Government

Trump Signs Law Forcing Drone Users To Register With Government (thehill.com) 437

President Trump signed a sweeping defense policy bill into law on Tuesday that will allow the government to require recreational drone users to register their model aircraft. This comes after a federal court ruled in May that Americans no longer have to register non-commercial drones with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) "because Congress had said in a previous law that the FAA can't regulate model aircraft," reports The Hill. From the report: In December 2015, the FAA issued an interim rule requiring drone hobbyists to register their recreational aircraft with the agency. The rule -- which had not been formally finalized -- requires model aircraft owners to provide their name, email address and physical address; pay a $5 registration fee; and display a unique drone ID number at all times. Those who fail to comply could face civil and criminal penalties. While Congress directed the FAA to safely integrate drones into the national airspace in a 2012 aviation law, lawmakers also included a special exemption to prevent model aircraft from being regulated. A D.C.-based appeals court cited the 2012 law in its ruling striking down the FAA drone registry, arguing that recreational drones count as model aircraft and that the registry counts as a rule or regulation.
Transportation

Inside Faraday Future's Financial House of Cards (theverge.com) 44

Sean O'Kane, reporting for The Verge: When Faraday Future emerged from stealth mode in 2015, it promised to transform the car industry with an American-made luxury electric vehicle that would someday be fully autonomous, maybe even sold through a subscription service. As we learned at CES 2017, the company was taking aim at Tesla with a car -- the FF91 -- that was designed to dazzle, with a 0-60 time of 2.4 seconds as jaw-dropping as the proposed $180,000 price tag. Since then, though, Faraday Future has been more focused on survival than speed. The Verge has learned from multiple sources about the nature of the company's financial plight. While Faraday Future posed as the newest California electric car startup that attracted top auto industry talent, 10 former employees and one person close to the company say the behavior and business practices of its chief investor have brought business to a halt. Also read: Everything wrong with Faraday Future's "Tesla killer"
Power

China Has Launched the World's First All-Electric Cargo Ship (futurism.com) 150

slash.jit writes: China has launched the world's first all-electric cargo ship. It can travel 80 kilometers (approximately 50 miles) after being charged for 2 hours. As noted by Clean Technica, 2 hours is roughly the amount of time it would take to unload the ship's cargo while docked. Oh...and Ironically, the world's first all-electric cargo ship is being used to move coal.
China Daily reports that the 230 foot long vessel is equipped with a 2,400 kWh lithium-ion battery, a cheaper and cleaner power supply. And Clean Technica notes that that battery is comprised of 1,000 individual lithium-ion packs, while "Adding enough power to carry more cargo is simply a matter of adding more battery packs."
AI

Elon Musk Says Tesla Is Building Dedicated Chips For Autopilot (theregister.co.uk) 32

Elon Musk says Tesla is developing its own chip to run the Autopilot system in future vehicles from the firm. The news was revealed at a Tesla party that took place at the intelligence conference NIPS. Attendees at the party told The Register that Musk said, "I wanted to make it clear that Tesla is serious about AI, both on the software and hardware fronts. We are developing custom AI hardware chips." From the report: Musk offered no details of his company's plans, but did tell the party that "Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world." "Jim" is Jim Keller, a well-known chip engineer who was lead architect on a range of silicon at AMD and Apple and joined Tesla in 2016. Keller later joined Musk on a panel discussing AI at the Tesla Party alongside Andrej Karpathy, Tesla's Director of AI and chaired by Shivon Zilis, a partner and founding member at Bloomberg Beta, a VC firm. Musk is well known for his optimism about driverless cars and pessimism about whether AI can operate safely. At the party he voiced a belief that "about half of new cars built ten years from now will be autonomous." He added his opinion that artificial general intelligence (AGI) will arrive in about seven or eight years.
Power

Airlines Restrict 'Smart Luggage' Over Fire Hazards Posed By Batteries (npr.org) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Airlines including American, Delta and Alaska have announced restrictions on so-called smart luggage because the lithium-ion batteries found in many of these suitcases pose a fire risk. "Beginning Jan. 15, customers who travel with a smart bag must be able to remove the battery in case the bag has to be checked at any point in the customer's journey. If the battery cannot be removed, the bag will not be allowed," American said in a statement on Friday. The same day, Delta and Alaska announced similar policies on their flights.

American's policy dictates that if the bag is carry-on size, passengers can take the luggage onboard, so long as the battery can be removed if needed. If passengers need to check the bag, the battery must be removed and carried onboard. But if the bag has a non-removable battery, it can't be checked or carried on. An FAA spokesman told The Washington Post that the airlines' policies are "consistent with our guidance that lithium-ion batteries should not be carried in the cargo hold."

It's funny.  Laugh.

