Volkswagen Diesel Scandal Logistics Imply Sizable Conspiracy 131

Guinnessy writes with an interesting analysis of the Volkswagen software cheating scandal: Physics Today's Charles Day takes a look at how diesel engines work, and why it's clear it's not just a lone software engineer who came up with the cheat. "...[S]oftware is impotent without hardware. To recognize when a car was being tested and not driven, the defeat device required data from a range of sensors -- sensors that a noncheating car might not need.... Whereas it's conceivable that a single software engineer, directed by a single manager, could have secretly written and uploaded the code that ran the defeat device, installing its associated hardware would require a larger and more diverse team of conspirators," he says.

EPA Gave Volkswagen a Free Pass On Emissions Ten Years Ago Due To Lack of Budget 202

An anonymous reader writes: A new report suggests that continuing cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget contributed to Volkswagen being able to cheat on its emissions tests. When the test scripts were developed the department — which can still only conduct 'spot tests' on 20% of all qualifying vehicles — was forced to concentrate on heavy machinery and truck manufacturers, which at the time had a far higher incidence of attempting to cheat on vehicle standards tests. Discounting inflation the EPA's 2015 budget is on a par with its 2002 budget (PDF), and has been cut by 21% since 2010.

San Francisco Still Among Most Dangerous For Pedestrians 277

dkatana writes: The city of San Francisco averages 200 injuries per year and 30 deaths. This is almost double the number of Barcelona, Catalonia, which has about the same population. The city started a Vision Zero program, aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminate pedestrian deaths by 2024. But after a year-long Vision Zero education push called Safe Streets SF, whose key message is that pedestrians always have the right of way, the results have been modest. Now a series of banners on light poles in the South of Market neighborhood with the message: 'Slow down! We live here!' are trying to convince drivers to respect people on foot.

Uber Raided By Dutch Authorities, Seen As 'Criminal Organization' 464

An anonymous reader writes: Uber offices in Amsterdam have been raided by Dutch authorities, as reported by several local media sources (Google translation of original in Dutch). This follows intimidatory deterrence practices earlier in The Netherlands, with Uber drivers being fined in the past months, and fresh allegations that the company would act as a "criminal organization" by offering a platform for taxi rides without license (read: without the authorities earning money from the practice). Time for tech companies to consider moving their European offices elsewhere? Uber's lawyers must be incredibly busy. Proposed regulations in London would effectively end the company's service there, while the mayor of Rio de Janeiro said he would ban Uber's operations outright. They're receiving mixed messages from Australia — just a day after running afoul of regulations in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory is moving to legalize it.

Elon Musk Predicts 1,000km EV Range In Two Years, Autonomous Cars In Three 396

An anonymous reader writes: Speaking with a Danish TV show, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk made a couple of interesting statements about Tesla's future. The company's Model S sedan advertises a range of 200-300 miles (322-483 km) depending on variant, average speed, and tires. Musk says the company will produce an electric vehicle capable of breaking the 1,000km (621 mi) mark by "2017 for sure." Later, Musk went even further, saying he expected "full autonomy" for Tesla vehicles to arrive in "approximately three years." He doesn't expect them to be legal at that point, as regulations will take time to catch up.

$20 Million XPRIZE Takes On Carbon Emissions 46

An anonymous reader writes: XPRIZE has announced a new, $20 million competition that aims to tackle carbon emissions. They're not looking to reduce emissions, but rather to convert them into something useful. They provide examples: "products like new and sustainable building materials; low-emission transportation fuels; and alternative chemical products that can be used to make everything from clothing and running shoes, to safer, stronger automobiles and breakthrough medicines." Awards will be given for making use of emissions from two different sources: coal power plants and natural gas power plants. "The winning team will convert the most CO2 emissions into the highest value products. To be competitive, teams will have to make the business case for their approach as well as minimize their use of energy, water, land, and other inputs that have consequences for the environment."

Amazon Launches 'Flex,' a Crowdsourced Delivery Service 145

sckirklan writes: Amazon has rolled out a new service called Amazon Flex. It lets people sign up to deliver packages using their mobile phone and their car, earning $18-25/hr while doing so. Think Uber, but for package delivery. Their goal is to fully support one-hour delivery within certain cities. The service is available in Seattle to start, and it'll soon expand to Manhattan, Baltimore, Miami, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta, and Portland. No news on what they think of bicycle couriers, but given their focus on being green, I'd imagine something is in the works.

