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Transportation

Google To Take On Uber With New Ride-Share Service (cnbc.com) 57

Finally, a major company is planning to compete with Uber in the ride-sharing service space. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Google is planning to debut its own ride-hailing service in San Francisco at "far cheaper rates." (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled, here's an alternate source.) The Mountain View-based company began a pilot program around its California headquarters in May, and enabled several thousand area workers at specific firms to use the Waze navigation app to connect with fellow commuters. Expect Google's service in the coming weeks, says the report. One key difference in Google's approach is that it aims to connect riders with drivers who are already headed in the same direction. The project is in compliance with Waze's aims to "make fares low enough to discourage drivers from operating as taxi drivers." From the report: Still, Google's push into ride-sharing could portend a clash with Uber, a seven-year-old firm valued at roughly $68 billion that largely invented the concept of summoning a car with a smartphone app. Google and Uber were once allies -- Google invested $258 million in Uber in 2013 -- but increasingly see each other as rivals. Alphabet executive David Drummond said Monday that he resigned from Uber's board because of the increasing competition between the companies. Uber, which has long used Google's mapping software for its ride-hailing service, recently began developing its own maps.Game on, Uber.
Japan

Mitsubishi Overstated Mileage For More Vehicle Models, Japan Ministry Says (reuters.com) 51

Earlier this year Mitsubishi admitted to using some less-than-correct tactics when calculating the fuel economy of four of its Japanese market vehicles. But that wasn't the end of the scandal. The Japanese transport ministry has announced that its investigation into Mitsubishi's practices has revealed eight additional vehicles with misreported fuel economy numbers. Reuters reports: Earlier in the day, Japan's transport ministry said its investigation had shown the automaker had overstated the fuel economy for eight vehicles including the RVR, Pajero and Outlander SUV models, in addition to four minivehicles initially confirmed in April. The latest announcement deals another reputational blow to Japan's sixth-largest automaker, which has been struggling to recover from the mileage scandal, which affected two minivehicle models produced for Nissan Motor Co Ltd. The company's market value has tumbled since the scandal broke, and the ordeal prompted the company to seek financial assistance from Nissan, which agreed to buy a controlling one-third stake for $2.2 billion.
Transportation

Welcome To Alphanumeric Car Hell (theverge.com) 187

Jason H. Harper, writing for The Verge: Et tu, Hyundai? Until recently, the Korean brand offered two upmarket cars, the Genesis and the Equus. The first name had biblical shades and the latter shared a title with a play where an adolescent likes to get naked and straddle horses. So while the connotations were a bit muddled, at least they were memorable. Now Hyundai has spun Genesis into its own luxury brand, akin to what Toyota did with Lexus decades ago. And in so doing, it has cast off those memorable names in favor of an alphanumeric naming strategy. The Hyundai Genesis is reborn as the Genesis G80 and the Equus sheds its horsey homage to become the G90, which guarantees that I won't remember the new names. I'll just call the G90 the Model-Formerly-Known-as-Equus. And while the two models seemed well differentiated before, now the distinctions are hazy. The G90 apparently has 10 more units of something over the G80. Perhaps it is 10 percent better. Ten percent bigger? Ten grand more expensive? Welcome to Alphanumeric Hell.The rest of the article is worth a read as well.
Software

Tesla To Further Restrict Its Autopilot Software To Prevent Accidents (electrek.co) 140

