Transportation

Autonomous Boats Will Be On the Market Sooner Than Self-Driving Cars (vice.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: In the autonomous revolution that is underway, nearly every transportation machine will eventually be self-driving. For cars, it's likely going to take decades before we see them operating freely, outside of test conditions. Some unmanned watercraft, on the other hand, may be at sea commercially before 2020. That's partly because automating all ships could generate a ridiculous amount of revenue. According to the United Nations, 90 percent of the world's trade is carried by sea and 10.3 billion tons of products were shipped in 2016. According to NOAA's National Ocean Service, ships transported $1.5 trillion worth of cargo through U.S. ports in 2016. The world's 325 or so deep-sea shipping companies have a combined revenue of $10 billion.

Startups and major firms like Rolls Royce are now looking to automate the seas and help maritime companies ease navigation, save fuel, improve safety, increase tonnage, and make more money. As it turns out, autonomous systems for boats aren't supremely different than those of cars, beyond a few key factors -- for instance, water is always moving while roads are not, and ships need at least a couple miles to redirect. Buffalo Automation, a startup in upstate New York that began at the University at Buffalo, just raised $900,000 to help commercialize its AutoMate system -- essentially a collection of sensors and cameras to help boats operate semi-autonomously. CEO Thiru Vikram said the company is working with three pilot partners, and intends to target cargo ships and recreational vessels first. Autonomous ships are an area of particular interest for the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which sets the standards for international waters. It launched a regulatory scoping exercise last year to analyze the impact of autonomous boats. By the time it wraps in 2020, market demand may make it so that we already have semi-autonomous and unmanned vessels at sea.

Transportation

Southwest Airlines Engine Failure Results In First Fatality On US Airline In 9 Years (heavy.com) 332

schwit1 shares a report from Heavy: Tammie Jo Shults is the pilot who bravely flew Southwest Flight 1380 to safety after part of its left engine ripped off, damaging a window and nearly sucking a woman out of the plane. The flight was en route to Dallas Love airport from New York City, and had to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Shults, 56, kept her cool during an incredibly intense situation, audio from her conversation with air traffic controllers reveals, while many passengers posted on social media that they were scared these were their last moments. She, with the help of the co-pilot and the rest of the crew, landed the plane safely. The NTSB reported that there was one fatality out of 143 passengers on board. Some passengers said that someone had a heart attack during the flight, but it's not yet known if this was the fatality reported by the NTSB. The woman who died has been identified by KOAT-TV as Jennifer Riordan, 43, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Transportation

Selling Full Autonomy Before It's Ready Could Backfire For Tesla (arstechnica.com) 185

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Tesla has an Autopilot problem, and it goes far beyond the fallout from last month's deadly crash in Mountain View, California. Tesla charges $5,000 for Autopilot's lane-keeping and advanced cruise control features. On top of that, customers can pay $3,000 for what Tesla describes as "Full Self-Driving Capability." "All you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go," Tesla's ordering page says. "Your Tesla will figure out the optimal route, navigate urban streets (even without lane markings), manage complex intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and roundabouts, and handle densely packed freeways with cars moving at high speed." None of these "full self-driving" capabilities are available yet. "Self-Driving functionality is dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval, which may vary widely by jurisdiction," the page says. "It is not possible to know exactly when each element of the functionality described above will be available, as this is highly dependent on local regulatory approval."

But the big reason full self-driving isn't available yet has nothing to do with "regulatory approval." The problem is that Tesla hasn't created the technology yet. Indeed, the company could be years away from completing work on it, and some experts doubt it will ever be possible to achieve full self-driving capabilities with the hardware installed on today's Tesla vehicles. "It's a vastly more difficult problem than most people realize," said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Navigant Research and a former auto industry engineer. Tesla has a history of pre-selling products based on optimistic delivery schedules. This approach has served the company pretty well in the past, as customers ultimately loved their cars once they ultimately showed up. But that strategy could backfire hugely when it comes to Autopilot.