Elon Musk Trolls the Media With a Clip From 'Spaceballs' (twitter.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk is having fun on Twitter, where he's either promoting the new line of $20 "Boring Company" hats or trolling the media. "To preserve the transcendent majesty & specialness of The Boring Company cap, we are capping cap orders at 50,000 caps," Musk tweeted Sunday, adding "Almost there ..." Responding to a user who asked, "Is this really how you're funding the boring company??" Musk answered "Yes."

An hour later he tweeted that "Every 5000th buyer of our boringly boring hat will get a free hat signed by the delivery guy. That special hat delivery will take place deep within the real, but fictional (of course), tunnel we are building under LA while you drive the giant machine blindfolded. This will actually happen."

And then hours later, Musk shared a fresh insight into his thought process. "The *real* money comes from merchandising," he tweeted, adding "I learned it from this documentary," sharing a video titled "merchandising" which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a clip from the 1987 comedy "Spaceballs" starring Mel Brooks.

Ironically, George Lucas had only blessed Mel Brooks' parody of Star Wars with one condition: that no Space Balls action figure merchandise ever be produced.
Transportation

Drone Pilot Arrested After Flying Over Two Stadiums, Dropping Leaflets (cbslocal.com) 108

"A man with an anti-media agenda was arrested in Oakland after he flew a drone over two different stadiums to drop leaflets" last Sunday, writes Slashdot reader execthis. A local CBS station reports: According to investigators, [55-year-old Tracy] Mapes piloted his drone over Levi's Stadium during the second quarter of the 49ers-Seattle game and released a load of pamphlets. He then quickly landed the drone, loaded it up and drove over to Oakland. He flew a similar mission over the Raiders-Broncos game. Santa Clara Police Lt. Dan Moreno said after Mapes was apprehended he defended the illegal action as a form of free speech.
USA Today reports there's now also an ongoing federal investigation "because the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits the flying of drones within five miles of an airport. Both Levi's Stadium and Oakland Coliseum are within that range."

"The San Francisco Chronicle added that the drone was a relatively ineffective messenger because 'most of the drone-dropped leaflets were carried away by the wind.'"
Power

Electric Cars Are Already Cheaper To Own and Run Than Petrol Or Diesel, Says Study (theguardian.com) 474

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Electric cars are already cheaper to own and run than petrol or diesel cars in the UK, US and Japan, new research shows. The lower cost is a key factor driving the rapid rise in electric car sales now underway, say the researchers. At the moment the cost is partly because of government support, but electric cars are expected to become the cheapest option without subsidies in a few years. The researchers analyzed the total cost of ownership of cars over four years, including the purchase price and depreciation, fuel, insurance, taxation and maintenance. They were surprised to find that pure electric cars came out cheapest in all the markets they examined: UK, Japan, Texas and California.

Pure electric cars have much lower fuel costs -- electricity is cheaper than petrol or diesel -- and maintenance costs, as the engines are simpler and help brake the car, saving on brake pads. In the UK, the annual cost was about 10% lower than for petrol or diesel cars in 2015, the latest year analyzed. Hybrid cars which cannot be plugged in and attract lower subsidies, were usually a little more expensive than petrol or diesel cars. Plug-in hybrids were found to be significantly more expensive -- buyers are effectively paying for two engines in one car, the researchers said. The exception in this case was Japan, where plug-in hybrids receive higher subsidies.
The study has been published in the journal Applied Energy.
Transportation

GM Says It Will Put Fleets of Self-Driving Cars In Cities In 2019 (detroitnews.com) 82

General Motors has laid out a plan to not only mass-deploy self-driving cars on public roads in 2019, but to do it profitably. "With a driverless ride-hailing service as its framework, GM is counting on cost reductions, advancements in autonomous technologies and growth of the ride-hailing market to enable a successful self-driving car launch in 2019," reports The Detroit News. From the report: The automaker is using the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt as its autonomous mule, dovetailing Thursday's autonomous projection with GM's earlier vow to roll out a profitable electric vehicle platform by 2021. "For GM to get the benefit they're looking for, they need these cars on the road at scale as soon as possible," said Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid. "With ride-hailing services, consumers are saved from sticker shock of how much an EV costs -- and the cost of automation in early years is going to be expensive, too." GM didn't say exactly where it plans to launch its driverless ride-hailing service, but identified "dense urban environments" in the presentation. The Detroit automaker's testbeds for the self-driving Bolt are in Warren, San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Transportation

Elon Musk's Boring Company Bids On Chicago Airport Transit Link (arstechnica.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Wednesday, the city of Chicago opened a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for an express train that would take passengers from the city's O'Hare airport to downtown. The system would have to be completely privately funded -- Chicago says no taxpayer money would be used for it. Elon Musk's Boring Company -- a tunneling company that the SpaceX and Tesla CEO started last year -- will respond to the request. Musk hopes to get to the second round when bidding will take place. On Wednesday evening, he tweeted that his company "will compete to fund, build & operate a high-speed Loop connecting Chicago O'Hare Airport to downtown."

