An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has levied a record fine against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to punish them for failing to adequately recall and fix defective cars. (If Fiat sounds familiar, it's the same company that issued a 1.4 million-vehicle recall on Friday over a remote hack.) The NHTSA's $105 million fine is half-again as much as the next biggest fine (given to Honda last year over faulty airbags). Fiat Chrysler "admitted to violating federal rules requiring timely recalls and notifications to vehicle owners, dealers and regulators." The company will be forced to buy back hundreds of thousands of vehicles (at the owners' discretion, of course) that have problems with the suspension that could lead to a loss of control. A million more Jeep owners will be given a chance to trade in their vehicle at a higher rate than market value because of rear-mounted gas tanks that are prone to catching fire.
An anonymous reader writes: Progressive Insurance sells a tracking device called Snapshot that is advertised as a "little device [that] turns your safe driving into savings." However Snapshot itself has been hacked, and Xirgo Technologies, which makes Snapshot, is currently hacked due to out-of-date software on their website — and has been that way since at least May 5th of 2015. Given that Chrysler just did a recall of 1.4 million cars, people should really think twice before blindly trusting the safety of their cars to any random company, especially if that company can't even keep their WordPress up-to-date or remove hacked code from their site.
Hallie Siegel writes: With all the extra sensors and technology that have to go into autonomous cars, you might expect them to cost more. After all, autonomous features like park assist and auto lane changing are added-value components that you pay extra for on current vehicles. But autonomous car expert Brad Templeton thinks it could be that the overall cost of autonomous vehicles per mile driven will lower than traditional cars. Not only because features of traditional cars, like dashboards and steering columns, will not be necessary in robocars, but also because autonomous cars are more likely to be shared and constantly in use, rather than sitting in your driveway 90% of the time.
swinferno writes: Fiat Chrysler announced today that it's recalling 1.4 million automobiles just days after researchers demonstrated a terrifying hack of a Jeep that was driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour. They are offering a software patch for some of their internet-connected vehicles. Cybersecurity experts Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller have publicly exposed a serious vulnerability that would allow hackers to take remote control of Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) cars that run its Uconnect internet-accessing software for connected car features. Despite this, the researchers say automakers are being slow to address security concerns, and are often approaching security in the wrong way.
itwbennett writes: Researchers at Florida State University have found that simply being aware of a missed call or text can have the same damaging effect on task performance as actually using a mobile phone. 'Although these notifications are short in duration, they can prompt task-irrelevant thoughts, or mind-wandering,' the researchers wrote in their paper. In further bad news for chronic multitaskers, a new study by researchers at the University of Connecticut finds that 'students who multitasked while doing homework had to study longer, and those who frequently multitasked in class had lower grades on average than their peers who multitasked less often.'
Albanach writes: Following on from this week's Wired report showing the remote control of a Jeep using a cell phone, security researchers claim to have achieved a similar result using just the car radio. Using off the shelf components to create a fake radio station, the researchers sent signals using the DAB digital radio standard used in Europe and the Asia Pacific region. After taking control of the car's entertainment system it was possible to gain control of vital car systems such as the brakes. In the wild, such an exploit could allow widespread simultaneous deployment of a hack affecting huge numbers of vehicles.
alphadogg writes with this NetworkWorld story about the wide disparity in wireless coverage available at airports across the U.S.. Atlanta scores very high while Los Angeles International is less than mediocre. According to the story: You can download an episode of your favorite show in less than a minute and a half on Verizon Wireless at Atlanta's airport—or spend 13 hours doing the same over T-Mobile USA at Los Angeles International. The comparison of 45-minute HD video downloads illustrates the wide variation in cellular service at U.S. airports, which RootMetrics laid out in a report for the first half of 2015 that's being issued Thursday. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson is the best place to go mobile and Verizon covers airports best overall, but just like security lines and de-icing delays, it all depends.
An anonymous reader writes: The University of Michigan has opened Mcity, the world's first controlled environment specifically designed to test the potential of connected and automated vehicle technologies that will lead the way to mass-market driverless cars. Mcity is a 32-acre simulated urban and suburban environment that includes a network of roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, streetlights, building facades, sidewalks and construction obstacles. The types of technologies that will be tested at the facility include connected technologies – vehicles talking to other vehicles or to the infrastructure, commonly known as V2V or V2I – and various levels of automation all the way up to fully autonomous, or driverless vehicles.
Matt_Bennett writes: A scary remote exploit is going to be published that enables someone connected to the the same wireless (mobile data) network to take over many [automobile] systems, including braking. This is an exploit in Chrysler's Uconnect system. Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek also demonstrated exploits in 2013 that could be done via a direct connection to the system, but this is vastly expanded in scope. The pair convinced Wired writer Andy Greenberg to drive around near St. Louis while they picked apart the car's systems from 10 miles away, killing the radio controls before moving on to things like the transmission.
An anonymous reader writes: Headlights have been around since the 1880's, and while the source of their light has changed over the years, their functionality has remained virtually the same, until now. Ford has unveiled a new advanced illumination system that should make driving your car at night a lot safer. The new headlight system uses a standard and infrared camera to detect objects near the road. The new technology can locate and track up to eight people or animals up to 12 meters. Ford reports: "Building upon Adaptive Front Lighting System and Traffic Sign Recognition, the system interprets traffic signs to better illuminate hazards that are not in the direction of travel, and uses GPS information for enhanced lighting when encountering bends and dips on a chosen route. Where GPS information is not available, a video camera detects lane markings and predicts the road’s curvature. When next the driver uses the same road again, the headlights adapt to the course of the road automatically. We expect this technology to be available for customers in the near term."
