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

SpaceX Tests Its Raptor Engine For Future Mars Flights (techcrunch.com) 111

Thelasko writes: Elon Musk is preparing to unveil his plans to colonize Mars at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress tomorrow. As a tease to his lecture, he has released some details about the Raptor engine on Twitter, including pictures. Mr. Musk states that, "Production Raptor coal is specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN (~310 metric tons) at 300 bar." He goes on to note that the specific impulse spec is at Mars ambient pressure. The Raptor interplanetary engine is designed for use with Space X's Mars Colonial Transporter craft. Musk notes that the "chamber pressure runs three times what's present in the Merlin engine currently used to power Falcon 9," according to TechCrunch. "Merlin has specific impulse of 282 seconds (311 seconds in the vacuum of space), and a relatively paltry 654 kilonewton (0.6 MN) at sea level, or 716 kN (0.7 MN) in a vacuum. You can view a picture of the "Mach diamonds" here, which are visible in the engine's exhaust.
Transportation

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Have Become Top Carbon Polluters (technologyreview.com) 227

Transportation is likely to surpass the electricity sector in 2016 as the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, according to a new analysis of government data, MIT Technology reports. From the article: In 2008, the global financial crisis caused widespread declines in energy use. In the U.S., that coincided with the early stages of a large-scale shift away from coal toward cleaner-burning natural gas as a way to generate electricity. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector have continued to decline from their 2007 peak, even as the economy has resumed growing. The trend line for the transportation sector is less encouraging. Transportation emissions have begun rising as the economy rebounds. John DeCicco at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, who wrote the study, attributes the rebound we've seen during the past four years to straightforward causes: economic recovery and more affordable fuel prices. Vehicle sales numbers have been rising for several years, in particular for trucks and SUVs, and people are traveling more miles.
Transportation

HERE, Automakers Team Up To Share Data On Traffic Conditions (reuters.com) 52

German digital map maker HERE will introduce a new set of traffic services this week that allows drivers to see for themselves what live road conditions are like miles ahead using data from competing automakers, an industry first, reports Reuters. From the report: The Berlin-based company, owned by Germany's three premium automakers, will provide four services in which drivers share detailed video views of traffic jams or accidents, potential road hazards like fog or slippery streets, traffic signs including temporary speed limits and on-street parking. BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen will all contribute data to the service, making their first big collaboration since they bought HERE for 2.8 billion euros ($3.1 billion) late last year from mobile equipment maker Nokia of Finland. Other automakers are expected to join the project later and contribute data from their vehicles, HERE said. The new live traffic services are set to hit the road in the first half of 2017, HERE said on Monday before the opening of this week's Paris Motor Show.
Transportation

Uber Is Researching a New Vertical-Takeoff Ride Offering That Flies You Around (recode.net) 134

If Uber's recently launched self-driving cars surprised you, wait for the company's "flying" vehicles. Speaking with Recode, Uber's head of products said the company is research small planes that can vertically take off and land, so that they can be used for short-haul flights in cities. From the report:The technology is called VTOL -- which stands for vertical takeoff and landing. Simply put, VTOL is an aircraft that can hover, take off and land vertically, which would also describe a helicopter. But, unlike the typical helicopter, these planes have multiple rotors, could have fixed wings and perhaps eventually would use batteries and be more silent. In time, like cars, such aircraft would be autonomous. Jeff Holden said that he has been researching the area, "so we can someday offer our customers as many options as possible to move around." He added that "doing it in a three-dimensional way is an obvious thing to look at."
Sci-Fi

'Transformer' BMW Turns Into A Giant Robot (vice.com) 45

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Motherboard: Real-life Transformers are apparently already a thing thanks to a Turkish company called Letvision. They can't do battle with Decepticons, but they can turn their heads from side to side and move their arms and fingers and, erm, shoot smoke from between their legs. Oh, and they can do the whole changing from a 2013 BMW to an upright robot bit [video]. That's pretty cool, too.

