Government

CNN Gets a First-Of-Its-Kind Waiver To Fly Drones Over Crowds (techcrunch.com) 30

The FAA has granted CNN a waiver that allows it to fly its Vantage Robotics Snap drone over open-air crowds of people at altitudes of up to 150 feet. "This is a new precedent in this kind of waiver: Previous exemptions allowed flight of drones over people in closed set operations (like for filmmaking purposes) and only when tethered, with a max height of 21 feet," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The new waiver granted to CNN, as secured through its legal counsel Hogan Lovells, allows for flight of the Vantage UAV (which is quite small and light) above crowds regardless of population density. It was a big win for the firm and the company because it represents a change in perspective on the issue for the FAA, which previously viewed all requests for exceptions from a "worst-case scenario" point of view. Now, however, the FAA has accepted CNN's "reasonableness Approach," which takes into account not just the potential results of a crashed drone, but also the safe operating history of the company doing the flying, their built-in safety procedures, and the features included on the drone model itself that are designed to mitigate the results of any negative issues.
Transportation

Dubai Police Get Hoverbikes (mashable.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: The Dubai police, which already has luxury patrol cars, self-driving pursuit drones, and a robot officer, just announced it will soon have officers buzzing around on hoverbikes, which look like an early version of the speeder bikes used by the scout troopers on Endor in Return of the Jedi. The force (see what I did there?) unveiled its new Hoversurf Scorpion craft at the Gitex Technology Week conference, according to UAE English language publication Gulf News. The police force will use the hoverbike for emergency response scenarios, giving officers the ability to zoom over congested traffic conditions by taking to the air... The Scorpion can also fly autonomously for almost four miles at a time for other emergencies.
The fully-electric hoverbike stays aloft for about 25 minutes per charge at a top speed around 43 mph.

Gulf News also reported that Dubai police "unveiled robotic vehicles which will be equipped with biometric software to scan for wanted criminals and undesirable elements."
Transportation

Unpatched Exploit Lets You Clone Key Fobs and Open Subaru Cars (bleepingcomputer.com) 60

An anonymous reader writes: Tom Wimmenhove, a Dutch electronics designer, has discovered a flaw in the key fob system used by several Subaru models, a vulnerability the vendor has not patched and could be abused to hijack cars. The issue is that key fobs for some Subaru cars use sequential codes for locking and unlocking the vehicle, and other operations. These codes -- called rolling codes or hopping code -- should be random, in order to avoid situations when an attacker discovers their sequence and uses the flaw to hijack cars. This is exactly what Wimmenhove did. He created a device that sniffs the code, computes the next rolling code and uses it to unlock cars...

The researcher said he reached out to Subaru about his findings. "I did [reach out]. I told them about the vulnerability and shared my code with them," Wimmenhove told BleepingComputer. "They referred me to their 'partnership' page and asked me to fill in a questionnaire. It didn't seem like they really cared and I haven't heard back from them."

His Subaru-cracking feat -- documented in a video -- was accomplished using a $25 Raspberry Pi B+ and two dongles, one for wifi ($2) and one for a TV ($8), plus a $1 antenna and a $1 MCX-to-SMA convertor.
Power

Toshiba's Fast-Charging Battery Could Triple the Range of Electric Vehicles (newatlas.com) 119

Big Hairy Ian quotes New Atlas: A key focus of electric vehicle (EV) makers is maximizing the range users can get from each charge, and for that reason new battery technologies are poised to play a huge part in driving their adoption. Toshiba has developed a new fast-charging battery it claims could allow EVs to travel three times as far as they do now, and then be fully recharged again in a matter of minutes.

Toshiba's SCiB (Super Charge ion Battery) has been around in various forms since 2007, with its chief claim to fame an ability to charge to 90 percent of capacity in just five minutes. It also boasts a life-span of 10 years and high levels of safety, and has found its way into a number of notable EVs, including Mitsubishi's i MiEV and Honda's Fit EV. The current SCiB uses lithium titanium oxide as its anode, but Toshiba says it has now come up with a better way of doing things. The next-generation SCiB uses a new material for the anode called titanium niobium oxide, which Toshiba was able to arrange into a crystal structure that can store lithium ions more efficiently. So much so, that the energy density has been doubled.

