Transportation

Uber and Lyft May Cause Lower Car Ownership In Big Cities, Says Report (slashgear.com) 118

A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has shed light on what may turn out to be a growing trend: lower car ownership in cities where ride-sharing services are available. SlashGear reports: While Uber and Lyft have both deployed in a number of cities, they have, at times, had to abandon those cities due to local governments driving them out for one reason or another. That's what happened in Austin, Texas, opening the door for an interesting study on personal car ownership. Did the sudden absence of these two services cause increased car usage and/or ownership, or did things remain unaffected? The result, according to the study, was a big increase in personal car usage and a statistically significant increase in car ownership. The researchers surveyed a total of 1,200 people from the Austin region, and found that 41-percent of them started using their own car more often to make up for the lack of Uber and Lyft rides. As well, a total of 9-percent of those surveyed bought their own personal car to make up for the services' absences.
Math

MIT Team's School-Bus Algorithm Could Save $5M and 1M Bus Miles (wsj.com) 104

An anonymous reader shares a report: A trio of MIT researchers recently tackled a tricky vehicle-routing problem when they set out to improve the efficiency of the Boston Public Schools bus system. Last year, more than 30,000 students rode 650 buses to 230 schools at a cost of $120 million. In hopes of spending less this year, the school system offered $15,000 in prize money in a contest that challenged competitors to reduce the number of buses. The winners -- Dimitris Bertsimas, co-director of MIT's Operations Research Center and doctoral students Arthur Delarue and Sebastien Martin -- devised an algorithm that drops as many as 75 bus routes. The school system says the plan, which will eliminate some bus-driver jobs, could save up to $5 million, 20,000 pounds of carbon emissions and 1 million bus miles (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). The computerized algorithm runs in about 30 minutes and replaces a manual system that in the past has taken transportation staff several weeks to complete. "They have been doing it manually many years," Dr. Bertsimas said. "Our whole running time is in minutes. If things change, we can re-optimize." The task of plotting school-bus routes resembles the classic math exercise known as the Traveling Salesman Problem, where the goal is to find the shortest path through a series of cities, visiting each only once, before returning home.
Google

Tesla Looking To Start Testing Autonomous Semi In 'Platoon' Formation (arstechnica.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Tesla is developing a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in "platoons" that automatically follow a lead vehicle, and is getting closer to testing a prototype, according to an email discussion of potential road tests between the car company and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), seen by Reuters. The correspondence and meeting show that Tesla is putting self-driving technology into the electric truck it has said it plans to unveil in September, and is advancing toward real-life tests, potentially moving it forward in a highly competitive area of commercial transport also being pursued by Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and Alphabet Inc's Waymo. After announcing intentions a year ago to produce a heavy-duty electric truck, Musk tweeted in April that the semi-truck would be revealed in September, and repeated that commitment at the company's annual shareholder meeting in June, but he has never mentioned any autonomous-driving capabilities. An email exchange in May and June between Tesla and Nevada DMV representatives included an agenda for a June 16 meeting, along with the Nevada Department of Transportation, to discuss testing of two prototype trucks in Nevada, according to the exchange seen by Reuters.
Security

Forget the Russians: Corrupt, Local Officials Are the Biggest Threat To Elections (securityledger.com) 287

chicksdaddy writes: Do you think that shadowy Russian hackers are the biggest threat to the integrity of U.S. elections? Think again. It turns out the bad actors in U.S. elections may be a lot more "Senator Bedfellow" than "Fancy Bear," according to Bev Harris, the founder of Black Box Voting. "It's money," Harris told The Security Ledger. "There's one federal election every four years, but there are about 100,000 local elections which control hundreds of billions of dollars in contract signings." Those range from waste disposal and sanitation to transportation."There are 1,000 convictions every year for public corruption," Harris says, citing Department of Justice statistics. "Its really not something that's even rare in the United States." We just don't think that corruption is a problem, because we rarely see it manifested in the ways that most people associate with public corruption, like violence or having to pay bribes to receive promised services, Harris said. But it's still there.

