Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: Re:I have said it before (Score 1) 55

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49187119) Attached to: French Nuclear Industry In Turmoil As Manufacturer Buckles
The special demands of finding materials that work adequately in enthusiastically radioactive environments don't help. Some are worse than others; but I don't think that there is anything that appreciates prolonged neutron bombardment. Can make for some very expensive repairs inside the reactor assembly.

Comment: Re:Nuclear ain't cheap any more. (Score 1) 55

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49187077) Attached to: French Nuclear Industry In Turmoil As Manufacturer Buckles
The tricky question(and the one that I've been bombarded with vehement and competing answers on, which has left me confused) is whether nuclear isn't cheap; but military procurement slush used to make it look that way; or whether nuclear could have become cheap; but military procurement slush made that unnecessary and potentially even directly inhibited it.

It's definitely the case that military purposes kept the money rolling in for R&D, pesky questions about safety and storage largely under wraps, purchases of a lot of equipment that could also make plutonium, and some PR-piece "Look at how fuzzy and peaceful nuclear energy can be!" reactor installs at home and in selected friendly-and-not-too-likely-to-change locations abroad.

It's likely that, at the same time, this left the industry largely in the hands of companies that are very, very, good at government contracting; but perhaps a bit shaky on less lucrative and parasitic forms of economic activity.

Where the optimists and the pessimists part ways is the question of whether nuclear energy is in fact just not terribly economic; and so achieved certain unique capabilities for cost insensitive customers, while largely floundering without them; or whether nuclear energy as an industry was wildly distorted by catering exclusively to select cost insensitive customers with substantially different needs than energy production, and simply needs to develop product lines that reflect current requirements.

Comment: Re:Really? Come on now, you should know better. (Score 1) 199

by TheRaven64 (#49186783) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?
For every anecdote of a human taking over and saving the day, you can find a similar one of the human taking over and crashing. It mostly boils down to the amount of training that the pilot has had - and even the ones that end up crashing in situations where the automatic systems would probably have managed have had vastly more training than almost any driver on the road...

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 2) 199

by TheRaven64 (#49186769) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?
It's worth noting that there is one piece of automation in cars already that does give a different kind of driving license in a lot of places: automatic gear change. If you get a driving license in a car that has an automatic transmission then you can't drive manual cars with it, though the converse is allowed.

Comment: such stupidity (Score 1) 343

by Tom (#49186655) Attached to: Microsoft Convinced That Windows 10 Will Be Its Smartphone Breakthrough

will run on [...] phones and provide an experience very much like the desktop. [...] repeatedly failed to take the mobile space [...]"

Yeah, I wonder if these two could be in any way related...

MS is a design and UI fiasco and always has been. The only reason few people realize how unusable the crap is, is that we are so used to it that we don't notice anymore - until the next major update, or if you don't use it daily and then suddenly sit in front of it and wonder who the fuck came up with this stupidity.

And everyone who knows anything at all about mobile devices and usability knows that nobody on the planet wants a windows desktop experience on their smartphone. People want a smartphone experience on their smartphone, what's so difficult to understand about that?

Oh, speaking of that: People also don't want a mobile experience on their desktop. They want a desktop experience on their desktop, that's not so difficult, either.

Comment: Re:And was it really a punishment? (Score 5, Interesting) 22

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49186559) Attached to: FTC Targets Group That Made Billions of Robocalls
Honestly, if we are stuck with the NSA amassing a database of all the phone calls, ever, anywhere; and a policy of using CIA killer robots on people who annoy us; I'd be a great deal happier if we at least got some visible benefit from the whole mess by using these assets to locate and terminate telemarketers. They have to stick out like a sore thumb in call traffic analysis, and I'm pretty sure that 'the corporate veil' is not rated to withstand most contemporary munitions.

