Sci-Fi

The Hoverboard Flies Closer To Reality 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-when-you-want-to-travel-in-a-highly-inefficient-manner dept.
Dave Knott writes: Fans of 1980s cinema were disappointed when the year 2015 arrived without a practical version Marty McFly's hoverboard. Now, a Montréal-based man has brought it closer to reality by setting a new record for longest "flight" by hoverboard. In a filmed test recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records, Catalin Alexandru Duru pilots his somewhat cumbersome looking rig for 250 meters — five times the previous record — at a height of five meters above Quebec's Lake Ouareau. Duru and his business partner "hope to have a new prototype finished by the end of the year and then have hoverboards available for purchase across the country. He wouldn't say how much the prototype cost to build, but said that the first generation of the machine will likely be 'quite expensive.'" "This thing is still quite dangerous," he added, explaining that the pilot uses only his or her feet to fly the contraption. The commercial version's software will limit it to flying below a height of about one-and-a-half meters above the ground.
Transportation

GM's Exec. Chief Engineer For Electric Vehicles Pam Fletcher Answers Your Question 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Pam Fletcher was propulsion system chief engineer on the first Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and is now executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles at GM, overseeing electrified vehicles company-wide. A while ago you had a chance to ask about her work and the future of electric cars. Below you'll find her answers to your questions.
Transportation

Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax 825

Posted by Soulskill
from the their-way-or-the-highway dept.
schwit1 tips news that Oregon will become the first U.S. state to test a program to replace their gas tax with a fee for each mile citizens drive on public roads. The 5,000 people voluntarily participating in the test will be charged 1.5 cents per mile. Revenue from gas tax has been on the decline as vehicles get more fuel efficient and as hybrids and electric cars become more popular. This measure is an attempt to raise the amount of money the state takes in to pay for infrastructure projects. Many owners of those hybrid and electric vehicles are upset, saying it specifically targets them and discourages environmentally-friendly transportation. Others point out that those who drive electric vehicles need the roads maintained just as much as people still driving gas-powered cars.
Software

Software Glitch Caused Crash of Airbus A400M Military Transport Aircraft 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the complexity-breeds-failures dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A software glitch caused the crash of an Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, claims German newspaper Der Spiegel (Google translation). The accident, which happened in Seville on the vehicle's first production test flight on 9 May, killed four crew members. Airbus is investigating the system controlling the aircraft's engines. The early suspicions are that it was an installation problem, rather than a design problem.
Businesses

Battle To Regulate Ridesharing Moves Through States 318

Posted by timothy
from the when-monopolists-attack dept.
New submitter jeffengel writes: The push to regulate services like Uber and Lyft has spread through state legislatures nationwide. At least 15 states have passed ridesharing laws in 2015, joining Colorado, California, and Illinois from last year. More could follow, with bills pending in Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, and others. All this activity has led to new clashes with companies, city leaders, and consumers. Ridesharing bills have stalled or been killed off in Texas, Florida, New Mexico, and Mississippi. Meanwhile, Uber has exited Kansas and is threatening to leave New Jersey and Oregon, while Lyft has ceased operations in Houston, Columbus, and Tacoma. How this plays out could affect the companies' expansion plans, as well as the future of transportation systems worldwide.
Security

Chris Roberts Is the Least Important Part of the Airplane Hacking Story 200

Posted by samzenpus
from the hacking-the-friendly-skies dept.
chicksdaddy writes: Now that the news media is in full freak-out mode about whether or not security researcher Chris Roberts did or did not hack into the engine of a plane, in flight and cause it to "fly sideways," security experts say its time to take a step back from the crazy and ask what is the real import of the plane hacking. The answer: definitely not Chris Roberts. The real story that media outlets should be chasing isn't what Roberts did or didn't do on board a United flight in April, but whether there is any truth to longtime assurances from airplane makers like Boeing and Airbus that critical avionics systems aboard their aircraft are unreachable from systems accessible to passengers, the Christian Science Monitor writes. And, on that issue, Roberts' statements and the FBI's actions raise as many questions as they answer. For one: why is the FBI suddenly focused on years-old research that has long been part of the public record.

"This has been a known issue for four or five years, where a bunch of us have been stood up and pounding our chest and saying, 'This has to be fixed,' " Roberts noted. "Is there a credible threat? Is something happening? If so, they're not going to tell us," he said. Roberts isn't the only one confused by the series of events surrounding his detention in April and the revelations about his interviews with federal agents. "I would like to see a transcript (of the interviews)," said one former federal computer crimes prosecutor, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If he did what he said he did, why is he not in jail? And if he didn't do it, why is the FBI saying he did?"
Transportation

The Auto Industry May Mimic the 1980s PC Industry 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the as-long-as-my-car-gets-a-turbo-button-i'm-ok-with-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes: An article at TechCrunch looks at some interesting parallels between the current automobile industry and the PC industry of the 1980s. IBM was dominant in 1985, employing four times as many people as its nearest competitor. But as soon as Windows was released, the platform became more important for most end users than the manufacturer. Over the next decade, IBM lost its throne. In 2015, we're on the cusp of a similar change: the computerized car. Automakers, though large and well-established, haven't put much effort into building the platform on which their cars run. Meanwhile, Google's Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are constantly improving. As soon as those hit a breakthrough point where it's more important for a customer to have the platform than the manufacturer's logo on the side, the industry is likely to resemble a replay of the PC industry in the 1980s.
NASA

