Read the Florida Highway Patrol’s full investigation into the fatal Tesla crash

On a sunny afternoon last May, the most written-about traffic crash of 2016 occurred on US Highway 27 outside Williston, Florida. A tractor-trailer hauling blueberries for delivery to a local farm was making a left turn onto NE 140th Court when a black Tesla Model S traveling in the opposite direction drove underneath the trailer at 74 mph, tearing the roof off and killing the driver instantly.

It was one of more than 30,000 traffic fatalities in the US last year, but this one received special attention for one reason: the Tesla had its Autopilot feature active. Autopilot is a semi-autonomous mode in which the car can handle some steering and speed controls under the close supervision of the driver.

The Verge has obtained the complete Florida Highway Patrol investigative file of last summer’s crash. It is consistent with previous information on the incident, including statements from Tesla and a National Highway Transportation Safety Board (NHTSA) investigation. We have attached redacted versions of the file to this article.

Frank Baressi, a 62-year old truck driver with valid license and medical certification, was just two miles from his destination when the crash occurred. He was heading westbound on Highway 27 and turned left across traffic. According to the report, Baressi “failed to observe” the Tesla, driven by 40-year old Joshua Brown of Ohio, approaching from the opposite direction. At the same time, and for “unknown reasons,” Brown “failed to observe” the truck crossing his path and “took no evasive action” to avoid the vehicle. There were no skid marks from braking, and telematics pulled from the Tesla showed that the brake pedal was never pressed.

According to the NHTSA report, Brown had seven seconds during which he could have taken action, either by braking or attempting to steer around the truck. He did neither. The Tesla was traveling at 74 miles per hour at the time of the crash, controlled by the cruise control which Brown had set a little more than two minutes before the crash occurred. There is no evidence in the report to corroborate Baressi’s claim that Brown was watching Harry Potter on a video screen in the car when the crash occurred.

The windshield and roof of the Tesla collided with the middle of the trailer. The sedan traveled more than 900 feet after the initial impact, hitting two wire fence lines and a wooden utility pole on the way. Upon the initial impact, the vehicle’s battery pack and navigation system were compromised, and, powerless, the vehicle coasted until it came to a stop.

Investigators with the Florida Highway Patrol examined the truck and took blood samples from Baressi. The report outlines that maintenance records show the truck was in good working order prior to the crash, and passed an FHP inspection afterwards. Annual inspections had been completed and the carrier’s insurance was in order.

For the truck, damage from the collision was minimal: the left and right intermediate marker lamps were broken when the Tesla passed underneath it. The brakes still worked and it was able to maintain air pressure. The truck suffered so little damage that the Florida Highway Patrol allowed Baressi to travel the two miles to his destination and unload his perishable (and valuable) load of blueberries before FHP took possession of the vehicle.

The report shows that no alcohol was found in Baressi’s system, and he was determined not to be under the influence of any other substances, though his drug test did return a positive result for marijuana.

Investigators contacted Tesla representatives to get their assistance in retrieving data from the vehicle’s computer. The company requested a subpoena, and once that was issued a Tesla representative retrieved the telematics data from the car, consistent with the company’s privacy policy. Included in the data was the current speed, cruise control and Autopilot status, pedal position, and more.

The Tesla sustained significant damage during the crash, including the roof being sheared off at the front and folded to the rear. All the doors were out of alignment, windows were broken, and all airbags had deployed.

The report concluded that the Tesla driver was “not attentive” and “failed to take any evasive action.” However, Mr. Baressi was still considered at fault, and he was cited for failing to give right of way during a left turn.

The truck was traveling west and then turned south across the eastbound lanes. Brown’s Tesla was traveling east in the rightmost lane.
Image: Google Maps

Though the report outlines the basic functionality of Autopilot, it does not examine whether the system was functioning appropriately. Six weeks after the crash, Tesla revealed that the car’s cameras failed to notice the white side of the trailer against the brightly lit sky, and that the high ride height of the trailer caused the car to pass directly underneath it. Tesla notes that if the car had impacted the wheels of the trailer, or the truck itself, the vehicle’s safety systems “would likely have prevented serious injury.”