How does the prevalence of public corruption touch election security? Exactly in the way you might think. "You don't know at any given time if the people handling your votes are honest or not," Harris said. "But you shouldn't have to guess. There should be a way to check." And in the decentralized, poorly monitored U.S. elections system, there often isn't. At the root of our current problem isn't (just) vulnerable equipment, it's also a shoddy "chain of custody" around votes, says Eric Hodge, the director of consulting at Cyber Scout, which is working with the Board of Elections in Kentucky and in other states to help secure elections systems. That includes where and how votes are collected, how they are moved and tabulated and then how they are handled after the fact, should citizens or officials want to review the results of an election. That lack of transparency leaves the election system vulnerable to manipulation and fraud, Harris and Hodge argue.

Transportation

Elon Musk Inspired an Industry of Hyperloop Startups. Now He's Building His Own (bloomberg.com) 152

An anonymous reader shares a report: Elon Musk introduced his vision for a futuristic mode of tube-based transportation called the hyperloop in 2013. In an exhaustive white paper, he laid out a body of research conducted with his team at Space Exploration Technologies demonstrating the system's viability and seemingly offered it as a gift to the entrepreneurial community. "I don't have any plan to execute because I must remain focused on SpaceX and Tesla," he said in a conference call at the time. He apparently changed his mind. Last month, the SpaceX and Tesla chief executive officer revealed on Twitter that he'd received "verbal government approval" to build a hyperloop capable of ferrying passengers between New York and Washington, D.C., in 29 minutes. The tweet came as a shock to executives at the various startups racing to develop their own hyperloops based on Musk's specifications. Several of them initially expressed hope that Musk would simply dig the tunnels and perhaps choose one of their startups to create the physical infrastructure, which involves a tube-encased train traveling at speeds faster than an airplane. Nope. A person close to Musk said his plan is to build the entire thing, including the hyperloop system. Musk also holds a trademark for "Hyperloop" through SpaceX, which could be used to prevent other companies from using the term, according to U.S. public records. The billionaire's unexpected entry into the hyperloop business could threaten the ambitions of three startups, which have raised about $200 million combined from venture backers. "There's probably a finite amount of capital willing to bet on this space -- and bet against him," said Jonathan Silver, the former loan programs director at the U.S. Department of Energy. Silver learned not to underestimate Musk after overseeing a 2010 loan of $465 million to Tesla, which the electric carmaker paid back, with interest, nine years ahead of schedule.
Government

Travelers' Electronics At US Airports To Get Enhanced Screening, TSA Says (arstechnica.com) 151

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Aviation security officials will begin enhanced screening measures of passengers' electronics at US airports, the Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday. Travelers must remove electronics larger than a mobile phone from their carry-on bags and "place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image," the TSA announced amid growing fears that electronic devices can pose as homemade bombs. The TSA was quick to point out that the revised security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in the TSA Precheck program.

"Whether you're flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone," TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia said. "It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe. By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats."

Transportation

New Diesel and Petrol Vehicles To Be Banned From 2040 In UK (bbc.com) 417

New submitter puenktli writes: The UK is joining the list of the countries which are making a commitment towards diesel and petrol free vehicles. Other countries might be more progressive with such a ban (e.g. the Netherlands: by 2025), but at least it's a step in the right direction. However, if new bans are put forward at such a high rate as now, in 2040, the UK might be the only western country where petrol-fuelled cars are still on the road. Tesla at least will be happy about this ban, especially now with their Model 3. But these bans will inspire other car makers as well to invest more in EV. Maybe not such a bad idea after all: oil will run out one day, but the sun will always shine.
Power

Toyota's New Solid-State Battery Could Make Its Way To Cars By 2020 (techcrunch.com) 69

According to the Wall Street Journal, Toyota is in production engineering for a solid state battery, which uses a solid electrolyte instead of the conventional semi-liquid version used in today's lithium-ion batteries. The company said it aims to put the new tech in production electric vehicles as early as 2020. TechCrunch reports: The improved battery technology would make it possible to create smaller, more lightweight lithium-ion batteries for use in EVs, that could also potentially boost the total charge capacity and result in longer-range vehicles. Another improvement for this type of battery would be longer overall usable life, which would make it possible to both use the vehicles they're installed in for longer, and add potential for product recycling and alternative post-vehicle life (some companies are already looking into putting EV batteries into use in home and commercial energy storage, for example).
Transportation

