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Businesses

Uber Has a Playbook For Sabotaging Lyft, Says Report 176

Posted by timothy
from the ethics-schmethics dept.
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes The folks over at The Verge claim that "Uber is arming teams of independent contractors with burner phones and credit cards as part of its sophisticated effort to undermine Lyft and other competitors." Interviews and documents apparently show Uber reps ordering and canceling Lyft rides by the thousands, following a playbook with advice designed to prevent Lyft from flagging their accounts. 'Uber appears to be replicating its program across the country. One email obtained by The Verge links to an online form for requesting burner phones, credit cards, and driver kits — everything an Uber driver needs to get started, which recruiters often carry with them.' Is this an example of legal-but-hard-hitting business tactics, or is Uber overstepping its bounds? The so-called sharing economy seems just as cutthroat — if not more so — than any other industry out there.
Transportation

California DMV Told Google Cars Still Need Steering Wheels 463

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-your-hands-on-the-wheel dept.
cartechboy writes Google showed us what it feels is the car of the future. It drives itself, it doesn't have a gas or brake pedal, and there's no steering wheel. But that last one might be an issue. Back in May California's Department of Motor Vehicles published safety guidelines aimed at manufacturers of self-driving vehicles. After seeing Google's self-driving car vision, the California DMV has told the company it needs to add all those things back to their traditional locations so that occupants can take "immediate physical control" of the vehicle if necessary. Don't for a second think this is a major setback for Google, as the prototypes unveiled weren't even close to production ready. While the DMV may loosen some of these restrictions in the future as well all become more comfortable with the idea of self-driving vehicles, there's no question when it comes down to the safety of those on the road.
Australia

Aussie Airlines To Allow Uninterrupted Mobile Use During Flights 51

Posted by timothy
from the Friendlier-down-there dept.
Bismillah (993337) writes "While you're in coverage during take-off and landing, at least. Passengers flying with Qantas and Virgin Australia might be able to leave their devices on from as early as September this year after the Civil Aviation Authority decided it was no longer unsafe to do so."
Earth

Iceland Stands Down On Travel Alert: From Orange To Red and Back Again 29

Posted by timothy
from the back-to-slight-chance-of-disaster dept.
Iceland's tiered system of air travel alerts went to orange last week, then to red with a believed under-ice eruption of the volcano beneath the Dyngjujokull glacier, but has now been eased back to orange. "Observations show that a sub-glacial eruption did not occur yesterday. The intense low-frequency seismic signal observed yesterday has therefore other explanations," the Icelandic Met Office said. The office had therefore decided to move the aviation warning code from red to orange, it said, but since there was no sign the seismic activity was slowing down, an eruption could still not be excluded. The national police commissioner said separately that all restrictions on aviation had been cancelled. Airspace of 140 by 100 nautical miles above the volcano had been closed to aircraft on Saturday.
Earth

Eruption Of Iceland's Bardarbunga Raises Travel Alert to Red 38

Posted by timothy
from the melting-iceland dept.
The eruption of the Bardarbunga volcano in central Iceland, which appeared a strong possibility after a series of earthquakes, is currently underway, beneath the ice of the Dyngjujokull glacier. The BBC reports that Iceland has raised its air travel alert to red, its higest level, but that for now all of Iceland's airports remain open. CNN notes that "the underground activity did not immediately result in changes to volcanic activity on the surface ... Because of a pressure from the glacier cap it is uncertain whether the eruption will stay sub-glacial or not, Iceland 2 TV said."
Transportation

Anomaly Triggers Self-Destruct For SpaceX Falcon 9 Test Flight 113

Posted by timothy
from the fly-up-go-boom dept.
SpaceMika (867804) writes "A SpaceX test flight at the McGregor test facility ended explosively on Friday afternoon. A test flight of a three-engine Falcon 9 Dev1 reusable rocket ended in a rapid unscheduled disassembly after an unspecified anomaly triggered the Flight Termination System, destroying the rocket. No injuries were reported." Update: 08/23 13:33 GMT by T : Space.com has video.
Google