Tesla is planning to further restrict its Autopilot mode via a v8.0 software update that will make it much harder for drivers to ignore safety alerts. Tesla's Autopilot currently issues alerts on the dashboard "reading Hold Steering Wheel and the driver has to apply pressure on the wheel to make it go away," reports Electrek. "If you quickly respond to those alerts, the Autopilot's Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC) do not disengage." The system will disengage if you ignore those warnings for too long. Electrek reports: "Now we learn that Tesla is about to introduce a new restriction with the upcoming v8.0 software update to give more weight to the alerts. According to sources familiar with the Autopilot program, Tesla will add a safety restriction that will result in not only the Autopilot disengaging after alerts are repeatedly ignored, but also blocking the driver from re-engaging the feature after it was automatically disengaged. The driver will not be able to reactivate the Autopilot until the car is stopped and put in 'Park.' So far, it looks like it would only affect the Autosteer feature of the Autopilot and TACC would still be available for the duration of the drive. The goal of the new restriction appears to be to encourage Tesla owners to respond to the visual alert and not to ignore them."
Government

FAA Expects 600,000 Commercial Drones In The Air Within A Year (npr.org) 45

The drone industry is expected to expand dramatically in the coming months and years with the passing of a new rule (PDF) that makes it easier to become a commercial drone operator. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts there to be roughly 600,000 drones to be used commercially within the next year. NPR reports: "For context, the FAA says that 20,000 drones are currently registered for commercial use. What's expected to produce a 30-fold increase in a matter of months is a new rule that went into effect today and makes it easier to become a commercial drone operator. Broadly, the new rules change the process of becoming a commercial drone pilot: Instead of having to acquire a traditional pilot's license and getting a special case-by-case permission from the regulators, drone operators now need to pass a new certification test and abide by various flying restrictions (and, well, be older than 16). The rest of the drone safety rules still apply: No flights beyond line-of-sight, over people, at night, above 400 feet in the air or faster than 100 miles an hour. Drones also can't be heavier than 55 pounds, and all unmanned aircraft have to be registered. Businesses, however, may get special wavers to skip some of the restrictions if they can prove they can do so safely. The drone association expects the industry will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82 billion for the economy in the first 10 years of being integrated into the national airspace. The FAA is also working on new rules that eventually will allow drone flights over people and beyond line of sight."
Transportation

Vienna Airport Says Glitch That Disrupted Dozens Of Flights Resolved (reuters.com) 16

On Sunday, Vienna Airport was at the receiving end of a number of flight delays and cancellations due to data transmission issues. On Monday, it announced that all the issues have been resolved. Reuters reports:"Austrian air traffic control has solved the issue," the airport said on its website early on Monday. "At the moment there are no delayed or canceled flights. We advise passengers to contact their airline." The automated transfer of flight planning data between air traffic control centers in Brussels and Vienna collapsed completely for a while on Sunday afternoon, said a spokesman for Austro Control, which monitors Austrian air space.
Transportation

Domino's Will Deliver Pizza By Drone and By Robot (roboticstrends.com) 76

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes CNN Money's report that "pizzas will soon be dropping from the heavens": Domino's demonstrated its ability to deliver food via a drone Thursday in New Zealand and plans to test actual deliveries to customers next month. "It doesn't add up to deliver a two kilogram package in a two-ton vehicle," said Scott Bush, a general manager for Domino's Pizza Enterprises, which is independent of the U.S. chain and operates in seven countries. "In Auckland, we have such massive traffic congestion it just makes sense to take to the airways."

A Domino's customer who requests a drone delivery will receive a notification when their delivery is approaching. After going outside and hitting a button on their smartphone, the drone will lower the food via a tether. Once the package is released, the drone pulls the tether back up and flies back to the Domino's store.

Robotics Trends has video from the flight, and reports that Domino's is also testing a pizza-delivering robot. Their Domino's Robotics Unit "has four wheels, is less than three feet tall, and has a heated compartment that can hold up to 10 pizzas. It can deliver pizzas within a 12.5-mile radius before needing to be recharged."
Businesses

