The Internet

Swedish Rail Firm Approves Trainy McTrainface As Name Following Online Poll (theguardian.com) 22

Those disappointed when Britain rejected the name Boaty McBoatface for a polar research ship should find joy in the name of a new train in Sweden. After a public vote, a Swedish rail operator has vowed to name one of its trains Trainy McTrainface. The Guardian reports: Trainy McTrainface won 49% of the votes in the naming competition, conducted online by train operator MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro, beating choices such as Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon. The train will run between the Swedish capital Stockholm and Gothenburg, the country's second-biggest city. MTR said another train had been voted to be named "Glenn," an apparent tribute to an IFK Gothenburg soccer team of the 1980s that featured four players of that name -- uncommon in Sweden -- including Glenn Hysen, who later captained Liverpool.
Transportation

Elon Musk Says He Has a Green Light To Build a NY-Philly-Baltimore-DC Hyperloop (theverge.com) 262

An anonymous reader shares a report:Elon Musk just tweeted that his Boring Company tunnel project has just received "verbal [government] approval" to build a hyperloop connecting New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. While we work to verify his claim, Musk is continuing to tweet more details about the project. The hyperloop, an ultrafast method of travel first developed by Musk in 2013, would only take 29 minutes to travel between New York City and DC, he claims. And it would feature "up to a dozen or more" access points via elevator in each city. Update: Eric Phillips, press secretary for the New York City mayor, tweeted, "This is news to City Hall," adding "The entirety of what we know about this proposal is what's in Mr. Musk's tweet. That is not how we evaluate projects of any scale."
United States

US Ends Controversial Laptop Ban On Flights From Middle East (theguardian.com) 72

The United States has ended a four-month ban on passengers carrying laptops onboard US-bound flights from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa, bringing to an end one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration. From a report: Riyadh's King Khalid international airport was the last of 10 airports to be exempted from the ban, the US department of homeland security (DHS) confirmed in a tweet late on Wednesday local time. Middle East carriers have blamed Trump's travel restrictions, which include banning citizens of some Muslim-majority countries from visiting the United States, for a downturn in demand on US routes. In March, the United States banned large electronics in cabins on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa over concerns that explosives could be concealed in the devices taken onboard aircraft. The ban has been lifted on the nine airlines affected -- Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Jordanian , Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc -- which are the only carriers to fly direct to the US from the region. A ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, -- remains in place, though has been limited after several US court hearings challenged the restrictions.
Government

US House Panel Approves Broad Proposal On Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 173

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A U.S. House panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping proposal by voice vote to allow automakers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards and bar states from imposing driverless car rules. Representative Robert Latta, a Republican who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee overseeing consumer protection, said he would continue to consider changes before the full committee votes on the measure, expected next week. The full U.S. House of Representatives will not take up the bill until it reconvenes in September after the summer recess. The measure, which would be the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would require automakers to submit safety assessment reports to U.S. regulators, but would not require pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies. Automakers would have to show self-driving cars "function as intended and contain fail safe features" to get exemptions from safety standards but the Transportation Department could not "condition deployment or testing of highly automated vehicles on review of safety assessment certifications," the draft measure unveiled late Monday said.
Mars

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans (arstechnica.com) 151

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

Businesses

Why is Comcast Using Self-driving Cars To Justify Abolishing Net Neutrality? (theverge.com) 219

Earlier this week, Comcast filed its comments in favor of the FCC's plan to eliminate the 2015 net neutrality rules. While much of the document was devoted to arguments we've heard before -- Comcast believes the current rules are anti-competitive and hurt investment, but generally supports the principles of net neutrality -- one statement stood out. The Verge adds: Buried in the 161-page document was this quirky assertion (emphasis ours): "At the same time, the Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public... And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine. Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it. In other words, Comcast is arguing for paid prioritization and internet fast lanes to enable self-driving cars to communicate better with other vehicles and their surrounding environment, thus making them a safer and more efficient mode of transportation. The only problem is that autonomous and connected cars don't use wireless broadband to communicate. When cars talk with each other, they do it by exchanging data wirelessly over an unlicensed spectrum called the Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) band, using technology similar to Wi-Fi. The FCC has set aside spectrum in the 5.9GHz band specifically for this purpose, and it is only meant to be used for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications. That includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) -- so cars talking to other cars, to traffic signals, to the phone in your pocket... you name it. Soon enough, all cars sold in the US will be required to include V2V technology for safety purposes, if the Department of Transportationâ(TM)s new rule goes into effect.
AI

