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Comment Re:Remove the artificial monopoly (Score 3, Insightful) 299

Do you really want pig farms to move in next to you? How about a slaughterhouse?

Farming isn't all beautiful waves of grain and rolling meadows with horses frolicking. Some things need to be out in the middle of nowhere. But those places also need to be connected to the rest of the country.

Since a pig farm or a slaughterhouse needs to be in the middle of nowhere, why not make the pig farm or slaughter house pay the increased cost of providing mail delivery? Since nearly all pig farms and slaughterhouses need to be in the middle of nowhere, no one pig farm or slaughterhouse is put at a disadvantage by paying higher postage. The higher costs are simply passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices instead of higher postage.

Note that I'm not suggesting that the USPS stop providing mail service to isolated areas (which would almost certainly be the effect of removing the USPS's limited monopoly), but charging most customers in rural areas the true cost of providing mail delivery. To the extent that some customers might not be able to afford the true cost of their mail delivery, it might be better to subsidize their relocation to other areas rather than continuing to subsidize services.

Comment Re:Remove the artificial monopoly (Score 1) 299

Also as far as USPS is concerned, a county made up mostly of farms that sees 15 pieces of legitimate mail a month is not worth their time. But when those 15 pieces of legitimate mail are vital to our food supply...

So why not make those farmers in the middle of nowhere pay for the costs of delivering their mail (and of providing other government services to isolated areas)? If, without the various subsidies, they can no longer afford to farm that land, we should encourage them to relocate and farm other land where government services can be more easily provided. It might be better to pay the farmers' costs to relocate to a place where they can farm more efficiently than to continue subsidize their costs to run a farm in the middle of nowhere.

Comment Re:Networking? Bad idea... (Score 2, Informative) 423

What this patent fails to account for is that starting up the car results in increased fuel consumption for the short period while the engine attains running speed. Short period, though, but multiply it by the number of signals in an average city, and it might just come out that this actually increases sum consumption.

Keep in mind that a number of automakers are developing "stop-start" systems for their future models. Cars equipped with these systems will shut off the engine automatically after a period of stationary idling and restart the engine automatically when the driver steps on the gas. Unlike most current vehicles, where the driver must stop the engine manually, these systems only stop the engine when it is expected to save fuel. Further, the power-train is designed to restart immediately once the driver presses the gas pedal (either with a starter-alternator or by stopping the engine with one cylinder compressed and ready-to-fire).

Traffic signals that inform the vehicle of the amount of time before the next green phase can make these systems more efficient since it will allow the vehicle to determine whether it is likely to be stationary for long enough to save fuel by stopping the engine.

Also, I'd like to draw your attention to a post detailing just what can happen if we introduce networking into cars. And this is even made easier by the forced standards needed for this project to work...

IMHO...there are three problems noted in the paper: A challenge-response mechanism that is easily brute-forced, CAN nodes which fail to properly implement the challenge-response security mechanism, and CAN nodes which fail to do proper sanity checking before accepting commands via the debugging protocol. None of these issues are made worse by installing a traffic-light receiver.

Comment Re:Why fly by wire? (Score 1) 276

Pots? That's mid 20th century technology. I'd be very surprised if they didn't use optical encoders.

May throttle-by-wire systems do, in fact, use potentiometers. Others use hall effect or inductive sensors to avoid the wear-out issues pots can suffer from (think noisy volume controls). IIRC, the CTS pedals involved in the recent Toyota recalls are in inductive sensor design. I'm not aware of any vehicle which uses an encoder (optical or mechanical) to sense pedal position.

Comment Re:Is the Toyoto problem electromechanical (Score 1) 750

The gas pedal has to be connected to a position encoder...suppose there is an intermittant connection in a readhead for a track. Then all hell can break loose. If the fault is in a bad place, the encoder can indicate full pedal to the floor. -- Sudden acceleration.

All "electronic throttle control" gas pedals contain multiple position sensors (at least in the US). If the sensors indicate different pedal positions, or if any sensor indicates an invalid pedal position, the engine computer will generally force the engine to idle. Obviously there are failure modes which can cause all of the sensors to indicate the same incorrect pedal position, but these are generally mechanical failures (for example CTS's sicky friction mechanism) rather than sensor failures or software bugs.

Keep in mind that Toyota's problem could have happened even with a mechanical linkage between the accelerator pedal and the throttle body.

Comment Re:United Kingdom (Score 1) 762

There are certain categories of product in the UK that Amazon must charge VAT and then pay that to the Gov; if they can do it here - and elsewhere in Europe - why not in the US?

From a technical (as opposed to a legal standpoint) the problem is that both the sales tax rate and the types of products to which the sales tax applies is set individually by each state, and in some cases, by individual cities or counties. According to wikipedia, Michigan charges a 6% sales tax on books, but no sales on magazines, while Texas exempts "school supplies" from its 6.25% to 8.25% sales tax (rate depends on the location) one weekend each year.

Comment Re:Not sure how reliable wireless will be (Score 1) 496

Right now activity is so low that radio is breaking down (nothing to bounce off of). But in the future, activity will be much higher and interfere in the other direction.

WLAN's use frequencies around 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Under best case conditions, the ionosphere can only reflect radio waves with frequencies below 250 MHz. WLAN signals simple aren't going to refract off of the ionosphere regardless of solar activity.

Even if some freak of nature allowed the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz signals to refract off the lower layers of the ionosphere, the minimum path length (from the ground, straight up to the D-layer, and back to the ground) is around 100 km.

Comment Re:not the solution (Score 1) 585

If you don't have the IPass, you have to take something that almost looks like an exit ramp and either throw some coins in a machine or give money to an actual human.

I visited Chicago right after they went to open-road tolling, and it was a royal pain in the neck because the exits to the toll plazas were only signed about a quarter mile before the ramp. I probably missed half of them simply because I couldn't get through 2-5 lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic to reach the toll plaza. Of course, since the car I was driving was registered to my out-of-state employer, I never saw any kind of a bill for the toll/fines/etc.

I think the open road tolling is great, but they need to pay some attention to making the tolls easy to pay for visitors who don't have the transponder. Snapping a picture of the plate and sending a bill doesn't sound like that bad of an idea.

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