Toshiba calls the battery "a game changing advance that will make a significant difference to the range and performance of EV," and hopes to put it "into practical application" in 2019.
Businesses

Tesla Just Fired Hundreds Of Workers (mercurynews.com) 318

An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup: Tesla fired hundreds of workers this week, including engineers, managers and factory workers, even as the company struggles to expand its manufacturing and product line... The company said this week's dismissals were the result of a company-wide annual review, and insisted they were not layoffs. Some workers received promotions and bonuses, and the company expects to hire for the "vast majority" of new vacancies, a spokesman said. "As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures," a spokesman said. "Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world."
"Tesla has a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board in November for charges that company supervisors and security guards harassed workers distributing union literature," reports the Bay Area Newsgroup, adding that "Openly pro-union workers were among those fired this week. Some believe they were targeted."

Tesla denies this, and says that they've generally boosted morale this week -- by rewarding higher-performing employees.
Power

Driverless Cars Are Giving Engineers a Fuel Economy Headache (bloomberg.com) 208

schwit1 shares a report from Bloomberg: Judging from General Motors' test cars and Elon Musk's predictions, the world is headed toward a future that's both driverless and all-electric. In reality, autonomy and battery power could end up being at odds. That's because self-driving technology is a huge power drain. Some of today's prototypes for fully autonomous systems consume two to four kilowatts of electricity -- the equivalent of having 50 to 100 laptops continuously running in the trunk, according to BorgWarner Inc. The supplier of vehicle propulsion systems expects the first autonomous cars -- likely robotaxis that are constantly on the road -- will be too energy-hungry to run on battery power alone. A fully autonomous subcompact car like a Honda Fit, for example, will get 54.6 miles to the gallon in 2025 in the best-case scenario, more than 5 miles below the U.S. emissions target, according to BorgWarner. A small pickup or SUV would be at 45.8 mpg, versus a target of 50. Engineers don't have much time to resolve this, as companies are planning to deploy their first fully self-driving cars in the next couple of years. One way for automakers to meet the power-hungry needs of self-driving systems will be to use gasoline-electric hybrid models rather than purely electric cars, said Mary Gustanski, chief technology officer of supplier Delphi Automotive Plc's powertrain business.
Transportation

Richard Branson's Virgin Group Invests in Super-fast Hyperloop One Transport System (cnbc.com) 60

An anonymous reader shares a report: Richard Branson's Virgin Group is investing in Hyperloop One, a company developing the super-fast transport system originally conceptualized up by Elon Musk. Hypleroop One is re-branding itself as Virgin Hyperloop One, and Branson is joining the board, the billionaire British investor and entrepreneur announced Thursday on CNBC from London. Virgin Hyperloop One will focus on a passenger and mixed-use cargo service. Last month, Hypleroop One raised $85 million in new funding, and that includes the investment from Virgin. Branson refused to breakout the numbers. Breaking ground on a commercial hyperloop in two to four years is possible if "governments move quickly," Branson said in a "Squawk Box" interview. So far, no government has approved a plan for a hyperloop system. The Virgin founder also said that building a hyperloop tube above or below ground is "cheaper" and "faster" than a traditional rail network. The idea of the transport system -- conceived in 2013 by Musk, the head of both electric automaker Tesla and SpaceX -- works by propelling pods through tubes using magnets reaching speeds akin to those of airplanes.
Security

Equifax Breach Included 10 Million US Driving Licenses (engadget.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: 10.9 million U.S. driver's licenses were stolen in the massive breach that Equifax suffered in mid-May, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. In addition, WSJ has revealed that the attackers got a hold of 15.2 million UK customers' records, though only 693,665 among them had enough info in the system for the breach to be a real threat to their privacy. Affected customers provided most of the driver's licenses on file to verify their identities when they disputed their credit-report information through an Equifax web page. That page was one of the entry points the attackers used to gain entry into the credit reporting agency's system.
Transportation

