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Transportation

Amazon UK Found Guilty Of Airmailing Dangerous Goods (theguardian.com) 55

Amazon UK has been found guilty and fined 65,000 euro for breaking aviation safety laws after repeatedly trying to send dangerous goods by airmail, reports The Guardian. From the article: A judge at Southwark crown court in London said on Friday that Amazon knew the rules, had been warned repeatedly, but had failed to take reasonable care. Although the risks from the goods sent for shipment by air were low, he blamed the breaches on "systemic failure" at the online retailer. As well as the fine, Amazon was ordered to pay 60,000 euro towards prosecution costs. Earlier in the week, the jury found Amazon guilty of breaching rules for shipping dangerous goods by airmail on four counts between November 2013 and May 2015. The prosecution was brought by the Civil Aviation Authority, after a complaint from Royal Mail. Some offences took place after Amazon knew it was under investigation. In each case, the items -- two packages containing laptop lithium batteries and two containing aerosols that used flammable gas propellant -- had been flagged up by Amazon's computer systems as possibly dangerous goods, and subject to restricted shipping rules.
Government

Senate Panel Authorizes Money For Mission To Mars (usatoday.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: With a new president on the horizon, a key Senate committee moved Wednesday to protect long-standing priorities of the nation's space program from the potential upheaval of an incoming administration. Members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed a bipartisan bill authorizing $19.5 billion to continue work on a Mars mission and efforts to send astronauts on private rockets to the International Space Station from U.S. soil -- regardless of shifting political winds. Under the Senate bill, NASA would have an official goal of sending a crewed mission to Mars within the next 25 years, the first time a trip to the Red Planet would be mandated by law. The legislation would authorize money for different NASA components, including $4.5 billion for exploration, nearly $5 billion for space operations and $5.4 billion for science. Beyond money, the measure would: Direct NASA to continue working on the Space Launch System and Orion multi-purpose vehicle that are the linchpins of a planned mission to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. The bill includes specific milestones for an unmanned exploration mission by 2018 and a crewed exploration mission by 2021. Require development of an advanced space suit to protect astronauts on a Mars mission. Continue development of the Commercial Crew Program designed to send astronauts to the space station -- no later than 2018 -- on private rockets launched from U.S. soil. Expand the full use and life of the space station through 2024 while laying the foundation for use through 2028. Allow greater opportunities for aerospace companies to conduct business in Low Earth Orbit. Improve monitoring, diagnosis and treatment of the medical effects astronauts experience from spending time in deep space.
Power

Elon Musk To Unveil Solar Roof With Storage, Charger Next Month (bloomberg.com) 75

Elon Musk plans to unveil Tesla and SolarCity's new solar roof product, which will come integrated with version 2.0 of the Tesla's PowerWall solar storage battery for the home, as well as a Tesla car charger, he said today. Bloomberg adds: Billionaire Elon Musk, the chairman and the largest shareholder of both Tesla and SolarCity Corp., announced his plans to unveil the new product in a message on Twitter Thursday. SolarCity's board agreed to Tesla's offer to buy the biggest U.S. rooftop solar supplier on Aug. 1. The product fits into his long-term vision of helping provide green homes that run on solar energy and use battery storage to help power systems, including charging electric cars, even after sundown. He announced in August that SolarCity is developing a "solar roof," a roofing product that incorporates solar technology without using standard photovoltaic panels.
Power

Germany Unveils a Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Train (fortune.com) 197

An anonymous reader writes: The world's first CO2-emission-free train powered through hydrogen was unveiled this week in Germany. The Coradia iLint, created by French company Alstom, was presented at the Berlin InnoTrans trade show on Tuesday. The train's energy comes from combining hydrogen stored in tanks on the train with oxygen in the air. The energy is then stored in lithium-ion batteries. The train's only emissions are steam and condensed water. The train also has lower noise levels than diesel trains, emitting only the sound of its wheels on the track and any sounds from air resistance at even its highest speed of 140 kilometers per hour (about 87 miles per hour). The train has the ability to travel up to 800 kilometers (497 miles) and carry up to 300 passengers; it's the worldâ(TM)s first hydrogen passenger train that can regularly operate long journeys.
China

