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Elon Musk has been pitching cheap tunnels from The Boring Company to big names

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A map of a potential location for a tunnel through Australia's Blue Mountains.

Enlarge / Plans for a potential tunnel connecting Sydney, Australia, to the West. (credit: Jeremy Buckingham)

Elon Musk—CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company—has been pitching his new tunnel-boring capabilities to curious elected officials as well as the director of CERN (the organization that owns and operates the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland).

Just a month after Musk opened up his first, rather rugged test tunnel under the SpaceX campus in Hawthorne, California, the CEO has been on Twitter floating prices and talking projects.

Last week Jeremy Buckingham, a member of Parliament in New South Wales' Upper House, asked Musk on Twitter, "How much to build a 50km tunnel through the Blue Mountains and open up the west of our State?" Musk replied, "About $15M/km for a two-way high-speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station."

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Google Maps will now display speed limits for its Android and iOS apps

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For the last couple of years, my wife and I have relied on an ancient Garmin GPS for long road trips, in part because it had a useful feature that Google Maps lacked: speed limits. We might end up switching soon, because Google has begun rolling out the feature to Google Maps on iOS and Android devices.

The new feature, spotted by Android Police (via Mashable), displays the posted speed limit on roads in the corner of the app, and also introduces an icon to denote the location of speed cameras. Mashable reports that drivers will get an audio notification when they’re approaching a speed trap. The update is currently rolling out to users in Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States, while speed camera icons are rolling out to Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, UK, and US users.

Google began testing the feature in 2016, and it had been available in only a couple of areas — San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and an update to its Apple’s CarPlay app recently introduced the feature. This new update will help users who might not drive cars with smart displays, and helps Google catch up to the likes of Waze and Garmin, which have long provided the information for drivers. I’ll certainly be testing it out on my next road trip.

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No, Mastercard won’t stop digital subscriptions from annoyingly auto-renewing

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Ever sign up for a free trial, only to get slapped with a monthly fee when you forget to cancel in time? For a moment, it looked like Mastercard was ready to provide the ultimate solution — a new policy that would require merchants to explicitly ask you again, each and every month, before charging you a dime.

Unfortunately, Mastercard has now clarified that it’s a way more limited solution than the company originally let on. The new policy only applies when you subscribe to physical products that get delivered to your door, like vitamins and snacks, not digital services like Netflix or PlayStation Plus.

(Nothing against PlayStation Plus, it’s just the one I personally keep forgetting to cancel every year. Netflix just announced it’s raising prices, but I am an addict who will probably keep paying.)

Mastercard has already updated its blog post to clarify that it’s talking about physical products, not digital ones, and says it’ll add a footnote so it’s more transparent that it has done so.

The original blog post, which didn’t specify that the policy only applied to physical products.

Why would Mastercard admit the mistake, though, instead of just rolling with it and agreeing to protect card owners from both types of recurring subscriptions? That’s not entirely clear, but Mastercard spokesperson Chaiti Sen tells The Verge the company wanted to start with physical products because that’s where its customers had been having the most issues.

“There’s a lot of fuzziness in health care products, skin care products, vitamins... those physical products are where we’re seeing the most complaints,” she says.

These are legitimate businesses that Mastercard wants to rein in, she adds, when I ask if some of those complaints might be due to snake-oil scams.

So if you’re having issues with your Stitch Fix or Graze or the like — for instance, I canceled my Graze snack box subscription a couple years back, but they didn’t cancel right away — Mastercard might help. For everything else, you might be on your own.

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MasterCard will stop free trials from automatically billing you once they’re over

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MasterCard announced a new policy today for merchants who retain your card information after you sign up for a free trial. Soon, MasterCard will require those merchants to request an official authorization for any recurring subscriptions.

This is great news for forgetful or busy people who might not want to continue paying for a service or product that they just wanted to test out. For example, if you signed up for a new streaming service with your card info, then forgot you had the subscription, the merchant will send you an email or text notice before the next payment is due.

Once you receive the merchant’s message, you’ll find it includes the transaction amount, payment date, and merchant name, plus explicit instructions on how to cancel your trial. But it gets better: for every payment thereafter, the merchant will continue sending receipts (again, by email or text) containing the payment amount and how to cancel service — because maybe you liked the product for the first month or so, but have since decided otherwise.

Personally, I can think of a few scenarios where MasterCard’s new feature would have come in handy for avoiding unwanted charges. But, it’s better late than never.

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Google kills the Chromecast Audio

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The Chromecast Audio let you hook up just about any audio device to the cast ecosystem through a 3.5mm jack. RIP.

Enlarge / The Chromecast Audio let you hook up just about any audio device to the cast ecosystem through a 3.5mm jack. RIP.

Another day, another dead Google product. Today, Google is discontinuing the Chromecast Audio. The company told Android Police it has stopped manufacturing the audio-only version of the Chromecast, so when the current stock runs out, the product will presumably be gone forever. Here is the full statement given to Android Police:

Our product portfolio continues to evolve, and now we have a variety of products for users to enjoy audio. We have therefore stopped manufacturing our Chromecast Audio products. We will continue to offer assistance for Chromecast Audio devices, so users can continue to enjoy their music, podcasts and more.

The Chromecast is a popular way to beam online media from one device to another. Buttons in YouTube, Chrome, Netflix, Spotify, Soundcloud, Facebook, and about a million other apps allow users to easily send media to a display or speaker.

While the HDMI version of the Chromecast is sticking around, the audio version, which connected to an existing speaker or sound system with a 3.5mm jack, is dead. Going forward, Google's audio plans seem to mostly revolve around smart speakers like the Google Home and other devices with cast functionality built in. But the Chromecast Audio was a great way to tack on smart functionality to existing or exotic audio setups. It's a shame it's gone.

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Man says CES lidar’s laser was so powerful it wrecked his $1,998 camera

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A man attending this week's CES show in Las Vegas says that a lidar sensor from startup AEye has permanently damaged the sensor on his $1,998 Sony camera. Earlier this week, roboticist and entrepreneur Jit Ray Chowdhury snapped photos of a car at CES with AEye's lidar units on top. He discovered that every subsequent picture he took was marred by two bright purple spots, with horizontal and vertical lines emanating from them.

"I noticed that all my pictures were having that spot," he told Ars by phone on Thursday evening. "I covered up the camera with the lens cap and the spots are there—it's burned into the sensor."

In an email to Ars Technica, AEye CEO Luis Dussan confirmed that AEye's lidars can cause damage to camera sensors—though he stressed that they pose no danger to human eyes.

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