An anonymous reader writes: A Spanish judge has requested that the European Court of Justice determine whether or not Uber is a generic "digital service," as it claims, or a "mere transport activity." If the court rules that Uber is a transportation firm the company may have to follow the same licensing and safety rules as taxis and other hired vehicles. "Today's news means that the European Court of Justice will now determine if the national rules currently being applied to digital services like Uber are legal and appropriate under European law," said Mark MacGann, Uber's Head of Public Policy for EMEA, on a conference call with journalists.
rippeltippel writes: Ars Technica UK reports that the UK government has released the rules to get self-driving cars onto public roads. As the article reports, drivers will be required to have "a high level of knowledge about the technology used" (i.e. they'll be techies) and — most notably — will have to mimic the act of driving, to avoid confusing other drivers. The original PDF can be viewed here.
An anonymous reader writes: Uber and Lyft have been dealing with a host of legal and regulatory issues, and the Massachusetts attorney general's office is adding one more: disability access. No formal action has been taken, but the office has contacted the companies to see how they handle equal access. Uber says it often speaks with advocates about accessibility, and less than a week ago they introduced uberASSIST, which connects riders with drivers who are specifically trained to assist those with disabilities. Still, the inquiry seems to have been spurred by questions from disabilities rights groups, not to mention ongoing lawsuits. "[T]he National Federation of the Blind of California accused Uber in a lawsuit last year of discrimination by refusing to transport guide dogs. A San Francisco federal judge has said the case can proceed. ... In Texas, Jennifer McPhail sued Lyft last year, accusing the company of not having a wheelchair accessible vehicle operating in Austin."
schwit1 writes with news that the Dutch city of Rotterdam is looking at partnering with a company called VolkerWessels to test a prototype plastic road for safety and durability. "They envision pulling waste plastic out of the oceans, and then processing it into prefabricated sections of road with integrated utility channels and drainage. The composition and structure of the plastic makes it more durable than traditional asphalt, and VolkerWessels estimates that their plastic roads should last about three times as long as traditional roads." The roads are manufactured at a factory, and then hauled in a mostly finished state to where they'll end up. This could dramatically reduce the time during which drivers are inconvenienced by road construction efforts.
An anonymous reader writes: A few articles came out Thursday talking about the recently released report from the National Bureau of Economic Research on the environmental benefits of electric cars. The general consensus is kind of obvious -- that it depends on the ratio of coal vs. clean electrical generation that is used to charge your car. What is interesting is the extent to which it makes a difference, and that when viewed on a regional basis, there are cases where the EV doesn't do so well. And when it comes to policy decisions, it seems the central focus needs to be on the replacement of large-scale coal generation, and the rest will fall in to place. Here is one cover story from Ars Technica. Google others for varying perspectives.
linuxwrangler writes with a bit of news overlooked from last week, but worth noting: Prolific aircraft designer James "Jim" Bede has died at age 82. Although Bede designed numerous aircraft he is most commonly associated with the BD-5J, the "world's smallest jet", that was famously used to help James Bond escape in the movie "Octopussy." Bede's company currently has that aircraft for sale.
An anonymous reader writes: Google's autonomous car project, as of June, hadn't been in any accidents that involved an injury. That changed on July 1st, though it wasn't the technology's fault. A Lexus SUV that was self-driving while carrying three Google employees was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light in Mountain View, California. All three employees had minor cases of whiplash, and were quickly checked out and released from the hospital. The other driver had minor neck and back pain as well. Chris Umson, head of the autonomous car project, said, "Other drivers have hit us 14 times since the start of our project in 2009 (including 11 rear-enders), and not once has the self-driving car been the cause of the collision. Instead, the clear theme is human error and inattention. We'll take all this as a signal that we're starting to compare favorably with human drivers." He also posted a short video of how the self-driving car was tracking other vehicles at the time of the crash — including the one that hit it.
An anonymous reader writes: The Solar Impulse 2 has been grounded in Hawaii for at least nine months because of battery damage sustained during its record 118-hour trans-Pacific flight from Japan. The project team says the aircraft is not expected to take off on the next leg of its journey until late April or early May 2016. The BBC reports: "...[the] plane experienced damaging overheating in its lithium-ion battery system. Although the battery units performed as expected, they had too much insulation around them, making temperature management very difficult. Engineers on the project have not been able to make the quick repairs that might allow Solar Impulse to have a crack at completing the round-the-world journey this year."
hypnosec writes: Yesterday we discussed news that over 65,000 Range Rovers were being recalled over a software issue. Not to be outdone, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota on Wednesday recalled 625,000 hybrid vehicles globally to fix a different software defect. The automaker said the defect in question might lead to shut down of the hybrid system while the car is being driven. The recall was due to software settings that could result in "higher thermal stress" in parts of a power converter, potentially causing it to become damaged. Toyota dealers will update the software for both the motor/generator control ECU and hybrid control ECU in the involved vehicles.