Transportation

Is the World Ready For Flying Cars? (engadget.com) 247

An anonymous reader shares a report from TechCrunch, adding: "Is the world ready for flying cars? Sebastian Thrun, the supposed godfather of autonomous driving, and several other tech investors seem to think so." From the report: At TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017, Thrun talked a lot about flying cars and how that was the future of transportation. So did GGV's Jenny Lee, a prolific investor in China. And so did Steve Jurvetson, one of the original investors in SpaceX. The technical backbone for flying cars seems to be there already -- with drones becoming ever-present and advancements in AI and self-driving cars -- but the time is coming soon that flying cars will be the primary mode of transportation. "I can't envision a future of highways [and being] stuck in cars," Thrun said. "I envision a [future] where you hop in a thing, go in the air, and fly in a straight line. I envision a future where Amazon delivers my food in the air in five minutes. The air is so free of stuff and is so unused compared to the ground, it has to happen in my opinion."

Cars today are forced to move on a two-dimensional plane (ramps, clover intersections and tunnels set aside), and while self-driving cars would make it easier for cars to talk to each other and move more efficiently, adding a third dimension to travel would make a lot of sense coming next. Thrun pointed to airplane transit, which is already a "fundamentally great mass transit system." Jurvetson said he was actually about to ride in a flying car before he "watched it flip over" before arriving to talk about some of the next steps in technology onstage. So, there's work to be done there, but it does certainly seem that all eyes are on flying cars. And that'll be enabled by autonomous driving, which will probably allow flying cars to figure out the most efficient paths from one point to the next without crashing into each other.
Lee said that China is closely analyzing changes in transportation, which might end up leading to flying cars. "I do want to highlight that there's going to be huge disruption within the transportation ecosystem in China," Lee said. "Cars going from diesel to electric. China has about 200 million install base of car ownership. In 2016, only 1 million cars are electric. The Chinese government hopes to install 5 million parking lots that are electric... Even the Chinese OEMs are buying into flying taxis."
Facebook

Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News (gizmodo.com) 108

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the main reasons RSS is so beloved of news gatherers is that it catches everything a site publishes -- not just the articles that have proved popular with other users, not just the articles from today, not just the articles that happened to be tweeted out while you were actually staring at Twitter. Everything. In our age of information overload that might seem like a bad idea, but RSS also cuts out everything you don't want to hear about. You're in full control of what's in your feed and what isn't, so you don't get friends and colleagues throwing links into your feeds that you've got no interest in reading. Perhaps most importantly, you don't need to be constantly online and constantly refreshing your feeds to make sure you don't miss anything. It's like putting a recording schedule in place for the shows you know you definitely want to catch rather than flicking through the channels hoping you land on something interesting. There's no rush with RSS -- you don't miss out on a day's worth of news, or TV recaps, or game reviews if you're offline for 24 hours. It's all waiting for you when you get back. And if you're on holiday and the unread article count starts to get scarily high, just hit the mark all as read button and you're back to a clean slate.
Twitter

Twitter is Just Randomly Deleting People's Lists -- and No One Knows Why (theregister.co.uk) 115

Twitter has silently, and without warning, deleted reams of lists users have spent months curating. These lists are used by journalists, activists, and loads of other people, to organize and manage twits they follow and aggregate their tweets, links, photos, and videos, reports The Register. From the article: They are, in a way, personalized RSS feeds of information from the Twitter firehose. For the past several days, though, lists have been disappearing from folks' profiles with no notification, and no explanation from Twitter thus far. Some private, or locked, lists have been made public. Among those impacted by the cockup is Australian freelance journalist and Cryptoparty founder Asher Wolf, who said the issue appears to be tied those who use the mobile Twitter App. Switching to different platforms doesn't help, however.
Businesses

German Company Building An Electric 'Air Taxi' Makes Key Hires From Gett, Airbus and Tesla (techcrunch.com) 74