Michigan Will Build 25 Self-Driving Trolleys In 2017 (observer.com) 100

French trolley-maker Navya announced its first manufacturing facility in North America. The company will build a 20,000 square foot facility for the construction of its self-driving trolley, the Arma. "It aims to construct 25 vehicles there this year," reports Observer. "It has 45 vehicles deployed around the world already. These robots have a max speed of about 27 miles per hour, but typically travel more like 12 miles per hour (the speed of a typical bike ride). Each one can transport about 15 people." From the report: The plant will be built in Saline, Michigan, a suburban town just south of Ann Arbor with a population of less than 9,000. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimates that the plant will support 50 new jobs. "As the greater Ann Arbor area continues to establish itself as a hub for autonomous vehicle development, we feel it's the perfect location for us. Strong government and community support for mobility initiatives combined with an excellent talent pool provide the ideal environment for our expansion in North America," Navya CEO Christophe Sapet said in a press release. "I have no doubt that they will become an important and valued member of our already stellar business community," Brian Marl, Saline's mayor, said in a release.
Transportation

Oregon Passes First Statewide Bicycle Tax In Nation (washingtontimes.com) 683

turkeydance writes: In Oregon, a state known for its avid bicycling culture, the state legislature's approval of the first bike tax in the nation has fallen flat with riders. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the sweeping $5.3 billion transportation package, which includes a $15 excise tax on the sale of bicycles costing more than $200 with a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches. Even though the funding has been earmarked for improvements that will benefit cyclists, the tax has managed to irk both anti-tax Republicans and environmentally conscious bikers. The bike tax is aimed at raising $1.2 million per year in order to improve and expand paths and trails for bicyclists and pedestrians. Supporters point out that Oregon has no sales tax, which means buyers won't be dinged twice for their new wheels.
Transportation

Is Homeland Security's Face-Scanning At Airports An Unreasonable Search? (technologyreview.com) 146

schwit1 shares an article from MIT's Technology Review: Facial-recognition systems may indeed speed up the boarding process, as the airlines rolling them out promise. But the real reason they are cropping up in U.S. airports is that the government wants to keep better track of who is leaving the country, by scanning travelers' faces and verifying those scans against photos it already has on file... The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has partnered with airlines including JetBlue and Delta to introduce such recognition systems at New York's JFK International Airport, Washington's Dulles International, and airports in Atlanta, Boston, and Houston, among others. It plans to add more this summer...

As facial-recognition technology has improved significantly in recent years, it has attracted the interest of governments and law enforcement agencies. That's led to debates over whether certain uses of the technology violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches... Harrison Rudolph, a law fellow at Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology, and others are raising alarms because as part of the process, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is also scanning the faces of U.S. citizens... They say Congress has never expressly authorized the collection of facial scans from U.S. citizens at the border routinely and without suspicion.

"We aren't entirely sure what the government is doing with the images," the article adds, though it notes that the Department of Homeland Security is saying that it deletes all data pertaining to the images after two weeks. But Slashdot reader schwit1 is still worried about the possibility of an irretrievable loss of privacy, writing that "If the DHS database gets hacked, it's hard to get a new face."
Businesses

Amazon Prime Is a Blessing and a Curse For Remote Towns (vice.com) 314

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: If access to Prime is reduced, or in some cases, cut off, it can leave many remote towns in the lurch. One dozen five-gallon barrels of hydraulic oil. A 2x4x8 of lumber. A pallet's worth of 10-ply, heavy-duty truck tires. These are just a few of the heavy, cumbersome orders one Redditor on the Alaska subreddit claimed to have ordered from Amazon Prime, with free shipping, before users started to notice difficulty finding eligible products. For many remote and rural communities in the U.S. and Canada, the arrival of Amazon Prime, with its low prices and free, expedient shipping was a boon. Hard-to-get or expensive products were now accessible, and reasonably priced to boot. For the cost of a membership (which now runs $99 per year), residents were able to get deals on everything from food to diapers to truck tires. But sometimes when something seems too good to be true, it is. Prime has proven to be a bit of a double-edged sword for many of these communities. Residents become dependent on Prime as local retailers struggle to compete. If access to Prime is reduced, or in some cases, cut off, it can leave many remote towns in the lurch.
China

Automakers Are Asking China To Slow Down Electric Car Quotas (electrek.co) 304

New submitter Kant shares a report from Electrek: The auto industry is once again attempting to slow down the rollout of electric vehicles. Virtually all automakers, except for Tesla of course, have sent a letter to the Chinese government in an attempt to have them drastically weaken their zero-emission vehicle mandate. As we previously reported, China, the world's biggest car market, has somewhat of an aggressive ZEV mandate that would force automakers to have zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) represent 8% of new car sales as soon as 2018 and quickly ramp up to 12% by 2020. Now Germany's WirtschaftsWoche magazine (via Auto News) reports that the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), which represents Chrysler/Fiat, Ford, and GM, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), which represents all major European automakers, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), have all sent a joint letter to China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology to ask for several significant changes to the mandate.

