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Transportation

At the Track With Formula E, the First e-Racing Series 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the fast-and-quiet dept.
An anonymous reader writes Ars is running a story about the new all-electric racing car series and its first visit to the U.S.. "The pit lane we're standing in is unusual, and not only because it's a temporary setup placed in the shadow of American Airlines Arena (home of the NBA's Miami Heat). Garages are set up on both sides rather than being limited to one. A few things also appear to be missing. To start, a familiar smell from the usual mix of burning hydrocarbons is absent. And it's remarkably quiet. The occasional impact wrench bursts out in a mechanical staccato, generators drone here and there, but there are no V8s burbling, no V6s screaming....Welcome to Formula E, the world's first fully electric racing series. Miami is playing host to the first of two US rounds—the next being held in Long Beach, CA, on April 4—and it's the fifth race in this ePrix's inaugural season. Given we've got a bit of a thing about racing at Cars Technica, as well as an obvious interest in electric vehicles, we had to be on the ground in Miami to experience this for ourselves."
Transportation

Why the Final Moments Inside a Cockpit Are Heard But Not Seen 435

Posted by Soulskill
from the keeps-crash-investigators-employed dept.
jones_supa writes: There's no video footage from inside the cockpit of the Germanwings flight that left 150 people dead — nor is such footage recorded from any other commercial airline crash in recent years. Unlike many other vehicles operating with heightened safety concerns, airline cockpits don't come with video surveillance. The reason, in part, is that airline pilots and their unions have argued vigorously against what they see as an invasion of privacy that would not improve aviation safety. The long debate on whether airplane cockpits in the U.S. should be equipped with cameras dates back at least 15 years, when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) first pushed regulators to require video monitoring following what the agency called "several accidents involving a lack of information regarding crewmember actions and the flight deck environment." The latest NTSB recommendation for a cockpit image system (PDF) came in January 2015. Should video streams captured inside the plane become a standard part of aviation safety measures?
Transportation

Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up 378

Posted by Soulskill
from the difficulty-with-edge-cases dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Jad Mouawad And Christopher Drew write in the NY Times that although airplane cockpits are supposed to be the last line of defense from outside aggressors, airlines have fewer options if the threat comes from within. One of the major safety protocols that actually made planes safer in the past 15 years was that the cockpits were turned into fortresses. Unfortunately, that exact advantage was exploited by the co-pilot of the Germanwings plane on Tuesday to crash it intentionally. "It is shocking to me that there was not a second person present in the cockpit," says Mark Rosenker, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Access to the cockpit is strictly regulated in the United States. Passengers are not allowed to congregate near the cockpit door, and whenever the door is open, no one is allowed in the forward bathroom and flight attendants usually block aisle access, sometimes using a food cart. The Federal Aviation Administration mandates that a flight attendant must sit in the cockpit when either pilot steps into the passenger area; European regulations do not have a similar two-person rule, but they're now talking about creating one.

The Germanwings accident also points to potential shortcomings in how pilots are screened for mental problems, a recurring concern for an industry that demands focus and discipline in an increasingly technical job, often in stressful situations. In 2012, a well-regarded pilot with JetBlue, one of the airline's earliest employees, was physically restrained by passengers on a flight from New York to Las Vegas after displaying erratic behavior. In that case, the co-pilot locked the pilot out of the cabin and made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Tex. "Aircraft-assisted pilot suicides," as the Federal Aviation Administration calls them, are rare. They include the November 2013 crash of a Mozambique Airlines plane bound for Luanda, Angola, which bears an eerie resemblance to the Germanwings plane's demise. When the flight's co-pilot left to use the lavatory, the captain locked him out of the cockpit and manually steered the aircraft earthward. The crash of Egypt Airlines Flight 990 off Nantucket, Mass., in 1999, which killed all 217 people on board, was also caused by deliberate action, a National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded. Experts on suicide say that the psychology of those who combine suicide with mass murder may differ in significant ways from those who limit themselves to taking their own lives.
Transportation

Germanwings Plane Crash Was No Accident 733

Posted by timothy
from the that's-bad-news dept.
hcs_$reboot writes The Germanwings plane crash takes a scary turn. After a couple of days investigation, it appears that the co-pilot requested control of the aircraft about 20 minutes into the flight. The pilot then left the cockpit, leaving the co-pilot in full control of the plane. Then, the co-pilot manually and "intentionally" set the plane on the descent that drove it into the mountainside in the southern French Alps. Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a 28-year-old German national, could be heard breathing throughout the plane's descent and was alive at the point of impact, according to the prosecutor.
The Almighty Buck