Google Wants To Test Driverless Cars In a Simulation 172

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-want-to-be-a-virtual-pedestrian? dept.
An anonymous reader writes Google has been testing its autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads for a while now. In fact, they're required to, by law. "California's regulations stipulate autonomous vehicles must be tested under "controlled conditions" that mimic real-world driving as closely as possible. Usually, that has meant a private test track or temporarily closed public road." It's easy enough to test a few prototypes, but whenever autonomous cars start being produced by manufacturers, it'll become a lot more complicated. Now, Google is lobbying to change that law to allow testing via computer simulation. Safety director Ron Medford said, "Computer simulations are actually more valuable, as they allow manufacturers to test their software under far more conditions and stresses than could possibly be achieved on a test track." Google spokeswoman Katelin Jabbari said, "In a few hours, we can test thousands upon thousands of scenarios which in terms of driving all over again might take decades." Shee adds that simulator data can also easily provide information on how human behavior creeps into driving. "It's not just about the physics of avoiding a crash. It's also about the emotional expectation of passengers and other drivers." For example, when one of Google's computer-controlled cars is cut off, the software brakes harder than it needs to, because this makes the passengers feel safer. Critics say relying heavily on simulation data is flawed because it doesn't take into account how other cars react to the computer's driving.
Transportation

It's Easy To Hack Traffic Lights 143

Posted by Soulskill
from the looking-forward-to-the-mobile-app dept.
An anonymous reader notes coverage of research from the University of Michigan into the ease with which attackers can hack traffic lights. From the article: As is typical in large urban areas, the traffic lights in the subject city are networked in a tree-type topology, allowing them to pass information to and receive instruction from a central management point. The network is IP-based, with all the nodes (intersections and management computers) on a single subnet. In order to save on installation costs and increase flexibility, the traffic light system uses wireless radios rather than dedicated physical networking links for its communication infrastructure—and that’s the hole the research team exploited. ... The 5.8GHz network has no password and uses no encryption; with a proper radio in hand, joining is trivial. ... The research team quickly discovered that the debug port was open on the live controllers and could directly "read and write arbitrary memory locations, kill tasks, and even reboot the device (PDF)." Debug access to the system also let the researchers look at how the controller communicates to its attached devices—the traffic lights and intersection cameras. They quickly discovered that the control system’s communication was totally non-obfuscated and easy to understand—and easy to subvert.
Transportation

How Does Tesla Build a Supercharger Charging Site? 190

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
cartechboy writes Tesla's Superchargers are the talk of the electric car community. These charging stations can take a Model S battery pack from nearly empty to about 150 miles of range in around 30 minutes. That's crazy fast, and it's nothing short of impressive. But what does it take to actually build a Tesla Supercharger site? Apparently a lot of digging. A massive trench is created to run high-capacity electric cables before the charging stations themselves are even installed. A diagram and photos of the Electric Conduit Construction build out have surfaced on the Internet. The conduits connect the charging stations to a power distribution center, which in turn is connected to a transformer that provides the power for charging cars. It took 11 days to install the six charging stalls in Goodland, Kansas. If you thought it was a quick process to build a Supercharger station, you were clearly wrong.
The Almighty Buck

National Science Foundation Awards $20 Million For Cloud Computing Experiments 25

Posted by samzenpus
from the paying-the-way-to-the-future dept.
aarondubrow writes The National Science Foundation today announced two $10 million projects to create cloud computing testbeds — to be called "Chameleon" and "CloudLab" — that will enable the academic research community to experiment with novel cloud architectures and pursue new, architecturally-enabled applications of cloud computing. While most of the original concepts for cloud computing came from the academic research community, as clouds grew in popularity, industry drove much of the design of their architecture. Today's awards complement industry's efforts and enable academic researchers to advance cloud computing architectures that can support a new generation of innovative applications, including real-time and safety-critical applications like those used in medical devices, power grids, and transportation systems.
Power

