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Transportation

Questioning The Privacy Policies Of Data-Collecting Cars (autoblog.com) 83

Remember when Vizio's televisions started collecting data about what shows people were watching? One transportation reporter is more worried about all the data being collected by cars. schwit1 quotes Autoblog: Nowadays, auto manufacturers seem to be tripping over each other pointing out that they offer Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. And more recent phenomenon are announcements -- from companies including Ford and Hyundai -- that they are offering Amazon Alexa capabilities. You talk. It listens... Here's the thing. While it may seem appealing to have all manner of connectivity in cars, there is the other side of that. Without getting all tinfoil hat about this, when your TV set is ratting you out, isn't it likely that your car will? It drives. And watches. And listens. And collects data...
That data could be shared with everyone from auto insurers and advertisers to law enforcement officials and divorce attorneys. But the real problem may be consumers assuming strong privacy protections that don't actually exist. The article argues that GM's privacy policy "is like most privacy policies, which boils down to: You use it (the device, software, etc.), you potentially give up a portion of your privacy."
Transportation

'Uber Is Doomed', Argues Transportation Reporter (jalopnik.com) 316

When an Uber self-driving car ran a red light last year, they blamed and suspended the car's driver, even though it was the car's software that malfunctioned, according to two former employees, ultimately causing Uber cars to run six different red lights. But technical issues may be only the beginning. An anonymous reader writes: Jalopnik points out that in 2016 Uber "burned through more than $2 billion, amid findings that rider fares only cover roughly 40% of a ride, with the remainder subsidized by venture capitalists" (covering even less than the fares of government-subsidized mass transit systems). So despite Google's lawsuit and other recent bad publicity, "even when those factors are removed, it's becoming more evident that Uber will collapse on its own."

Their long analysis argues that the problems are already becoming apparent. "Uber, which didn't respond to questions from Jalopnik about its viability, recently paid $20 million to settle claims that it grossly misled how much drivers could earn on Craigslist ads. The company's explosive growth also fundamentally required it to begin offering subprime auto loans to prospective drivers without a vehicle."

Last month transportation industry analyst Hubert Horan calculated that Uber Global's losses have been "substantially greater than any venture capital-funded startup in history."
Hardware Hacking

Open Source Car-Hacking Tool Successfully Crowdfunded (kickstarter.com) 54

An anonymous reader writes: Two geeks are crowdfunding an open source car hacking tool that will allow builders to experiment with diagnostics, telematics, security, and prototyping. "Cars have become complicated and expensive to work with," they explain on a Kickstarter page. "Macchina wants to use open source hardware to help break down these barriers and get people tinkering with their cars again." After years developing a beta prototype, they announced a tiny plug-and-play device/development platform (that can also be hardwired under the hood) on an Arduino Due board with a 32-bit ARM microcontroller. They almost immediately reached their $25,000 funding goal, and with 24 days left to go they've already raised $41,672, and they're now also selling t-shirts to benefit the EFF's "Right to Repair" activism.

Challenging "the closed, unpublished nature of modern-day car computers," their M2 device ships with protocols and libraries "to work with any car that isn't older than Google." With catchy slogans like "root your ride" and "the future is open," they're hoping to build a car-hacking developer community, and they're already touting the involvement of Craig Smith, the author of the Car Hacker's Handbook from No Starch Press.

"The one thing that all car hobbyists can agree on is that playing with cars isn't cheap," argues the campaign page. "Open source hardware is the answer!"
Transportation

Did Silicon Valley Lose The Race To Build Self-Driving Cars? (autoblog.com) 126

schwit1 quotes Autoblog: Up until very recently the talk in Silicon Valley was about how the tech industry was going to broom Detroit into the dustbin of history. Companies such as Apple, Google, and Uber -- so the thinking went -- were going to out run, out gun, and out innovate the automakers. Today that talk is starting to fade. There's a dawning realization that maybe there's a good reason why the traditional car companies have been around for more than a century.