But of course there's a catch. Each of the four available Transformers (which Letvision gave the copyright-friendly name of "Letrons") has a functional steering wheel, but you can only "drive" them remotely because Letvision stuffed the seating spaces with the hydraulics and electronics needed for the conversion.

Letvision's demo video has the clever title "Rise of LETRONS", and shows the vehicle spontaneously beginning its transformation after a newscaster announces, "Our country is under invasion by extraterrestrials."
United States

Kentucky's Shotgun 'Drone Slayer' Gets Sued Again (yahoo.com) 302

"Technology has surpassed the law..." argues a Kentucky man who fired a shotgun at a drone last year. An anonymous Slashdot reader reports: The drone's owner has now filed for damages in Federal Court over the loss of his $1,800 drone, arguing that the shotgun blast was unjustified because his drone wasn't actually trespassing or invading anyone's privacy. The defendant -- who has dubbed himself 'the Drone Slayer' -- said the aerial vehicle was over his garden and his daughter, and the verdict could ultimately set a new precedent in U.S. law: who owns the air?

"Operators need to know where they can fly," argued the drone pilot's lawyer, "and owners must know when they can reasonably expect privacy and be free of prying eyes." He estimates a drone is shot from he skies about once a month, and "What happens typically is that law enforcement doesn't know what to do and civil suits are uncommon as most people don't want to get involved due to the costs."

The Drone Slayer was originally charged with felony counts of wanton endangerment and criminal mischief. But all of those charges were dismissed in October when a district judge ruled he "had a right to shoot at the aircraft."
Transportation

Amazon UK Found Guilty Of Airmailing Dangerous Goods (theguardian.com) 56

Amazon UK has been found guilty and fined 65,000 euro for breaking aviation safety laws after repeatedly trying to send dangerous goods by airmail, reports The Guardian. From the article: A judge at Southwark crown court in London said on Friday that Amazon knew the rules, had been warned repeatedly, but had failed to take reasonable care. Although the risks from the goods sent for shipment by air were low, he blamed the breaches on "systemic failure" at the online retailer. As well as the fine, Amazon was ordered to pay 60,000 euro towards prosecution costs. Earlier in the week, the jury found Amazon guilty of breaching rules for shipping dangerous goods by airmail on four counts between November 2013 and May 2015. The prosecution was brought by the Civil Aviation Authority, after a complaint from Royal Mail. Some offences took place after Amazon knew it was under investigation. In each case, the items -- two packages containing laptop lithium batteries and two containing aerosols that used flammable gas propellant -- had been flagged up by Amazon's computer systems as possibly dangerous goods, and subject to restricted shipping rules.
Government

Senate Panel Authorizes Money For Mission To Mars (usatoday.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: With a new president on the horizon, a key Senate committee moved Wednesday to protect long-standing priorities of the nation's space program from the potential upheaval of an incoming administration. Members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed a bipartisan bill authorizing $19.5 billion to continue work on a Mars mission and efforts to send astronauts on private rockets to the International Space Station from U.S. soil -- regardless of shifting political winds. Under the Senate bill, NASA would have an official goal of sending a crewed mission to Mars within the next 25 years, the first time a trip to the Red Planet would be mandated by law. The legislation would authorize money for different NASA components, including $4.5 billion for exploration, nearly $5 billion for space operations and $5.4 billion for science. Beyond money, the measure would: Direct NASA to continue working on the Space Launch System and Orion multi-purpose vehicle that are the linchpins of a planned mission to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. The bill includes specific milestones for an unmanned exploration mission by 2018 and a crewed exploration mission by 2021. Require development of an advanced space suit to protect astronauts on a Mars mission. Continue development of the Commercial Crew Program designed to send astronauts to the space station -- no later than 2018 -- on private rockets launched from U.S. soil. Expand the full use and life of the space station through 2024 while laying the foundation for use through 2028. Allow greater opportunities for aerospace companies to conduct business in Low Earth Orbit. Improve monitoring, diagnosis and treatment of the medical effects astronauts experience from spending time in deep space.
Power

Elon Musk To Unveil Solar Roof With Storage, Charger Next Month (bloomberg.com) 79