How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the cheap-charge dept.
ashshy writes Argonne National Lab is leading the charge on next-generation battery research. In an interview with The Motley Fool, Argonne spokesman Jeff Chamberlain explains how new lithium ion chemistries will drive down the cost of electric cars over the next few years. "The advent of lithium ion has truly enabled transportation uses," Chamberlain said. "Because if you remember your freshman chemistry, you think of the periodic table -- lithium is in the upper left-hand corner of the periodic table. Only hydrogen and helium are lighter on an atomic basis."
Transportation

Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars 276

Posted by Soulskill
from the start-what-you-finnish dept.
New submitter NBSCALIDBA writes: Eeva Haaramo reports on Helsinki's ambitious plan to transform city transportation. From on-demand buses to city bikes to Kutsuplus mini-transport vans, the Finnish capital is trying to change the whole concept of getting around in a city. "Under the plan, all these services will be accessed through a single online platform. People will be able to buy their transport in service packages that work like mobile phone tariffs: either as a complete monthly deal or pay as you go options based on individual usage. Any number of companies can use the platform to offer transport packages, and if users find their travel needs change, they'll be able to switch packages or moved to a rival with a better deal."
Google

Google's Driverless Cars Capable of Exceeding Speed Limit 475

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-should-i-feel-when-a-driverless-car-tailgates-me? dept.
mrspoonsi sends a report about how Google's autonomous vehicles handle speed limits. It's easy to assume that driverless cars will simply be programmed never to exceed a posted speed limit, but Google has found that such behavior can actually be less safe than speeding a bit. Thus, they've allowed their cars to exceed the speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour. In July, the U.K. government announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year. In addition, ministers ordered a review of the U.K.'s road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines. This will cover the need for self-drive vehicles to comply with safety and traffic laws, and involve changes to the Highway Code, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales. Commenting on Google self-drive cars' ability to exceed the speed limit, a Department for Transport spokesman said: "There are no plans to change speed limits, which will still apply to driverless cars." In a separate development on Monday, the White House said it wanted all cars and light trucks to be equipped with technology that could prevent collisions.
Earth

Iceland's Seismic Activity: A Repeat Show for Atmospheric Ash? 69

Posted by timothy
from the orange-is-the-new-ash dept.
In 2010, ash spewed into the atmosphere by the volcano beneath Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull glacier grounded European air traffic for days (and, partially, for weeks). As reported by The Guardian, a series of similarly situated earthquakes may herald a similar ash-ejecting erruption, and the country has raised its volcano risk to its second-most-severe rating (orange). From the article: Iceland met office seismologist Martin Hensch said the risk of any disruptive ash cloud similar to the one in 2010 would depend on how high any ash would be thrown, how much there would be and how fine-grained it would be. Bardarbunga is Iceland's largest volcanic system, located under the ice cap of the Vatnajokull glacier in the southeast of Iceland. It is in a different range to Eyjafjallajokull. The met office said in a statement it measured the strongest earthquake in the region since 1996 early on Monday and it now had strong indications of ongoing magma movement. "As evidence of magma movement shallower than 10km implies increased potential of a volcanic eruption, the Bardarbunga aviation colour code has been changed to orange," it said. "Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood and ash emission." ... Hensch said the biggest risk in Iceland itself was from flood waves from any eruption under the glacier. He said the area of Iceland mainly at risk of flooding was mostly uninhabited but that roads in the area had been closed.
Crime

Feds: Red Light Camera Firm Paid For Chicago Official's Car, Condo 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the red-light-red-light dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The former CEO of Redflex, a major red light camera vendor, and John Bills, former Managing Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Transportation, have been indicted on federal corruption charges stemming from a contract with the City of Chicago. According to the indictment, a friend of Bills was hired as a contractor and paid $2 million. Much of that money was then kicked back to Bills, who also got a Mercedes and a condominium via Redflex employees. The defendants are facing 23 counts including: mail fraud, wire fraud, and bribery. Each fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years."
Transportation