Last year Apple laid off most of the engineers it hired to design its own car. Google (now Waymo) stopped talking about making its own car. And Uber, despite its sky high market valuation, is still a long, long way from ever making any money, much less making its own autonomous cars. To paraphrase Elon Musk, Silicon Valley is learning that "Making rockets is hard, but making cars is really hard."

The article argues the big auto-makers launched "vigorous in-house autonomous programs" which became fully competitive with Silicon Valley's efforts, and that Silicon Valley may have a larger role crunching the data that's collected from self-driving cars. "Last year in the U.S. market alone Chevrolet collected 4,220 terabytes of data from customer's cars... Retailers, advertisers, marketers, product planners, financial analysts, government agencies, and so many others will eagerly pay to get access to that information."
Transportation

FAA Warns More Drones Are Flying Near Airports (fortune.com) 52

Between February and September of 2016, there were 1,274 reports of drones near airports -- versus just 874 for the same period in 2015, according to newly-released FAA research. "The report detailed more than 1,200 incidents of airplane pilots, law enforcement, air traffic controllers, and U.S. citizens reporting drones flying in places they shouldn't," writes Fortune. An anonymous reader quotes their report: One of takeaway of the report was that while the FAA has received several reports from pilots that drones may have hit their aircraft, the administration was unable to verify any such claim. "Every investigation has found the reported collisions were either birds, impact with other items such as wires and posts, or structural failure not related to colliding with an unmanned aircraft," the FAA said in a statement... Although a drone hasn't smashed into an airplane yet, the FAA "wants to send a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal. Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time," the FAA said.
Businesses

Boeing and Airbus Can't Make Enough Airplanes To Keep Up With Demand (axios.com) 161

From a report on Axios: Aerospace manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus cannot produce airplanes fast enough to meet demand despite what the Wall Street Journal calls "one of the industry's steepest production increases since World War II." The run up in demand is partially the result of fast-growing airline industries in the Middle East and China. Manufacturers will need to increase production by 30% to meet current orders, and such booming demand is one sign of a healthier global economy.
Transportation

Tesla Is So Sure Its Cars Are Safe That It Now Offers Insurance For Life (mashable.com) 170

In the self-driving future envisioned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, car owners might be saying "goodbye" to a whole lot more than steering wheels. From a Mashable report: Musk is so sure of the safety features bundled into Tesla vehicles that his company has begun offering some customers a lifetime insurance and maintenance package at the time of purchase. No more monthly insurance bills. No more unexpected repair costs. "We've been doing it quietly," Tesla President of Global Sales and Service Jonathan McNeill explained on the call, "but in Asia in particular where we started this, now the majority of Tesla cars are sold with an insurance product that is customized to Tesla, that takes into account not only the Autopilot safety features but also the maintenance costs of the car." "It's our vision in the future that we'll be able to offer a single price for the car, maintenance and insurance in a really compelling offering for the consumer," added McNeill. "And we're currently doing that today."
Earth

World's Only Sample of Metallic Hydrogen Has Been Lost (ibtimes.co.uk) 276

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: A piece of rare meta poised to revolutionize modern technology and take humans into deep space has been lost in a laboratory mishap. The first and only sample of metallic hydrogen ever created on earth was the rarest material on the planet when it was developed by Harvard scientists in January this year, and had been dubbed "the holy grail of high pressure physics." The metal was created by subjecting liquid hydrogen to pressures greater that those at the center of the Earth. At this point, the molecular hydrogen breaks down and becomes an atomic solid. Scientists theorized that metallic hydrogen -- when used as a superconductor -- could have a transformative effect on modern electronics and revolutionize medicine, energy and transportation, as well as herald in a new age of consumer gadgets. Sadly, an attempt to study the properties of metallic hydrogen appears to have ended in catastrophe after one of the two diamonds being used like a vice to hold the tiny sample was obliterated. The metal was being held between two diamonds at a pressure of around 71.7 million pounds per square inch -- more than a third greater than at the Earth's core. According to The Independent, one of these diamonds shattered while the sample was being measured with a laser, and the metal was lost in the process.
Businesses