NHTSA looked into the crash and found that the system had worked appropriately, and that the Automatic Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning systems that were installed in the Model S were not designed to alert on a crossing vehicle. It also found that the crash rate of Tesla cars dropped by 40 percent after the Autopilot system was installed, largely vindicating Tesla which had claimed that Autopilot delivered a “statistically significant improvement in safety” when compared to “purely manual driving.”

The crash was heavily covered in the press, and Tesla was forced to defend itself against criticism that it had launched the feature before it was ready. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has frequently talked about how the current version of Autopilot, as well as more advanced self-driving systems, have the potential to save lives.

Musk feels quite strongly that once there is proof that autonomous technologies improve safety, they should be implemented — even if it’s just 1 percent safer.

“One percent is 12,000 lives saved” every year, Musk said last September when Tesla released an improved version of Autopilot. “I think it would be morally wrong to withhold functionalities that improve safety simply in order to avoid criticisms or for fear of being involved in lawsuits.”

We are publishing three parts of the Florida Highway Patrol report. The first is the full Traffic Homicide Investigation, including an investigative report, crash reconstruction diagram, the traffic crash report, and toxicology reports of both drivers. The second is the Traffic Homicide Field Note Packet, which includes the hand-written notes and measurements taken at the accident scene, as well as details on the post-collision inspection of both vehicles and medical examiner’s findings. Finally, there is a listing of all evidence found during the crash investigation. The data logs from the Model S begin on page 60, showing the kind of information that investigators can retrieve from that model of car.

Nintendo Switch’s online service will cost less than $30 a year

One of the biggest surprises of the Nintendo Switch reveal was that the device would feature a paid online service, a first for Nintendo. Now we have some idea of just how much that will cost — and it’s relatively inexpensive.

In an interview with Japanese newspaper The Nikkei, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said that the service would cost between 2,000 yen and 3,000 yen per year, putting it in the $17–$26 range. Though details are light at the moment, the service will cover multiplayer gaming as well as offering users a free classic game download each month.

Depending on what the final North American price ends up being, the Switch’s online service will likely be around half of its biggest competition; both Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus come with an annual fee of $59.99. That said, given Nintendo’s history with online gaming — and the fact that the Switch will relegate features like voice chat to a separate smartphone app — it’s unlikely the console’s online offering will be as robust as its competition.

“With paid [services], we will be able to fully commit to customers,” Kimishima says of the decision to offer a paid online service. The Switch will be launching on March 3rd for $299.

Instagram will soon let you share multiple photos in one post

Multi-photo Instagram galleries are finally coming soon — and for everyone. Currently, only advertisers have the ability to publish several photos in a single post, which users can swipe through horizontally. But inside the latest beta release of Instagram for Android is evidence that this same feature is making its way to the app’s 600 million users.

Instead of tapping on a photo, you long-press. From there, a prompt instructs you to select up to 10 images or videos. You can apply a single filter to all of them, or tap into each photo to apply separate effects before posting everything in a single gallery. Your followers and other Instagram users will be able to like individual photos in each post.

Credit to Droid Life and Philip Chang on Twitter for first noticing this in the newest beta update. I’ve confirmed directly that it’s in there. Unfortunately, the feature is likely showing up a little earlier than Instagram intended. It seems rather buggy, for one, and trying to actually publish albums produces an error message every time.

The Verge reached out to Instagram for more information on when albums will widely roll out across Android and iOS, but a spokesperson declined to comment. Hopefully very soon, albums will save us all from a cascade of endless vacation, baby, and wedding photos in the timeline — often out of chronological order.

Once this is checked off the list, maybe Instagram will move onto other common feature requests like a native regram function and scheduled posts. Lately, the company has instead seemed more focused on copying Snapchat (very well, admittedly) and live video.

