Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Photographer Glimpses Larry Page's Flying Car Hovering In California (Maybe) ( 86

From Hollister, California -- population 40,000 -- comes a good update from the Mercury News on Larry Page's efforts to fund a flying car: Even from a few hundred yards away, the aircraft made a noise strikingly different from the roar of a typical plane. "It sounded like an electric motor running, just a high-pitched whine," said Steve Eggleston, assistant manager at an airplane-parts company with offices bordering the Hollister Municipal Airport tarmac. But it wasn't only the sound that caught the attention of Eggleston and his co-workers at DK Turbines. It was what the aircraft was doing. "What the heck's that?" saleswoman Brittany Rodriguez thought to herself. It's just hovering."

That, apparently, was a flying car, or perhaps a prototype of another sort of aircraft under development by a mysterious startup called of two reportedly funded by Google co-founder Larry Page to develop revolutionary forms of transportation... A Zee.Aero spokeswoman said the firm is "currently not discussing (its) plans publicly." However, a Zee.Aero patent issued in 2013 describes in some detail an aircraft capable of the hovering seen by people working at the airport. And the drawings showcase a vision of the future in which flying cars park in lots just like their terrestrial, less-evolved cousins.

Page has invested $100 million in Zee.Aero, which appears to have hired more than 100 aerospace engineers. But the article reports that apparently, in the small town where it's headquartered, "the first rule about Zee.Aero is you don't talk about Zee.Aero."

Will Tesla Install Home Solar Panels To Charge Cars? ( 81

Earlier this week, Tesla signed a non-binding agreement to buy solar cells from a new Panasonic factory in Buffalo, New York -- but it's part of a much bigger maneuver. An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "If all goes to plan, Tesla will be supplying customers with the solar panels that generate electricity that could then be used to charge the battery in their Tesla car or the battery in the Tesla Powerwall home energy storage system," reports the Christian Science Monitor. The Wall Street Journal reports that Musk's SolarCity "will sell, finance and install the panels."

But the Buffalo News suggests the deal is really "aimed squarely at skeptical shareholders" who may be leary of a proposed merger between Tesla and SolarCity," which one analyst calculates will require nearly $6 billion in extra capital. Panasonic could help shoulder the costs of the Buffalo factory, while also putting a more experienced manufacturer in charge of producing high-efficiency solar modules.

The Stack reports some shareholders have actually filed a lawsuit against the merger.

Elon Musk: Negative Media Coverage of Autonomous Vehicles Could be 'Killing people' ( 269

On the sidelines of the Tesla announcements, CEO Elon Musk accused media of "killing people" by dissuading consumers from using an autonomous vehicle. Musk said that media is aggressively reporting on autopilot crashes, but does "virtually none" reporting of hundreds of thousands of actual accidents that involve non-self driving cars. He said, via a report on The Verge:Once you view autonomous cars sort of like an elevator in a building, does Otis take responsibility for all elevators around the world? No, they don't. What really matters here at the end of the day is "what is the absolute safety." One of the things I should mention that frankly has been quite disturbing to me is the degree of media coverage of Autopilot crashes, which are basically almost none relative to the paucity of media coverage of the 1.2 million people that die every year in manual crashes. [It is] something that I think does not reflect well upon the media. It really doesn't. Because, and really you need to think carefully about this, because if, in writing some article that's negative, you effectively dissuade people from using an autonomous vehicle, you're killing people.

Tesla Bans Customers From Using Autonomous Cars To Earn Money Ride-Sharing ( 305

Late Wednesday, Tesla announced the Model X and Model S electric vehicles, boasting that they will come with the necessary hardware to drive completely autonomously at some point in the future. Naturally, one of the frequent questions that followed the event was: "Can I use my Tesla car as a Uber driver?" Well, Tesla was anticipating this question and even buried the answer on its website. From an ArsTechnica report: On Tesla's website, the section that describes the new "Full Self-Driving Capability" (A $3,000 option at the time of purchase, $4,000 after the fact) states "Please note also that using a self-driving Tesla for car sharing and ride hailing for friends and family is fine, but doing so for revenue purposes will only be permissible on the Tesla Network, details of which will be released next year."
The Almighty Buck

London Insists on English Requirement For Private Hire Drivers ( 196

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: London's transport bosses said on Monday that all drivers of private hire vehicles must speak, listen to, read and write English to a set level, intensifying a battle with taxi app Uber which says the expected standard is too high. Earlier this year, the capital's transport authority said it would introduce the measure as part of a series of stricter rules on apps such as Uber and private hire firms like Addison Lee whilst supporting the city's iconic black cabs. The move prompted San Francisco-based Uber, which allows users to book journeys on their smartphone, to take legal action arguing that the written component was too demanding. But on Monday, regulator Transport for London (TfL) said drivers will have to take either an English proficiency test or provide proof, such as a British school qualification, that they can meet the required level.