Inside Uber's Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture (cnbc.com) 192

Excerpts from Mike Isaac's report for the New York Times: Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often unrestrained workplace culture. Among the most egregious accusations from employees, who either witnessed or were subject to incidents and who asked to remain anonymous because of confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation: One Uber manager groped female co-workers' breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee's head in with a baseball bat. Until this week, this culture was only whispered about in Silicon Valley. Then on Sunday, Susan Fowler, an engineer who left Uber in December, published a blog post about her time at the company. [...] One group appeared immune to internal scrutiny, the current and former employees said. Called the A-Team and composed of a small group of executives who were personally close to Mr. Kalanick, its members were shielded from much accountability over their actions. One member of the A-Team was Emil Michael, senior vice president for business, who was caught up in a public scandal over comments he made in 2014 about digging into the private lives of journalists who opposed the company. Mr. Kalanick defended Mr. Michael, saying he believed Mr. Michael could learn from his mistakes.
Transportation

Uber's Self-Driving Cars Are Now Picking Up Passengers in Arizona (theverge.com) 122

Almost two months to the day after Uber loaded its fleet of self-driving SUVs into the trailer of a self-driving truck and stormed off to Arizona in a self-driving huff, the company is preparing to launch its second experiment (if you don't count the aborted San Francisco pilot) in autonomous ride-hailing. From a report on The Verge: What's different is that this time, Uber has the blessing from Arizona's top politician, Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, who is expected to be "Rider Zero" on an autonomous trip along with Anthony Levandowski, VP of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group. [...] Starting today, residents of Tempe, Arizona, can hail a self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV on Uber's ride-sharing platform. All trips will include two Uber engineers in the front seats as safety drivers, in the event a human needs to take over control from the vehicle's software. Uber says it hopes to expand the coverage area to other cities in Arizona in the coming weeks.
Transportation

UPS Develops 'Rolling Warehouse' System In Which Drones Are Launched From Atop Trucks (bloomberg.com) 41

mi writes: A Bloomberg article describes a test conducted by UPS on Monday, "launching an unmanned aerial vehicle from the roof of a UPS truck about a quarter-mile to a blueberry farm outside Tampa, Florida. The drone dropped off a package at a home on the property, and returned to the truck, which had moved about 2,000 feet." The company is looking to design a "rolling warehouse" system in which a drone is "deployed from the roof of a UPS truck and flies at an altitude of 200 feet to the destination." It returns after dropping off the package while the truck is already on its way to the next stop.
Businesses

Former Engineer Says Uber Is a Nightmare of Sexism; CEO Orders Urgent Investigation (susanjfowler.com) 906

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: A former Uber engineer has published an explosive account of sexism and power struggles in the workplace, with allegations beginning from her very first official day with the company. The engineer, Susan Fowler (who left Uber in December and now works for Stripe), posted the account to her blog on Sunday, calling it a "strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story." It is indeed horrifying. Sexism is a well-documented problem in Silicon Valley, but the particulars of Fowler's account are astounding. She says problems began on day one, when her manager accosted her with details of his sex life: "In my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR. When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he "was a high performer" (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part. The things only get worse for Fowler. Read the full account of her story here. In the meanwhile, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the company would "conduct an urgent investigation" into the allegations, and promised to fire anyone who "behaves this way or thinks this is OK."