Kickstarter acquires its live video streaming partner Huzza

Kickstarter has acquired Huzza, a Vancouver-based video streaming company. The two previously partnered last fall to launch Kickstarter Live, a feature that allows campaign creators to host live broadcasts for backer Q&As, product demos, or countdowns to the end of a crowdfunding project.

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, it’s clear that the partnership worked well enough for Kickstarter to begin integrating Huzza’s video technology directly within its website. According to Kickstarter, campaigns that used the live video feature had a 74 percent success rate — doubled the rate of the average campaign.

That’s obviously not a surprising number — most crowdfunding projects should be backed with a healthy dose of careful consideration and seeing a live demo helps potential backers make their decision. Just two weeks ago, Kickstarter suspended the campaign for Adoptly, a Tinder-for-adoption app that appeared indistinguishable from parody. This week, the folks behind Adoptly admitted the whole thing was an “art project.”

Kickstarter plans to announce more developments over the next few weeks as it sets roots in Canada with a new Vancouver office, the company’s first international base. Huzza will sunset its service by the end of the month to focus on building out Kickstarter Live.

Comcast will charge subscribers to use their Roku as a cable box

Cool: Comcast letting you use your Roku as a cable box replacement.

Not cool: Comcast charging you an arbitrary fee to do so.

Comcast announced yesterday that it’s starting a beta program for people who want to try using their Roku in place of a cable box. But what it didn’t state very loudly is that, once the beta program ends, it’s going to start charging.

As spotted by Variety, a Comcast support page notes that charges will be put into place at the conclusion of the beta. At that point, people using the beta will have to decide whether they want to continue using the device and pay up.

This isn’t exactly a new practice for Comcast. It already charges subscribers $9.95 per month to rent a cable box, and it even charges a $7.45 per month “additional outlet” fee when you supply a box of your own, according to Variety.

Comcast is yet to say what it’ll charge Roku users.

This is a great example of why cable providers have been so opposed to the FCC’s attempts to overhaul the cable box market. The commission’s plans would have taken control over TV streams away from providers and let customers do what they want with them — the most recent version of the plan would have even required a free-to-use Roku app.

The cable box overhaul is almost certainly not going to happen now that Democrats have lost control of the FCC, which means Comcast is free to continue adding fees for using your own equipment.

Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.

There are more new science fiction and fantasy novels than you can handle this February

One of the things that I like about the winter months here in Vermont is the cold. It’s a bit of a stereotypical thing, I realize, but every time I end up going to my parents, I find myself sitting in a comfortable chair, inching closer and closer to their cast iron wood stove. When I’m at home, there’s nothing better than curling up on a couch, with a stack of books and a pot of tea close at hand. I can escape the cold in that pile of adventures, coming up for air hours later.

One adventure that I’ve found myself on is almost a half-century old: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest. I picked up a copy while I was traveling for the holidays, and have been picking away at it. Le Guin originally published the novella in Harlen Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions, and it earned her a Hugo Award. It’s a really remarkable short book, one that subverts many of science fiction’s long-held tropes and is a powerful work of ecological SF. I recommend picking it up.

There’s a whole bunch of new books coming out this month. Let’s dig in and take a look at what’s coming up.

February 7th

With Blood Upon the Sandby Bradley P. Beaulieu

This is a hefty epic fantasy novel, the second in Beaulieu’s Song of Shattered Sands duology. In the first novel, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Çeda discovered a terrible secret about the kings of the city. She is now a Blade Maiden in their service, and after a recent defeat, they’re out for blood. Çeda and her friend Emre are pulled into a conspiracy that might destroy the kings, provided they can navigate the palace intrigue of Sharakhai.