California DMV Changes Rules To Allow Testing and Use of Fully Autonomous Vehicles (techcrunch.com) 117

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is changing its rules to allow companies to test autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel -- and to let the public use autonomous vehicles. From a report: The DMV released a revised version of its regulations and has started a 15-day public comment period, ending October 25, 2017. California law requires the DMV to work on regulations to cover testing and public use of autonomous vehicles, and the regulator said that this is the first step. "We are excited to take the next step in furthering the development of this potentially life-saving technology in California," the state's Transportation Secretary, Brian Kelly, said in a statement. California's DMV took pains in its announcement to highlight that it wasn't trying to overstep the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has the final say on developing and enforcing compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Rather, the California regulations, are going to require manufacturers to certify that they've met federal safety standards before their cars become (driverlessly) street legal. And manufacturers still have to obey the state traffic laws written for California.
Transportation

Dutch Government Confirms Plan To Ban New Petrol, Diesel Cars By 2030 (electrek.co) 348

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Today, the new Dutch government presented its detailed plan for the coming years and it includes making all new cars emission-free by 2030 -- virtually banning petrol- and diesel-powered cars in favor of battery-powered vehicles. The four coalition parties have been negotiating their plans since the election in March and now after over 200 days, they have finally released the plan they agreed upon. NL Times posted all the main points of the plan and in "transportation," it includes: By 2030 all cars in the Netherlands must be emission free. While some local publications are reporting "all cars," we are told that it would be for "all new cars" as it is the case for the countries with similar bans under consideration. The potential for the ban has been under consideration in the country since last year. The year 2025, like in Norway, has been mentioned, but they apparently decided for the less ambitious goal of 2030.
Transportation

Nvidia Introduces a Computer For Level 5 Autonomous Cars (engadget.com) 175

From a report: At the center of many of the semi-autonomous cars currently on the road is NVIDIA hardware. Once automakers realized that GPUs could power their latest features, the chipmaker, best known for the graphics cards that make your games look outstanding, became the darling of the car world. But while automakers are still dropping level 2 and sometimes level 3 vehicles into the market, NVIDIA's first AI computer, the NVIDIA Drive PX Pegasus, is apparently capable of level 5 autonomy. That means no pedals, no steering wheel, no need for anyone to ever take control. The new computer delivers 320 trillion operations per second, 10 times more than its predecessor. Before you start squirreling away cash for your own self-driving car, though, NVIDIA's senior director of automotive, Danny Shapiro, notes that it's likely going to be robotaxis that drive us around. In fact, the company said that over 25 of its partners are already working on fully autonomous taxis. The goal with this smaller, more powerful computer is to remove the huge computer arrays that sit in the prototype vehicles of OEMs, startups and any other company that's trying to crack the autonomous car nut.
Transportation

42 Solar-Powered Cars Race in 31st Annual 'Solar Challenge' Race (engadget.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: It's a special moment in the history of clean energy: the 30th anniversary World Solar Challenge has begun. A total of 42 solar-powered cars (the largest field to date) left Darwin, Australia on October 8th to travel roughly 1,880 miles to Adelaide. The race officially lasts a week, but it's likely going to end considerably sooner for the front-runners -- the world record holders, Tokai University, took just under 30 hours in 2009...

This year, the race regulations are a clear sign of how rapidly solar technology is changing. Teams have to use a smaller solar collector than before: cars in the Challenger class can have no more than 43 square feet of solar cells versus nearly 65 square feet for the previous race, in 2015. That's half the area allowed on cars from the original 1987 race. In other words, technology is advanced enough now (both in solar cells and the underlying vehicle designs) that you don't need a sea of panels to keep a car running.

Power

CNN Skeptical of Elon Musk's 'Big Promises' (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla's electric semi-truck will be launched three weeks later than planned, CNN reports. It's been bumped to November 16th because Tesla says it's "diverting resources" to address problems with its Model 3 sedan production -- they've produced just 17.3% of the cars they'd planned -- and to make more batteries to send to areas hit by hurricanes. CNN notes Tesla's Model X "didn't start shipping until two years after it was supposed to roll out," and production of its Model S sedan "was also much slower than originally promised." Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, complains Tesla "may well have far too much on its plate. It should focus and deliver on some key promises."