Transportation

Tesla Temporarily Stops Model 3 Production Line (theverge.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Tesla is temporarily stopping production of its Model 3 electric car, amid a long waiting list and several missed targets. The company, however, says the shutdown is intended to resolve some of the problems that have contributed to the numerous delays in getting the cars to hundreds of thousands of reservation holders. The automaker said Monday it would halt production of the Model 3 sedan for 4-5 days at its Fremont, California assembly plant, BuzzFeed reported. Tesla, however, says this is part of a planned period of downtime that was similar to another shutdown in February, and it isn't intended to have an affect on the company's current production targets for the car. "Our Model 3 production plan includes periods of planned downtime in both Fremont and Gigafactory 1," a Tesla spokesperson told The Verge. "These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates. This is not unusual and is in fact common in production ramps like this."
Transportation

Why New York City Stopped Building Subways (citylab.com) 219

New York City, which once saw an unprecedented infrastructure boom -- putting together iconic bridges, opulent railway terminals to build the then world's largest underground and rapid transit network in just 20 years -- has not built a single new subway line in more than seven decades. As New York's rapid transit system froze, cities across the globe expanded their networks. A closer inspection reveals that things have actually moved backward -- New York's rapid transit network is actually considerably smaller than it was during the Second World War, and due to this, today's six million daily riders are facing constant delays, infrastructure failures, and alarmingly crowded cars and platforms. This raises two questions: Why did New York abruptly stop building subways after the 1940s? And how did a construction standstill that started nearly 80 years ago lead to the present moment of transit crisis? The Atlantic's CityLab explores: Three broad lines of history provide an explanation. The first is the postwar lure of the suburbs and the automobile -- the embodiment of modernity in its day. The second is the interminable battles of control between the city and the private transit companies, and between the city and the state government. The third is the treadmill created by rising costs and the buildup of deferred maintenance -- an ever-expanding maintenance backlog that eventually consumed any funds made available for expansion.

To see exactly how and why New York's subway went off the rails requires going all the way back to the beginning. What follows is a 113-year timeline of the subway's history, organized by these three narratives (with the caveat that no history is fully complete).

Power

Ola Wants a Million Electric Rides on India's Roads by 2021 (bloomberg.com) 28

Ride-hailing company Ola, Uber's fiercest Indian competitor, wants to roll out 10,000 electric three-wheeled rickshaws within a year and a million battery-powered vehicles by 2021. From a report: The startup run by ANI Technologies said it's in policy discussions with several state governments, and is talking with potential partners from automakers to battery producers. It aims to build out an existing pilot project in the central Indian city of Nagpur, where Ola's first EVs have already traveled more than 4 million kilometers. Ola's ambitions dovetail with the Indian government's objectives. Prime Minster Narendra Modi plans to significantly increase the number of new energy vehicles on the road. The power ministry in March said Modi had directed senior ministers to ensure that by 2030 most vehicles in India would be powered by electricity.
Space

ULA Is Livestreaming An Atlas V Rocket Launch (upi.com) 59

United Launch Alliance -- a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing -- is livestreaming tonight's launch of an Atlas V rocket. UPI reports: The rocket is set to blast-off at 7:13 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida... The primary payload is the Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM, or CBAS, a geostationary communications satellite... Behind the CBAS payload is EAGLE, a platform capable of releasing several secondary payloads into space. According to Gunter's Space Page, EAGLE is carrying five additional payloads, all experimental satellites.
Here's a good overview of the mission: Saturday's mission will begin with ignition of the Atlas Common Core Booster's RD-180 engine, 2.7 seconds before the countdown reaches zero... Five Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-60A solid rocket motors will augment the CCB at liftoff, igniting about T+1.1 seconds as the rocket lifts off. Climbing away from Cape Canaveral, AV-079 will begin a series of pitch and yaw maneuvers 3.9 seconds into its mission, placing the rocket onto an 89.9-degree azimuth -- almost due East -- for the journey into orbit. Atlas will reach Mach 1, the speed of sound, 34.4 seconds after liftoff, passing through the area of maximum dynamic pressure -- Max-Q -- eleven-and-a-half seconds later.
Long-time Slashdot reader Zorro also shares an interesting remark by the CEO of Boeing when asked if Boeing's cancelled Sonic Cruiser might be making a comeback. "'Something better,' teased the Boeing boss, promising point-to-point connectivity anywhere on Earth in a matter of hours."