Crown of Doom and Light by Jayde Brooks

The latest in Jayde Brooks’ Daughter of Gods and Shadows series finds the Earth at the brink of war. Her heroine, Eden Reid, is the world’s one savior in a world gone to hell. Demons and vampires are everywhere, and she has to not only contend with her dark powers, but a rival who has returned from the dead.

Magic of Blood and Seaby Cassandra Rose Clarke

Saga Press has collected two of Cassandra Rose Clarke’s novels into one volume: The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish. The combined edition follows a pirate princess named Ananna and an assassin named Naji. Ananna accidentally triggers a curse, and the two have to team up to undo it.

Universal Harvester: A Novel by John Darnelle

Music fans know of John Darnelle as the vocalist and songwriter for The Mountain Goats, but he’s become an accomplished novelist. Universal Harvester is his second novel, set in the late 1990s in Iowa. Jeremy works in a rundown video store, and when a movie is returned with a strange complaint, he investigates, discovering that the world around him isn’t quite as it seems.

  Tor Books

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

This is a novel that I’ve been hearing about through the author grapevine, and everything that I’ve heard has been overwhelmingly positive. In an alternate world, a spy named Cyril is captured as Amberlough City is undergoing a fascist revolution. He works to protect his lover, Aristide, while trying to figure out if he can trust Cordelia, a dancer and runner for Aristide.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s novels are loaded with references to Norse mythology, and he’s put together a book that retells the original legends in a novelistic format. Gaiman tells the tales of the major gods, such as Odin, Thor, and Loki, from the beginning of the world to the end.

Nightshift by Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris is best known for her Stookie Stackhouse novels — the basis for HBO’s True Blood series. Now she has a new urban fantasy series, set in the town of Midnight, where strange creatures roam the streets. In the latest installment, Nightshift, the vampire Lemuel has discovered why the paranormal have been attracted to the town, while a rash of suicides has swept the community.

  Saga Press

The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

Deep in space, a group of dying world ships known as the Legion has been making its journey between the stars. A battle for power has been taking place between them as various factions try and take control of the Legion. One soldier, Zan, awakens with no memory of her past, and is used as a weapon to try and take control of Mokshi, a world ship with the power to leave the Legion. Kameron Hurley is one of the genre’s best new writers, and this book is a really impressive feat.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity lives in our imagined, science fictional future. There are flying cars, moon bases, and time travel. Tom is having his own problems fitting in, and accidentally ends up in an alternate 2016: our own. He might have also broken the fabric of reality. While he discovers his perfect place in the world, he has to choose between fixing things and returning home, or making his way in this dreary, dystopian world.

The People’s Policeby Norman Spinrad

In this politically charged thriller, three people are pulled together in a television studio. A New Orleans cop who has served in some tough places, only to be forced to serve his own eviction notice. A brothel owner’s business goes into foreclosure, while a television star and voodoo queen can speak to the Loa spirits. None of them expect Papa Legba to answer them with a question: “What do you offer?”

Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier

In this epic fantasy, Sierra has a forbidden gift: she can draw power from the suffering of others. She’s recently escaped from a brutal king, only to fall into the company of a fugitive prince. They’re on the run from the king’s torturer Rasten, and from other dangers. When Sierra is presented with the choice to help Rasten kill the king, she has to decide what cost her freedom is worth.

Idle Ingredients: A Sin du Jour Affairby Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace has been spinning out some entertaining, food-themed novellas following a demonic catering agency. The male staff of Sin du Jour find themselves incapacitated, and it’s going to take some skill and cunning to undo the curse.

February 14th

Winter of the Gods (Olympus Bound)by Jordanna Max Brodsky

Jordanna Max Brodsky follows up her 2016 novel Immortals with Winter of the Gods. It’s winter in New York City, and Selene DiSilva is after the people who left a dead body on the Charging Bull statue. While searching, she discovers an ancient conspiracy that threatens her — and the existence of the other gods in the city.

