savings, including if they have medical deductions," she says.
iStock/Thinkstock(WEST VIEW, Pa.) — A Pennsylvania woman is facing big obstacles in her plan to move into a tiny house.
Rachel Ford of West View, Pennsylvania, wants to move into a tiny house, however, borough laws are holding her back, she said. The problem is that many municipalities in western Pennsylvania do not allow homes as small as hers, which is 306 square feet.
Ford told ABC News that she began considering moving into a tiny house because it would give her the financial freedom she has been craving for a long time. Ford, who currently works two jobs, noted that the cost of the construction of a tiny house would be significantly cheaper than other housing options she's considered.
"If I were to buy a traditional house, I would be paying $1,200 to $1,300 dollars a month -- that's more than half my income," Ford said. "Just for me, [a tiny house] seems like such a better transition."
Ford estimated that the cost of her tiny house would range from $20,000 to $25,000.
Ford, 29, has been documenting her process to moving into a tiny house on her blog called Tiny House Big Dreams, and noted that among the difficulties she's faced, her toughest challenge has been locating a permanent location for the tiny house once it's been built.
Many of the local municipalities in Pittsburgh have zoning laws that require a foundation or a house to be much larger than Ford's 306-square-foot tiny house.
"Every borough has its own zoning rules and regulations," Ford said. "It's crazy."
Ford revealed that while she has found a couple of boroughs that "don't have square foot requirements," she hasn't made any final decisions because she is still researching to find other possible locations for her tiny house.
"I'm keeping my options open" Ford said.
Ford said that after she figures out where she will move her tiny house to, she is looking forward to less stress and the financial freedom she will have.
"My expenses will be way down after the first year so I will be able to travel and experience new things," Ford said.
Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)(NEW YORK) -- Burberry is suing J.C. Penney for allegedly using the luxury brand's iconic tartan-check design.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit, filed by Burberry Group PLC in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claimed J.C. Penney Co. sold a quilted jacket and a “scarf coat” featuring the pattern and continued to sell the items for two months despite warnings from the British brand.
The lawsuit said the items were sold by J.C. Penney in an attempt to “deceive and mislead consumers into believing that defendants’ or their products are authorized, sponsored by or connected to Burberry,” reported Fortune.
Both articles were made by New York distributor Levy Group Inc., which was also named as a defendant, according to WSJ.
Burberry's check design is recognized around the world as a symbol of high-fashion next to Chanel's interlocking C's logo and Louis Vuitton's monogram print. The check pattern was trademarked by founder Thomas Burberry in the 1920's.
"Used as a badge of origin since at least the 1920s, the iconic check is synonymous with our heritage," reads a description on the fashion house's website.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After switching between gains and losses during the day, the major indexes closed slightly lower on Tuesday as oil prices and global stocks tumbled.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 12.06 to close at 16,014.99.
The Nasdaq fell 14.99 to end the session at 4,268.76. The tech-heavy index could be headed to a "bear market" if it drops 20 percent from its last record high (currently it's down nearly 18 percent from its high in July).
The S&P 500 closed at 1,852.21, down 1.23 from its open.
Crude oil was hit hard, sinking over 4 percent as prices fell to $28 per barrel.
Global stocks didn't end much better. Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped over 5 percent, so far the worst repercussion almost two weeks after the Bank of Japan decided in January to introduce a negative interest rate that would charge commercial banks for some deposits. European markets dropped about 1 percent at the close. Markets in China were closed for the New Year holiday.
LinkedIn shares flopped over 8 percent as the business social-networking site continued to feel investors' concerns with its weak outlook reported last week. In its fourth-quarter report, LinkedIn said that revenue in quarter one would hit the $820 million mark, lower than the Wall Street-anticipated $867 million.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will give a two-day testimony to Congress starting Wednesday for her first public appearance since interest rates were raised at the end of last year. Investors will be listening closely if she mentions any concern about another possible recession.
Goodwill Manasota(SARASOTA, Fla.) -- A Florida branch of Goodwill is offering the broken-hearted a chance to start fresh and do a good deed for Valentine’s Day.
Goodwill stores in the Sarasota, Florida, area are hosting what they categorize as an anti-Valentine’s Day campaign called “Donate Your Ex’s Stuff.”
The idea is single folks can get rid of the physical baggage of a past relationship by donating their ex's belongings to Goodwill instead of throwing them away.
“We’re telling people they can turn the hate into donate and they’ll feel great in the process,” Kelly Davis Strausbaugh, marketing and public relations coordinator for Goodwill Manasota, told ABC News.
The campaign’s announcement Monday night at a local radio station featured pizza and Taylor Swift songs, according to Davis Strausbaugh.
The actual campaign launches the day after Valentine’s Day, Monday, Feb. 15, giving the broken-hearted time to gather their ex’s belongings or respond to a brutal Valentine’s Day break-up.
“Instead of throwing items away, they can donate to Goodwill and help turn them into jobs,” said Davis Strausbaugh. “We don’t like break-ups but this is a way to make it a little more fun and tongue-in-cheek.”
The Goodwill "Donate Your Ex's Stuff" campaign was started in 2010 by the Goodwill Keystone Area, in Harrisburg, Penn., a Goodwill Industries International spokeswoman told ABC News.
In addition to the Sarasota-area chapter, the Goodwill of Southern Nevada, in Las Vegas, is also hosting the campaign this year, the spokeswoman said.
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One Maryland man found out what it’s like to stand between a Chipotle customer and a free burrito.
After mandatory employee meetings temporarily closed more than 2,000 Chipotle restaurants for a few hours on Monday, Chipotle ran a promotion to make it up to their customers. The fast food Mexican chain offered a free burrito to customers who texted “RAINCHECK” to 888-222.
In Maryland, customers who mistakenly added an extra “2” to that number had their messages redirected to Hank Levine.
Levine told ABC News that the first text came in at around 9 a.m. and never stopped. By the end of Monday, he’d received over 200 texts.
When Levine replied to the first text with a question mark, he said the customer responded, “I want my burrito,” clearly unaware of the mix-up.
Levine had to explain that the customer had the wrong number. The customer alerted Levine to the promotion.
“The first thing I did was do it, so now I have a coupon for a free burrito. The second thing I said was, ‘This is going to be a problem,’” said Levine.
Levine reached out to Chipotle through the company's website and heard back from a customer service representative who told him that she was looking into similar situations elsewhere. The representative offered Levine some coupons for free entrees.
Despite the deluge of texts, Levine has been a good sport about the whole mix-up. He said that as word of his situation spread on social media, he only encountered nasty responses late at night “when college kids went out to get a drink.”
Even though the promotion ended Monday, Levine said he’s still getting texts, though only half of them seem to be from people looking for a free burrito.
Red Lobster(NEW YORK) -- Beyoncé’s latest song “Formation” is racking up both views on YouTube and sales at Red Lobster.
The music video posted Saturday features lyrics about enjoying seafood at Red Lobster restaurants. As a result, weekend sales skyrocketed for the restaurant chain.
“We are absolutely delighted with what we saw over the weekend, particularly the consumer sentiment that we saw expressed,” Kim Lopdrup, CEO of Red Lobster, told CNBC. “It’s clear that Beyoncé has helped create some Red Lobster fans, and we are very grateful to her for that.”
The company calls this sudden spike in sales the “Beyoncé Bounce,” and some employees have already started renaming some menu items after the pop star.
Red Lobster also saw a boost in social media, trending on Twitter for the first time in the brand’s history.