And when asked whether Boeing might launch a car into space, he replied instead that "We might pick up the one that's out there and bring it back."
Robotics

Tesla Relied On Too Many Robots To Build the Model 3, Elon Musk Says (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Tesla's critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018. Previously, Tesla has blamed bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3's batteries at the company's Gigafactory for the delays. But in a wide-ranging (and largely positive) interview with CBS's Gayle King, Musk also admits it was Tesla's over-reliance on robots in the production. Musk then said the company needs more people working in the factory and that automation slowed the Model 3 production process. He alluded to a "crazy, complex network of conveyor belts" the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasn't working.
Power

World's First Electrified Road For Charging Vehicles Opens In Sweden (theguardian.com) 102

A 1.2-mile stretch of road with electric rails has been installed in Stockholm, Sweden, allowing electric vehicles to charge up their batteries as they drive across it. "The technology behind the electrification of the road linking Stockholm Arlanda airport to a logistics site outside the capital city aims to solve the thorny problems of keeping electric vehicles charged, and the manufacture of their batteries affordable," reports The Guardian. From the report: Energy is transferred from two tracks of rail in the road via a movable arm attached to the bottom of a vehicle. The design is not dissimilar to that of a Scalextric track, although should the vehicle overtake, the arm is automatically disconnected. The electrified road is divided into 50m sections, with an individual section powered only when a vehicle is above it. When a vehicle stops, the current is disconnected. The system is able to calculate the vehicle's energy consumption, which enables electricity costs to be debited per vehicle and user. The "dynamic charging" -- as opposed to the use of roadside charging posts -- means the vehicle's batteries can be smaller, along with their manufacturing costs. A former diesel-fuelled truck owned by the logistics firm, PostNord, is the first to use the road.
Businesses

Uber Drivers Are Independent Contractors, Not Employees, Judge Rules (reuters.com) 189

Uber drivers are independent contractors, not full-time employees of the ride-hailing company, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled in what is said to be the first classification of Uber drivers under federal law. Reuters reports: U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson on Wednesday said San Francisco-based Uber does not exert enough control over drivers for its limo service, UberBLACK, to be considered their employer under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The drivers work when they want to and are free to nap, run personal errands, or smoke cigarettes in between rides, Baylson said. Jeremy Abay, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he would appeal the ruling to the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 3rd Circuit would be the first federal appeals court to consider whether Uber drivers are properly classified as independent contractors.
Transportation

NTSB Boots Tesla From Investigation Into Fatal Autopilot Crash (theverge.com) 160

The National Transportation Safety Board has removed Tesla from the investigation into a fatal Autopilot accident that occurred in March. The NTSB says it took the action because Tesla had released "investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by" the agency. "Such releases of incomplete information often lead to speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash, which does a disservice to the investigative process and the traveling public," the agency writes. The Verge reports: The NTSB's account contradicts Tesla's version of the story. In a statement, the automaker says it decided to remove itself from the investigation on Tuesday because of the NTSB was restricting it from sharing information before the probe ends. The company also accuses the NTSB of being duplicitous, arguing that the agency has released statements about the crash at the same time that it told Tesla not to. "It's been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they're more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety," a spokesperson for the company says. "Among other things, they repeatedly released partial bits of incomplete information to the media in violation of their own rules, at the same time that they were trying to prevent us from telling all the facts. We don't believe this is right and we will be making an official complaint to Congress." The company also said it will issue "a Freedom Of Information Act request to understand the reasoning behind their focus on the safest cars in America while they ignore the cars that are the least safe." The full letter send to Musk from the NTSB can be seen here.
Transportation

Tesla Issues Strongest Statement Yet Blaming Driver For Deadly Autopilot Crash (abc7news.com) 466

Tesla has released its strongest statement yet blaming the driver of a Tesla Model X that crashed on Autopilot almost three weeks ago. The driver, Walter Huang, died March 23rd in Mountain View when his Model X on Autopilot crashed headfirst into the safety barrier section of a divider that separates the carpool lane from the off-ramp to the left. Huang was an Apple engineer and former EA Games employee. ABC7News reports: Tesla confirmed its data shows Walter Huang was using Autopilot at the time of the crash, but that his hands were off the wheel for six seconds right before impact. Tesla sent Dan Noyes a statement Tuesday night that reads in part, "Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel... the crash happened on a clear day with several hundred feet of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road." The family's lawyer believes Tesla is blaming Huang to distract from the family's concern about the car's Autopilot.
Transportation

