Transportation

Estonia To Become the World's First Free Public Transport Nation (citylab.com) 80

On July 1st, the country of Estonia will create the largest 24/7 free public transit zone in the world, making it feasibly possible to travel by bus from one end of the 1.3 million-strong Baltic nation to the other without paying a cent. CityLab reports: Estonia is already a world leader in free public transit: In 2013, all public transit in its capital, Tallinn, became free to local residents (but not tourists or other visitors, even those from other parts of the country). The new national free-ride scheme with extend this model even further, making all state-run bus travel in rural municipalities free and extending cost-free transit out from the capital into other regions. The plan will not, however, extend Tallinn's existing free public transit policies to other Estonian cities, and it also won't make riding Tallinn transit free to visitors (at least, not initially). So while most of the country's land area and population -- which is overwhelmingly concentrated around Tallinn -- should get fare-free daily lives, it's not precisely the case that no Estonian will ever buy a bus ticket in their own country again. Further reading: Pop-Up City
Privacy

Repo Men Scan Billions of License Plates -- For the Government (washingtonpost.com) 212

The Washington Post notes the billions of license plate scans coming from modern repo men "able to use big data to find targets" -- including one who drives "a beat-up Ford Crown Victoria sedan." It had four small cameras mounted on the trunk and a laptop bolted to the dash. The high-speed cameras captured every passing license plate. The computer contained a growing list of hundreds of thousands of vehicles with seriously late loans. The system could spot a repossession in an instant. Even better, it could keep tabs on a car long before the loan went bad... Repo agents are the unpopular foot soldiers in the nation's $1.2 trillion auto loan market... they are the closest most people come to a faceless, sophisticated financial system that can upend their lives...

Derek Lewis works for Relentless Recovery, the largest repo company in Ohio and its busiest collector of license plate scans. Last year, the company repossessed more than 25,500 vehicles -- including tractor trailers and riding lawn mowers. Business has more than doubled since 2014, the company said. Even with the rising deployment of remote engine cutoffs and GPS locators in cars, repo agencies remain dominant. Relentless scanned 28 million license plates last year, a demonstration of its recent, heavy push into technology. It now has more than 40 camera-equipped vehicles, mostly spotter cars. Agents are finding repos they never would have a few years ago. The company's goal is to capture every plate in Ohio and use that information to reveal patterns... "It's kind of scary, but it's amazing," said Alana Ferrante, chief executive of Relentless.

Repo agents are responsible for the majority of the billions of license plate scans produced nationwide. But they don't control the information. Most of that data is owned by Digital Recognition Network (DRN), a Fort Worth company that is the largest provider of license-plate-recognition systems. And DRN sells the information to insurance companies, private investigators -- even other repo agents. DRN is a sister company to Vigilant Solutions, which provides the plate scans to law enforcement, including police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Both companies declined to respond to questions about their operations... For repo companies, one worry is whether they are producing information that others are monetizing.

Transportation

Should The Media Cover Tesla Accidents? (chicagotribune.com) 240

Long-time Slashdot reader rufey writes: Last weekend a Tesla vehicle was involved in a crash near Salt Lake City Utah while its Autopilot feature was enabled. The Tesla, a Model S, crashed into the rear end of a fire department utility truck, which was stopped at a red light, at an estimated speed of 60 MPH. "The car appeared not to brake before impact, police said. The driver, whom police have not named, was taken to a hospital with a broken foot," according to the Associated Press. "The driver of the fire truck suffered whiplash and was not taken to a hospital."
Elon Musk tweeted about the accident:

It's super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage. What's actually amazing about this accident is that a Model S hit a fire truck at 60mph and the driver only broke an ankle. An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death.

The Associated Press defended their news coverage Friday, arguing that the facts show that "not all Tesla crashes end the same way." They also fact-check Elon Musk's claim that "probability of fatality is much lower in a Tesla," reporting that it's impossible to verify since Tesla won't release the number of miles driven by their cars or the number of fatalities. "There have been at least three already this year and a check of 2016 NHTSA fatal crash data -- the most recent year available -- shows five deaths in Tesla vehicles."

Slashdot reader Reygle argues the real issue is with the drivers in the Autopilot cars. "Someone unwilling to pay attention to the road shouldn't be allowed anywhere near that road ever again."