Germany Tells Tesla To Not Advertise Autopilot Feature, Fears Drivers Will Become Less Attentive ( 108

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt has asked Tesla to stop advertising its electric vehicles as having an Autopilot function, as this might suggest drivers' attention is not needed, his ministry said on Sunday. Reuters reports: A spokeswoman for the ministry, confirming a report in the daily Bild am Sonntag (BamS), said the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) had written to Tesla to make the request. "It can be confirmed that a letter to Tesla exists with the request to no longer use the misleading term Autopilot for the driver assistance system of the car," she said in a written response to a Reuters' query.

When Mercedes-Benz Starts Selling Self-Driving Cars, It Will Prioritize Driver's Safety Over Pedestrian's ( 365

From a report on Inverse: When Mercedes-Benz starts selling self-driving cars, it will choose to prioritize driver safety over pedestrians', a company manager has confirmed. The ethical conundrum of how A.I.-powered machines should act in life-or-death situations has received more scrutiny as driverless cars become a reality, but the car manufacturer believes that it's safer to save the life you have greater control over. "You could sacrifice the car. You could, but then the people you've saved initially, you don't know what happens to them after that in situations that are often very complex, so you save the ones you know you can save," said Christoph von Hugo, Mercedes' manager of driver assistance systems. "If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car. This moral question of whom to save: 99 percent of our engineering work is to prevent these situations from happening at all. We are working so our cars don't drive into situations where that could happen and [will] drive away from potential situations where those decisions have to be made."As long as they are better at driving and safety than humans, it is a progress, in my opinion.

Uber's Ad-Toting Drones Are Heckling Drivers Stuck in Traffic ( 60

Drivers stuck in traffic in Mexico city are lately seeing a fleet of sign-toting drones buzzing at them, saying (in Spanish) "Driving by yourself? This is why you can never see the volcanoes." (It's a reference to the smog that often hovers over the city and obscures two nearby peaks.) Turns out, it's an ad for UberPOOL, part of Uber's big push into markets across Latin America. From an MIT Technology Review article: Uber already does more business in Mexico City than any other city it operates in, and Brazil is its third-largest market after the U.S. and India. Uber sees Latin American countries as generally easier targets for expansion than either of its top two markets.Umm, I get that Uber has self-driving cars now in Pittsburgh, but they don't fly (at least as of now). So wouldn't they be stuck in the traffic as well?

US Issues Emergency Ban On Flying With Samsung Galaxy Note 7, Offenders May Face Criminal Prosecution ( 103

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone will be banned from aircraft in the United States starting at noon EDT (1600 GMT) under an emergency order, regulators said on Friday. Among other penalties, those who attempt to circumvent the ban could be subjected to criminal prosecutions, the regulators added. Quartz reports: On Friday (Oct. 14), US Department of Transportation announced that passengers would no longer be able to bring the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 onto any flight in the United States. There have been nearly 100 reported cases of the phones catching on fire and spewing noxious black smoke, an undesired situation in an airplane's enclosed cabin. "Individuals who own or possess a Samsung Galaxy Note7 device may not transport the device on their person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage on flights to, from, or within the United States," the US DOT statement said. Any travelers who violate the ban could be subject to criminal prosecution and fines. Samsung is expected to see a $5.3 billion loss in profits from the entire fiasco, mainly the cost of recalling, stopping production, and destroying phones.Samsung said it will send a text message to all Note 7 users to let them know about this ban.

President Obama Orders Government To Plan For 'Space Weather' ( 169

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: President Barack Obama today issued an Executive Order that defines what the nation's response should be to a catastrophic space weather event that takes out large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation. The Executive Order ideally will coordinate the responses across government agencies such as NASA, the Departments of Homeland Security, Energy and others to help minimize economic loss and save lives by enhancing national security, identifying successful mitigation technologies, and ordering the creation of nationwide response and recovery plans and procedures, the White House stated. Further, the Executive Order will enhance the scientific and technical capabilities of the United States, including improved prediction of space-weather events and their effects on infrastructure systems and services. By this action, the Federal Government will lead by example and help motivate State and local governments, and other nations, to create communities that are more resilient to the hazards of space weather. The Executive Order reinforces the formal National Space Weather Strategy and accompanying Action Plan which were announced last year. It also bolsters other work such as the replacement of aging satellites that monitor and help forecast space weather, proposing space-weather standards for both the national and international air space, development of regulations to ensure the continued operation of the electric grid during an extreme space weather event, proposing a new option for replacing crucial Extra High Voltage (EHV) transformers damaged by space weather, and developing domestic production sources for EHV transformers, the White House wrote.
The Military