Musk's reference to a "Loop" is explained more clearly on The Boring Company's FAQ page: "Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers (mass transit), or a single passenger vehicle." Unlike Musk's idea for a Hyperloop, a Loop won't draw a vacuum. "For shorter routes, there is no technical need to eliminate air friction," The Boring Company states. The company also clarifies the concept of an "electric skate:" that is "a platform on wheels propelled by multiple electric motors." The platform would operate autonomously without a rail or rails to which the skate would connect. The skate would operate in the tunnel's main artery, and it would enter and exit from side tunnels. With this system, The Boring Company says, the skate's average speed would theoretically be able to operate close to maximum speed.

Bug

American Airlines Accidentally Let Too Many Pilots Take Off The Holidays (npr.org) 200

A glitch in American Airlines' pilot scheduling system means that thousands of flights during the holiday season currently do not have pilots assigned to fly them. From a report: The shortage was caused by an error in the system pilots use to bid for time off, the Allied Pilots Association told NPR. The union represents the airline's 15,000 pilots. "The airline is a 24/7 op," union spokesman Dennis Tajer told CNBC. "The system went from responsibly scheduling everybody to becoming Santa Claus to everyone." "The computer said, 'Hey ya'll. You want the days off? You got it.'"
Businesses

Uber Trained Employees on How To 'Impede, Obstruct or Influence' Ongoing Legal Investigations, Ex-employee Says (cnbc.com) 62

From a report on CNBC: Uber faced fresh allegations on Tuesday that it deliberately took steps to keep " unlawful schemes from seeing the light of day." Hours of testimony on Tuesday centered around a letter from a former Uber security analyst's attorney to an Uber lawyer. The former analyst, Richard Jacobs, said in the letter there was a directive for Uber employees to use disappearing chat apps like Wickr, and that Uber sent employees to Pittsburgh (where it's developing its autonomous vehicles) to "educate" them on how to prevent "Uber's unlawful schemes from seeing the light of day." He reportedly made other bombshell allegations in the letter, including that employees at Uber were trained to "impede" ongoing investigations, multiple media outlets reported.
Transportation

Firms Team Up On Hybrid Electric Plane Technology (bbc.com) 111

An anonymous reader shares a report: Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are to develop hybrid electric engine plane technology as part of a push towards cleaner aviation. The E-Fan X programme will first put an electric engine with three jet engines on a BAe 146 aircraft. The firms want to fly a demonstrator version of the plane by 2020, with a commercial application by 2030. Firms are racing to develop electric engines for planes after pressure from the EU to cut aviation pollution. Each of the partners in the programme will be investing tens of millions of pounds, they said on a press call. The firms are developing hybrid technology because fully electric commercial flights are currently out of reach, a spokeswoman said.
Power

Is Elon Musk Greatly Exaggerating Tesla's Battery Technology? (bloomberg.com) 266

"Tesla's newest promises break the laws of batteries," writes Bloomberg. Long-time Slashdot reader rudy_wayne summarizes their report. "Elon Musk knows how to make promises. Even by his own standards, the promises made last week while introducing two new Tesla vehicles...are monuments of envelope pushing. To deliver, according to close observers of battery technology, Tesla would have to far exceed what is currently thought possible." The Tesla Semi, which Musk claims can haul 80,000 pounds at highway speeds for 500 miles, then recharge 400 miles of range in 30 minutes, would require "a charging system that's 10 times more powerful than one of the fastest battery-charging networks on the road today -- Tesla's own Superchargers."

The Tesla Roadster is promised to be the quickest production car ever built. But that achievement would mean squeezing into its tiny frame a battery twice as powerful as the largest battery currently available in any electric car. These claims are so far beyond current industry standards for electric vehicles that they would require either advances in battery technology or a new understanding of how batteries are put to use, said Sam Jaffe, battery analyst for Cairn Energy Research in Boulder, Colorado.

But Jaffe reaches an interesting conclusion. "I don't think they're lying. I just think they left something out of the public reveal that would have explained how these numbers work."
The Almighty Buck

Tesla's Electric Semi Trucks Are Priced To Compete At $150,000 (theverge.com) 189

Last week, Tesla unveiled its new four-motor electric Semi but left out one key detail -- the price. "Now that's changed: the regular versions of the 300-mile and the 500-mile trucks will cost $150,000 and $180,000 each," reports The Verge. "There is also a 'Founders Series' which will cost $200,000 per truck." Tesla does note that the prices are "expected" leaving the company some wiggle room on the final pricing. From the report: If those prices and specs stick then Tesla has a potentially disruptive offering with Semi. Most long-haul diesel trucks are priced around $120,000 and cost tens of thousands of dollars to operate each year. Tesla claims its all-electric Semi will provide more than $200,000 in fuel savings alone over the lifespan of the truck.
Businesses