Tesla Removes Mileage Limits On Drive Unit Warranty Program 174

Posted by timothy
from the 90-percent-of-the-cost-of-my-entire-car dept.
Ars Technica reports that Elon Musk today wrote that Tesla will remove mileage limits on its warranty policy for all Tesla Model S drive units. The warranty, which will still span eight years, won't have a cap on the number of owners for each vehicle. People who purchased Teslas before today were told that the warranty period for the drive unit expired after eight years or once the car logged over 125,000 miles. The revised warranty applies to new vehicles and Model S cars that are already on the road. The article mentions that quite a few Tesla owners have had to have their drive units replaced; out of warranty, that runs about $15,000. Musk's announcement acknowledges that the change may cost the company some money, but says he's "confident it will work out well in the long run."
Transportation

Berlin Bans Car Service Uber 341

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-here dept.
An anonymous reader is just one of many who have pointed out that things don't look good for Uber in Berlin. Berlin has banned car service Uber, which allows users to summon a ride on their smartphone, for not offering drivers and vehicles licensed to carry passengers, or full insurance cover, the German capital said. The ban takes immediate effect and Uber risks fines of up to 25,000 euros each time it violates the city's Public Transport Act, Berlin authorities said in a statement. Uber said on Thursday it would appeal against the decision, accusing Berlin of denying its people choice and mobility. "As a new entrant we are bringing much-needed competition to a market that hasn't changed in years. Competition is good for everyone and it raises the bar and ultimately it's the consumer who wins," said Fabien Nestmann, German General Manager at Uber. Undaunted by the setback in Berlin, Uber has launched uberTAXI in Hong Kong.
Sci-Fi

Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part Two of Two) 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.
Yesterday we ran Part One of this two-part video. This is part two. To recap yesterday's text introduction: Detroit recently hosted the North American Science Fiction Convention, drawing thousands of SF fans to see and hear a variety of talks on all sorts of topics. One of the biggest panels featured a discussion on perhaps the greatest technological disappointment of the past fifty years: Where are our d@%& flying cars? Panelists included author and database consultant Jonathan Stars, expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson, author and founder of the Artemis Project Ian Randal Strock, novelist Cindy A. Matthews, Fermilab physicist Bill Higgins, general manager of a nanotechnology company Dr. Charles Dezelah, and astrobiology expert Dr. Nicolle Zellner. As it turns out, the reality of situation is far less enticing than the dream -- but new technologies offer a glimmer of hope. (Alternate Video Link)
Transportation

California May Waive Environmental Rules For Tesla 327

Posted by Soulskill
from the mother-earth-plays-second-fiddle-to-mother-economy dept.
cartechboy writes: We all know Tesla is working on its Gigafactory, and it has yet to announce officially where it will be. But the automaker did announce a shortlist of possible locations, and California wasn't on it. The state has quickly been trying to lure Tesla to get back into contention. Now the state may waive environmental rules which would normally make construction of such a large manufacturing facility more difficult. Apparently, Governor Jerry Brown's office is currently negotiating an incentive package for Tesla that would waive certain parts of the nearly half-century-old California Environmental Quality Act. Not only that, but state officials are reportedly considering letting Tesla begin construction and perform damage mitigation later, along with limiting lawsuits that could slow down the project. Let's not forget some massive tax breaks, to the tune of $500 million. Is California stepping out of bounds here?
Transportation

Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part One of Two) 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the keeping-up-with-the-jetsons dept.
Detroit recently hosted the North American Science Fiction Convention, drawing thousands of SF fans to see and hear a variety of talks on all sorts of topics. One of the biggest panels featured a discussion on perhaps the greatest technological disappointment of the past fifty years: Where are our d@%& flying cars? Panelists included author and database consultant Jonathan Stars, expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson, author and founder of the Artemis Project Ian Randal Strock, novelist Cindy A. Matthews, Fermilab physicist Bill Higgins, general manager of a nanotechnology company Dr. Charles Dezelah, and astrobiology expert Dr. Nicolle Zellner. This video and the one you'll see tomorrow show their lively discussion about the economic, social, and political barriers to development and adoption of affordable flying cars. (Alternate Video Link)

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