Lilium, the Germany company known for building an electric "air taxi," is announcing a number of key hires from notable companies in the transportation space. While the company is still in its early days, it is ambitiously striving to make flying cars a reality. Back in April, the company launched its first public (and successful) test flight in Germany. TechCrunch reports: [The key hires] are Dr Remo Gerber, former MD for Western Europe at Gett, who joins Lilium as Chief Commercial Officer; Dirk Gebser, who takes up the position of VP of Production and previously held manufacturing executive roles at Airbus and Rolls Royce; and Meggy Sailer, who joined Lilium as Head of Recruitment in February and was formerly Tesla's Head of Talent EMEA. In a call with Gerber, he told me he was "super happy" to be joining the German startup, noting that there are very few companies in Europe with the same level of ambition. "It is definitely the most fascinating job I could have ever imagined," he says, audibly excited. "I've done quite a few things in my time and I've seen quite a few companies but never anything even remotely like that." To add a little color, Gerber pointed out that his training is in physics ("a long time ago") and that his grandfather was a pilot in World War II, and his uncle also a pilot. This, and the first time he saw the Lilium jet fly, made the opportunity to join a startup building a new kind of air travel "irresistible."
Businesses

Trademarks Shows Amazon Has Sights On Meal-Kits, 'Single Cow Burgers' and Other Fast Food Options (techcrunch.com) 75

The latest business Amazon may expand into is the business of meal-kits. According to TechCrunch, Amazon recently filed a trademark (serial number 87517760) for "We do the prep. You be the chef," which relates to a meal-kit service similar to the kind offered by Blue Apron and others. From the report: Amazon describes the service simply: "Prepared food kits composed of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or and vegetables and also including sauces or seasonings, ready for cooking and assembly as a meal; Frozen, prepared, and packaged meals consisting of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or vegetables; fruit salads and vegetable salads; soups and preparations for making soups." It turns out that, in fact, company in the last seven months had registered at least two other trademarks for slightly shorter versions of the same meal kit concept. Respectively, serial numbers 87418923 and 87256976 for "We prep. You cook" and "No-line meal kits," also relate to food-kit services along with marketing related to them. Amazon also has been quietly developing its own lines of pre-made food aimed at people searching for more quality ingredients. The company has, for example, around 10 trademarks filed related to the phrase "single cow burger."
Communications

41 Percent of Adults In the US Have Been Harassed Online, Says Pew Study (techcrunch.com) 242

According to a new Pew Research Center study, 41 percent of adults said they have experienced harassment online, and 66 percent of people said they've seen it happen to others. What's the most common form of online harassment? According to the study, it's offensive name-calling. TechCrunch reports: It's worth noting that while men are slightly more likely than women to be harassed online (44 percent versus 37 percent), women are more likely to be sexually harassed online. For example, 53 percent of women surveyed reported receiving explicit images they did not request. Unsurprisingly, social media is where people are most likely to experience online harassment, with 58 percent of those harassed saying the most recent incident happened on a social media platform. Also unsurprising is the fact that more than half of people harassed don't know the person harassing them. Pew also explored "emergent" forms of online harassment, like doxing (posting someone's personal information online without consent), trolling (intentionally trying to provoke or upset someone), hacking (illegally accessing someone's accounts) and swatting (when you call 911 for a fake emergency and have the police show up at that person's house). "While many Americans are not aware of these behaviors, they have all been used to escalate abuse online," the report states.
Earth

'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store (techcrunch.com) 85

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin, imagines a future where every grocery store has its own farm packed with herbs, vegetables and fruit. "The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system," reports TechCrunch. "Growing out from the center, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned ready for you, the customer, to harvest." From the report: The concept might not be entirely new -- Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation -- but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking. This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. In contrast, the Infarm system is chemical pesticide-free and can prioritize food grown for taste, color and nutritional value rather than shelf life or its ability to sustain mass production. Its indoor nature means it isn't restricted to seasonality either and by completely eliminating the distance between farmer and consumer, food doesn't get much fresher. When a new type of herb or plant is introduced, Infarm's plant experts and engineers create a recipe or algorithm for the produce type, factoring in nutrition, humidity, temperature, light intensity and spectrum, which is different from system to system depending on what is grown. The resulting combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics is akin to "Farming-as-a-Service," whilst , space permitting, Infarm's modular approach affords the ability to keep adding more farming capacity in a not entirely dissimilar way to how cloud computing can be ramped up at the push of a button.
News

Podcast App Breaker Adds Support For JSON Feed, Believes the RSS Alternative Could Benefit Podcast Ecosystem (medium.com) 57