Journalist Paul Carr summing up the situation, says, "Uber's ability to be on the wrong side of every moral and ethical issue is bordering on magical."
Transportation

Self-Driving Car Speed Race Ends With A Crash (electrek.co) 87

An anonymous reader writes:On a professional track in Buenos Aires, fans watched the first Formula E auto race with self-driving electric cars. "Roborace's two test vehicles battled it out on the circuit at a reasonably quick 115MPH," reports Engadget, "but one of the cars crashed after it took a turn too aggressively. The racing league was quick to tout the safety advantages of crashing autonomous cars ('no drivers were harmed'), but it's clear that the tech is still rough around the edges." Electrek is reporting that the cars "still have a cabin for a driver but neither car's cabin was occupied during the event." The ultimate goal is to have several teams racing the exact same self-driving car, while letting each team customize its car's driving software.
An Argentinian journalist shared footage of the race cars on Twitter, and apparently at one point a dog wandered out in front of an oncoming race car. But the real question is how the fans are going to feel about watching a speed race between cars with no drivers?
Privacy

Used Cars Can Still Be Controlled By Their Previous Owners' Apps (wtkr.com) 102

An IBM security researcher recently discovered something interesting about smart cars. An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Charles Henderson sold his car several years ago, but he still knows exactly where it is, and can control it from his phone... "The car is really smart, but it's not smart enough to know who its owner is, so it's not smart enough to know it's been resold," Henderson told CNNTech. "There's nothing on the dashboard that tells you 'the following people have access to the car.'" This isn't an isolated problem. Henderson tested four major auto manufacturers, and found they all have apps that allow previous owners to access them from a mobile device. At the RSA security conference in San Francisco on Friday, Henderson explained how people can still retain control of connected cars even after they resell them.

Manufacturers create apps to control smart cars -- you can use your phone to unlock the car, honk the horn and find out the exact location of your vehicle. Henderson removed his personal information from services in the car before selling it back to the dealership, but he was still able to control the car through a mobile app for years. That's because only the dealership that originally sold the car can see who has access and manually remove someone from the app.

It's also something to consider when buying used IoT devices -- or a smart home equipped with internet-enabled devices.
Transportation

GM Plans To Build, Test Thousands of Self-Driving Bolts In 2018 (reuters.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: General Motors Co plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, beginning in 2018, two sources familiar with the automaker's plans said this week. It is expected to be the largest such test of fully autonomous vehicles by any major automaker before 2020, when several companies have said they plan to begin building and deploying such vehicles in higher volumes. Most of the specially equipped versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle will be used by San Francisco-based Lyft, which will test them in its ride-sharing fleet in several states, one of the sources said. GM has no immediate plans to sell the Bolt AV to individual customers, according to the source. In a statement on Friday, GM said: "We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think."
Businesses

Elon Musk Is Really Boring (bloomberg.com) 226

Sometimes it is hard to tell if Elon Musk is serious about the things he says. But as for his "boring" claims, that's really happening. In a wide-range interview with Bloomberg, the billionaire talked more about his new venture, The Boring Company. The idea began on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago when Musk tweeted, "Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging..." Over the course of next few hours later, Musk added, "It shall be called 'The Boring Company,' Boring, it's what we do. I am actually going to do this. Excerpts from the story: And so, around noon on a Friday in January, an excavation crew started digging. "I was like, 'Hey, what's the biggest hole we can make by Sunday evening?'" Musk says. [...] "My other idea was to call it Tunnels R Us and to essentially troll Toys "R" Us into filing a lawsuit," he says, letting out a loud and well-articulated ha-ha-ha-ha. "Now we've decided to troll AT&T instead! We're going to call it American Tubes and Tunnels." When I ask him if the tunnel venture will be a subsidiary of SpaceX or an independent company, he responds cryptically. "Don't you read my Twitter? The Boring Company. Or TBC. To Be Continued." An aide chimes in: Yes, the Boring Company, aka To Be Continued, aka Tunnels R Us, aka American Tubes and Tunnels, aka whatever, will indeed be an independent company. Tunnel technology is older than rockets, and boring speeds are pretty much what they were 50 years ago. Musk says he hopes to build a much faster tunneling machine and use it to dig thousands of miles, eventually creating a vast underground network that includes as many as 30 levels of tunnels for cars and high-speed trains such as the Hyperloop. Musk chose the SpaceX parking lot as the site of his first dig, mostly because it was convenient and he could legally do so without city permits. The plan is to expand the current hole into a ramp designed for a large tunnel boring machine and then start digging horizontally once the machine is 50 feet or so below ground, which would make it low enough to clear gas and sewer lines and to be undetectable at the surface. 100 marks to Bloomberg for the headline, and the story which is as funny as it is insightful.
Transportation