India's Transport Minister Vows To Ban Self-Driving Cars To Save Jobs (arstechnica.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Companies in the United States, Germany, Japan, and other countries are racing to develop self-driving cars. But India's top transportation regulator says that those cars won't be welcome on Indian streets any time soon. "We won't allow driverless cars in India," said Nitin Gadkari, India's minister for Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, according to the Hindustan Times. "I am very clear on this. We won't allow any technology that takes away jobs." Gadkari is taking a very different approach from politicians in the United States, where both the Obama and Trump administrations have been keen to promote the development of self-driving vehicles. "We are bullish on automated vehicles," said Obama Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last year. His successor, Elaine Chao, has also signaled support for self-driving technology, while also expressing concerns about safety risks and potential job losses.
NASA

NASA Has a Way to Cut Your Flight Time in Half (bloomberg.com) 234

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg Businessweek article: For almost a half-century there's been a clear speed limit on most commercial air travel: 660 miles per hour, the rate at which a typical-size plane traveling at 30,000 feet breaks the sound barrier and creates a 30-mile-wide, continuous sonic boom. That may be changing. In August, NASA says, it will begin taking bids for construction of a demo model of a plane able to reduce the sonic boom to something like the hum you'd hear inside a Mercedes-Benz on the interstate. The agency's researchers say their design, a smaller-scale model of which was successfully tested in a wind tunnel at the end of June, should cut the six-hour flight time from New York to Los Angeles in half. NASA proposes spending $390 million over five years to build the demo plane and test it over populated areas. The first year of funding is included in President Trump's 2018 budget proposal. Over the next decade, growth in air transportation and distances flown "will drive the demand for broadly available faster air travel," says Peter Coen, project manager for NASA's commercial supersonic research team. "That's going to make it possible for companies to offer competitive products in the future." NASA plans to share the technology resulting from the tests with U.S. plane makers, meaning a head start for the likes of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, and startups such as Boom Technology and billionaire Robert Bass's Aerion. [...] NASA is targeting a sound level of 60 to 65 A-weighted decibels (dBa), Coen says. That's about as loud as that luxury car on the highway or the background conversation in a busy restaurant. Iosifidis says that Lockheed's research shows the design can maintain that sound level at commercial size and his team's planned demo will be 94 feet long, have room for one pilot, fly as high as 55,000 feet, and run on one of the twin General Electric engines that power Boeing Co.'s F/A-18 fighter jet.
Transportation

People Are Complaining That Their New DJI Drones Are Falling Out of the Sky (qz.com) 90

An anonymous reader shares a report on Quartz: The DJI Spark, the smallest and most affordable consumer drone that the Chinese manufacturer has released, seems to be having flight problems that could have dangerous side-effects. On DJI's support forum, multiple users -- Quartz counted at least 14 separate complaints across two forum posts -- have reported that while they were flying, their Spark drones have switched off and fallen like rocks out of the sky. In some cases, the drones were close to the ground and were easy for their owners to retrieve and send diagnostic information to DJI, but in others, the drones crash landed in thick woods, or, in a couple of instances, in lakes. [...] It's not clear what caused these crashes -- some forum posters suggest some could've been user error, but others shared their drones' flight logs and showed nothing out of the ordinary had been happening before the crash. DJI told Quartz it was looking into the issues on the forums we uncovered. "DJI is aware of these reports and we are investigating to determine the causes," a spokesperson added.
Transportation

German Automakers Formed a Secret Cartel In the '90s To Collude On Diesel Emissions, Says Report (theverge.com) 195

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Last week, Der Spiegel published an explosive report alleging that the major German automakers formed a secret cartel in the 1990s to collude on diesel emissions. These companies, including Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche, and Daimler, met in secret working groups to discuss "the technology, costs, suppliers, and even the exhaust gas purification of its diesel vehicles," the German weekly reported. The meetings were disclosed to German competition officials in letters from VW and Daimler and viewed by Der Spiegel. The secret meetings "laid the basis" for the 2015 diesel emission cheating scandal, in which VW was caught installing secret software in more than half a million vehicles sold in the US that it used to fool exhaust emissions tests. The admission of cheating ultimately cost the automaker tens of billions of dollars in fines and legal fees, making it one of the most expensive corporate scandals in history.

