Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Comment Re: LMFTFY (Score 1) 133

Muller has had computers he could fly since 1980.

Even the low powered mobile/embedded computers we had from ten years ago were not really fast enough to incorporate a lot of sensor data and perform extensive autonomous functions. We aren't talking about the small rack of computers you could put on a jumbo jet, or even in a car, or the small embedded computers you would put on a missile that could incorporate one sensor or two with simple instructions. What we have now is a capability to have small embedded or low power computers that can have millions of lines of code and do much more of the real time sensor processing needed to keep a small uav or small VTOL stable during dynamic near ground and cross wind conditions. And we also have an open source software community around autonomous drones and robotics that could be leveraged for control systems for small VTOL.

Comment Re:LMFTFY (Score 1) 133

Just as soon as the Moller Skycar is ready. It'll be real soon now, right? He's only been working on it for about 50 years.

Moller ran up against the problem of not wanting to get test pilots killed, and the FAA not wanting to get test pilots killed... but strap in a lightweight laptop that can autonomously stabilize the vehicle during testing while you have a pilot on the ground directing it where to go and you should be able to make faster progress than Moller ever could with periodic tethered flights from a crane and a human test pilot.

Comment Re:The poor economics of flying cars (Score 1) 133

The biggest mistake people make, is thinking, if technology X was tested and it failed. that in 50 years with new technology and materials it will still fail.

The problem with making a flying car isn't really the technology. We've known how to make a VTOL aircraft for a long time now. The showstopper is the economics of it.

Yes, it is the technology... new technology is what makes the economics work or not work. Successful new technology has always been about making the economics work. Lighter stronger materials..... lighter more powerful engines and motors, denser energy storage in batteries, along with lighter more powerful and more energy efficient computers necessary for controlling all those systems in a more dynamic vertical take off flight mode. I am not saying the economics will work, or that it could be made affordable for large numbers of people, but it is certainly a lot closer to working than it was ten or twenty years ago.

And even if the economics only work for the wealthy, then that still could mean a better overall transportation system with less pressure on existing infrastructure if we take some people off the roads.

Certainly worth some speculative R&D and it is worth support from NASA and regulatory support from the FAA.

Comment Re:Totally. (Score 1) 122

If terrorists hack emails of White House Office staff and get such sensitive information we will see the fall of our country."

Yeah, I totally believe you're an American. Totally. Look, this is my not-being-sarcastic face.

Regardless, our national security is built on the stronger foundation of common purpose of Liberty and democracy and not merely the ability of our government officials to keep secrets from us and our enemies.

Sure there are some things that should be secret to keep people safer and which allows our government and military to operate without adversaries knowing their every move. But our national security must be stronger than secrets.

Comment Winning small is better than losing big. (Score 1) 429

I think they want to take it all the way up to the Supreme Court, no half-measures.

So they want to lose big and take our Liberty with them? Thanks a lot?

Better to at least establish through practice the right to distribute these technical plans to Americans with the least possible amount of red tape (a EULA checkbox before download that says you are a US Citizen or Resident and will not export to citizens of other countries) and then fight for reasonable regulations on export. They should do this now, on their website, right now if they are at all serious about this issue.

The courts are not going to accept a prior restraint argument if there is not even the slightest care or check on whether the files are being requested by foreign sources.

Encryption was hard enough and technically web browsers and other software with encryption could still be export controlled, but actual weapon plans and schematics are going to be a bridge too far. And at least with encryption software there was a letter of the law attempt to comply export regulations. The court is going to have little appetite to go into the degree of lethality of the weapons in question to establish some higher threshold for exporting weapon plans abroad.

This case is overreach with all risk with the only hope being that the courts rule against this case more narrowly to allow them to fall back on the methods and procedures for export control that I suggest be applied.

Instead of establishing a file sharing community where amateur gunsmiths were actually sharing plans and making improvements to weapon designs and making some responsible efforts to make sure that people posing as foreign nationals at a time of ISIS weren't given weapon designs, this entire effort has been an immature attempt to put the cart before the horse that has been destructive of efforts to maintain 2nd amendment rights.