Uber's Terrifying 'Ghost Drivers' Are Freaking Out Passengers in China (qz.com) 80

Several Chinese publications are reporting that "ghost drivers" are frightening Uber passengers into paying for trips they didn't take. Passengers in Tianjin, Qingdao, Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou have been canceling Uber rides after seeing creepy driver profile pictures pop up in the app. Quartz reports: Passengers using the ride-hailing app in several Chinese cities have reported seeing their requests picked up by drivers with creepy profile photos of zombie faces. According to Chinese news site Sixth Tone, the point of these ghostly profiles is to scare passengers into canceling the trip, so they are fined for a few yuan (less than a dollar), which goes to the driver. Other passengers have reported seeing their rides accepted, but then their trips were "started" by the driver on the app before they even get to the car. These "ghost rides" last less than a minute, with the driver charging customers between 8 and 15 yuan (about 1 to 2 dollars) for a ride that never happened. Calls to the drivers in these cases are never picked up, according to The Paper, a state-owned media. Passengers can however eventually be reimbursed by Uber China if they lodge a complaint.
Businesses

Apple Approaches McLaren About A Potential Acquisition: FT (ft.com) 136

Apple has approached British Formula One team owner McLaren for a strategic investment or a potential buyout (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source), the Financial Times reported, citing sources. The loss-making automotive group could be valued at around $1.4 billion. A deal with McLaren, which also makes high-performance sports cars, could give Apple key automotive technology amid reports that the company is working on a self-driving car. From the report:The California technology group, which has been working on a self-driving electric vehicle for more than two years, is considering a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations who said talks started several months ago. Update: 09/21 17:31 GMT by M :The New York Times, citing two people familiar with the matter, is now reporting the same. The publication additional says that Apple has also held talks with Lit Motors, a San Francisco start-up that has developed an electric self-balancing motorcycle, about a potential acquisition.
Government

US Regulators Issue Comprehensive Policy On Self-Driving Cars (vox.com) 239

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: On Monday, [The U.S. Department of Transportation] released a surprisingly far-reaching "Federal Automated Vehicles Policy." The policy attempts to do all sorts of things -- we'll get into the details below -- but the overarching motivation is that DOT wants to accelerate the development and adoption of AVs. DOT views AVs as a safety technology that could reduce some of the 38,000 traffic fatalities a year in the U.S., 95 percent of which are caused by human error. It also sees AVs as an accessibility technology that could provide personal transportation to whole populations (disabled, elderly, etc.) who have lacked it. The policy comes in four buckets: What the vehicles need to do to be safe; What federal and state governments need to do; How DOT will use its existing regulatory tools; DOT may need brand new regulatory tools to deal with AVs. The "vehicle performance" section lays out a 15-point safety assessment, so that AV developers and manufacturers know the sorts of things that federal regulators will expect. It covers everything from cybersecurity to data collection to crash response. And then there are "ethical considerations." AVs will have to make life-or-death decisions. The second section addresses the division of responsibilities and authorities between the federal government and state governments, and suggests a model policy that states can adapt for their own use. The feds will retain their authority to set and enforce safety standards, communicate with the public about safety, and occasionally issue guidances about how to meet national standards. States will retain their authority to license human drivers and register cars, set and enforce traffic laws, and regulate vehicle insurance and liability. There are three broad ways that DOT communicates about standards with automakers: letters of interpretation, exemptions and rule-makings. It is promising to speed up all of them in regard to HAVs. DOT is considering a range of new authorities that may be necessary to properly regulate HAVs. The report adds that "DOT has officially abandoned the NHTSA's own levels-of-automation classification in favor of SAE's, which is preferred by the industry. Vox has neat graphic you can view here. President Obama also wrote a piece about self-driving cars in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "In the seven-and-a-half years of my presidency, self-driving cars have gone from sci-fi fantasy to an emerging reality with the potential to transform the way we live..."
Transportation