Singapore To Use Driverless Buses 'From 2022' (bbc.com) 42

Singapore plans to introduce driverless buses on its public roads by 2022. From a report: The government says they will be piloted in three new neighbourhoods which will have less-crowded roads designed to accommodate the buses. The buses will be used to help residents travel in their communities, and to nearby train and bus stations. Densely-populated Singapore hopes driverless technology will help the country manage its land constraints and manpower shortages. "The autonomous vehicles will greatly enhance the accessibility and connectivity of our public transport system, particularly for the elderly, families with young children and the less mobile," the Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said. The autonomous buses are expected to complement existing manned bus services, and will initially operate during off-peak hours. Additionally, the government plans to let commuters hail on-demand shuttles using their mobile phones.
Transportation

Uber Fined $8.9 Million In Colorado For Allowing Drivers With Felonies, Motor Violations To Work (jalopnik.com) 108

Uber has been fined by a Colorado regulator on Monday for nearly $9 million, after an investigation revealed that 57 people with criminal and motor vehicle offenses were allowed to drive with the ride-hailing company. Jalopnik reports: States across the U.S. have been considering laws to require additional background checks for individuals who drive for Uber and competitors like Lyft. In Colorado, the state's Public Utilities Commission investigated the company's drivers after an incident this past March, reported The Denver Post, when a driver dragged a passenger out of a car and kicked them in the face. The commission said it found 57 drivers had issues that should've disqualified them from driving for Uber, including felony convictions for driving under the influence and reckless driving, while others had revoked, suspended or canceled licenses. A similar investigation was conducted on Lyft, the Post reported, but no violations were revealed. An Uber spokesperson said the situation stems from a "process error" that was "inconsistent with Colorado's ridesharing regulations." The spokesperson said Uber "proactively notified" the commission. "This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action," the company said in a statement to the Post. "Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third-party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans."
Transportation

Uber Expands Driverless-Car Push With Deal For 24,000 Volvos (bloomberg.com) 176

Uber agreed to buy 24,000 sport utility vehicles from Volvo to form a fleet of driverless autos. According to Bloomberg, "The XC90s, priced from $46,900 at U.S. dealers, will be delivered from 2019 to 2021 in the first commercial purchase by a ride-hailing provider." Uber will add its own sensors and software to permit pilot-less driving. From the report: Uber's order steps up efforts to replace human drivers, the biggest cost in its on-demand taxi service. The autonomous fleet is small compared with the more than 2 million people who drive for Uber but reflects dedication to the company's strategy of developing self-driving cars. "This new agreement puts us on a path toward mass-produced, self-driving vehicles at scale," Jeff Miller, Uber's head of auto alliances, told Bloomberg News. "The more people working on the problem, we'll get there faster and with better, safer, more reliable systems."
Transportation

DJI Threatens Researcher Who Reported Exposed Cert Key, Credentials, and Customer Data (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: DJI, the Chinese company that manufactures the popular Phantom brand of consumer quadcopter drones, was informed in September that developers had left the private keys for both the "wildcard" certificate for all the company's Web domains and the keys to cloud storage accounts on Amazon Web Services exposed publicly in code posted to GitHub. Using the data, researcher Kevin Finisterre was able to access flight log data and images uploaded by DJI customers, including photos of government IDs, drivers licenses, and passports. Some of the data included flight logs from accounts associated with government and military domains.

Finisterre found the security error after beginning to probe DJI's systems under DJI's bug bounty program, which was announced in August. But as Finisterre worked to document the bug with the company, he got increasing pushback -- including a threat of charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. DJI refused to offer any protection against legal action in the company's "final offer" for the data. So Finisterre dropped out of the program and published his findings publicly yesterday, along with a narrative entitled, "Why I walked away from $30,000 of DJI bounty money."

The company says they're now investigating "unauthorized access of one of DJI's servers containing personal information," adding that "the hacker in question" refused to agree to their terms and shared "confidential communications with DJI employees."
Businesses

Walmart Says It's Preordered 15 of Tesla' New Semi Trucks (theverge.com) 179

Soon after Tesla unveiled its new electric Semi Truck and Roadster 2.0, Walmart says it has preordered 15 of the trucks. The Verge notes that the deal was "likely in the works before Tesla unveiled its new truck to the public." From the report: The pilot is planned for the U.S. and Canada. Five of the preordered vehicles will be for Walmart's U.S. business, and 10 will be for its Canadian routes, the company said. Walmart's fleet has about 6,000 trucks. "We have a long history of testing new technology -- including alternative-fuel trucks -- and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle," the company said in a statement. "We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions." Musk said the truck would enter production in 2019. JB Hunt Transport Services, a 56-year-old company based in Arkansas, also reserved "multiple" new Tesla trucks as well.

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