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Prospero was the revenge-driven lead of Shakespeare’s Tempest. In her latest novel, Jacqueline Carey expands on the story, focusing on Miranda and Caliban and their friendship. Away from Prospero, they fight against the dark force that keeps them chained to the island.

  Del Rey

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage is the start to a new series by debut author Vic James. The world belongs to a class of gifted magical aristocrats, and commoners must serve them for a decade. A woman named Abi is a servant to a powerful city and discovers a secret that can upend the power in society, all while her brother toils away in a factory town, building a revolution.

An Impossible War by Andy Remic

A soldier named Robert Jones during the First World War endures the horrors of the trenches on the front lines. While fighting, the armies engaged in the terrible war begin to shape-shift into demonic entities, and he discovers that he’s caught in No Man’s Land in a much greater, metaphysical struggle. This is a collection of three of Andy Remic’s shorter novellas: A Song for No Man’s Land, Return of Souls, and The Iron Beast.

February 21st

The Book of Ettaby Meg Elison

Etta hails from Nowhere, a community that survived a huge plague in this sequel to Meg Elison’s 2016 novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. While women are scarce in the world, she would prefer to scavenge than raise children, and is forced to brave the outside world, dodging slave traders who would capture and sell her.

Parable of the Talents / Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

If you’ve never read Octavia Butler, you should stop what you’re doing and go read a bunch of her books right now. Fortunately, there’s a pair of new editions of Parable of the Talents and Parable of the Sower from Seven Stories Press which look stunning. The novels take place in 2025, where society has collapsed with a far-right crusader in the White House, with only small sheltered communities fending off bands of scavengers and violent addicts. One woman, Luaren Olamina has an ability to feel the pain of others, and sets off on a journey north. This edition features an introduction from Gloria Steinem.

  Tor Books

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

The Shades of Magic trilogy comes to a close with A Conjuring of Light. Picking up right after A Gathering of Shadows, the four worlds of London have been separated for centuries. Kell and Delilah have participated in the Elemental Games, while another London — thought long lost — is coming back to life, and threatens to plunge the world into darkness.

Cold Counsel by Chris Sharp

Slud of the Blood Claw Clan, Bringer of Troubles, was born during a massive and terrible storm. His birth changed his father, who rallied the remaining trolls to take back their former mountain home, only to be eradicated by an army of elves. Slud was carried away and hidden, and as he grows up, he becomes an unwitting weapon of revenge.

Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy is coming to an end with Empire’s End. The novel will set up one of the pivotal events from The Force Awakens, the Battle of Jakku. Former rebel pilot Norra Wexley is back in service tracking down Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, who is on her own chase after Gallius Rax. All parties end up above Jakku, and a massive battle is about to begin.

February 28th

Agents of Dreamlandby Caitlín R. Kiernan

A strange event occurred in Arizona, and a government agent known as the Signalman goes in to investigate. NASA’s New Horizons has abruptly vanished, while a cult gets ready for a strange future. Something is lurking out at the end of the Solar System. Caitlín R. Kiernan is known for her horror and weird stories, and this new Lovecraftian novella looks like it’ll be a really intriguing and scary read.

  47 North

Fields of Fireby Marko Kloos

Marko Kloos has been a rising star in the world of military science fiction. His ongoing Frontlines series is a lot of fun, set in a futuristic Earth besieged by an alien civilization known as the Lankies. Thus far in the series, humanity has been waging a losing battle, and the aliens have taken Mars. The time has come to strike, and major combined fleet action is underway. This series kicks ass, and it’s been building to this book.

Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

In this debut novel from Erika Lewis, a battle took place in ancient Ireland, forcing the local deities to flee to a new continent they called Tara. A thousand years later, a young man comes to terms with a gift: he can see ghosts. After discovering that his apartment has been trashed and his overprotective mother missing, he teams up with a captain from Tara on a journey that leads him to the hidden world of Tara.