Erik Michaels-Ober, the creator of popular podcast app Breaker: The decentralized structure of podcasts creates a chicken-and-egg problem for JSON Feed to gain adoption. There's no incentive for podcasters to publish in JSON Feed as long as podcast players don't support it. And there's no incentive for podcast players to support JSON Feed as long as podcasters don't publish in that format. Breaker is hoping to break that stalemate by adding support for JSON Feed in our latest release. As far as we know, Breaker is the first podcast player to do so. Unlike other features that differentiate Breaker, we encourage our competitors to follow our lead in this area. The sooner all podcast players support JSON Feed, the better positioned the entire podcast ecosystem will be for the decades to come. JSON is more compact than XML, making it faster for computers to transfer and parse, while making it easier for humans to read and write. Updating Breaker to support JSON Feed was fun and easy. It took us less than a day from when we started working on it to when the change was submitted to the App Store. Update: Julian Lepinski, creator of Cast (an app that offers the ability to record, edit, publish and host podcast files), announced on Tuesday: Like a lot of software, much of Cast's internal data is stored in JSON, and publishing JSON data directly would be pretty straightforward as a result. So I sunk my teeth in, and in about half a day I'd added experimental JSON Feed support to podcasts published with Cast.
IT

JSON Feed Announced As Alternative To RSS (jsonfeed.org) 201

Reader Anubis IV writes: With Slashdot recently asking whether we still use RSS, it may come as a surprise that something interesting has happened in the world of news feeds this week. JSON Feed was launched as an alternative to RSS and Atom, eschewing the XML they rely on -- which is frequently malformed and difficult to parse -- in favor of a human readable JSON format that reflects the decades of combined experience its authors have in the field. The JSON Feed spec is a simple read that lays out a number of pragmatic benefits the format has over RSS and Atom, such as eliminating duplicate entries, adding the ability to paginate feeds so that old entries remain available, and reducing the need for clients to scrape sites to find images and other resources. Given that it's authored by the developers behind one of the earliest, popular RSS clients and a recently Kickstarted blogging platform, the format is intended to address the common pain points currently faced by developers when producing and parsing feeds.

While it remains to be seen whether JSON Feed will escape the chicken-and-egg stage of adoption, several clients have already added support for the fledging format in the week since its announcement, including Feedbin, Inoreader, and NewsBlur.

Iphone

Apple Starts Assembling iPhones In India (techcrunch.com) 56

Apple has successfully completed its first trial run assembly of the iPhone SE in India, reports The Wall Street Journal. "We are beginning initial production of a small number of iPhone SE in Bengaluru," Apple said in a statement to TechCrunch. "iPhone SE is the most popular and powerful phone with a four-inch display in the world and we'll begin shipping to domestic customers this month." From the report: The four-inch SE is Apple's least expensive model, running $399 in the States. Some retailers in the country have managed to undercut the cost, lower the entry level price of the handset by around $80 -- but even at that price, it's still substantially more expensive than most. In spite of its relatively low pricing, the SE doesn't appear to have made quite the splash Apple was initially anticipating in the country. Apple has long been working to move production to the country, hoping, in part, to retake some of the market it has lost in China in recent years, as domestic handset sales have grown. Locals are hoping that such a move could reduce the retail cost of the SE even further, by as much as $100. But while $220 is certainly a lot more palatable, that still marks a substantial premium over the average handset price. It's the world's fastest growing market, having recently surpassed the U.S. to claim the number. The Indian market is expected to generate somewhere in the neighborhood of one billion smartphone sales over the next half-decade.
News

Slashdot Asks: Do You Still Use RSS? 438

Real Site Syndication, or RSS has been around for over a decade but it never really managed to lure regular web users (though maybe it wasn't built to serve everyone). So much so that even Google cited declining usage of Google Reader, at one time the most popular RSS reader service, as one of the two reasons for shutting down the service. With an increasingly number of people looking at Facebook and Twitter for news, we thought it would be a good time to ask the following question: Do you use any RSS reader app? If yes, do you think it is still a good way to keep track of the "new stuff" that your favorite sites publish?
The Almighty Buck