ISIS Is Using Exploding Consumer Drones To Kill Enemy Fighters ( 221

According to The New York Times, the Islamic State is using small consumer drones rigged with explosions to fight Kurdish forces in Iraq. As a result, American commanders in Iraq have issued a warning to forces fighting ISIS to treat any type of small flying aircraft as potential explosive devices. The Verge reports: The small, commercially available drone was shot down in Northern Iraq and taken back to an outpost, the Times writes. But during disassembly, the drone exploded, killing the two fighters. Le Monde reports that two members of French forces were also injured by the explosion. The technique used by ISIS in the attack may have been a simple one -- ultimately only combining two widely available pieces of tech -- but videos available online have purportedly shown other recent instances of drones used as explosives, suggesting the move may be one we see more of in the future.

Most Drivers Who Own Cars With Built-in GPS Systems Use Phones For Directions - Mostly Out of Frustration ( 310

According to a new survey, many new car owners use their phones for directions despite their cars coming with built-in navigation systems. These users do it out of frustration, the survey added. CNN adds: The market research firm J.D. Power and Associates surveyed owners of new vehicles after the first 90 days of ownership. They were asked about all kinds of new in-vehicle technology including navigation, entertainment and safety technologies like lane-keeping assistance and automatic braking. For the most part, the survey found, people are relatively satisfied with the technology in their cars. On a 1,000 point scale, the average satisfaction score was 730. Navigation systems rated the worst with an average score of 687. Almost two-thirds of new vehicle owners with a built-in navigation reported using their smartphone or a portable navigation device to find their way at least some of the time. Nearly a third of those with built-in navigation used it for less than two weeks before giving up on it and using their phone or another portable device, according to J.D. Power. And more than half of people with built-in navigation systems never used them at all, according to the survey.
United States

White House: AI Holds the Potential To Be a Major Driver of Economic Growth and Social Progress ( 121

A day after the Obama administration outlined its vision and plans to send people to Mars by 2030s, it has now concluded the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on economic growth, transportation, the environment, and criminal justice. "The Administration believes that it is critical that industry, civil society, and government work together to develop the positive aspects of the technology, manage its risks and challenges, and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to help in building an A.I.-enhanced society and to participate in its benefits." VentureBeat adds: The report, dubbed "Preparing for the future of Artificial Intelligence," highlights a number of areas of both opportunity and concern when it comes to A.I. These include:
- The need to adjust regulatory procedures to account for A.I.
- Better coordination and funding of government-led A.I. research initiatives.
- Further study and monitoring of the economic impact of A.I. on jobs.
- "Ethical training" of people in A.I. fields, particularly as the technology is used to control more real-world objects that could lead to concerns about safety and security.
- Creating a clear U.S. policy regarding the development and use of "Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems."


Toyota Raises Concerns About California Self-Driving Oversight, Calls It 'Preposterous' ( 230

A Toyota official on Tuesday raised concerns about California's plans to require compliance with a planned U.S. autonomous vehicle safety check list, calling it "preposterous." Reuters reports:Hilary Cain, director of technology and innovation policy at Toyota Motor North America, criticized California's proposal to require automakers to submit the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) 15-point safety check list before testing vehicles. "If we don't do what's being asked of us voluntarily by NHTSA, we cannot test an automated system in the state of California. That is preposterous and that means testing that is happening today could be halted and that means testing that is about to be started could be delayed," she said at a Capitol Hill forum. On September 30, California unveiled revised rules that carmakers will have to certify that they complied with the 15-point NHTSA assessment instead of self-driving cars being required to be tested by a third-party, as in the original proposal.

Tesla's Sales Increase - But Next Will We Need Smart Roads? ( 168

Elon Musk says Tesla's autopilot has now driven over 222 million miles, and the company is now selling twice as many electric cars as it did in 2015. (Despite complaints from a coal-mining CEO that Tesla "is a fraud" because it receives tax-payer subsidies.)

But Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes, "It's not enough to build self-driving cars: we have to build the roads to accompany them. Roadside sensors might have once seemed a pipe dream, but with the advent of 5G internet infrastructure, they're not out of reach at all. And their implications span far beyond road safety, GMU researcher Brent Skorup explains at Backchannel: Cities could use sensor data for conducting traffic studies, pushing out real-time public bus alerts, increasing parking space occupancy, metering commercial loading times to prevent congestion, and enhancing pedestrian safety. There are also commercial applications for sensor data: How many cars drive by a billboard? How many people walk by a storefront per day? How many of those people have dogs? These are all questions we could easily answer with roadside sensors.