Revengerby Alastair Reynolds

If you want to read a great, hard SF novel, you’ll probably have Alastair Reynolds recommended to you. The author is known for books like Revelation Space and Chasm City, and his latest novel follows starship let by Captain Rackmore that explores ancient alien civilizations, searching for advanced technologies that can give humanity a foothold. A pair of new crewmates signed on to save their family from financial ruin, only to discover that Rackmore’s rivals might be just as deadly.

Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig

Every now and again, an author will have a couple of releases in the same month: that’s the case with Chuck Wendig. In addition to his aforementioned Star Wars novel, he has a new entry in his Miriam Black urban fantasy series. Black is a fantastic, sharp character, and in this new installment, she seeks out another psychic who can help her understand her “gift”: whenever she touches someone, she sees how they will die. It’s a problem, because she’s getting addicted to these visions.

T-Mobile begins rolling out next-gen RCS texting in Google Messenger

It looks like T-Mobile is rolling out support for RCS messaging in Google’s Messenger app on Android, according to reports from varioussocial networks across the internet that were spotted by Android Police.

RCS (rich communication services) has been hailed as the savior of texting — a next-generation messaging standard for sending text and pictures without the limitations that SMS currently has. You can, for instance, send messages longer than 160 characters, which is still impossible to do through SMS.

Unlike services like Facebook Messenger or iMessage, RCS requires carrier-side implementation. Google has been pushing this for the last couple years, but it’s been slow moving. T-Mobile actually announced support for RCS messages in 2015, but it’s only now adopting Google’s preferred implementation of the service. Sprint also added the feature to Google’s Messenger app late last year.

Meanwhile, AT&T offers support for RCS on some Android phones through its own Messenger app, but that’s not compatible with Google’s implementation. And Verizon — Google’s exclusive carrier partner for the Pixel — has so far been silent on any RCS plans, Google-integrated or otherwise.

Figure out if you left the stove on with this smart oven knob

The Inirv React is a new Kickstarter gadget that is in theory designed to help make your house safer by adding a smart home app to control your stove’s burners, but in reality is clearly designed to help answer the age-old question “Did I leave the stove on?

Look, we’ve all been there. You’ve just left your apartment and can’t remember whether or not you forgot to turn off the stove. You know that you probably did. But is “probably” good enough when your whole apartment could burst into flames!?

That’s where Inirv’s system comes in. Consisting of a kit of a single sensor unit and four knob controls, the React uses a combination of various technological systems to add smart technology to your stove. The sensor unit serves as a smoke and gas detector, along with serving as a main hub to connect to Wi-Fi. It pairs to the individual knobs via Bluetooth, allowing the entire system to be controlled from anywhere in the world through the sensor’s Wi-Fi connection, complete with real-time alerts if something goes wrong.

Each knob contains a motor, allowing the burners to be controlled through an app, as well as adding a nice LED light ring to determine the level of the flame. That motorized system allows for the burners to be remotely locked through the app (say, as a child-safety measure) or for the stove to automatically shut off if smoke or gas is detected in the kitchen. The sensor also contains a motion detector — by default, the React will automatically shut itself off if the burners are on for more than 15 minutes in an empty kitchen.

Both the sensor and the knob units have rechargeable batteries, are designed to attach to most stoves, and come in a variety of colors to better match your décor. The Inirv React is available on Kickstarter for an early-bird price of $229, which includes the sensor and four knobs, with additional knobs (if you have a larger range, for instance) costing $60. As always, remember that Inirv is a new company launching its first product through crowdfunding, so use the usual discretion when considering to back.

The Expanse is the most politically relevant sci-fi show on TV

Tonight, The Expanse returns to the Syfy channel for its second season. Adapted from the novels by James S.A. Corey, it’s about our Solar System on the brink of a future war. This year, The Expanse not only kicks off with a bang, it’s quickly cemented itself as the most important science fiction show airing on television right now. We’ve seen the first four episodes, and they’re amazing.