Italian Police Say Amazon Has Evaded $142 Million of Taxes (reuters.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Milan tax police have told Amazon they believe the world's largest online retailer has evaded around 130 million euros ($142 million) of taxes in Italy, a source close to the matter said on Friday. The allegedly unpaid taxes refer to the period between 2011 and 2015, when Amazon made revenues of around 2.5 billion euros in Italy, the source said. The tax police's findings have been handed to Milan prosecutors, the source added. Amazon issued a statement denying it had evaded any taxes, and said its profits in Italy, on which taxes are paid, had been low due to its considerable investments in the country.
Cellphones

Researchers Develop Master Fingerprints That Can Break Into Smartphones (digitaltrends.com) 29

Researchers at New York University and Michigan State University have recently found that the fingerprint sensor on your phone is not as safe as you think. "The team has developed a set of fake fingerprints that are digital composites of common features found in many people's fingerprints," reports Digital Trends. "Through computer simulations, they were able to achieve matches 65 percent of the time, though they estimate the scheme would be less successful in real life, on an actual phone." From the report: Nasir Memon, a computer science and engineering professor at New York University, explained the value of the study to The New York Times. Modern smartphones, tablets, and other computing devices that utilize biometric authentication typically only take a snapshots of sections of a user's finger, to compose a model of one fingerprint. But the chances of faking your way into someone else's phone are much higher if there are multiple fingerprints recorded on that device. "It's as if you have 30 passwords and the attacker only has to match one," Memon said. The professor, who was one of three authors on the study, theorized that if it were possible to create a glove with five different composite fingerprints, the attacker would likely be successful with about half of their attempts. For the record, Apple reported to the Times that the chance of a false match through the iPhone's TouchID system is 1 in 50,000 with only one fingerprint recorded.
Chrome

Chrome Now Uses Scroll Anchoring To Prevent Those Annoying Page Jumps (techcrunch.com) 113

Google has updated its Chrome browser to fix the annoying page jumps that occur when pages are loading. While developers want pages to load the actual content of a page before additional ads and images appear, "the problem is that if you've already scrolled down, your page resets when some off-screen ad loads and you're suddenly looking at a completely different part of the page," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The latest versions of Chrome (56+) do their best to prevent these jumps with the help of a feature called scroll anchoring. Google tested scroll anchoring in the Chrome beta versions for the last year and now it's on by default. Google says the feature currently prevents almost three jumps per page view -- and, over time, that number will likely increase.
Printer

Boeing Expects To Save Millions In Dreamliner Costs Using 3D-Printed Titanium Parts (reuters.com) 73

According to Reuters, Boeing has hired Norsk Titanium AS to print titanium parts for its 787 Dreamliner, paving the way to cost savings of $2 million to $3 million for each plane. The 3D-printed metal parts will replace pieces made with more expensive traditional manufacturing, thus making the 787 more profitable. From the report: Strong, lightweight titanium alloy is seven times more costly than aluminum, and accounts for about $17 million of the cost of a $265 million Dreamliner, industry sources say. Boeing has been trying to reduce titanium costs on the 787, which requires more of the metal than other models because of its carbon-fiber composite fuselage and wings. Titanium also is used extensively on Airbus Group SE's rival A350 jet. Norsk worked with Boeing for more than a year to design four 787 parts and obtain Federal Aviation Administration certification for them, Chip Yates, Norsk Titanium's vice president of marketing, said. Norsk expects the U.S. regulatory agency will approve the material properties and production process for the parts later this year, which would "open up the floodgates" and allow Norsk to print thousands of different parts for each Dreamliner, without each part requiring separate FAA approval, Yates said. Norsk said that initially it will print in Norway, but is building up a 67,000-square-foot (6,220-square-meter) facility in Plattsburgh in upstate New York, where it aims to have nine printers running by year-end.
Businesses

Adidas Plans To Mass-Produce Its First 3D-Printed Shoe (theverge.com) 13

Adidas has revealed that it will be mass-producing its first 3D-printed shoe, dubbed the Futurecraft 4D. "The mid-sole of the shoe is created using a process known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production, in which the design is essentially pulled out of a vat of liquid polymer resin, and fixed into its desired shape using ultraviolet light," reports The Verge. Adidas is collaborating with Silicon Valley startup Carbon, which created the "Continuous Liquid Interface Production" method that will ultimately make mass-production 3D printing a reality. The Verge reports: [T]his is still new technology, and Adidas isn't leaping two-footed into the 3D-printed future just yet. Only 5,000 pairs of Futurecraft shoes will go on sale later this year, although the company says it aims to produce 100,000 pairs in total by the end of 2018. "This is a milestone not only for us as a company but also for the industry," Adidas' Gerd Manz told Reuters. "We've cracked some of the boundaries." The cost of a pair of Futurecraft 4Ds is not yet known, but Adidas says it will be in the "premium" price range.
Government