Uber Loses At Least $1.2 Billion In First Half of 2016 (bloomberg.com) 156

An anonymous reader writes: The ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. is not a public company, but every three months, dozens of shareholders get on a conference call to hear the latest details on its business performance from its head of finance, Gautam Gupta. On Friday, Gupta told investors that Uber's losses mounted in the second quarter. Even in the U.S., where Uber had turned a profit during its first quarter, the company was once again losing money. In the first quarter of this year, Uber lost about $520 million before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, according to people familiar with the matter. In the second quarter the losses significantly exceeded $750 million, including a roughly $100 million shortfall in the U.S., those people said. That means Uber's losses in the first half of 2016 totalled at least $1.27 billion. "It's hardly rare for companies to lose large sums of money as they try to build significant markets and battle for market share," said Joe Grundfest, professor of law and business at Stanford. "The interesting challenge is for them to turn the corner to become profitable, cash-flow-positive entities."
Transportation

Singapore Launches World's First 'Self-driving' Taxi Service (theguardian.com) 60

Days before ride-hailing service Uber debuts its self-driving car in Pittsburgh, a company in Singapore has beaten Uber to the race. The Guardian reports: The world's first "self-driving" taxi service has been launched in Singapore -- albeit with a human backup driver and co-pilot on board for the time being. Members of the public selected to take part in the trial would be able to hail a free ride through their smartphones, said nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup. The cars -- modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics -- had a driver in the front prepared to take back the wheel and a researcher in the back watching the car's computers, the company said. Each was fitted with Lidar, a laser-based detection system like radar. An Associated Press reporter taking a ride on Wednesday observed that the safety driver had to step on the brakes once, when a car was obstructing the test car's lane and another vehicle, which appeared to be parked, suddenly began moving in the oncoming lane. The service would start with six cars, growing to a dozen by the end of the year, said nuTonomy, adding that it aimed to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018.
Transportation

World's Largest Aircraft Crashes Its Second Flight (theverge.com) 172

Not too long after it completed its first test flight, the Airlander 10 -- the world's largest aircraft -- has crashed its second test flight. Since the 300-foot long aircraft contains 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, the crash was all but sudden. You can see in a video posted to YouTube from witnesses on the ground that the aircraft slowly descended to the ground, nose first. The BBC has published some close-up photos of the cockpit, which sustained damages. There were no injuries in the crash, according to a tweet from Hybrid Air Vehicles. The company did also deny eyewitness reports of the aircraft being damaged in a collision with a telegraph pole.
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Aren't Going To Be So Great Until We Make Our Maps Better (theverge.com) 146

Uber is debuting its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh this month, a move that has many taxi drivers upset. The Verge's Nilay Patel argues that this move should change the way we think about maps and addresses. He adds that Uber is currently unable to pinpoint his home, and often ends up at the door of a "widely different address." Citing the CEO of a "large ridesharing company", Patel writes that this issue is known as the "egress problem" -- "the way we locate buildings on a map doesn't really describe how people move in and out of those buildings." Though there are workarounds and inventive ways to pinpoint your exact address, Patel argues that when we grow reliant on self-driving cars, things will get far more complicated and futile if we don't make our maps and navigation services better. He writes: Driverless cars are one of the ultimate signifiers of the future -- the real Jetsons stuff. And we're so close to making them happen: tons of cars have sophisticated adaptive cruise control that can basically keep you going on the highway, prototypes of true self-driving cars from Google and others are already on the road, and the momentum is only increasing. But maybe we shouldn't hand control of how we get somewhere to the machines until we're entirely sure the robots know where we're going.
Transportation

Tesla Unveils New Model S, Its Quickest Production Car (bloomberg.com) 174

Electric car maker Tesla said Tuesday that it is launching a 100-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery for its Model S and Model X cars. A report on Bloomberg says: Tesla is adding versions of its Model S sedan and Model X sport utility vehicle with a more powerful battery pack that the company said makes the Model S the world's quickest production car and gives it range of 315 miles on a single charge. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk is trying to appeal to sports car enthusiasts with the new Model S P100D with a 100 kilowatt-hour battery, which with Ludicrous mode can go from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds, compared with 2.8 seconds for the P90D Ludicrous version. The P100D Ludicrous upgrade costs $10,000 for customers who have ordered a P90D Ludicrous but haven't taken delivery, or $20,000 for owners who already have that vehicle type.
China