Lyft Says Robots Will Drive Most Of Its Cars in Five Years (recode.net) 274

A week after its rival Uber began rolling out self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Lyft has said it also expects to roll out its self-driving by next year. Its president John Zimmer outlined a "three-phase" plan for the company, noting that self-driving cars will be made available to Lyft users in the first phase. But in this phase, it only plans to roll out self-driving cars that can "drive along fixed routes" and that the "technology is guaranteed to be able to navigate." Recode adds: In the second phase, the self-driving cars in the fleet will navigate more than just the fixed routes, but will only drive up to 25 miles per hour. As the technology matures and the software encounters more complex environments, Zimmer wrote, cars will get faster. The third phase, expected to happen sometime in 2021 or 2022, will be when all Lyft rides will be completed by a fully autonomous car. Shortly after that phase begins, car ownership will see a steep drop-off, according to Zimmer. Zimmer, who has long been a vocal proponent of ending car ownership, set a date for the death of the personally owned car in major U.S. cities: 2025.
Transportation

Abu Dhabi To Introduce New Regulations For Ride-Hailing Apps (reuters.com) 18

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and others will have to register their apps and heed new regulations to operate in Abu Dhabi, a top official at the Gulf emirate's taxi regulator said on Monday, Reuters reports. From the article: U.S.-based Uber and regional rival Careem suspended services in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Aug. 27 after many of their drivers were stopped by authorities over violations of regulations, sources told Reuters at the time. Careem has since resumed services in Abu Dhabi, although Uber has yet to do so as it awaits clarification on some issues. The new regulations are coming "very soon" and will include a provision requiring ride-hailing apps to register with The Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars (Transad), its general manager Mohamed Darwish al-Qamzi said. "This will help us to control the market easier by blocking any unregulated application with us," he told Reuters. Currently, ride-hailing services are not regulated in the UAE.
Transportation

Uber Accused of Cashing In On Bomb Explosion By Jacking Rates (thesun.co.uk) 428

After a bomb exploded in Manhattan, leaving 29 injured, people leaving the scene discovered Uber had doubled their fares. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Sun: Traumatized families caught up in the New York bomb blast have accused Uber of cashing in on the tragedy by charging almost double to take them home. Furious passengers have taken to social media to slam the taxi firm in the wake of the blast... Uber reportedly charged between 1.4 and 3 times the standard fare with one city worker saying he had to pay twice as much as usual. Mortgage broker Nick Lalli said: "Just trying to get home from the city and Uber f****** doubled the surge price."
"Demand is off the charts!" the app informed its users, adding "Fares have increased to get more Ubers on the road." Uber soon tweeted that they'd deactivated their surge pricing algorithm for the affected area in Chelsea, "but passengers in other areas of Manhattan said they were still being charged higher than normal fares." One of the affected passengers was Michael Cohen, who is Donald Trump's lawyer, who tweeted that Uber was "taking total advantage of chaos and surcharging passengers 1.4 to 1.8 times." And another Uber user tweeted "I'm disgusted. People are trying to get home safe. Shame on you #DeleteApp."
The Military

The US Government Is Building A 'Drone Dragnet' For Battlefields (thestack.com) 25

The US government plans to launch "a three and a half year initiative to develop an urban drone detection system." An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: The Aerial Dragnet program is to use off-the-shelf commercial components and mostly established technologies and methods to create a network of floating or tethered platforms that will ultimately provide 95% efficient drone identification in urban areas up to 180 square kilometers. The call to proposers states that the total cost of the system for a city should be around $90,000, and would likely include the ability to identify the micro-Doppler signatures given off by UAVs -- and birds.
Unmanned aerial systems are becoming platforms "for hostile reconnaissance, targeting, and weapon delivery," warns the government document, noting drones are hard to detect because they're small and fly slowly at low altitudes. "In future urban battlegrounds, U.S. forces will be placed at risk by small UAVs which use buildings and naturally-occurring motion of the clutter to make surveillance impractical..."
Transportation

Autonomous Vehicles Won't Give Us Any More Free Time, Says Study (dailymail.co.uk) 233