Elon Musk plans to unveil Tesla and SolarCity's new solar roof product, which will come integrated with version 2.0 of the Tesla's PowerWall solar storage battery for the home, as well as a Tesla car charger, he said today. Bloomberg adds: Billionaire Elon Musk, the chairman and the largest shareholder of both Tesla and SolarCity Corp., announced his plans to unveil the new product in a message on Twitter Thursday. SolarCity's board agreed to Tesla's offer to buy the biggest U.S. rooftop solar supplier on Aug. 1. The product fits into his long-term vision of helping provide green homes that run on solar energy and use battery storage to help power systems, including charging electric cars, even after sundown. He announced in August that SolarCity is developing a "solar roof," a roofing product that incorporates solar technology without using standard photovoltaic panels.
Power

Germany Unveils a Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Train (fortune.com) 198

An anonymous reader writes: The world's first CO2-emission-free train powered through hydrogen was unveiled this week in Germany. The Coradia iLint, created by French company Alstom, was presented at the Berlin InnoTrans trade show on Tuesday. The train's energy comes from combining hydrogen stored in tanks on the train with oxygen in the air. The energy is then stored in lithium-ion batteries. The train's only emissions are steam and condensed water. The train also has lower noise levels than diesel trains, emitting only the sound of its wheels on the track and any sounds from air resistance at even its highest speed of 140 kilometers per hour (about 87 miles per hour). The train has the ability to travel up to 800 kilometers (497 miles) and carry up to 300 passengers; it's the worldâ(TM)s first hydrogen passenger train that can regularly operate long journeys.
China

Uber's Terrifying 'Ghost Drivers' Are Freaking Out Passengers in China (qz.com) 80

Several Chinese publications are reporting that "ghost drivers" are frightening Uber passengers into paying for trips they didn't take. Passengers in Tianjin, Qingdao, Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou have been canceling Uber rides after seeing creepy driver profile pictures pop up in the app. Quartz reports: Passengers using the ride-hailing app in several Chinese cities have reported seeing their requests picked up by drivers with creepy profile photos of zombie faces. According to Chinese news site Sixth Tone, the point of these ghostly profiles is to scare passengers into canceling the trip, so they are fined for a few yuan (less than a dollar), which goes to the driver. Other passengers have reported seeing their rides accepted, but then their trips were "started" by the driver on the app before they even get to the car. These "ghost rides" last less than a minute, with the driver charging customers between 8 and 15 yuan (about 1 to 2 dollars) for a ride that never happened. Calls to the drivers in these cases are never picked up, according to The Paper, a state-owned media. Passengers can however eventually be reimbursed by Uber China if they lodge a complaint.
Businesses

Apple Approaches McLaren About A Potential Acquisition: FT (ft.com) 136

Apple has approached British Formula One team owner McLaren for a strategic investment or a potential buyout (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source), the Financial Times reported, citing sources. The loss-making automotive group could be valued at around $1.4 billion. A deal with McLaren, which also makes high-performance sports cars, could give Apple key automotive technology amid reports that the company is working on a self-driving car. From the report:The California technology group, which has been working on a self-driving electric vehicle for more than two years, is considering a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations who said talks started several months ago. Update: 09/21 17:31 GMT by M :The New York Times, citing two people familiar with the matter, is now reporting the same. The publication additional says that Apple has also held talks with Lit Motors, a San Francisco start-up that has developed an electric self-balancing motorcycle, about a potential acquisition.
Government