Transportation

Utilities, Tesla Appeal Federal Rollback of Auto Emissions Standards (arstechnica.com) 113

A coalition of utilities and electric vehicle makers, including Tesla, are petitioning the EPA to reconsider its recent plan to roll back auto emissions standards. In April, the EPA said that it would relax greenhouse gas emissions standards that had been put in place for model year 2022-2025 vehicles. Ars Technica reports: The National Coalition for Advanced Transportation (NCAT) represents 12 utilities as well as Tesla, electric truck maker Workhorse, and EV charging network EVgo. NCAT earlier this month asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC to review the EPA's latest efforts to relax the Obama-era fuel economy standards.

The coalition challenge to the EPA follows a similar challenge made by 17 states, including California. The utilities' efforts show that they're interested in protecting one of the major projected avenues for growth in electricity demand. Electricity consumption has stagnated in the U.S. as efficiency measures take effect and, in some states, solar panels make it easier for residents to buy less electricity from the local utility.

Transportation

Elon Musk Pitches 150 MPH Rides In Boring Company Tunnels For $1 (engadget.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: At The Boring Company Information Session not all of the talk centered on flamethrowers. Elon Musk and project leader Steve Davis described many details of their visions for an underground network that could alleviate traffic problems in big cities. Musk said "we're not suggesting this to the exclusion of other approaches," but did take a moment to call out flying taxi solutions (like Uber Elevate) right off the bat due to danger and noise.

Earlier in the evening Musk retweeted an LA Metro tweet that said it's coordinating with The Boring Company on its test and said the two will be "partners" going forward. Much of what Musk discussed about how his concept in-city Loop would work has been answered in concept videos and the company's FAQ, but he specifically said that the plan is for rides that cost a $1, and carry up to 16 passengers through hundreds of tunnels to those small, parking space-size tunnels located throughout a city. Test runs in the loop have already hit a couple of hundred miles an hour, and Musk's plan is for vacuum Hyperloop tubes between cities that enable travel in pressurized carts at up to 300 MPH. That's compared to 150 MPH in the in-city Loop carts, all without slowing down due to traffic or anything else. The main concern is hitting speeds that are still comfortable for people inside.
The timeframe for when the "weird little Disney ride in the middle of LA" will be available to the public is unclear.
Businesses

Faster Flights Are Coming With New Satellite Tracking Technology (bloomberg.com) 34

An anonymous reader shares a report: The company that provides the U.K.'s air-traffic control service is taking a 10 percent stake in Aireon, a U.S. firm that's building a satellite-based tracking system and will offer commercial services to controllers starting next year. Aireon plans to use a constellation of 66 Iridium Communications. Next satellites in low Earth orbit to track aircraft. Iridium has 50 in orbit already, 47 of which are operational. Each carries equipment to offer aircraft position data to ground controllers.

Iridium plans to launch five additional satellites on May 22 from California, completing its full network later this year. Aireon said 70 percent of the world's airspace lacks satellite tracking or airline surveillance coverage, including most oceans and parts of Africa and Latin America.

AI

NYC Announces Plans To Test Algorithms For Bias (betanews.com) 77

The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has announced the formation of a new task force to examine the fairness of the algorithms used in the city's automated systems. From a report: The Automated Decision Systems Task Force will review algorithms that are in use to determine that they are free from bias. Representatives from the Department of Social Services, the NYC Police Department, the Department of Transportation, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, the Administration for Children's Services, and the Department of Education will be involved, and the aim is to produce a report by December 2019. However, it may be some time before the task force has any sort of effect. While a report is planned for the end of next year, it will merely recommend "procedures for reviewing and assessing City algorithmic tools to ensure equity and opportunity" -- it will be a while before any recommendation might be assessed and implemented.
Government

Cops Will Soon ID You Via Your Roof Rack (arstechnica.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Tuesday, one of the largest license plate reader (LPR) manufacturers, ELSAG, announced a major upgrade to "allow investigators to search by color, seven body types, 34 makes, and nine visual descriptors in addition to the standard plate number, location, and time." Such a vast expansion of the tech now means that evading such scans will be even more difficult.