Dubai To Launch Digital Vehicle Number Plates (bbc.com) 75

Drivers in Dubai may soon be using digital number plates under new plans. In a trial starting next month, vehicles will be fitted with smart plates with digital screens, GPS and transmitters. From a report: The new plates will be able to inform emergency services if a driver has an accident. Dubai has recently spearheaded a number of new transport initiatives as it seeks to become an international technology hub. According to Sultan Abdullah al-Marzouqi, the head of the Vehicle Licensing Department at Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), the plates will make life easier for drivers in Dubai. As well as contacting the police and ambulance services if the vehicle is involved in a collision, the technology allows real-time communication with other drivers about traffic conditions or any accidents ahead. The number plates can also change to display an alert if the vehicle or digital plate is stolen.
Google

Google Is in Talks to Buy Nokia's Airborne Broadband System: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 12

Google is in advanced talks to buy Nokia's airborne broadband system, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. Google would use Nokia's system, the report claimed, to tap into new services and reach more users by offering in-flight high-speed internet. From the report: Nokia's technology could help Google offer a faster alternative to existing Wi-Fi on airplanes, said the people. Talks are advanced and an agreement may be reached soon, the people said. A final decision hasn't been made and the companies could still decide against a deal, the people said. Nokia's LTE A2G cellular-based system creates a direct link between an aircraft and the ground instead of bouncing the signal off of a satellite, enabling in-cabin high-speed internet services using Wi-Fi, according to its website.
Transportation

Dual-Motor Tesla Model 3 Possibly Coming In July (electrek.co) 71

According to Elon Musk, the dual-motor Tesla Model 3 is expected to be released in July. "Musk linked the release of the new Model 3 powertrain with the automaker achieving a production rate of 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week," reports Electrek. From the report: Earlier this year, we reported on Tesla registering 19 Model 3 VINs with dual motor powertrain with NHTSA in the latest batch of new VINs. It happened right after the Tesla Model 3 dual motor powertrain design leaked in the latest design studio update. Then in February, Tesla registered a new batch of Model 3 VINs, including two dozen Model 3 VINs with the dual motor powertrain. It raised Model 3 reservation holders' hope that the new configuration could soon become available, but now Musk confirmed that it is still a few months away in a series of tweets last night. The CEO also linked the timing with the release of the Model 3 white interior. Tesla currently only offers a single interior option with black upholstery. The dual motor Model 3 is expected to deliver a slightly longer range and offer a quicker acceleration than the current single motor rear-wheel-drive version.
Businesses

The Uber-For-Bikes Startup Is Now Officially Part of Uber (qz.com) 51

Uber's first acquisition under CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is of Jump Bikes, a startup that rents out shared electric dockless bikes in San Francisco and Washington DC. "The deal comes two months after Uber partnered with Jump in San Francisco to make bike rentals available through the Uber app," reports Quartz. From the report: TechCrunch reports that the deal was valued at close to $200 million. Jump, which launched in 2008 as Social Bicycles, had raised about $15 million in funding. In January the company became the first in San Francisco to receive a permit for a dockless e-bike program. Jump's team will stay "independent and focused on growth vs. integration," with CEO Ryan Rzepecki reporting directly to Khosrowshahi, Uber's CEO told his company in an email this morning (April 9). In a post on Medium, Rzepecki said Khosrowshahi's leadership made Jump feel more comfortable with the deal. "We could see the shift in the company once Dara was named CEO as he began leading with humility and in a way that we felt reflected our values," Rzepecki wrote.
Transportation

California May Soon Allow Passengers In Driverless Cars (reuters.com) 165

According to Reuters, California's public utility regulator on Friday signaled it would allow passengers to ride in self-driving cars without a backup driver in the vehicle. It is a big step forward for autonomous car developers, especially as the industry faces heightened scrutiny over safety concerns. From the report: The California Public Utilities Commission, the body that regulates utilities including transportation companies such as ride-hailing apps, issued a proposal that could clear the way for companies such as Alphabet's Waymo and General Motors to give members of the public a ride in a self-driving car without any backup driver present, which has been the practice of most companies so far. The California Department of Motor Vehicles had already issued rules allowing for autonomous vehicle testing without drivers, which took effect this week. The commission said its proposed rules complement the existing DMV rules but provide additional protections for passengers. The proposal, which is set to be voted on at the commission's meeting next month, would clear the way for autonomous vehicle companies to do more testing and get the public more closely acquainted with driverless cars in a state that has closely regulated the industry. It also comes as regulators across the country are taking a harder look at self-driving cars in the aftermath of a crash in Arizona that killed a pedestrian.
Facebook