But Elon Musk "has a history of some pretty pie-in-the-sky promises," complained CNN business anchor Maggie Lake, citing Musk's claim that he had verbal approval for an underground hyperloop connecting New York City to Washington D.C. ("This is news to City Hall," said New York's press secretary at the time, and no actual approval has ever been produced.) Lake also noted Musk's promise to fix South Australia's blackout problems by building the world's largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days back in March. Last Friday Tesla signed a contract to begin the work, so the 100-day countdown has begun.

CNN's report ran under the headline "Elon Musk: Big Dreamer or Monorail Salesman?" -- referencing a satirical 1993 episode of The Simpson's. "Here's a spoiler alert," the segment concludes. "If you haven't seen that episode...the monorail plan doesn't work out too well. Let's put it that way."
Transportation

GM Exec Says Elon Musk's Self-Driving Car Claims Are 'Full of Crap' (smh.com.au) 382

An anonymous reader quotes the Sydney Morning Herald: Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's claims about the self-driving capabilities of his upcoming Tesla vehicles are "full of crap", General Motors' self-driving Tsar says... "To think you can see everything you need for a level five autonomous car [full self-driving] with cameras and radar, I don't know how you do that"... GM's own solution involves several radar and Lidar sensors, as well as cameras and multiple redundancy systems. Each system costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and GM are some way away from getting the cost low enough to be commercially viable. "The level of technology and knowing what it takes to do the mission, to say you can be a full level five with just cameras and radars is not physically possible," Mr Miller said.
Businesses

Amazon Is Testing Its Own Delivery Service To Rival FedEx, UPS (bloomberg.com) 88

Longtime package delivery companies UPS and FedEx may have some new competition from Amazon. The company is experimenting with a new delivery service of its own intended to make more products available for free two-day delivery and relieve overcrowding in its warehouses. Bloomberg reports: The service began two years ago in India, and Amazon has been slowly marketing it to U.S. merchants in preparation for a national expansion, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the U.S. pilot project is confidential. Amazon is calling the project Seller Flex, one person said. The service began on a trial basis this year in West Coast states with a broader rollout planned in 2018, the people said. Amazon will oversee pickup of packages from warehouses of third-party merchants selling goods on Amazon.com and their delivery to customers' homes, the people said -- work that is now often handled by UPS and FedEx. Amazon could still use these couriers for delivery, but the company will decide how a package is sent instead of leaving it up to the seller. Handling more deliveries itself would give Amazon greater flexibility and control over the last mile to shoppers' doorsteps, let it save money through volume discounts, and help avoid congestion in its own warehouses by keeping merchandise in the outside sellers' own facilities.
Power

Tesla Still On Top In US Electric Vehicle Sales, GM Close Behind (arstechnica.com) 105

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Americans bought more electric vehicles in September than any other month this year. According to Inside EV's monthly sales report, 21,325 battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs found homes last month. That's 20 percent more than this time last year and the second highest number ever. 2017 looks like it will be a record year; a total of 159,614 EVs were sold, a figure that should easily be eclipsed by the end of October. Tesla leads the pack, thanks to healthy increases in both Model S and Model X sales this month. Tesla may suffer some good-natured teasing about frequently missed deadlines, but you could set your watch by the regularity of its quarter-ending jump in deliveries. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the Model S will remain the best-selling EV for the third year running. Like the overall trend, sales for the startup EV maker are up compared to last year, and even if the Model 3 continues to frustrate, we expect it to break the 50,000 car barrier by year-end.

General Motors is the only other company within reach of Tesla, whether we're talking about range or sales volume. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is now on sale in all 50 states and finding traction -- 2,632 sold in September and more than 14,000 on the road in 2017 so far. That still only gets it to fifth overall on the score chart, and there are three months left to go. The Chevy Volt, the Bolt's plug-in hybrid EV stablemate, is still the second-most popular EV among American buyers, but its sales have leveled off for the last few months. Toyota is the only other OEM to make the top five, less than 300 units behind the Volt.