An anonymous reader writes: People hoping that the driverless cars of the future will give them more free time while travelling may be in for a disappointment. Increased productivity is one of the expected benefits of self-driving cars, but a new study claims that they will have little impact. The study showed that nearly 36 percent of Americans say they would be so apprehensive using a driverless vehicle that they would only watch the road. Meanwhile, UK drivers were even more cautious at 44 per cent. "Currently, in the US, the average occupant of a light-duty vehicle spends about an hour a day traveling -- time that could potentially be put to more productive use," said Michael Sivak, research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. "Indeed, increased productivity is one of the expected benefits of self-driving vehicles."
Security

Mobileye Says Tesla Was Dropped Because of Safety Concerns 218

An anonymous reader writes: On Wednesday, Mobileye revealed that it ended its relationship with Tesla because "it was pushing the envelope in terms of safety." Mobileye's CTO and co-founder Amnon Shashua told Reuters that the electric vehicle maker was using his company's machine vision sensor system in applications for which it had not been designed. "No matter how you spin it, (Autopilot) is not designed for that. It is a driver assistance system and not a driverless system," Shashua said. In a statement to Reuters, Tesla said that it has "continuously educated customers on the use of the features, reminding them that they're responsible to keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert and present when using Autopilot" and that the system has never been described as autonomous or self-driving. (This statement appears to be at odds with statements made by Musk at shareholder meetings.) It is also emerging that the crash which cost Joshua Brown his life in May of this year was unlikely to have been the first such fatal crash involving Tesla's Autopilot. In January of this year in China, a Tesla ploughed into the back of a stationary truck at speed, killing the driver.
Transportation

Ford Charts Cautious Path Toward Self Driving, Shared Vehicles (reuters.com) 50

Ford Motor Chief Executive Mark Fields is looking for more deals to advance the automaker's expansion into ride services and autonomous vehicles, but will not rush to match big spending by auto industry rivals, he told Reuters. Investors comparing the size of Ford's investments to what other automakers have announced are "looking at the wrong scoreboard," Fields said in an interview at Ford headquarters on Tuesday, ahead of the company's annual late-summer investor meeting. From the report: "Don't confuse activity for progress," Fields said in response to questions about why Ford's future 'mobility' investments appear to lag those of competitors such as General Motors, Daimler AG and Toyota Motor Corp. Mobility is the term auto companies and investors use to describe the next wave of personal transportation, which is still largely car-based but includes a wide range of services from ride sharing to automated driving and parking.
Transportation

Uber Starts Self Driving Car Pickups In Pittsburgh (techcrunch.com) 192

The reports were true. Uber on Wednesday announced it a select group of Pittsburgh users will get a surprise the next time they book a cab: the option to ride in a self-driving car. TechCrunch reports: The announcement comes a year-and-a-half after Uber hired dozens of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University's robotics center to develop the technology. Uber gave a few members of the press a sneak peek Tuesday when a fleet of 14 Ford Fusions equipped with radar, cameras and other sensing equipment pulled up to Uber's Advanced Technologies Campus (ATC) northeast of downtown Pittsburgh. During my 45-minute ride across the city, it became clear that this is not a bid at launching the first fully formed autonomous cars. Instead, this is a research exercise. Uber wants to learn and refine how self driving cars act in the real world. That includes how the cars react to passengers -- and how passengers react to them. "How do drivers in cars next to us react to us? How do passengers who get into the backseat who are experiencing our hardware and software fully experience it for the first time, and what does that really mean?" said Raffi Krikorian, director of Uber ATC.When a couple of drivers were asked about Uber's push to get cabs drive themselves, they weren't pleased.
Businesses

SpaceX Plans To Resume Launches In November (reuters.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: SpaceX is aiming to resume flights in November following a launch pad fire that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and an Israeli communications satellite it was due to lift into orbit, the company's president said on Tuesday. The space services company suspended Falcon 9 flights while it investigates why the rocket burst into flames on Sept 1 as it was being fueled for a routine prelaunch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. "We're anticipating being down for about three months, getting back to flight in the November timeframe," Gwynne Shotwell, president of Elon Musk's space company, said at a satellite industry conference in Paris. SpaceX previously said a nearly-completed second launch site in Florida, located at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), would be finished in November. The pad was last used to launch NASA's space shuttles five years ago.
Transportation