"Using advanced computer vision software, ELSAG ALPR data can now be processed to include the vehicle's make, type -- sedan, SUV, hatchback, pickup, minivan, van, box truck -- and general color -- red, blue, green, white and yellow," ELSAG continued. "The solution actively recognizes the 34 most-common vehicle brands on US roads." Plus, the company says, the software is now able to visually identity things like a "roof rack, spare tire, bumper sticker, or a ride-sharing company decal."

Transportation

'Bird Scooters Are Ruining Venice' (latimes.com) 374

Nate Jackson, writing for LA Times: Although I would like to avoid them, I have no choice but to consider them because I live in Venice, which is where the first Bird (electric scooters) hatched and where the flock is thickest. Bird's founder and CEO, Travis VanderZanden, says, "We won"t be happy till there are more Birds than cars," so I guess I am supposed to get used to it. [...] Suddenly, almost daily, I have some near-collision with a Bird scooter rider -- he who sees nothing but the phone in his hand, thinks of nothing but the next text, and hears nothing but whatever music he has chosen to pump through the white inserts protruding from his wasted ears. He who, despite all that, is still traveling up to 15 mph on the street or sidewalk.

Aside from road safety, which has been discussed thoroughly in this and other papers, Bird is also tearing away at the fabric of our Westside society. In Venice and Santa Monica, where Bird is centralized, thousands of people live on the streets, which helps explain the scooter's popularity. With a press of a throttle button, one can be whizzing along, leaving it all in a blur. Bird calls this solving the "first/last mile" problem. Problem? Is it a problem for a twentysomething to walk a single mile? To most residents, Venice itself is the solution: The weather is perfect, the ocean is a stone's throw away and each block has something interesting to see. But to walk through Venice is to understand that human misery exists just outside the frame of your Instagram feed.

Transportation

Tesla Model X Breaks Electric Towing Record By Pulling Boeing 787 (inverse.com) 235

A Tesla Model X has set the world record for heaviest tow by electric production passenger vehicle when it pulled a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at the Melbourne Airport in Australia. The video can be viewed on YouTube. Inverse reports: As probably expected, the plane far exceeds the Model X's recommended tow limit of around 5,000 pounds. In fact, the weight of the unloaded 787 with a minimal amount of fuel came closer to around 300,000 pounds. The airline pulled the Dreamliner around 1,000 feet down the tarmac. The stunt was part of a wider campaign around Qantas' new work with Tesla, which involves offering high-powered chargers at its Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide facilities as well as offsetting miles for Tesla drivers that are also frequent flyer members.
Businesses

FedEx Sees Blockchain as 'Next Frontier' For Logistics (bloomberg.com) 106

Convinced that blockchain is on the brink of transforming the package-delivery business, FedEx is testing the technology to track large, higher-value cargo. From a report: "We're quite confident that it has big, big implications in supply chain, transportation and logistics," Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith said at a blockchain conference in New York. "It's the next frontier that's going to completely change worldwide supply chains." Blockchain uses computer code to record every step of a transaction and delivery in a permanent digital ledger, providing transparency. The ledger can't be changed unless all involved agree, reducing common disputes over issues like time stamps, payments and damages. FedEx's interest in blockchain and the Internet of Things are part of the company's strategy to improve customer service and fend off competition, Smith said.
Transportation

Tesla Rejected More Advanced Driver Monitoring Features On Its Cars, Says Report (theverge.com) 143

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Engineers inside Tesla wanted to add robust driver monitoring systems to the company's cars to help make sure drivers safely use Autopilot, and Tesla even worked with suppliers on possible solutions, according to The Wall Street Journal. But those executives -- Elon Musk included -- reportedly rejected the idea out of worry that the options might not work well enough, could be expensive, and because drivers might become annoyed by an overly nagging system.

Tesla considered a few different types of monitoring: one that would track a driver's eyes using a camera and infrared sensors, and another that involved adding more sensors to the steering wheel to make sure that the driver is holding on. Both ideas would help let the car's system know if the driver has stopped paying attention, which could reduce the chance of an accident in situations where Autopilot disengages or is incapable of keeping the car from crashing. Musk later confirmed on Twitter that the eye tracking option was "rejected for being ineffective, not for cost."