Comment: Re:Insurance and registration (Score 1) 199

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49186427) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?
It's possible (indeed virtually certain) that insurance types will factor in the expected value (positive or negative) of a given feature. They already evaluate expected costs tied to more nebulous associations between a vehicle and risk (Does model X get stolen disproportionately frequently? Are buyers of model Y, in midlife-crisis-crimson possibly not the most cautious of drivers?); if assisted braking or rear-view cameras, or lucky rabbit's feet, reduce the expected cost of insuring a given vehicle and operator, they'll presumably be folded in. How much of any savings the end users sees may or may not be an exciting number; but that'll be more about relative bargaining power.

I suspect that reductions in legal requirements are less likely. With things like BAC, people are already pretty tepid judges of when they've actually had one too many, and keeping the test equipment and testing environment calibrated, reliable, repeatable, and adequate as evidence is a fairly big pain. Even if we assume that all the relevant laws are 100% about public safety and have absolutely no secondary purposes (which is a matter of some...doubt), those aren't conditions that are going to endear some tiered system of caps based on a the car's feature matrix to anyone. Purely informally, effective input stabilization, assisted braking, and any other tech that keeps your car moving in a nice respectable, not-drunk-looking, way even if you are a bit sloshed will probably reduce your risk of being pulled over and tested, and thus effectively raise the limit a bit (except at the delightful 'sobriety checkpoints'); but if they don't mask the effects well enough to avoid attracting attention, I'd bet that the legal results will be the same.

Comment: Re:"Promise a future where we can sip cocktails" (Score 1) 199

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49186351) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

And I stopped listening right there.

Only fucking MORONS want this sort of thing.

When you're in a piece of heavy machinery, like a car, even if you're NOT driving it, you DON'T want to be impaired in case of an emergency.

So, drinking in a self-driving car is pretty much out.

Ah, I have a slightly different philosophy for catastrophe management, one that I find hedonically satisfactory and wish to recommend to you:

You don't want to be moderately impaired in the case of an emergency. Should the emergency prove relatively minor, slurring and vomiting while making your exit from the damaged vehicle at the crash site will be undignified and uncomfortable. Should the emergency prove catastrophic, you'll be much better off dying while deeply relaxed and pleasantly intoxicated, rather than indulging in theatrical heroics.

Whenever possible, try to either be ready and able to manage the situation to a satisfactory conclusion, or enthusiastically accept that the situation is totally hopeless and apply yourself to be business of dying as pleasantly as possible. Just don't fall between the two, which is the dreadful strategy-chasm that combines as much or more effort than option #1 with as ghastly, or worse, an outcome than option #2.

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 1) 199

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49186307) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

Self-driving cars should be the legal equivalent to sitting in the back of a taxi. Even from an insurance/liability standpoint, owning one means you're responsible/liable for fuel & maintenance - and that's about it. It should be down to the manufacturer to ensure safe, autonomous operation.

The autonomous car is safe only within its operational limits --- but how many drivers will be willing to let a car or its manufacturer decide when it is safe to take to the roads?

How many will risk being stranded if automated systems begin shutting down because they are confused and overwhelmed by bad weather, outdated maps, or other unforeseen circumstances?

How many drivers? Probably not that many, unless the safety envelope is very wide indeed. However, if the autonomous car is, in fact, autonomous, the question is also how many non-drivers would like to have access to the road, most of the time, without becoming drivers. Especially if they don't have a choice(visual or other incapacity that precludes driving, alcohol violation, too young, etc.) or their use case is relatively miserable driving(If you are going to have a shit commute in heavy traffic, do you want to 'enjoy' the 'freedom' of being the master of your vehicle, or spend the time doing something that sucks less?), the value of becoming a driver may not exceed the hassle.

The initial systems are going to fail miserably in any environment less constrained than a test track, so they'll be too limited to be of much use to anyone who can't also drive them when the need arises; and there is a strong cultural value associated with gaining access to driving capabilities(in some suburban areas, you basically aren't a real person until you can drive; because if you can't do that you are homebound and dependent); so I suspect that swaying existing drivers will be harder; but convincing future non-drivers to just never bother to head down to the DMV at all, and instead employ an autonomous vehicle either casually(like zipcar; but with autonomy) or for more lasting lease or ownership arrangements might well be easier.