Power

Boeing-Backed, Hybrid-Electric Commuter Plane To Hit Market In 2022 (reuters.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A Seattle-area startup, backed by the venture capital arms of Boeing and JetBlue announced plans on Thursday to bring a small hybrid-electric commuter aircraft to market by 2022. The small airliner is the first of several planes planned by Zunum Aero, which said it would seat up to 12 passengers and be powered by two electric motors, dramatically reducing the travel time and cost of trips under 1,000 miles (1,600 km). Zunum's plans and timetable underscore a rush to develop small electric aircraft based on rapidly evolving battery technology and artificial intelligence systems that avoid obstacles on a road or in the sky. In a separate but related development, Boeing said on Thursday it plans to acquire a company that specializes in electric and autonomous flight to help its own efforts to develop such aircraft. Zunum's planes would fly from thousands of small airports around big cities to cut regional travel times and costs.
Sci-Fi

According To Star Trek: Discovery, Starfleet Still Runs Microsoft Windows (theverge.com) 237

AmiMoJo shares a report from The Verge: The third episode of Star Trek: Discovery aired this week, and at one point in the episode, Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael Burnham is tasked with reconciling two suites of code. In the show, Burnham claims the code is confusing because it deals with quantum astrophysics, biochemistry, and gene expression. And while the episode later reveals that it's related to the USS Discovery's experimental new mycelial network transportation system, Twitter user Rob Graham noted the code itself is a little more pedestrian in nature. More specifically, it seems to be decompiled code for the infamous Stuxnet virus, developed by the United States to attack Iranian computers running Windows.
Transportation

Fully Driverless Cars Could Be Months Away (arstechnica.com) 160

An anonymous reader shares a report: Real driverless cars could come to the Phoenix area this year, according to a Monday report from The Information's Amir Efrati. Two anonymous sources have told Efrati that Google's self-driving car unit, Waymo, is preparing to launch "a commercial ride-sharing service powered by self-driving vehicles with no human 'safety' drivers as soon as this fall." Obviously, there's no guarantee that Waymo will hit this ambitious target. But it's a sign that Waymo believes its technology is very close to being ready for commercial use. And it suggests that Waymo is likely to introduce a fully driverless car network in 2018 if it doesn't do so in the remaining months of 2017. [...] According to a report on The Information, Waymo's service is likely to launch first in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb where Waymo has done extensive testing. Waymo chose the Phoenix area for its favorable weather, its wide, well-maintained streets, and the relative lack of pedestrians. Another important factor was the legal climate. Arizona has some of the nation's most permissive laws regarding self-driving vehicles. "Arizona's oversight group has met just twice in the last year, and found no reason to suggest any new rules or restrictions on autonomous vehicles, so long as they follow traffic laws," the Arizona Republic reported in June. "The group found no need to suggest legislation to help the deployment." According to the Arizona Republic, a 2015 executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey "allows universities to test vehicles with no driver on board so long as a licensed driver has responsibility for the cars and can take control remotely if the vehicle needs assistance." Waymo is getting ready to take the same approach.
Transportation

Missouri Considers Hyperloop Route Between St. Louis and Kansas City (theverge.com) 154

Missouri officials are forming a public-private partnership to study the feasibility of building a hyperloop route between St. Louis and Kansas City. The study is being supported by Hyperloop One, and conducted by a consortium of groups, including the Missouri Department of Transportation, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the KC Tech Council, the University of Missouri System, and the Missouri Innovation Center in Columbia. The Verge reports: St. Louis to Kansas City is a 248-mile route that takes around three hours and 40 minutes by car, or about 55 minutes by plane (not including time spent traveling to the airport, security lines, etc.). Hyperloop One claims the trip would just take 31 minutes using its system of aerodynamic pods traveling through nearly airless tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph. Of course, that depends on building hundreds of miles of tubes, either above ground on pylons along a highway like I-70, or through underground tunnels. The Missouri study will explore all these options, as well the amount of state money that would be needed to build it. The study will cost about $1.5 million, and will be paid for using private funds, Missouri officials said.

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