Japan

Japan Moves To Ease Aging Drivers Out of Their Cars (nytimes.com) 135

As Japan's population ages, so do its drivers. Japan has the oldest population in the world, with nearly 28 percent of its residents above 65 years old. One in seven people are over 75. In the United States, by comparison, that figure is closer to one in 16. From a report: According to data compiled by Japan's national police agency, drivers between 16 and 24 are more likely to cause traffic accidents than any other age group. But last year, drivers over 75 caused twice as many fatal accidents per 100,000 drivers as those under that age. Among drivers over 80 years old, the rate was three times as high as for drivers under that age. The news media regularly features grisly reports of deaths caused by older drivers, some of whom are later discovered to have Alzheimer's disease.

Since 2009, all drivers 75 and older must submit to a test of their cognitive functioning when they renew their licenses [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled], typically once every three years. Under a new traffic law that took effect in March 2017, those who score poorly are sent to a doctor for examination, and if they are found to have dementia, the police can revoke their licenses. More than 33,000 drivers who took the cognitive test last year showed what the police deemed to be signs of cognitive impairment and were ordered to see a doctor. The police revoked just over 1,350 licenses after doctors diagnosed dementia.

Transportation

Scooter-sharing Comes To Washington After Speed Bumps Elsewhere (reuters.com) 37

So many Washingtonians are gliding the final few blocks of their commutes on motorized scooters that a new sharing program cannot keep up with rush-hour demand. Authorities in other big U.S. cities that pioneered the concept are less than thrilled. From a report: [...] The pilot program in Washington, which runs until August, is capped at 400 scooter permits. It has been so popular that there are often no vehicles left for riders seeking to locate the two-wheeled stand-up rides. To guard against problems seen in other cities, Washington riders must agree to a digital contract that spells out rules that prohibit riding on sidewalks, mandate sticking to roadway bike lanes and proper curbing of discarded scooters, LimeBike's Gendron said.
Transportation

Tesla's Engineering Chief Takes Leave of Absence (wsj.com) 57

Tesla's senior vice president of engineering, Doug Field, is taking a leave of absence from the company (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) at a crucial moment when the electric-car maker is struggling to boost production of the Model 3 sedan. While Tesla declined to say when he would come back, one person familiar with the matter described the absence as a "six-week sabbatical." The Wall Street Journal reports: Mr. Field has been a key leader at Silicon Valley auto maker since joining in 2013 from Apple. He oversees the engineering of Tesla's vehicles, and last year he was also given oversight of production to better align the two efforts. That changed this spring when Chief Executive Elon Musk acknowledge he retook control of production. The Silicon Valley auto maker is at a critical juncture as it tries to produce enough Model 3 cars to generate cash to fund the business and instill confidence in investors the company can create its first mass-market vehicle.

Tesla has a history of key executives departing on so-called sabbaticals. Jerome Guillen, Tesla's current vice president of truck and programs, for example, took a sabbatical in 2015 from his role as vice president of worldwide sales and service only to return in the new role. He had led development of the Model S sedan. The hiring of Mr. Field from Apple, where he was vice president of Mac hardware engineering, was touted as a win for Mr. Musk who had big ambitions for the electric-car company. Mr. Field had also worked at Ford and Segway, giving him unique experience in both the tech and autos industry.

Security

Hacker Shuts Down Copenhagen's Public City Bikes System (bleepingcomputer.com) 72

An anonymous reader writes: "An unidentified hacker has breached Bycyklen -- Copenhagen's city bikes network -- and deleted the organization's entire database, disabling the public's access to bicycles over the weekend," reports Bleeping Computer. "The hack took place on the night between Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5, the organization said on its website. Bycyklen described the hack as "rather primitive," alluding it may have been carried out "by a person with a great deal of knowledge of its IT infrastructure." Almost 2,000 bikes were affected, and the company's employees have been working for days, searching for bikes docked across the city and installing a manual update to restore functionality. The company is holding a "treasure hunt," asking users to hunt down and identify non-functional bikes.
Education

Carnegie Mellon Launches Undergraduate Degree In AI (cmu.edu) 76

Earlier this week, Carnegie Mellon University announced plans to offer an undergrad degree in artificial intelligence. The news may be especially attractive for students given how much tech giants have been ramping up their AI efforts in the recent years, and how U.S. News & World Report ranked Carnegie Mellon University as the No. 1 graduate school for AI. An anonymous reader shares the announcement with us: Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science will offer a new undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence beginning this fall, providing students with in-depth knowledge of how to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions. SCS has created the new AI degree, the first offered by a U.S. university, in response to extraordinary technical breakthroughs in AI and the growing demand by students and employers for training that prepares people for careers in AI.