US Ordered 'Mandatory Social Media Check' For Visa Applicants Who Visited ISIS Territory (theverge.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ordered a "mandatory social media check" on all visa applicants who have ever visited ISIS-controlled territory, according to diplomatic cables obtained by Reuters. The four memos were sent to American diplomatic missions over the past two weeks, with the most recent issued on March 17th. According to Reuters, they provide details into a revised screening process that President Donald Trump has described as "extreme vetting." A memo sent on March 16th rescinds some of the instructions that Tillerson outlined in the previous cables, including an order that would have required visa applicants to hand over all phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts that they have used in the past. The secretary of state issued the memo after a Hawaii judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban on citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries. In addition to the social media check, the most recent memo calls for consular officials to identify "populations warranting increased scrutiny." Two former government officials tell Reuters that the social media order could lead to delays in processing visa applications, with one saying that such checks were previously carried out on rare occasions.
Patents

Court Throws Out $533 Million Verdict Against Apple Over Data Storage Patent (9to5mac.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit made a decision today to throw out the verdict of a two-year old legal case against Apple based on data storage patents. The original verdict reached by a Texas jury stuck Apple with $533 million in damages. Smartflash LLC targeted game developers who largely all settled out of court in 2014, but Apple defended its use of data storage management and payment processing technology in court. Reuters has more on the new developments: "The trial judge vacated the large damages award a few months after a Texas federal jury imposed it in February 2015, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said on Wednesday the judge should have ruled Smartflash's patents invalid and set aside the verdict entirely. A unanimous three-judge appeals panel said Smartflash's patents were too 'abstract' and did not go far enough in describing an actual invention to warrant protection."
Transportation

GM Plans To Build, Test Thousands of Self-Driving Bolts In 2018 (reuters.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: General Motors Co plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, beginning in 2018, two sources familiar with the automaker's plans said this week. It is expected to be the largest such test of fully autonomous vehicles by any major automaker before 2020, when several companies have said they plan to begin building and deploying such vehicles in higher volumes. Most of the specially equipped versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle will be used by San Francisco-based Lyft, which will test them in its ride-sharing fleet in several states, one of the sources said. GM has no immediate plans to sell the Bolt AV to individual customers, according to the source. In a statement on Friday, GM said: "We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think."
The Courts

Tesla Sues Former Autopilot Executive For Allegedly Stealing Secrets, Poaching Coworkers (cnbc.com) 47

Tesla has filed a lawsuit Thursday against its former director of Autopilot Programs, Sterling Anderson, for breach of contract. The company alleges Anderson took proprietary information about the Autopilot program and recruited fellow Tesla employees to work with him at another autonomous driving company. In addition, the lawsuit names the former head of Google's autonomous car project, Chris Urmson, as a defendant, and alleges both executives were attempting to start a company together, called Aurora. CNBC reports: According to TechCrunch, Anderson had acted as Tesla's director of Autopilot Programs for a little over a year. Tesla alleges that Anderson, while still a Tesla employee, pulled "hundreds of gigabytes" of proprietary data from company computers, and installed it on a personal hard drive. Tesla also alleges that Anderson tried to hide his tracks by wiping phones, deleting browser histories, permanently erasing computer files, and even manipulating time stamps on related files, "in an apparent effort to obscure the dates on which they had last been modified or accessed." Tesla also alleges the pair attempted to poach at least 12 other Tesla employees, though they only successfully recruited two. "Automakers have created a get-rich-quick environment. Small teams of programmers with little more than demoware have been bought for as much as a billion dollars. Cruise Automation, a 40-person firm, was purchased by General Motors in July 2016 for nearly $1 billion. In August 2016, Uber acquired Otto, another self-driving startup that had been founded only seven months earlier, in a deal worth more than $680 million," the company said in the suit.

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