Nearly 56,000 Bridges Called Structurally Deficient (usatoday.com) 243

schwit1 quotes a report from USA Today: Nearly 56,000 bridges nationwide, which vehicles cross 185 million times a day, are structurally deficient, a bridge construction group announced Wednesday. The list is based on Transportation Department data. The department scores bridges on a nine-point scale, and while the deficient ones might not be imminently unsafe, they are classified in need of attention. More than one in four bridges (173,919) are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction work, according to the ARTBA analysis. State transportation officials have identified 13,000 bridges along interstates that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction, according to the group. "America's highway network is woefully underperforming," said Alison Premo Black, the group's chief economics who conducted the analysis. "It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization." The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa with 4,968, Pennsylvania with 4,506, Oklahoma with 3,460, Missouri with 3,195 and Nebraska with 2,361. The eight states where at least 15% of the bridges are deficient are: Rhode Island at 25%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa and South Dakota at 20%, West Virginia at 17%, and Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma at 15%.
Transportation

Dutch Town Pilots Lightlines To Help Distracted Smartphone Users Cross the Road (autoexpress.co.uk) 115

An anonymous reader writes: A Dutch municipality has introduced pedestrian traffic lights specifically designed to help smartphone users avoid stepping into traffic by displaying a colorful strip of light on the pavement. Built by Dutch firm HIG Traffic Systems, the new +LightLine light comes with a LED strip that illuminates the pavement with a horizontal strip before the road crossing. Smartphone users looking at their phone will see the color of the strip beneath their feet before stepping out into the road.
Transportation

Brazil Judge Rules Uber Drivers Are Employees, Deserve Benefits (reuters.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: A Brazilian judge ruled that a driver using the Uber ride-hailing app is an employee of the San Francisco-based company and is entitled to workers' benefits, adding to the global debate over labor rights for drivers on the platform. Uber said on Tuesday it would appeal the decision by Judge Marcio Toledo Goncalves, who issued the ruling late Monday in a labor court in Minas Gerais state. Goncalves ordered Uber to pay one driver around 30,000 reais ($10,000) in compensation for overtime, night shifts, holidays and expenses such as gasoline, water and candy for passengers. The consequences for Uber, if the ruling is upheld, could be far greater if more drivers follow suit and if state and federal regulators and tax agencies start treating it, as the judge suggested, as a transportation company rather than a tech firm.
Transportation

'Electric Buses Now Cheaper Than Their Diesel or CNG Counterpart, Could Dominate the Market Within 10 Years' (electrek.co) 382

An anonymous reader shares a report: Transit vehicles today are mostly powered by gasoline, diesel, and CNG, while batteries only represent about 1 percent of the market. It is currently a small part of the industry, but it's also the fastest growing fuel source in the sector and it's starting to become highly competitive. Electric bus maker Proterra is ramping up production and currently claims to be cheaper than diesel and CNG. It leads CEO Ryan Popple to make a bold prediction that battery-powered buses will dominate the transit bus market within 10 years. More specifically, he says that the majority of new bus sales will be electric by 2025 and all new bus sales to transit agencies will be electric by 2030. Proterra has so far only delivered a few hundred all-electric buses, but they have been announcing several major deals lately, like 73 buses from King County's Metro Transit, that seem to indicate there's a shift in the transit industry.

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