The "six recommended modifications" include slowing the rollout of the mandate by 1 to 3 years, reconsidering the penalty system if they don't meet the quota, having credits not only for all-electric cars but also plug-in hybrid cars, and basically making the whole mandate weaker so that they don't have to produce as many electric cars.

Transportation

The Audi A8: First Production Car To Achieve Level 3 Autonomy (ieee.org) 375

schwit1 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum: The 2018 Audi A8, just unveiled in Barcelona, counts as the world's first production car to offer Level 3 autonomy. Level 3 means the driver needn't supervise things at all, so long as the car stays within guidelines. Here that involves driving no faster than 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph), which is why Audi calls the feature AI Traffic Jam Pilot. Go ahead, Audi's saying, read your newspaper or just zone out while traffic creeps along. To be sure, the A8 also monitors the driver, even while the traffic jam persists, and continues to do so as the speed edges up over the limit. If the driver falls asleep, it'll wake him up; if it can't get his attention, it will stop the car. If you want to buy the new A8, you'll have to check whether your jurisdiction will accept it as a Level 3 car. Audi said in a statement that it will follow "a step-by-step approach" to introducing the traffic jam pilot. It plans to sell the base model in Europe this fall for 90,600 euros, or about $103,000, and to enter the United States market shortly afterwards. A model having a longer wheelbase will cost a few percent more.
Transportation

Hyperloop One Conducts First Full Systems Test But Only Traveled 70MPH (jalopnik.com) 235

Thelasko shares a report from Jalopnik about Hyperloop One's first full systems Hyperloop test: In the test, Hyperloop says its vehicle traveled the first portion of a track using magnetic levitation in a vacuum environment, and reached 70 mph. It's a significant leap past the company's test a year ago, which sent a sled down a track for a grand total of two seconds. And while that's not the lighting-fast speed that Hyperloop Ones says its futurist transport system could go, the company says this test -- conducted privately on May 12 -- is only Phase 1. Hyperloop One's in the process of the next phase, now aiming for 250 mph. "By achieving full vacuum, we essentially invented our own sky in a tube, as if you're flying at 200,000 feet in the air," said Shervin Pishevar, co-founder and Executive Chairman of Hyperloop One. "For the first time in over 100 years, a new mode of transportation has been introduced. Hyperloop is real, and it's here now."
Businesses

Tesla Sales in Hong Kong Dry Up After Gov't Drops Tax Break (axios.com) 103

Tesla couldn't sell a single car in Hong Kong in April after the government dropped a tax break for electric cars on April 1, the Wall St Journal reports citing government data. From the report: "as a result of the new policy, the cost of a basic Tesla Model S four-door car in Hong Konghas effectively risen to around $130,000 from less than $75,000." There were 2,939 Tesla's registered in Hong Kong as of April. Further reading: Nobody in Hong Kong wants a Tesla anymore.
Crime

State Prison Officials Blame An Escape On Drones And Cellphones (usatoday.com) 223

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: A fugitive South Carolina inmate recaptured in Texas this week had chopped his way through a prison fence using wire cutters apparently dropped by a drone, prison officials said Friday. Jimmy Causey, 46, fled the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, S.C., on the evening of July 4th after leaving a paper mache doll in his bed to fool guards into thinking he was asleep. He was not discovered missing until Wednesday afternoon. Causey was captured early Friday 1,200 miles away in a motel in Austin by Texas Rangers acting on a tip, WLTX-TV reported... "We believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allow(ed) him to escape," South Carolina Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said...

Stirling said prison officials are investigating the performance by prison guards that night but pointed to cellphones and drones as the main problem. The director said he and other officials have sought federal help for years to combat the use of drones to drop contraband into prison. "It's a simple fix," Stirling said. "Allow us to block the signal... They are physically incarcerated, but they are not virtually incarcerated."