Russian Official Proposes Road That Could Connect London To NYC 226

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-the-bathroom-before-you-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes There's great news coming out of Russia for epic road trip lovers. Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin has proposed building a highway that would reach from London to Alaska via Russia, a 13,000-mile stretch of road. "This is an inter-state, inter-civilization, project," the Siberian Times quoted Yakunin. "The project should be turned into a world 'future zone,' and it must be based on leading, not catching, technologies."
Government

Amazon Blasts FAA On Drone Approvals, Regulations 60

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
itwbennett writes Late last week, Amazon was issued permission by the FAA to fly an experimental drone as part of its tests for a planned automatic delivery service but it came too late, Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy at Amazon, told lawmakers on Tuesday. 'The UAS [unmanned aircraft system] approved last week by the FAA has already become obsolete,' he said. As a result, Amazon has filed for permission to fly a more advanced drone—one that is already being flown in several countries including the U.K., said Misener, who was speaking at a hearing of the Senate Committee on commerce, science and transportation.
NASA

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Could Land At Ellington Space Port Near Houston 24

Posted by samzenpus
from the coming-soon dept.
MarkWhittington writes Despite having been rejected in NASA's commercial crew program, Sierra Nevada has been very busy trying to develop its lift body spacecraft, the Dream Chaser. Having rolled out a smaller, cargo version of the spacecraft for the second round for contracts for commercial cargo to the International Space Station, the company has amended the unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA to add a closeout review milestone that would help transition the Dream Chaser from the preliminary design review to the critical design review step. Finally, Sierra Nevada announced a new agreement on Tuesday with the Houston Airport System to use Ellington Spaceport as a landing site for the cargo version of the Dream Chaser.
Transportation

Uber To Turn Into a Big Data Company By Selling Location Data 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the yellow-cabs-looking-slightly-less-unappealing dept.
Presto Vivace sends news that Uber has entered into a partnership with Starwood Hotels that hooks accounts from both companies together. If you're a customer of both, you'll get a small benefit when chartering Uber rides, but the cost is that Uber will share all their data on you with Starwood. The article says, This year, we are going to see the transformation of Uber into a big data company cut from the same cloth as Google, Facebook and Visa – using the wealth of information they know about me and you to deliver new services and generate revenue by selling this data to others. ... Uber can run the same program with airlines, restaurants, nightclubs, bars – every time you go from point A to point B in an Uber, “A”, “B” or both represent a new potential consumer of your data. ... Uber knows the hot nightclubs, best restaurants and most obviously now has as much data about traffic patterns as Waze (which coincidentally trades data with local governments). Combining Uber’s data with the very-personal data that customers are willing to give up in exchange for benefits, means that Uber can, and is, on its way to becoming a Big Data company.
Transportation

Ford's New Car Tech Prevents You From Accidentally Speeding 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the autonomy-by-parts dept.
An anonymous reader sends word of Ford's new "Intelligent Speed Limiter" technology, which they say will prevent drivers from unintentionally exceeding the speed limit. When the system is activated (voluntarily) by the driver, it asks for a current maximum speed. From then on, a camera mounted on the windshield will scan the road ahead for speed signs, and automatically adjust the maximum speed to match them. The system can also pull speed limit data from navigation systems. When the system detects the car exceeding the speed limit, it won't automatically apply the brakes — rather, it will deliver less fuel to the engine until the vehicle's speed drops below the limit. If the speed still doesn't drop, a warning noise will sound. The driver can override the speed limit by pressing "firmly" on the accelerator. The technology is being launched in Europe with the Ford S-MAX.
Government

$1B TSA Behavioral Screening Program Slammed As "Junk Science" 224

Posted by timothy
from the little-here-a-little-there dept.
schwit1 writes The Transportation Security Administration has been accused of spending a billion dollars on a passenger-screening program that's based on junk science. The claim arose in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has tried unsuccessfully to get the TSA to release documents on its SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques) program through the Freedom of Information Act. SPOT, whose techniques were first used in 2003 and formalized in 2007, uses "highly questionable" screening techniques, according to the ACLU complaint, while being "discriminatory, ineffective, pseudo-scientific, and wasteful of taxpayer money." TSA has spent at least $1 billion on SPOT. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2010 that "TSA deployed SPOT nationwide before first determining whether there was a scientifically valid basis for using behavior detection and appearance indicators as a means for reliably identifying passengers as potential threats in airports," according to the ACLU. And in 2013, GAO recommended that the agency spend less money on the program, which uses 3,000 "behavior detection officers" whose jobs is to identify terrorists before they board jetliners.
Star Wars Prequels