US Regulators Issue Comprehensive Policy On Self-Driving Cars (vox.com) 239

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: On Monday, [The U.S. Department of Transportation] released a surprisingly far-reaching "Federal Automated Vehicles Policy." The policy attempts to do all sorts of things -- we'll get into the details below -- but the overarching motivation is that DOT wants to accelerate the development and adoption of AVs. DOT views AVs as a safety technology that could reduce some of the 38,000 traffic fatalities a year in the U.S., 95 percent of which are caused by human error. It also sees AVs as an accessibility technology that could provide personal transportation to whole populations (disabled, elderly, etc.) who have lacked it. The policy comes in four buckets: What the vehicles need to do to be safe; What federal and state governments need to do; How DOT will use its existing regulatory tools; DOT may need brand new regulatory tools to deal with AVs. The "vehicle performance" section lays out a 15-point safety assessment, so that AV developers and manufacturers know the sorts of things that federal regulators will expect. It covers everything from cybersecurity to data collection to crash response. And then there are "ethical considerations." AVs will have to make life-or-death decisions. The second section addresses the division of responsibilities and authorities between the federal government and state governments, and suggests a model policy that states can adapt for their own use. The feds will retain their authority to set and enforce safety standards, communicate with the public about safety, and occasionally issue guidances about how to meet national standards. States will retain their authority to license human drivers and register cars, set and enforce traffic laws, and regulate vehicle insurance and liability. There are three broad ways that DOT communicates about standards with automakers: letters of interpretation, exemptions and rule-makings. It is promising to speed up all of them in regard to HAVs. DOT is considering a range of new authorities that may be necessary to properly regulate HAVs. The report adds that "DOT has officially abandoned the NHTSA's own levels-of-automation classification in favor of SAE's, which is preferred by the industry. Vox has neat graphic you can view here. President Obama also wrote a piece about self-driving cars in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "In the seven-and-a-half years of my presidency, self-driving cars have gone from sci-fi fantasy to an emerging reality with the potential to transform the way we live..."
Transportation

Lyft Says Robots Will Drive Most Of Its Cars in Five Years (recode.net) 274

A week after its rival Uber began rolling out self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Lyft has said it also expects to roll out its self-driving by next year. Its president John Zimmer outlined a "three-phase" plan for the company, noting that self-driving cars will be made available to Lyft users in the first phase. But in this phase, it only plans to roll out self-driving cars that can "drive along fixed routes" and that the "technology is guaranteed to be able to navigate." Recode adds: In the second phase, the self-driving cars in the fleet will navigate more than just the fixed routes, but will only drive up to 25 miles per hour. As the technology matures and the software encounters more complex environments, Zimmer wrote, cars will get faster. The third phase, expected to happen sometime in 2021 or 2022, will be when all Lyft rides will be completed by a fully autonomous car. Shortly after that phase begins, car ownership will see a steep drop-off, according to Zimmer. Zimmer, who has long been a vocal proponent of ending car ownership, set a date for the death of the personally owned car in major U.S. cities: 2025.
Transportation

Abu Dhabi To Introduce New Regulations For Ride-Hailing Apps (reuters.com) 18

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and others will have to register their apps and heed new regulations to operate in Abu Dhabi, a top official at the Gulf emirate's taxi regulator said on Monday, Reuters reports. From the article: U.S.-based Uber and regional rival Careem suspended services in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Aug. 27 after many of their drivers were stopped by authorities over violations of regulations, sources told Reuters at the time. Careem has since resumed services in Abu Dhabi, although Uber has yet to do so as it awaits clarification on some issues. The new regulations are coming "very soon" and will include a provision requiring ride-hailing apps to register with The Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars (Transad), its general manager Mohamed Darwish al-Qamzi said. "This will help us to control the market easier by blocking any unregulated application with us," he told Reuters. Currently, ride-hailing services are not regulated in the UAE.
Transportation

Uber Accused of Cashing In On Bomb Explosion By Jacking Rates (thesun.co.uk) 428

After a bomb exploded in Manhattan, leaving 29 injured, people leaving the scene discovered Uber had doubled their fares. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Sun: Traumatized families caught up in the New York bomb blast have accused Uber of cashing in on the tragedy by charging almost double to take them home. Furious passengers have taken to social media to slam the taxi firm in the wake of the blast... Uber reportedly charged between 1.4 and 3 times the standard fare with one city worker saying he had to pay twice as much as usual. Mortgage broker Nick Lalli said: "Just trying to get home from the city and Uber f****** doubled the surge price."
"Demand is off the charts!" the app informed its users, adding "Fares have increased to get more Ubers on the road." Uber soon tweeted that they'd deactivated their surge pricing algorithm for the affected area in Chelsea, "but passengers in other areas of Manhattan said they were still being charged higher than normal fares." One of the affected passengers was Michael Cohen, who is Donald Trump's lawyer, who tweeted that Uber was "taking total advantage of chaos and surcharging passengers 1.4 to 1.8 times." And another Uber user tweeted "I'm disgusted. People are trying to get home safe. Shame on you #DeleteApp."
The Military