Somebody else please set up a marketplace for pistol, rifle and shotgun designs and schematics, put up the EULA to keep out foreign nationals and let's give them attention and praise for actually furthering the science, art and engineering of pistol, shotgun, and rifle design. And if that new website is sent some cease and desist letters threatening them, then let's support them, because then at least we can possibly win and protect the essence of the 2nd amendment which protects Americans right to keep and bear arms, not the rights of people in other countries.

Comment Complying doesn't prevent distribution within US (Score 2) 429

Yes it is ridiculous, but it is also trivial to comply and legally make those plans available to 300 million Americans. Just label the files with the appropriate export control warnings and have down-loaders agree to the restrictions via the type of click through legal agreement that many software downloads have.

We went through this with encryption software and even web browsers that supported https... ITAR could have broken the Internet except people figured out how to comply and in their compliance show how silly the regulations actually were. The criminal act is in actually sending the files to a foreigner. So you just need to have someone state they are a US citizen and they agree not to export the files to a non-US citizen. Keep a log of downloads in case any downloader chooses to commit fraud and makes an unauthorized download.

Just comply with the bare requirements and then fight on the stronger grounds that the legal restrictions don't actually de facto prevent export, but that further restrictions on publication and distribution would indeed prevent the lawful distribution of the files to American citizens.

Comment Re:"Activist" judges? (Score 1) 429

TWO constitutional rights. The first and second amendments are both violated by this ruling.


Ya, but all Defense Distributed had to do was put a warning label on it that says it was export controlled and then to have people that downloaded the plans click yes that they are American citizens or green card holders and agree not to export it. Those agreements have been held to be legally binding.

Export control law covers a wide range of unclassified, but technical data regarding weapons or things that could have dual use even. The courts aren't going to put the entire export control regime in jeopardy because a guy doesn't want to label his files and have people agree to not redistribute the technical plans.

Defense Distributed took the most extreme legal stance and lost.

Comment Re:Asinine. (Score 1) 429

Mod up.

I recall very well when web browsers that supported encryption were export controlled. Maybe they still are, who knows and who cares? The point is that it is trivial to exclude foreign IP address ranges from downloading the material, to have someone click something that says they won't re-distribute the material internationally and have the files marked with a warning that says they are export controlled. Then you are in compliance with export control regulations and still making the material available to 300 million Americans.

Defense Distributed keeps going into these fights, picking these fights, choosing the most extremely unlikely legal defense and now obviously failing... if they are really serious then it is time to put the plans back online with the appropriate trivial safeguards against export.

Just like they did with web browsers and other commercial and open source software with encryption back when they were export controlled in the 1990s.

Comment Re:Don't blame the courts. (Score 1) 222

Blame North Carolina for passing a bad law. The courts did no more than affirm the states' right to regulate their municipalities.

While you're at it, blame Wilson for overreaching. They could have made a case for installing basic infrastructure (fiber optic cable, no different than roads) and then leasing it by the strand to individuals and businesses to connect to the Internet provider of their choice. And invited providers to enter the market and compete, now with the ease-of-entry facilitated by last-mile infrastructure. Instead they made the same bad decision most municipalities make: run a municipal Internet service with no direct access to the cable for other purposes.

Yes, this was a technical decision about the ability of states to tell municipalities what they could and could not do... Courts basically treat municipalities of a subdivision of the states, so state law and state regulations always take precedence. It is a legal no-brainer.

But for every bureaucratic decision there is usually some other bureaucratic way around it. For municipalities trying to promote local Internet Service there seem like a dozen different ways to do it. Just set up a non-profit, give it some grants to get started, loan guarantees, etc. Then it is no longer a municipal utility, but a private corporation with all the rights that have been won through the lobbying of the big private corporations.

Comment Re:Quick progress (Score 1) 239

No your just being obtuse for arguments sake. A driver isn't a driver if they aren't driving. Calling them a driver is to fulfill a current regulatory requirement to have a driver... so you are arguing a chicken and an egg. They had to have someone called a driver even if they weren't driving because they required a driver.

That Tesla driver I say reading a book at the wheel certainly wasn't "driving" in any meaningful sense of the word... he was merely at the wheel... ready, sort of. Yes, that is just highway driving, but it is fully autonomous highway driving from a technical standpoint... just not a legal one yet.