Years earlier, VW participated in dozens of secret meetings with its competitors, involving over 200 employees in up to 60 working groups, on how to meet increasingly tough emissions criteria in diesel vehicles. The automakers may have colluded to fix prices of a diesel emission treatment called AdBlue through these working groups, Der Spiegel says. Specifically, VW (which owns Porsche and Audi), Daimler (which owns Mercedes-Benz and Smart), and BMW allegedly agreed to use AdBlue tanks that were too small. AdBlue is a liquid solution used to counteract a vehicle's emissions.

Books

United Airlines Claims TSA Banned Comic Books In Checked Luggage For Comic-Con, TSA Denies It (boardingarea.com) 107

schwit1 shares a report: San Diego Comic-Con has become so much more than just a comic book convention. But comic books remain the heart and soul of Comic-Con. In addition to attendees being there to buy comic books, vendors flock to Comic-Con to sell their comic books as well. That's why participants in Comic-Con were shocked to find a notice waiting for them at the San Diego airport after Comic-Con: "COMIC-CON ATTENDEES: REMOVE ALL BOOKS FROM CHECKED BAGS." On Twitter, United Airlines confirmed the ban: "The restriction on checking comic books applies to all airlines operating out of San Diego this weekend and is set by the TSA. ^MD" Consumerist reached out to TSA and were told by a spokeswoman that the warnings about not allowing comic books -- or any kind of book -- in checked bags were simply not true. There is "no restriction on anything related to putting comics or any type of books" in baggage, and TSA never put out any guidance to that effect, she said. "In fact, they are allowed in both checked and carry-on baggage," the spokeswoman told Consumerist, adding that there were no delays in the processing of checked bags out of San Diego yesterday.
Transportation

Uber Takes Inspiration From Its Indian Rival, Plans To Introduce an Infotainment System in Its Cars In the Country (ndtv.com) 20

Reader manishs writes: Uber is taking a page out of Ola's playbook as it pushes to expand business in India, its largest overseas market. Months after its Indian rival introduced its 'connected platform' called Ola Play, Uber is set to launch its own infotainment system across several of its cab tiers in the country, people familiar with the matter have told Gadgets 360. The company began testing its infotainment system -- an Android tablet that comes loaded with a range of services -- in select cities in the country earlier this year. The ride-hailing service now plans to install the tablet on several of its premium cabs including its Uber X fleet, and make it available for passengers in select circles later this year, people said. Uber has been inviting select drivers in New Delhi and other cities to install an HD screen-enabled tablet, according to a source and two drivers who spoke on the condition of anonymity. This is the first time Uber is planning to bring an actual tablet to its cabs in any of the markets where it operates. The company currently offers Uber Trip Experiences in select markets where it lets passengers consume a range of services using their own phone.
EU

Company Gets 45,000 Bad Facebook Reviews After Teenaged Hacker's Unjust Arrest (bleepingcomputer.com) 295

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Over 45,000 users have left one-star reviews on a company's Facebook page after the business reported a security researcher to police and had him arrested in the middle of the night instead of fixing a reported bug. The arrest took place this week in Hungary after an 18-year-old found a flaw in the online ticket-selling system of Budapesti Közlekedési Központ, Budapest's public transportation authority. The young man discovered that he could access BKK's website, press F12 to enter the browser's developer tools mode, and modify the page's source code to alter a ticket's price. Because there was no client or server-side validation put in place, the BKK system accepted the operation and issued a ticket at a smaller price...

The teenager -- who didn't want his name revealed -- reported the issue to BKK, but the organization chose to contact the police and file a complaint, accusing the young man of hacking their systems... BKK management made a fatal mistake when they brazenly boasted in a press conference about catching the hacker and declaring their systems "secure." Since then, other security flaws in BKK's system have surfaced on Twitter. As details of the case emerged, public outrage grew against BKK and its manager Kálmán Dabóczi, especially after it was revealed that BKK was paying around $1 million per year for maintenance of its IT systems, hacked in such a ludicrously simple manner.