The US Government Is Building A 'Drone Dragnet' For Battlefields (thestack.com) 25

The US government plans to launch "a three and a half year initiative to develop an urban drone detection system." An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: The Aerial Dragnet program is to use off-the-shelf commercial components and mostly established technologies and methods to create a network of floating or tethered platforms that will ultimately provide 95% efficient drone identification in urban areas up to 180 square kilometers. The call to proposers states that the total cost of the system for a city should be around $90,000, and would likely include the ability to identify the micro-Doppler signatures given off by UAVs -- and birds.
Unmanned aerial systems are becoming platforms "for hostile reconnaissance, targeting, and weapon delivery," warns the government document, noting drones are hard to detect because they're small and fly slowly at low altitudes. "In future urban battlegrounds, U.S. forces will be placed at risk by small UAVs which use buildings and naturally-occurring motion of the clutter to make surveillance impractical..."
Transportation

Autonomous Vehicles Won't Give Us Any More Free Time, Says Study (dailymail.co.uk) 233

An anonymous reader writes: People hoping that the driverless cars of the future will give them more free time while travelling may be in for a disappointment. Increased productivity is one of the expected benefits of self-driving cars, but a new study claims that they will have little impact. The study showed that nearly 36 percent of Americans say they would be so apprehensive using a driverless vehicle that they would only watch the road. Meanwhile, UK drivers were even more cautious at 44 per cent. "Currently, in the US, the average occupant of a light-duty vehicle spends about an hour a day traveling -- time that could potentially be put to more productive use," said Michael Sivak, research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. "Indeed, increased productivity is one of the expected benefits of self-driving vehicles."
Security

Mobileye Says Tesla Was Dropped Because of Safety Concerns 218

An anonymous reader writes: On Wednesday, Mobileye revealed that it ended its relationship with Tesla because "it was pushing the envelope in terms of safety." Mobileye's CTO and co-founder Amnon Shashua told Reuters that the electric vehicle maker was using his company's machine vision sensor system in applications for which it had not been designed. "No matter how you spin it, (Autopilot) is not designed for that. It is a driver assistance system and not a driverless system," Shashua said. In a statement to Reuters, Tesla said that it has "continuously educated customers on the use of the features, reminding them that they're responsible to keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert and present when using Autopilot" and that the system has never been described as autonomous or self-driving. (This statement appears to be at odds with statements made by Musk at shareholder meetings.) It is also emerging that the crash which cost Joshua Brown his life in May of this year was unlikely to have been the first such fatal crash involving Tesla's Autopilot. In January of this year in China, a Tesla ploughed into the back of a stationary truck at speed, killing the driver.
Transportation

Ford Charts Cautious Path Toward Self Driving, Shared Vehicles (reuters.com) 50

Ford Motor Chief Executive Mark Fields is looking for more deals to advance the automaker's expansion into ride services and autonomous vehicles, but will not rush to match big spending by auto industry rivals, he told Reuters. Investors comparing the size of Ford's investments to what other automakers have announced are "looking at the wrong scoreboard," Fields said in an interview at Ford headquarters on Tuesday, ahead of the company's annual late-summer investor meeting. From the report: "Don't confuse activity for progress," Fields said in response to questions about why Ford's future 'mobility' investments appear to lag those of competitors such as General Motors, Daimler AG and Toyota Motor Corp. Mobility is the term auto companies and investors use to describe the next wave of personal transportation, which is still largely car-based but includes a wide range of services from ride sharing to automated driving and parking.

Slashdot Top Deals