In case you missed it, The Expanse is set two centuries from now. Earth is a political, overpopulated powerhouse, while Mars is a technological and military power working to terraform itself. Meanwhile, out on the fringes of the system are the Belters and Outer Planets Alliance, whose people are struggling to survive amid abject poverty and oppression from their more powerful neighbors.

In the first season, the destruction of an ice hauler called The Canterbury sets off riots and tension between the three factions after a survivor, James Holden, blames the massacre on the Martian military. On Ceres Station, a washed-up detective named Miller is sent to search for a woman named Julie Mao, who might have been involved in the destruction of the Cant. The plotlines come to a head when Holden and Miller meet on Eros station, and discover that the entire war has been orchestrated to cover up an even more terrible event.

A divided system

Season 2 picks up immediately after the end of season 1, immediately introducing a new central character: a Martian Marine named Bobbie Draper. As we learned at New York Comic Con last fall, Bobbie’s presence in the show helps bring Mars to the table. While the planet was ever-present in the background in season 1, the show is now bringing in the Martian point of view as well. Mars’ existence is dependent upon resources stripped out of the asteroid belt, much to the chagrin of the Belters and OPA. The planet is a rising power, and Bobbie and her fellow soldiers are cocky and spoiling for a fight. As tensions build, it looks like they’ll get one.

One of the most important things about season 1 was its take on the racial makeup of the Solar System. We’ve seen deeply political television shows before, like Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica, but The Expanse quickly proved its worth by making politics a central point in the story: humans might leave Earth behind, but we’re taking our divisions and problems with us.

Earth and Mars have the ability to draw on their own resources: their citizens don’t have to worry about where their next breath of air comes from, or about water or food. The Belt and its citizens have to scramble for survival, so their wealthier neighbors take advantage of them. This is happening right now all around the world, and that’s what makes The Expanse so intriguing. It’s not overly preachy about wealth disparity and financial exploitation, but some of its emotional story moments stand out: a group of Belter tenants forced out of their home coughing because their landlord wasn’t changing their air filters, or desperate Belters siphoning water out of Ceres’ system.

The idea of racial profiling isn’t as present in the books as it is in the show, but it’s also a part of the story, thanks to the physiological differences between different groups: the Belters are tall and skinny after living in space for generations, which makes it easier for Earthers or Martians to identify and dismiss them. With these three opposed sub-civilizations laid out, the Solar System has become a powder keg.

Divided we fall

In the lead-up to season 2, Syfy has been posing a question in its marketing campaign: “Whose side are you on?” It’s a troubling question for the characters, because of the stakes: a war between Earth and Mars could be devastating, but it pales in comparison to what was released on Eros Station during the finale of season 1: the protomolecule, an alien organism that essentially turned the Belters on the station into zombies. We learned (and followers of the book series know what’s coming), that a major corporation is behind the protomolecule, and that it has radical plans to remake humanity to survive in space. Humans are playing with fire, because there are bigger things at stake with the protomolecule, and it can absolutely threaten all humanity if put in the wrong hands.

The Expanse book series has been playing out the idea that humans are tremendously ill-equipped to deal with the vast darkness of space, and that the divisions we always seem to create around ourselves are going to be a serious problem. Political divisions have divided the Solar System into discrete parts, all fighting with each other, while there’s a bigger threat lurking out there.

There are plenty of political parallels to draw here, whether it’s the election of a vastly unpopular president or more global threats like climate change, economic disparities, or radical terrorist movements. The message is always the same: divided we fall, but if we work together, we can overcome the greatest problems that face humanity. This is the same in 2017 as it is in the fictional 2260s. Watching the series and the first four episodes of season 2 has been an interesting experience as Washington, DC has been upended.

Full steam ahead

These issues are front and center in the start to this season. Holden, Miller, the crew of the Rocinante and their allies know there’s something orchestrating the impending war, and they’re getting ready to take action to stop it from happening. The first four episodes help wrap up the remaining events of the first novel in the series, Leviathan Wakes, while helping set up the political tensions in the second, Caliban’s War.