It's the second time the same convict escaped from South Carolina's maximum security prison -- albeit the first time he's (allegedly) used a drone. The state's Law Enforcement Division Chief also complains that the federal government still prohibits state corrections officials from blocking cellphones, and "as long as cellphones continue to be utilized by inmates in prisons we're going to have things like this -- we're going to have very well-planned escapes..."
Transportation

Could Technology Companies Solve Traffic Congestion? (bloomberg.com) 151

As the Indian city of Bangalore "grapples with inadequate roads, unprecedented growth and overpopulation," can technology companies find a solution? randomErr writes: Tech giants and startups are turning their attention to a common enemy: the Indian city's infernal traffic congestion. Commutes that can take hours have inspired Gridlock Hackathon for technology workers to find solutions to the snarled roads that cost the economy billions of dollars. While the prize totals a mere $5,500, it's attracting teams from global giants Microsoft Corp., Google and Amazon.com. Inc. to local startups including Ola.
Bloomberg reports that the ideas "range from using artificial intelligence and big data on traffic flows to true moonshots, such as flying cars... Other entries suggested including Internet of Things-powered road dividers that change orientation to handle changing situations. There is also a proposal for a reporting system that tracks vehicles that don't conform to the road rules..." And one hackathon official says a team "suggested building smart roads underneath the city and another has sent in detailed drawings of flying cars." Any more bright ideas -- and more importantly, do any of these solutions really have a chance of succeeding?
The Courts

Waymo Drops All But One Patent Claim Against Uber (fortune.com) 21

Google's Waymo has dismissed three of its four patent-infringement claims against Uber. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: This comes after Waymo was encouraged to drop the claims following U.S. District Judge William Alsup's request that both parties narrow their issues for the trial. Additionally, Waymo dropped all but one of the patent claims because Uber abandoned its "Spider" LiDAR design, which had reportedly infringed upon the Waymo patents. The fourth patent claim, however, relates to a LiDAR design called, "Fuji," that the ride-hailing giant continues to use, according to Bloomberg...

In a statement to Fortune, a Waymo spokesperson said, "We found after fighting for discovery a device created by Anthony Levandowski at Uber that infringed Waymo patents. Uber has assured the court in statements made under penalty of perjury that it no longer uses and will not use that device, so we have narrowed the issues for trial by dismissing the patent claims as to that device, with the right to re-file suit if needed." The spokesman added, "We continue to pursue a patent claim against Uber's current generation device and our trade secret claims, which are not at all affected by this stipulated dismissal. We look forward to trial."

Uber called Waymo's move "yet another sign that they have overpromised and can't deliver. Not only have they uncovered zero evidence of any of the 14,000 files in question coming to Uber, they now admit that Uber's LiDAR design is actually very different than theirs.
Transportation

Airport Security Fails 17 Times Out of 18 In Minneapolis (fox9.com) 146

Bruce66423 writes, "It appears that that the security theatre at Minnesota airport failed to spot 17 security violations out of 18 last week." A local Minneapolis news station reports: Last Thursday, what's referred to as the "Red Team" in town from Washington D.C., posed as passengers and attempted to sneak items through security that should easily be caught... 17 out of 18 tries by the undercover federal agents saw explosive materials, fake weapons or drugs pass through TSA screening undetected... In April of 2016, sources said the airport failed nine out of 12 tests.
"When asked about Thursday's failing grade, the TSA said, 'TSA cannot confirm or deny the results of internal tests and condemns the release of any information that could compromise our nation's security.'"
Japan

Elderly Drivers In Japan Could Be Limited To Vehicles With Automatic Braking (japantimes.co.jp) 148

AmiMoJo writes: Japan's National Police Agency has proposed several new rules to regulate elderly drivers, including limiting them to vehicles with automatic braking systems to increase public safety. "The panel was tasked with finding ways to mitigate the risks associated with dementia, poor vision and deteriorating physical strength associated with seniors," reports the Japan Times. "Deadly traffic accidents caused by people 75 or older are on the rise, though fatal accidents overall are on the decline." Automatic braking systems apply the car's brakes if a collision is imminent. Separately Japanese authorities are offering elderly drivers who give up their licenses a discount on their funerals.
Transportation

Ola, India's Largest Ride-Hailing Service, Plans International Expansion (ndtv.com) 42

Reader joshtops writes: Indian ride-hailing company Ola, which operates in over 100 cities in the local country, is eyeing international expansion, according to a report, which cites multiple sources. The company, which leads rival Uber in India's ride-hailing market, has been looking at international markets for some time, and it has identified India's neighbours Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh as the first international countries where it will offer its services, the report added. Rival Uber already operates in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Ola is also eyeing other countries in Asia and North Africa to continue this expansion in the future, another person requesting anonymity told Gadgets 360. [...] Ola is exploring international markets at a time when Uber is increasingly expanding its reach in India. The global ride-hailing service, which operates in over 500 cities, is presently available in 29 cities in the country. India has become the fastest growing market for Uber, especially in the wake of its exit from China. The report adds that an alliance by US' Lyft, South Asia's Grab, China's Didi, and India's Ola, which they formed to utilize each other's resources to better fight Uber, ended this year. Now the companies could become direct competitors.

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