Boeing Patents Star Wars Style Force Field Technology 126

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up-the-deflector-shield dept.
An anonymous reader was one of many to point out that Boeing doesn't want to rely on a sad devotion to an ancient religion to protect aircraft and conjure up the stolen data tapes, but plans on using force fields instead. "Boeing's new patent may let the force be with you even in real life. The aircraft and defense company has taken a cue from science fiction with its plan to develop a Star Wars style force field that would use energy to deflect any potential damage. Just liking the luminescent shields seen in the film, Boeing's "Method and system for shock wave attenuation via electromagnetic arc" could provide a real-life layer of protection from nearby impacts to targets. The downside: It won't protect from direct hits."
Government

Finland To Fly "Open Skies" Surveillance Flight Over Russia 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the fly-the-friendly-skies dept.
jones_supa writes Inspectors from Finland will conduct an observation flight on March 23-27 over the Russian territory within the framework of the Treaty on Open Skies. During the flight that will be conducted along the mutually agreed route, Russian specialists on board of the aircraft will ensure strict compliance with the agreed flight schedule and monitor the use of the equipment stipulated by the treaty. The flight will be conducted on a Swedish SAAB 340 observation aircraft that is not equipped with any weaponry. Both the plane and the equipment installed in it have been examined by the international inspection, including Russian specialists. The treaty on Open Skies is designed to enhance mutual understanding by allowing unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the territories of its 34 current member states.
Earth

In Response to Pollution Spike, Paris Temporarily Halves Traffic By Decree 198

Posted by timothy
from the solomonic-wisdom dept.
As reported by News.com.au, the city of Paris has implemented a harsh (but temporary) measure for drivers, in response to a surge in pollution: banning cars with even-numbered registration plates from the streets. According to the article, City mayor Anne Hidalgo had asked authorities to prevent one in every two cars from taking to the capital’s streets and make all public transport temporarily free in a bid to drive down pollution. Only vehicles with numberplates ending in an odd number will be allowed to drive, though exceptions exist for vehicles like taxis, electric cars and ambulances. ... Public transportation is to be free until at least Monday in Paris and its surrounding towns in an effort to force pollution down by coaxing drivers to give up their cars for a few days. Similar emergency measures were last implemented almost exactly a year ago — on March 17 — during a particularly bad spike in the pollution levels.
Transportation

Virgin Could Take On Tesla With Electric Car 105

Posted by timothy
from the like-a-branson dept.
According to a story at Ars Technica, Virgin empire founder Richard Branson says 'teams of people' are working on electric cars. Says the article: Virgin is working on electric cars and could one day take on Tesla, according to company founder Richard Branson. Speaking at a racing event in Miami, Branson said Virgin had "teams of people" working on electric cars but refused to be drawn on specific details. The company's Virgin Racing team already competes in the all-electric Formula E championship, a high-speed, battery-powered spinoff of Formula 1. Branson has now hinted that Virgin's involvement could lead to the company selling its own electric cars. ... Branson's business has continued to expand in recent years. As well as trains and planes, Virgin now has a fledgling space operation and is soon to launch its own cruise ships.
Communications

Taxi Apps Accused of Facilitating Sexual Harassment In Brazil 49

Posted by timothy
from the just-need-you-to-complete-this-form dept.
New submitter André Costa writes The companies responsible for taxi apps Easy Taxi and 99Taxis are being accused of making it too easy for taxi drivers to harass female customers (some news reports — in Portuguese — can be found here, here and here). These apps currently disclose informations such as the client's name, cell phone and address to the driver. One customer that started being harassed through offensive text messages after a ride started an online petition demanding that the companies take effective measures to protect female customers. The petition already collected more than 27,000 signatures, and both Easy Taxi and 99Taxis already announced that they will implement features that will protect clients' privacy. At first, users will be allowed to choose if they want their phone numbers to be disclosed. Within a couple of months, both companies said they will provide VOIP calls, which will eliminate the need to exchange phone numbers.
Transportation