The second season has a huge advantage over the first: it doesn’t have to wade into the world-building quite so much. Season 1 was excellent, but viewers who haven’t read the books might find it a bit dense. The production does a good job of packing it in, but it’s one of those shows that’s worth watching more than once. (Fortunately, you can binge the entire season on Netflix if you’re outside the US, or stream it on Amazon Prime.)

Season 2 feels as though it’s off to a bigger start. The action isn’t as constrained to one handful of characters trying to make their way through the immediate problems. There’s more focus on how they take action now that they sort of know what’s going on. If The Expanse holds to the books, the rest of season 2 is going to go off the hook, getting bigger and better. If you haven’t started watching yet, get on that, because you’re missing out on one incredible story.

Resident Evil 7’s first DLC features a creepy, clever escape room puzzle

Resident Evil 7 only launched last week, and already there’s a new batch of content for fans to play through (and buy, of course). The main game featured a tense and terrifying blend of modern first-person exploration and classic-style survival horror that resulted in one of the best Resident Evil games to date. So how do you improve on that? In the case of the new “Bedroom” episode, you lock the player up in a creepy bedroom and throw away the key.

“Bedroom” is one of three new additions that come with the “Banned Footage Vol. 1” downloadable content pack, but it’s by far the most interesting. Essentially it’s an escape room puzzle, but one that takes place in the spooky Baker household from RE7. You play as Clancy — you’ll remember him as the cameraman from one of the tapes early on in the main game — who wakes up to find himself strapped to a bed in a small, candlelit room. It turns out he’s being held hostage by Marguerite Baker, the mom of the family, who wants nothing more than for Clancy to lie still and eat the disgusting slop she serves.

Naturally, your first instinct is to get the hell out of there.

The room itself is one big puzzle. There are useful items and clues hidden about, and as soon as Marguerite leaves you can get up and search for an exit. The puzzles feel very Resident Evil: often cryptic, sometimes illogical, and generally pretty challenging. But given that there’s not much in the way of action in “Bedroom,” you at least get to take your time when it comes to finding solutions. Most of the time, that is.

What makes “Bedroom” different from other escape room experiences is that you’re not just searching for a way out, you’re also trying not to get caught. Some puzzle solutions will create noise — the scraping of a bed on the floor, the chime of a clock — which in turn will cause Marguerite to come running to see what’s going on. If you don’t want to piss her off, you’ll need to make sure everything is back where it was before you started exploring.

You only get around a minute to put things right, which leads to a frantic race to clean up the room and get back in bed before Marguerite arrives. When she does get there, all you can do is sit back and wait for her to scan the room. There are a lot of little things that could be out of place — a picture hanging in the wrong spot, a drawer left open — so even if you’re careful, there’s an agonizing moment before you realize she has or hasn’t seen something is amiss.

For the most part, this structure works great. “Bedroom” offers a near-perfect balance of puzzle-solving and sheer terror, and provides a really clever expansion of the formula laid down in Resident Evil 7. As with all puzzle-centric games, though, problems arise when you get stuck. I spent around 20 minutes struggling to decipher a poem in order to open a padlock, and it really killed the momentum of the game, especially since there wasn’t anything else for me to do. Similarly, when you die, you’re forced to go through the whole routine again. It’s a lot less scary when you already know what will happen.

“Banned Footage Vol. 1” is available on PlayStation 4 now for $9.99 (it won’t be on Xbox One and PC until the 21st). In addition to “Bedroom,” the add-on also includes a survival episode where Clancy spends an evening fighting off monsters, and a brutally challenging mode rightly titled “Ethan Must Die.” Both are decent diversions, but “Bedroom” is the real highlight of the experience. It still feels like RE7, but it’s different enough that it’s not just more of the same. Plus, it’s the best chance to get nice and close with Marguerite, the coziest member of the Baker clan.