Facebook Donated To 46 of 55 Members On Committee That Will Question Zuckerberg (usatoday.com) 160

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be questioned about user privacy protections next week by members of the House and Senate committees, but as USA Today notes, many of these members were also "some of the biggest recipients of campaign contributions from Facebook employees directly and the political action committee funded by employees." An anonymous reader shares the report: The congressional panel that got the most Facebook contributions is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which announced Wednesday morning it would question Zuckerberg on April 11. Members of the committee, whose jurisdiction gives it regulatory power over Internet companies, received nearly $381,000 in contributions tied to Facebook since 2007, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The center is a non-partisan, non-profit group that compiles and analyzes disclosures made to the Federal Election Commission.

The second-highest total, $369,000, went to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which announced later that it would have a joint hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Zuckerberg on Tuesday. Judiciary Committee members have received $235,000 in Facebook contributions. On the House committee, Republicans got roughly twice as much as Democrats, counter to the broader trend in Facebook campaign gifts. Of the $7 million in contributions to all federal candidates tied to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social network, Democrats got 65% to Republicans' 33%. Of the 55 members on the Energy and Commerce Committee this year, all but nine have received Facebook contributions in the past decade. The average Republican got $6,800, while the average Democrat got $6,750.

Transportation

California Police Ticket A Self-Driving Car (cbslocal.com) 344

Long-time Slashdot reader Ichijo writes: A self-driving car was slapped with a ticket after police said it got too close to a pedestrian on a San Francisco street.

The self-driving car owned by San Francisco-based Cruise was pulled over for not yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Cruise says its data shows the person was far away enough from the vehicle and the car did nothing wrong.... According to data collected by Cruise, the pedestrian was 10.8 feet away from the car when, while the car was in self-driving mode, it began to continue down Harrison at 14th St."

The person in the crosswalk was not injured.

Transportation

There's Growing Evidence Tesla's Autopilot Handles Lane Dividers Poorly (arstechnica.com) 238

An anonymous reader writes: Within the past week, two Tesla crashes have been reported while Autopilot was engaged, and both involved a Tesla vehicle slamming into a highway divider. One of the crashes resulted in the death of Walter Huang, a Tesla customer with a Model X. The other crash resulted in minor injuries to the driver, thanks largely to a working highway safety barrier in front of the concrete divider. Ars Technica reports on the growing evidence that Tesla's Autopilot handles lane dividers poorly: "The September crash isn't the only evidence that has emerged that Tesla's Autopilot feature doesn't deal well with highway lane dividers. At least two people have uploaded videos to YouTube showing their Tesla vehicles steering toward concrete barriers. One driver grabbed the wheel to prevent a collision, while the other slammed on the brakes. Tesla argues that this issue doesn't necessarily mean that Autopilot is unsafe. 'Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver,' a Tesla spokesperson told KGO-TV. Tesla argues that Autopilot can't prevent all accidents but that it makes accidents less likely. There's some data to back this up. A 2017 study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the rate of accidents dropped by 40 percent after the introduction of Autopilot. And Tesla argues that Autopilot-equipped Tesla cars have gone 320 million miles per fatality, much better than the 86 million miles for the average car. These figures don't necessarily settle the debate. That NHTSA figure doesn't break down the severity of crashes -- it's possible that Autopilot prevents relatively minor crashes but is less effective at preventing the most serious crashes. And as some Ars commenters have pointed out, luxury cars generally have fewer fatalities than the average vehicle. So it's possible that Tesla cars' low crash rates have more to do with its wealthy customer base than its Autopilot technology. What we can say, at a minimum, is that there's little evidence that Autopilot makes Tesla drivers less safe. And we can expect Tesla to steadily improve the car's capabilities over time."

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