Germany Calls For a Ban On Combustion Engine Cars By 2030 ( 296

Germany gave the world the internal combustion engine, and now it is prepping to ban the amazing invention in the country. The country's federal council has passed a resolution to ban the ICE starting in 2030. From an Engadget report:The country's Bundesrat (federal council) has passed a resolution calling for a ban on new internal combustion engine cars by 2030. From then on, you'd have to buy a zero-emissions vehicle, whether it's electric or running on a hydrogen fuel cell. This isn't legally binding, but the Bundesrat is asking the European Commission to implement the ban across the European Union... and when German regulations tend to shape EU policy, there's a chance that might happen. The council also wants the European Commission to review its taxation policies and their effect on the "stimulation of emission-free mobility." Just what that means isn't clear. It could involve stronger tax incentives for buying zero-emissions cars, but it could also involve eliminating tax breaks for diesel cars in EU states. Automakers are already worried that tougher emission standards could kill diesels -- remove the low cost of ownership and it'd only hasten their demise.

Feds Convinced Police To Use License Plate-Scanning Tech At Gun Shows ( 277

Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike quotes the Wall Street Journal: Federal agents have persuaded police officers to scan license plates to gather information about gun-show customers, government emails show, raising questions about how officials monitor constitutionally protected activity. Emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency crafted a plan in 2010 to use license-plate readers -- devices that record the plate numbers of all passing cars -- at gun shows in Southern California, including one in Del Mar, not far from the Mexican border. Agents then compared that information to cars that crossed the border, hoping to find gun smugglers, according to the documents and interviews with law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the operation...

[T]he officials didn't rule out that such surveillance may have happened elsewhere. The agency has no written policy on its use of license-plate readers and could engage in similar surveillance in the future, they said. Jay Stanley, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the gun-show surveillance "highlights the problem with mass collection of data." He said law enforcement can take two entirely legal activities, like buying guns and crossing the border, "and because those two activities in concert fit somebody's idea of a crime, a person becomes inherently suspicious."


Google's Autonomous Car Passes 2 Million Miles 97

Google said today it recently reached a huge milestone with its autonomous cars. Its cars have logged its two-millionth mile. To put into perspective, Google's self-driving cars have travelled roughly 300 years of human driving. The first million miles took Google six years, the second million came in at 16 months. Recode evaluates how far Google's self-driving cars have come. It notes that Google has been involved in 14 of such incidents, 13 of which were caused by other drivers.

Replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Phone Catches Fire on Southwest Plane ( 266

After learning about faulty battery issues in its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, Samsung said it will offer its existing customers a safe, replacement unit. It appears the replacement unit also suffers from the same issue. Jordan Golson, reporting for The Verge: Southwest Airlines flight 944 from Louisville to Baltimore was evacuated this morning while still at the gate because of a smoking Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. All passengers and crew exited the plane via the main cabin door and no injuries were reported, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson told The Verge. More worryingly, the phone in question was a replacement Galaxy Note 7, one that was deemed to be safe by Samsung. The Verge spoke to Brian Green, owner of the Note 7, on the phone earlier today and he confirmed that he had picked up the new phone at an AT&T store on September 21st. A photograph of the box shows the black square symbol that indicates a replacement Note 7 and Green said it had a green battery icon.A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said, "prior to the Southwest Airlines Flight 994 departing from Louisville for Baltimore, a customer reported smoke emitting from an electronic device. All customers and crew deplaned safely via the main cabin door. Customers will be accommodated on other Southwest flights to their final destinations. Safety is always our top priority at Southwest and we encourage our customers to comply with the FAA Pack Safe Guidelines."

A Self-Driving Uber Car Went the Wrong Way On a One-Way Street in Pittsburgh ( 254

An anonymous reader writes: Uber driver Nathan Stachelek was pulled off to the side of the road when he saw the self-driving car turn the wrong way. It was the night of Sept. 26 and the car he had spotted, one of the autonomous Ford Fusions that Uber is testing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was heading through the city's Oakland neighborhood, just steps from the center of campus for the University of Pittsburgh. Stachelek watched the car turn off Bates Street and onto Atwood, a one-way road, going in the wrong direction. From a distance he couldn't tell whether the car was driving itself, or its human operator had made a mistake. Stachelek took out his phone in time to shoot a brief video of Uber's vehicle backing up and driving away, then uploaded it to Facebook. "Driverless car went down a one way the wrong way," he wrote. "Driver had to turn car around."

Slashdot Top Deals