John Harrison: Inventor and Longitude Hero 106

szczys writes: Here's an interesting fact: when at sea you can't establish your longitude without a reliable clock. You can figure out latitude with a sextant, but not longitude. Early clocks used pendulums that don't work on a rocking boat. So in the 1700s the British government offered up £20,000 for a reliable clock that would work at sea. John Harrison designed a really accurate ocean-worthy clock after 31 years of effort and was snubbed for the prize which would be £2.8 Million at today's value. After fighting for the payout for another 36 years he did finally get it at the ripe old age of 80. The methods he used to build this maritime chronometer were core to every wrist and pocket watch through the first third of the 20th Century. One of his timepieces, designated Clock B, was declared by Guinness to be the world's most accurate mechanical clock with a pendulum swinging in free air' more than 250 years after it was designed.

Uber's Rivals Forming an International Alliance 26

jfruh writes: Didi Kuaidi is China's biggest native ride-sharing app, and it's using its cash hoard to build an alliance to take on global giant Uber. On the heels of a $100 million investment in Lyft, the company is also investing in Ola, India's biggest entry in the market. The deals have been described as involving sharing technology and market knowledge. "We look forward to exchanging learnings from two of the worlds largest markets and the tremendous synergies this partnership can bring, towards our commitment of building mobility for a billion Indians," Ola said about the new deal in a statement Monday.

UberX Runs Into Trouble In Australia With NSW Suspending Vehicle Registration 166

Harlequin80 writes: RMS (Roads & Maritime Service), the New South Wales' governing body for transport, has begun suspending the vehicle registration of UberX drivers. After failing to deter drivers through prosecutions, with Uber covering fines and legal costs of its drivers, RMS has begun suspending the registration of the vehicles as it forces the vehicle off the road for three months. Under the NSW Passenger Transport Act, paid ride sharing is illegal, and this will see UberX drivers losing the use of their vehicle for both Uber and personal use.

Reports: Volkswagen Was Warned of Emissions Cheating Years Ago 161

An anonymous reader writes: More fuel was thrown on the Volkswagen fire today after two German newspapers reported that Volkswagen's own staff and one of its suppliers warned years ago about software designed to thwart emissions test. Volkswagen declined to comment on the details of either newspaper report. "There are serious investigations underway and the focus is now also on technical solutions" for customers and dealers, a Volkswagen spokesman said. "As soon as we have reliable facts we will be able to give answers."

Volkswagen Diesel Scandal Spreads To Porsche and Audi 494

New submitter sumanareddyraval writes: The fallout from the Volkswagen diesel scandal is spreading fast to the company's other famous brands, including Porsche and Audi, and across the Atlantic to the U.S. The scandal reached down into the company's engineering corps as the CEO of Volkswagen's US business, the research and development chief from Audi and the engine chief from Porsche, which are part of the Volkswagen Group, are said to be following Volkswagen's CEO out the door of the company, according to multiple reports Thursday. The impending departures are a sign that the Volkswagen scandal is ready to grow to much larger proportions.

ESA-JAXA Team Wins 'America's Cup of Rocket Science' 20

An anonymous reader writes: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory just announced the winners of the 8th edition of the Global Trajectory Optimization Competition, aka the America's Cup of Rocket Science. For the first time, a joint team from ESA and JAXA won the prestigious award. They had to design a nearly impossible mission to perform space-based Very-Long-Baseline Interferometry using the formation flight of three spacecraft around the Earth. Their incredibly complex trajectory can be seen here on the YouTube channel of the winning team. The full final ranking can be also downloaded here.

VW Fiasco Puts Ethics In Engineering Under the Spotlight, CEO Steps Down 569

szczys writes: By now you've heard that VW has been accused of doctoring the software in their small diesel models to sidestep emissions standards. The thing that hasn't been talked about is engineering ethics. An algorithm in the code detects when the vehicle is under test conditions and causes it to perform differently. This couldn't have been accomplished by just one person. Brian Benchoff looks at the conditions leading up to the scandal and discusses the engineering ethics involved. Automotive engineers are held to a higher standard because mistakes and cut corners can kill people. This kind of suspected deceit goes well beyond concerns of environmental damage. Willing ethics violations challenge our trust of the engineering as a whole. Volkswagen‘s chief executive Martin Winterkorn has announced he is stepping down.