People already put up with stranding risks of various sorts(it's not as though cars breaking down is a thing that requires computers, and mass transit, cabs, car-pools, etc. have their own failure modes), so as long as they skew more toward 'annoying' than 'overtly lethal much of the time', people will definitely risk it if the convenience is sufficient.

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 2) 199

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49186261) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?
Your suggestion about the pace of the transition is highly plausible; but that needn't imply much regulatory complexity: At present, a car with a licensed operator can have a variety of convenience features that involve a level of automation and (very) bounded autonomy without any variation in what type of license you need for what level of features. There may be some hassle on the vendor's end, in convincing the relevant feds that their intended new feature isn't an automated accident generator; but there's nothing on the driver side.

Given that operator handoff is most likely to happen either under relatively hairy conditions, or when some system failure has left the automated systems unable to cope, there isn't an obvious incentive to relax the(already not terribly demanding, at least in the US) requirements placed on licensed drivers until 'self-driving' actually does mean 'self-driving'. If it means 'sometimes self driving, except the hard parts', that may require less operator effort; but not obviously less operator knowledge(if anything, given that drivers usually get somewhat safer with experience, at least until they hit the point where each additional year stops making them less young and stupid and starts making them more old and inept, I'd be particularly worried about the likely performance of somebody whose vehicle is sophisticated enough to coddle him most of the time, then screams and hands him the wheel when the situation is already halfway lost.)

I have no doubt that the laws(or at least the liability litigation and insurance-related contracts, even if carried out under existing law) for damage and death caused by partially-automated vehicles will be an epic nightmare of horrendous proportions; but on the operator licensing end "If you might have to drive it, you need a driver's license; if you won't have to drive it, you don't." really covers a lot of territory. There might be some incremental adjustments, mostly to the format of the test(say, allowing use of a rear-view camera in addition to mirrors and over-the-shoulder during tests of parking); but not too much need to complicate things.

Comment: Re:Do pilots still need licenses? (Score 1) 199

by bill_mcgonigle (#49185927) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

People need to get over this notion that next year a car will drive itself and you'll sit in the back with a Martini and the paper. That probably wont happen in our lifetimes

It'll happen during the next decade. Bet against Dr. Moore at your own peril.

(granted, the government will lag 20 years behind the technology, so we'll still have drunk drivers killing people when the autopilots would have been safer)

Comment: Re: International waters (Score 0) 55

by bill_mcgonigle (#49185549) Attached to: SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off

gosh, it'd be rather un-aerodynamic without the nose-cone. I rather suspect they'll wait to deorbit until the timing is right for the desired landing zone.

Unless there's a crazy-orbit launch with no good rendezvous, in which case landing on a barge is still going to be much cheaper than building a new rocket by an order of magnitude. This is good enough reason to proceed with clearing the patent. That and spanking BO's deserving ass.

Comment: Re:Why can't they fairly negotiate? (Score 1) 55

by hey! (#49184405) Attached to: SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off

There was a period in the early 00's when one of the my company's manager would periodically walk through my office door and the first words out of his mouth was "I just read about this patent..." and I'd stop him right there.

"This is going to be one of those things where the extent of the filer's 'invention' was to take something people were doing with LORAN fifty years ago, cross out 'LORAN' and write in 'GPS', isn't it?"

"Well," he'd begin.

"I don't want to hear about it. It's guaranteed to be invalid on the basis of obviousness, but if they get lucky in court and I've actually read or even heard about that specific patent they'll be able to take us to the cleaners."

You'd be amazed at some of the technology patents the patent office grants. Stuff anyone who'd been a practicing engineer for more than a few months would laugh his ass off at if he were patent examiner.

Disclaimer: "These opinions are my own, though for a small fee they be yours too." -- Dave Haynie