Didi Launches Car Rental Service In China 10

An anonymous reader writes: Ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is adding a car rental service for customers in several cities, to take advantage of the enormous domestic tourism market in China. Users can reserve a car through the Didi app and have it delivered to their door within two hours. The service, which is currently in beta testing in Shanghai, is expected to expand to several more cities in China over the next year. In a statement the company said, "Didi car rental is launched in response to the boom in China's short-term and tourist car rental market as the population goes through a lifestyle revolution." In 2015, 2.34 billion cars were rented for domestic tourists in China. That number is expected to more than double, reaching 5.8 billion by 2020.The move comes weeks after Uber announced it was selling its Chinese operation to Didi.
Businesses

Massachusetts Will Tax Ride-Sharing Companies To Subsidize Taxis (reuters.com) 445

Massachusetts will tax ride-sharing services -- 20 cents for each ride -- with 25% of the money raised going into a special fund for the taxi industry (according to an article shared by schwit1 ). Reuters reports: Ride services are not enthusiastic about the fee. "I don't think we should be in the business of subsidizing potential competitors," said Kirill Evdakov, the chief executive of Fasten, a ride service that launched in Boston last year and also operates in Austin, Texas. Some taxi owners wanted the law to go further, perhaps banning the start-up competitors unless they meet the requirements taxis do, such as regular vehicle inspection by the police...

The fee may raise millions of dollars a year because Lyft and Uber alone have a combined 2.5 million rides per month in Massachusetts... The 5-cent fee will be collected through the end of 2021. Then the taxi subsidy will disappear and the 20 cents will be split by localities and the state for five years. The whole fee will go away at the end of 2026.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed the law, which specifically bans ride-sharing services from passing those costs on to their drivers or riders. And the article notes that Taiwan has also hit Uber with a $6.4 million tax bill, while Seattle has passed a new law allowing ride-sharing drivers to unionize.
Security

German Minister Wants Facial Recognition Software At Airports and Train Stations (www.rte.ie) 111

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a surprising report from Ireland's National Public Service Broadcaster (based on a report in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag): Germany's Interior Minister wants to introduce facial recognition software at train stations and airports to help identify terror suspects following two Islamist attacks in the country last month... "Then, if a suspect appears and is recognised, it will show up in the system," he told the paper. He said a similar system was already being tested for unattended luggage, which the camera reports after a certain number of minutes. The article reports that other countries are also considering the technology.
The Courts

Tesla Owner in Autopilot Crash Won't Sue, But Car Insurer May (bloomberg.com) 93

Dana Hull, reporting for Bloomberg: A Texas man said the Autopilot mode on his Tesla Model S sent him off the road and into a guardrail, bloodying his nose and shaking his confidence in the technology. He doesn't plan to sue the electric-car maker, but his insurance company might. Mark Molthan, the driver, readily admits that he was not paying full attention. Trusting that Autopilot could handle the route as it had done before, he reached into the glove box to get a cloth and was cleaning the dashboard seconds before the collision, he said. The car failed to navigate a bend on Highway 175 in rural Kaufman, Texas, and struck a cable guardrail multiple times, according to the police report of the Aug. 7 crash. "I used Autopilot all the time on that stretch of the highway," Molthan, 44, said in a phone interview. "But now I feel like this is extremely dangerous. It gives you a false sense of security. I'm not ready to be a test pilot. It missed the curve and drove straight into the guardrail. The car didn't stop -- it actually continued to accelerate after the first impact into the guardrail." Cozen O'Connor, the law firm that represents Molthan's auto-insurance carrier, a unit of Chubb Ltd., said it sent Tesla Motors Inc. a notice letter requesting joint inspection of the vehicle, which has been deemed a total loss.
Robotics