Former GM and BMW Executive Warns Apple: Your Car Will Be a "Gigantic Money Pit" 535

An anonymous reader writes: With rumors that Apple is not only moving ahead on its electric car initiative, but trying to accelerate its development, a former GM and BMW exec is giving a few words of warning. Bob Lutz appeared on CNBC and expressed his doubts that Apple has a fighting chance to make any impact on the auto industry. "And when it comes to actually making cars," Lutz said, "there is no reason to assume that Apple, with no experience, will suddenly do a better job than General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota or Hyundai. So I think this is going to be a gigantic money pit, but then it doesn't matter. I mean Apple has an embarrassment of riches, they don't know where to put the cash anymore. So if they burn 30 or 40 billion dollars in the car business, no one's going to notice."

What Hurricane Sandy Taught IT About Disaster Preparedness 68

StewBeans writes: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center is calling for calmer than normal storm activity this hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30. But it's likely that data centers and IT companies in NYC are still taking disaster preparedness seriously. Three years ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated homes, businesses, transportation, and communication in New York, and taught many companies (the hard way) how to keep the lights on when the lights were literally off for weeks on end. Alphonzo Albright, former CIO of the Office of Information Technology in New York City, gives a behind-the-scenes account of what life and business were like in the dark, cold days following Hurricane Sandy in NYC. He also shares tips for other tech leaders to create their own Business Continuity Plan in case this year's storms take a turn for the worse.

Volkswagen CEO Issues Apology Over Emission-Cheating Software 301

cartechboy writes: Last Friday we learned that Volkswagen got caught cheating on emissions testing via software programming. The punishment? It could get slapped with up to $18 billion in fines. While the company has yet to admit to any wrong doing, the CEO has now issued a formal apology and said the automaker will cooperate fully with any and all investigations. It's issued a stop-sale on all new and used TDI vehicles until further notice. VW's currently in talks with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board in regards to these allegations. It's also ordered an external investigation of its own into the matter. Whether criminal charges will be filed is yet to be seen.

Volkswagen Could Face $18 Billion Fine Over Emission-Cheating Software 471

After getting caught cheating on emissions testing by means of software, Volkswagen could face up to $18 billion in fines, reports USA Today. That number is based on the company being assessed the maximum penalty of $37,500 per affected vehicle. That's not the only bad news for Volkswagen, which has halted sales of its 4-cylinder diesel cars; the linked article reports that the violations "could also invite charges of false marketing by regulators, a vehicle recall and payment to car owners, either voluntarily or through lawsuits. Volkswagen advertised the cars under the 'Clean Diesel' moniker. The state of California is also investigating the emissions violations."

Proposed Lapcat II Hypersonic Airliner: Brussels to Sydney in Less Than 3 Hours 221

New submitter AG_2011 writes: Could an airliner that flies anywhere in under 3 hours be in service by 2030? One estimate puts the cost one way at €5,000 (£3,700) per seat for a Brussels to Sydney trip. The Lapcat-II project's Mach 8 airliner will be capable of 8,500 km/h (5,280 mph) and could take passengers on this trip in 2 hours and 55 minutes. The race is on...
The Almighty Buck

Club Concorde Wants To Put a Concorde Back In the Air 124

The Verge (relying on The Telegraph) reports that the Concorde, grounded since just a few years after the disastrous loss of flight 4590 in 2000, may yet fly again, with the help of a private coalition of Concorde enthusiasts that's already managed to raise $160 million. ("A massive war chest," says Jalopnik.) The Verge explains that Club Concorde ("a club for all things Concorde, run by ex-Captains, ex-charterers and people passionate about Concorde") would like to buy two of the existing but idle Concordes, turning one of them into a ground-based tourist attraction for gawking and for dining on Concorde-style meals. But as for the second? The more ambitious initiative is to purchase the second plane, have it restored, and get it in the air once more. Concorde Club president Paul James is aiming to resume flights by 2019, while the tourist attraction would be opened around 2017 if all goes according to plan. British Airways and Air France have no plans to resume commercial Concorde flights, meaning it would likely cost quite a lot of money to grab a private ticket if and when the plane gets off the ground again.