United Kingdom

UK To Require Drone Registration And Safety Exams (bloomberg.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Drones will have to be registered and their users required to pass safety tests under new rules to be announced by the U.K.'s Department for Transport... Registration will be mandated for owners of drones 250 grams (8.8 ounces) or larger after research found that drones as small as 400 grams (14 ounces) could damage the windscreens of helicopters. Other security measures like "geo-fencing" -- GPS-based technology programmed into drones to prevent them from flying into sensitive areas such as prisons and airports -- are also under consideration, according to a statement from the department.
The BBC points out that "There is no time frame or firm plans as to how the new rules will be enforced and the Department of Transport admitted that 'the nuts and bolts still have to be ironed out.'"

"The UK government says 22 incidents involving commercial airliners and drones were investigated between January and April of this year," adds TechRadar, "with police unable to trace the owners of the drones -- one of the reasons for the new legislation."
Transportation

Lyft Launches a New Self-driving Division and Will Develop Its Own Autonomous Ride-hailing Technology (techcrunch.com) 56

An anonymous reader shares a report: Lyft is betting the future of the road centers on sharing autonomous vehicles. It aims to be at the forefront of that technology with a new self-driving division and a self-driving system car manufacturers could plug into their self-driving cars. The company expects to hire "hundreds" of people for the new division by the end of next year and has just signed a lease for 50,000-square-feet on the first floor of a Palo Alto facility where it plans to build out several labs and open testing spaces. The building Lyft refers to as "Level 5" will be developing its new "open self-driving platform" and a combination hardware and software system still in development. Lyft hopes auto manufacturers will then bring in a fleet of autonomous cars to its ride-hailing network. The plan is somewhat similar to one Uber announced earlier. Lyft's larger rival uses Volvo's XC90 to test its self-driving tech on the roads. Uber announced earlier this year it was also partnering with Daimler to operate self-driving cars on its network.
The Internet

Swedish Rail Firm Approves Trainy McTrainface As Name Following Online Poll (theguardian.com) 88

Those disappointed when Britain rejected the name Boaty McBoatface for a polar research ship should find joy in the name of a new train in Sweden. After a public vote, a Swedish rail operator has vowed to name one of its trains Trainy McTrainface. The Guardian reports: Trainy McTrainface won 49% of the votes in the naming competition, conducted online by train operator MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro, beating choices such as Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon. The train will run between the Swedish capital Stockholm and Gothenburg, the country's second-biggest city. MTR said another train had been voted to be named "Glenn," an apparent tribute to an IFK Gothenburg soccer team of the 1980s that featured four players of that name -- uncommon in Sweden -- including Glenn Hysen, who later captained Liverpool.
Transportation

Elon Musk Says He Has a Green Light To Build a NY-Philly-Baltimore-DC Hyperloop (theverge.com) 308

An anonymous reader shares a report:Elon Musk just tweeted that his Boring Company tunnel project has just received "verbal [government] approval" to build a hyperloop connecting New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. While we work to verify his claim, Musk is continuing to tweet more details about the project. The hyperloop, an ultrafast method of travel first developed by Musk in 2013, would only take 29 minutes to travel between New York City and DC, he claims. And it would feature "up to a dozen or more" access points via elevator in each city. Update: Eric Phillips, press secretary for the New York City mayor, tweeted, "This is news to City Hall," adding "The entirety of what we know about this proposal is what's in Mr. Musk's tweet. That is not how we evaluate projects of any scale."
United States

US Ends Controversial Laptop Ban On Flights From Middle East (theguardian.com) 79

The United States has ended a four-month ban on passengers carrying laptops onboard US-bound flights from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa, bringing to an end one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration. From a report: Riyadh's King Khalid international airport was the last of 10 airports to be exempted from the ban, the US department of homeland security (DHS) confirmed in a tweet late on Wednesday local time. Middle East carriers have blamed Trump's travel restrictions, which include banning citizens of some Muslim-majority countries from visiting the United States, for a downturn in demand on US routes. In March, the United States banned large electronics in cabins on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa over concerns that explosives could be concealed in the devices taken onboard aircraft. The ban has been lifted on the nine airlines affected -- Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Jordanian , Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc -- which are the only carriers to fly direct to the US from the region. A ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, -- remains in place, though has been limited after several US court hearings challenged the restrictions.

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