Chevy Malibu 'Teen Driver' Tech Will Snitch If You Speed 224

Posted by timothy
from the no-problem-for-ferris-bueller dept.
mpicpp writes General Motors wants to help curb teen crashes with a new system that lets parents monitor their kids' driving habits—even when mom and dad aren't actually in the car. Dubbed Teen Drive, the new system will debut in the 2016 Chevy Malibu, offering a bunch of features designed to encourage safe driving. It will, for instance, mute the radio or any device paired with the car when front seat occupants aren't wearing their seatbelts, and give audible and visual warnings when the vehicle is traveling faster than preset speeds. It doesn't end there. Brace yourself, teens, because you might not like this next part too much. The new system also lets parents view a readout of how you drove the car, including how fast you went, how far you drove, and whether any active safety features (like over-speed warnings) were engaged. Parents can also set the radio system's maximum volume to a lower level, and select a maximum speed between 40 and 75 miles per hour, which, if exceeded, will trigger warnings.
Businesses

Amazon Launches One-Hour Delivery Service In Baltimore and Miami 110

Posted by samzenpus
from the but-I-want-it-now dept.
schwit1 writes Amazon.com announced the launch Thursday of its one-hour delivery service, Prime Now, in select zip codes in Baltimore and Miami. It initially launched in Manhattan in December. The one-hour service, available to Amazon Prime subscribers through the Prime Now mobile app, costs $7.99. Two-hour delivery is free. From the article: "Amazon Prime's success has blown away the company's projections and 'petrified' local and national retailers, said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm headquartered in New York City. 'If you're a retailer and you're not scared of Amazon ... you should be,' he said. 'They are the change agent. They are leading the change in retail.'"
Transportation

Musk Says Drivers May Become Obsolete, Announces Juice-Saving Upgrades 341

Posted by timothy
from the dog's-not-that-shaggy dept.
Lucas123 (935744) writes During a discussion at a Nvidia conference, Elon Musk predicted that in the future, consumers will not be allowed to drive cars because it will be considered too dangerous. [Note: compare Lyft CEO Logan Green's opposite view] 'You can't have a person driving a two-ton death machine,' he said. Others agree. Thilo Koslowski, a vice president at Gartner, said instead of laws dictating drivers must cede control to their car's computer, we may someday someday just pass signs requiring drivers to activate auto-drive functionality for certain particularly treacherous stretches of roadway. Kowlowski said fully autonomous vehicles won't be ubiquitous for another 10 to 15 years, but the government could spur that on by offering tax incentives as it does today with all-electric vehicles and hybrids. Related news: it may not be fully autonomous driving, but Tesla S drivers are promised an upgrade a few months from now that gives a taste, with the addition of automatic steering features. And though it's perhaps anti-climactic as a solution to "ending range anxiety," Musk also announced today that Teslas will get in the next two weeks a software upgrade that will greatly upgrade the cars' routing software, integrating "near-realtime" lists of available supercharger stations, and keeping drivers apprised of whether one is within range.
AI

Lyft CEO: Self-Driving Cars Aren't the Future 451

Posted by timothy
from the but-the-future-branches dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Google, Tesla, Mercedes and others are working hard to build the best self-driving car. But will anyone actually buy them? In a Q&A session at this year's South by Southwest, Lyft CEO Logan Green insisted the answer is "No." But does Green truly believe in this vision, or is he driven (so to speak) by other motivations? It's possible that Green's stance on self-driving cars has to do more with Uber's decision to aggressively fund research into that technology. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announcing that self-driving cars were the future was something that greatly upset many Uber drivers, and Green may see that spasm of anger as an opportunity to differentiate Lyft in the hearts and minds of the drivers who work for his service. Whether or not Green's vision is genuine, we won't know the outcome for several more years, considering the probable timeframes before self-driving cars hit the road... if ever.
Transportation

Uber Shut Down In Multiple Countries Following Raids 366

Posted by timothy
from the before-the-raids-would-have-been-weird dept.
wired_parrot (768394) writes "Worldwide raids were carried out against Uber offices in Germany, France and South Korea. In Germany, the raids followed a court ruling banning Uber from operating without a license. In Paris, raids followed an investigation into deceptive practices. And in South Korea, 30 people, including Uber's CEO, were charged with running an illegal taxi service."