Elon Musk Says Tesla New Autopilot Features Would Have Prevented Recent Death (fortune.com) 160

An anonymous reader writes:Tesla Motors Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Sunday the automaker was updating its semi-autonomous driving system Autopilot with new limits on hands-off driving and other improvements that likely would have prevented a fatality in May. Musk said the update, which will be available within a week or two through an "over-the-air" software update, would rely foremost on radar to give Tesla's electric luxury cars a better sense of what is around them and when to brake. New restrictions of Autopilot 8.0 are a nod to widespread concerns that the system lulled users into a false sense of security through its "hands-off" driving capability. The updated system now will temporarily prevent drivers from using the system if they do not respond to audible warnings to take back control of the car. Musk said it was "very likely" the improved Autopilot would have prevented the death of Brown, whose car sped into the trailer of a truck crossing a highway, but he cautioned that the update "doesn't mean perfect safety."
Businesses

When Your Boss Is An Algorithm (ft.com) 178

Slashdot reader Presto Vivace shares an article on FT.com about "workers without a workplace, striking against a company that does not employ them...managed not by people but by an algorithm that communicates with them via their smartphones." And what they are rebelling against is an app update... They might be free to choose when to work but not how to work or, crucially, how much they are paid... Some gig-economy workers and unions are bringing this question to court. They argue that these companies' algorithms exert so much control over workers that they are really employees in the eyes of the law and thus owed hourly minimum wages, sick pay, holiday pay and the like.
The article offers a detailed look at historical precedents for today's strict "service level assessments," noting that for the companies, "algorithmic management solves a problem: how to instruct, track and evaluate a crowd of casual workers you do not employ, so they deliver a responsive, seamless, standardized service." But for workers in the gig economy -- 800,000 in the U.S. alone -- the question becomes whether reporting to an algorithm in an app is liberating -- or exploitative?
Bug

General Motors Recalls 4.3 Million Vehicles Over a Software Bug (gizmodo.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: If you own a GM vehicle from 2014-2017, listen up: General Motors is recalling nearly 4.3 million vehicles worldwide after discovering a software defect that prevents air bags from deploying during a crash. The software bug may also prevent the seat belts from locking properly. The flaw has already been linked to one death and three injuries. Vehicles affected by the recall include 2014-2016 car models of the Buick LaCross, Chevy SS, and Chevy Spark EVs. It also includes 2014-2017 models of the Buick Encore, GMC Sierra, Chevy Corvette, Chevy Trax, Chevy Caprice, Chevy Silverado. Additionally, the recall affects 2015-2017 models of the Chevy Tahoe, Chevy Silverado HD, Chevy Suburban, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL, GMC Sierra HD, Cadillac Escalade, and Cadillac Escalade ESV. GM will notify owners of affected vehicles and update the software for free, according to the NHTSA. "In the affected vehicles, certain driving conditions may cause the air bag sensing and diagnostic module (SDM) software to activate a diagnostic test," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a statement. "During the test, deployment of the frontal air bags and the seat belt pretensioners would not occur in the event of a crash."
Australia

Data Entry Blunders Force Air Asia Pilots To Land in Melbourne Instead of Malaysia (mashable.com) 84

A flight from Sydney to Malaysia ended up in Melbourne after the captain incorrectly entered the plane's location in its navigation system just before take-off, according to a safety investigation, whose conclusion was published this week. Mashable reports:The Air Asia pilots made several errors in entering data into the aircraft's navigation system, which caused them to follow an incorrect flight path out of Sydney, according to Australian transportation officials. While troubleshooting the incorrect flight path, the pilots were unable to fix the issue, and may have compounded it. The aircraft's systems would not allow the plane to be flown in instrument conditions and the weather also had deteriorated in Sydney by the time the pilots decided to turn back. They were directed via radar to a visual approach in Melbourne where they could land safely. The pilots did not believe the airport was located in Malaysia.

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