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The World's Smartest Car?

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Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:

Google's new ride. They can already seemingly read our minds, and now, the brainiacs at Google are making more sci-fi dreams come true. The company announced ever-so-casually this weekend: "So we have developed technology for cars that can drive themselves." According to the blog post, written by self-proclaimed "distinguished software engineer" Sebastian Thrun, the world's smartest car has already driven from the mother ship in Mountain View to Santa Monica and onward to Hollywood Boulevard. All in all, the souped-up Prius has logged more than 140,000 miles, using video cameras, radars, and hyper-detailed maps to lead the way. Scared to share the road with a Google robo-car? Not to fear. There's a "trained safety driver" behind the wheel during every test drive. An article in the New York Times notes that the only accident the car has experienced was being rear-ended by another driver while stopped at a light. Thrun concludes, "While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future thanks to advanced computer science. And that future is very exciting."

What you can learn from failed start-ups. Sure, successful start-ups provide great lessons on how to build your own business. But, sometimes, the stories of promising start-ups that failed can do more to help you keep your business on track. In that vain, FoundersBlock.com gives us 25 of the best start-up post-mortems, starring C-level in-fighting, business model oversights, and VCs commandeering the ship. (Via Sree Sreenivasan's Twitter feed.)

Entrepreneurship gives inmates a second chance. Yesterday's Cleveland Plain Dealer had an interesting article that examined how entrepreneurship programs in prisons are helping to give newly-released inmates a better chance of reforming their lives and staying out of jail. According to studies cited in the article, a criminal record reduces employment opportunities by up to 64 percent. It's not hard to see, therefore, how starting their own businesses may be the best option available to ex-inmates. As the director of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation explains, "With employment challenges, creating a job for themselves may be the only viable option for ex-offenders. Why not give them skills to build a business for themselves and others?"

Are men better-suited to be entrepreneurs? A post today on Techcrunch challenges assumptions that men are more fit for entrepreneurship than women. The author of the post, Vivek Wadhwa, an academic researcher and former entrepreneur, researched and analyzed the backgrounds of 652 startup founders in the tech industry, as well as a sample of 549 company founders in non-tech industries. Wadhwa points out that both groups face similar challenges, regardless of gender. "I was really surprised at what we learned: that there was almost no difference between men and women company founders," Wadhwa writes. "Both groups had an equally strong desire to build wealth; wanted to capitalize on business ideas; were attracted to the culture of startups; had long-standing desire to own their own company; and were tired of working for others."

Meet Facebook's extrovert-in-chief. Contrary to popular belief, Mark Zuckerberg & Co. are not all reclusive programmers. At least that's what the Wall Street Journal found in profiling Chris Cox, the company's 28-year-old vice president of product. He's a "social design" advocate, who believes humans, not computers, are what make the Internet useful. His latest project was Facebook groups, and he's also worked on location-aware features. Also, he's an extrovert grad-school dropout who plays in a reggae band. Rock on.

Is there a boomer tech boom? Ad Age thinks so. It found a slew of new research this week stating that baby boomers outspend every other demographic on technology including telecom, gadgets, and online shopping. Boomers average around $650 spent in online shopping during a three month period, while Gen X and Gen Y average $581 and $429 respectively, according to Forrester Research. Pew Internet also finds that social media usage among boomers ballooned from 25 percent in Apirl 2009 to 47 percent in May 2010. This number may not come as such a surprise with the rapid proliferation of social media (aka Twitter) during that span. That they spend more on consumer electronics might not be so surprising, either. Boomers, after all, have more money to spend than the younger generation and can adopt new technologies more readily than their older counterparts.

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Last updated: Oct 11, 2010

CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer

Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.




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