The bachelor's degree program in computer science teaches students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines, said Reid Simmons, research professor of robotics and computer science and director of the new AI degree program. The bachelor's degree in AI will focus more on how complex inputs -- such as vision, language and huge databases -- are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities, he added. AI majors will receive the same solid grounding in computer science and math courses as other computer science students. In addition, they will have additional course work in AI-related subjects such as statistics and probability, computational modeling, machine learning, and symbolic computation. Simmons said the program also would include a strong emphasis on ethics and social responsibility. This will include independent study opportunities in using AI for social good, such as improving transportation, health care or education.

Transportation

Elon Musk's First LA Tunnel Nears Completion, With Free Rides To Kick Off This Summer (newatlas.com) 148

The Boring Company has made some pretty impressive strides in its relatively short existence. Elon Musk first shared his vision for the company in December 2016, promising to solve traffic woes with networks of tunnels for city centers. It is now adding the finishing touches to its first burrow. From a report: In a video shared on Instagram today, Musk showed what a trip through one of these tunnels would look like. He also declared the Boring Company's first tunnel under LA to be almost complete, and that "pending final regulatory approvals, we will be offering free rides to the public in a few months."
Power

Days After A Fiery Crash, a Tesla's Battery Keeps Reigniting (mercurynews.com) 302

An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News Six days after a fiery crash on Highway 101 involving a Tesla Model X took the life of a 38-year-old San Mateo man, the car's high-voltage lithium-ion battery re-ignited while sitting in a tow yard, according to the Mountain View Fire Department... The battery reignited twice in the storage yard within a day of the accident and again six days later on March 29. Two weeks later, in an effort to avoid more fires, the NTSB and Tesla performed a battery draw down to fully de-energize it...

On the company website, Tesla wrote "the reason this crash was so severe is that the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had either been removed or crushed in a prior accident without being replaced. We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash"... Tesla also reported that the vehicle's autopilot function was active at the time of the crash...

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Highway 101 crash and three other accidents also involving Teslas, including a fiery 2014 Model S crash Tuesday in Florida that killed two teenagers. Also under investigation: A Model S crashed into a fire truck near Culver City in January, and the driver reportedly said Autopilot was engaged at the time. And it is looking into a battery fire of a Model X that drove into a home's garage in Lake Forest in August.

Two hours after that story was published, a Tesla smashed into a Starbucks in Los Gatos, California.
Government

Trump Administration Approves 10 New Drone Projects Around the Country (theverge.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Just over six months after President Trump announced the creation of a program meant to spur the development of drone trials around the country, the Department of Transportation has announced the first 10 winners. Among those selected, three state transportation agencies, two US cities, and two universities will work with private companies like FedEx and CNN on trials that will see drones used for tasks like package delivery, journalism, healthcare, and more.

Formally known as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot, the program encourages U.S. cities and states to partner with companies on drone trials that expand how the aircraft are used around the country. This includes, in some cases, allowing drones to fly over crowds, beyond the pilot's line of sight, and at night -- situations that are usually prohibited unless the person flying obtains an official waiver from the FAA. The goal with the program is to accelerate potential commercial applications for drone use. One of the 10 selections is Florida's Lee County Mosquito Control District. The small government agency will use drones to help control mosquito populations by searching for hard-to-find pockets of larvae at a faster rate than inspectors can on foot, while also reducing the risk of being bitten. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will work on flying drones beyond a pilot's line of sight as part of a partnership with CNN.
Furthermore, North Carolina's DOT was selected to test the food drone delivery service, Tennessee's Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority was chosen to test deliveries in partnership with FedEx, and the City of Reno, Nevada was picked to work with Flirtey, a company focused on using drones to deliver medical supplies.

Slashdot Top Deals