'We're Just Rentals': Uber Drivers Ask Where They Fit In a Self-Driving Future (theguardian.com) 367

Bloomberg reported on Thursday about Uber's plan to bring its first fleet of self-driving cars to Pittsburgh as soon as this month, a move that has since been confirmed by the cab-hailing company. Amid the announcement, Uber drivers are disappointed at Uber, wondering what the future of the company lies for them. The Guardian reports:"Wo-o-o-o-w," 60-year old Uber driver Cynthia Ingram said. "We all knew it was coming. I just didn't expect it this soon." For Ingram, autonomous Ubers are an unwelcome threat to her livelihood. "I kind of figured it would be a couple more years down the line before it was really implemented and I'll be retired by then," she said. A paralegal with 30 years experience, Ingram began driving for Uber and Lyft in June 2015 when she lost her job. She said that she loves driving for Uber, though she has struggled to make ends meet. Rob Judge, 41, was also concerned with the announcement. "It feels like we're just rentals. We're kind of like placeholders until the technology comes out." A longtime customer service representative, Judge began driving for Uber three months ago to make money while he looks for other work. "For me personally, this isn't a long term stop," he added. "But for a lot of other people that I've connected with, this is their only means."
Transportation

Uber's First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month (bloomberg.com) 133

Ride-hailing app Uber will introduce self-driving cars in Pittsburgh as soon as this month, Bloomberg reports citing many officials and engineers at the company. The move is the first part of a pilot program to explore the future of the technology, the report added. The company plans to test 100 Volvo XC90s outfitted to drive themselves. Still, the cars will be accompanied by two humans: an engineer who can take control of the vehicle when needed and a co-pilot who takes note. Bloomberg reports: The Volvo deal isn't exclusive; Uber plans to partner with other automakers as it races to recruit more engineers. In July the company reached an agreement to buy Otto, a 91-employee driverless truck startup that was founded earlier this year and includes engineers from a number of high-profile tech companies attempting to bring driverless cars to market, including Google, Apple, and Tesla. Uber declined to disclose the terms of the arrangement, but a person familiar with the deal says that if targets are met, it would be worth 1percent of Uber's most recent valuation.
Transportation

Ford Plans a Fleet of Fully Autonomous Cars Operating in a Ride-Hail Service By 2021 (recode.net) 101

Ford will mass-produce autonomous vehicles without steering wheels by 2021, Ford chief executive Mark Fields said today at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, California. Recode reports:Fields announced that the company is working toward launching a fleet of commercial, level 4 (one level below a completely autonomous system, in which drivers don't have to be engaged) vehicles in a ride-hail service by 2021. The details of that ride-hail service -- such as which company Ford will partner with to operate it -- still haven't been determined. As part of that effort, Ford is investing in Velodyne, a self-driving tech company, and is working with three other startups. Ford has acquired Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company SAIPS, struck up an exclusive licensing agreement with machine vision company Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC and, as previously announced, invested in 3-D mapping startup Civil Maps.
China

Tesla Removes 'Self-driving' From China Website After Beijing Crash (reuters.com) 85

Last week, a Tesla owner in China blamed electric vehicle's "autopilot" feature for a crash. Amid the reports, Tesla quietly removed the term "self-driving" feature from its Chinese website. Reuters report: The Tesla driver crashed earlier this month while on a Beijing commuter highway after the car failed to avoid a vehicle parked on the left side but partially in the roadway, damaging both cars but causing no injuries. It was the first known such crash in China, although it follows a fatal accident in Florida earlier this year that put pressure on auto executives and regulators to tighten rules for automated driving. A check of Tesla's Chinese website on Sunday showed that the word "autopilot" had also been removed. But that term was subsequently reinstated on Monday. "At Tesla we are continuously making improvements, including to translations," a Tesla spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters when asked about the removal of the terms "autopilot" and "self-driving."

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