There is a big difference between computational power now and even just 5 years ago. With more computer power you get better image recognition in a variety of conditions. What took 8 seconds to identify a road sign on a laptop 5 or ten years ago takes 20 ms.

Sure you could autonomously drive decades ago with a truck full of computer hardware or do simple things with proximity sensors, but the envelope of capabilities is clearly getting a lot bigger and the affordability has come down well under the $100k range for a fully autonomous capable platform.

Comment Quick progress (Score 1) 239

2004 Nobody won the DARPA grand challenge... no car completed the course.

2005 5 vehicles completed the course.

2007 they switched to an urban course having to obey the rules of the road and six teams finished the course.

That is rapid progress.

From 2007 to 2016 we have seen pretty steady progress with commercially available features for things like automatic parking, automated braking and collision avoidance, widespread use of GPS navigation (via smartphones and built-in) and more recently the fully autonomous highway driving from Tesla (yes I've seen the people reading books while "at the wheel").

And Google has been pretty open in their fully autonomous car project with two different cars one based on an off the shelf lexus and another custom built electric vehicle: 1.5 million miles driven and "currently out on the streets of Mountain View, CA, Austin, TX, Kirkland, WA and Metro Phoenix, AZ"

And we are seeing Uber's autonomous efforts play out in Pittsburgh. Multiple companies, multiple projects, multiple on-street implementations that are getting better and better.

Google wants to ditch the steering wheel altogether and it was California regulations that held them back a few years.

Comment Re:Excellent! (Score 1) 239

A few of your points are somewhat absurd. Having an observer in the car is irrelevant to whether the car is actually driving autonomously or not... if the car is driving from point A to point B without a human actually driving then it is autonomous. Having someone ready to take over if the car fails is a precaution. From everything I have read the Uber cars are autonomous. So are the Google cars and there are some articles about other companies testing cars on city streets around the world.

And this whole "perfect" conditions idea makes no sense. When are road conditions ever perfect? You mean sunny California? Still these are public roads and not closed tracks we are talking about. These vehicles are being driven for hundreds of thousands of miles on a variety of roads and a variety of conditions.

Heck, if I recall, the DARPA grand challenge was partially on a dirt road and that was ten years ago.

Comment Re:Excellent! (Score 2) 239

This is one of the things needed to get this technology legal and on the road.

Before getting this technology legal and on the road, perhaps we should focus on getting this technology? For the last five years I've been hearing that "Self-driving cars are here already", but sadly they aren't.

Okay now they are here.

Where? I see driver-assist cars, but no self-driving cars.

You mean available to purchase by consumers? Okay, not yet. But Uber is rolling out commercial service using self driving cars right now and multiple companies apparently have fully autonomous vehicles on the public roads now. And acedemic/research teams have had fully self driving cars for at least ten years.

At least the Uber example has to be considered as commercial availability since this is one of the ways companies will offer self driving cars to the public, on a per trip basis. They are here.

Comment To Hell with smart roads (Score 1) 239

We absolutely do not need smart roads. No. Smart roads with sensors all over the place are the opposite of what we need and will delay the adoption of autonomous vehicles if they become the focus of adoption or some sort of prerequisite. Not now and maybe not ever.

We need autonomous cars that are good at driving on dumb roads because dumb and sometimes poorly maintained roads are what the majority of roads will always be. Only after we have a good portion of the cars autonomous should we even begin to explore the need for further efficiencies that could be gained by integrating other data sources or subscribing to centralized route planning and coordination. Let the companies offer their own route planning and construction/incident avoidance solutions rather than make it part of any "smart road" centralized initiative. It isn't a safety issue.

The government should be focused on traditional roles of fixing potholes, maintaining the roads and maintaining line markings and appropriate signage for the benefit of both human and computer drivers.

Congestion tolls and taxes are another thing, but the solution is to just offer that data to whichever vendors want to subscribe to updates so that their systems can have the information and make appropriate driving plans based on passenger cost/time preferences.

Comment Re:Excellent! (Score 1) 239

This is one of the things needed to get this technology legal and on the road.

Before getting this technology legal and on the road, perhaps we should focus on getting this technology? For the last five years I've been hearing that "Self-driving cars are here already", but sadly they aren't.

Okay now they are here.

Slashdot Top Deals

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.