Rockwell Collins To Develop Cockpit Display To Show Sonic Boom Over Land 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-boom dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Under contract from NASA, Rockwell Collins is developing equipment to let pilots of supersonic craft know where a sonic boom will be produced. The hope is to make supersonic flight over land practical. Flying higher widens impacts but lessens intensity. “In order for supersonic travel over land to happen, pilots will need an intuitive display interface that tells them where the aircraft’s sonic boom is occurring,” said John Borghese, vice president, Advanced Technology Center for Rockwell Collins. “Our team of experts will investigate how best to show this to pilots in the cockpit and develop guidance to most effectively modify the aircraft’s flight path to avoid populated areas or prevent sonic booms.”
Transportation

FBI Alleges Security Researcher Tampered With a Plane's Flight Control Systems 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the feel-free-to-not-do-that dept.
Salo2112 writes with a followup to a story from April in which a security researcher was pulled off a plane by FBI agents seemingly over a tweet referencing a security weakness in one of the plane's systems. At the time, the FBI insisted he had actually tampered with core systems on an earlier flight, and now we have details. The FBI's search warrant application (PDF) alleges that the researcher, Chris Roberts, not only hacked the in-flight entertainment system, but also accessed the Thrust Management Computer and issued a climb command. "He stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights. He also stated that he used Vortex software after comprising/exploiting or ‘hacking’ the airplane’s networks. He used the software to monitor traffic from the cockpit system." Roberts says the FBI has presented his statements out of their proper context.
Transportation

The Economic Consequences of Self-Driving Trucks 615

Posted by Soulskill
from the honk-if-you-have-free-will dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Last week we learned that self-driving big-rig trucks were finally being deployed on public roads in Nevada for testing purposes. Experts consider trucking to be ripe for replacement with AI because of the sheer volume of trucks on the road, and the relative simplicity of their routes. But the eventual replacement of truck drivers with autonomous driving systems will have a huge impact on the U.S. economy: there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers, and millions more are employed to support and coordinate them. Yet more people rely on truckers to stay in business — gas stations, motels, and restaurants along trucking routes, to name a few.

Now, that's not to say moving forward with autonomous driving is a bad idea — in 2012, roughly 4,000 people died in accidents with large trucks, and almost all of the accidents were caused by driver error. Saving most of those lives (and countless injuries) is important. But we need to start thinking about how to handle the 10 million people looking for work when the (human) trucking industry falls off a cliff. It's likely we'll see another wave of ghost towns spread across the poor parts of the country, as happened when the interstate highway system changed how long-range transportation worked in the U.S.
Government

House Science Committee Approves Changes To Space Law 103

Posted by timothy
from the wildcat-days dept.
schwit1 writes: In a series of party line votes, the House Science Committee has approved a number of changes to the laws that govern the private commercial space industry. Almost all of the changes were advocated by the industry itself, so in general they move to ease the regulatory and liability burdens that have been hampering the industry since the 2004 revisions to space law. While it is very unlikely commercial space can ever get free of strong federal regulation, these changes indicate that they can eventually get some of the worst regulations eased.
Transportation

GE Is 3D Printing a Working Jet Engine 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the proof-of-concept dept.
lurking_giant writes: GE Aviation's Additive Development Center near Cincinnati has produced a number of firsts but they are now demonstrating a working 3D-printed jet engine, (OK, it's sized for an RC model). The engine turns at 33,000 RPM and is made from all 3D metal printed parts. They used the same EOS M270 3D printer that they use to produce the first and only FAA flight approved hardware, a T25 Pres and temp sensor for use in GE90 jumbo jet engines.
Security

United Airlines Invites Hackers To Find Security Vulnerabilities 54

Posted by timothy
from the how-to-get-non-flyer-miles dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Following a recent spike of interest regarding the potential to hack planes, United Airlines has created the first rewards-for-exploits scheme in the aviation industry. The 'Bug-Bounty' program offers up to a million air miles for submitters who find a specific range of exploits in the company's websites and digital infrastructure. The scheme not only bans participants from probing on-board flight systems but threatens criminal prosecution for any such attempt.
Businesses

Uber Drivers In India Will Start Accepting Cash 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the got-change-for-a-10,000? dept.
jfruh writes: One of the main selling points of ridesharing services like Uber are that they streamline the payment process: everything is taken care of in the app, which is already linked to your credit card. But in many places in the developing world, most people are unbanked and use only cash, and Uber will have to accommodate them to achieve its global ambitions. Thus, the company is launching a pilot project in India where passengers can pay in cash.
Transportation

Amtrak Train Derails In Philadelphia 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the stay-safe-out-there dept.
An anonymous reader writes: An Amtrak train has derailed in Philadelphia, injuring at least 50 of the roughly 240 people on board. The train was on its way from Washington D.C. to New York City when it derailed around 9:20pm local time. Former congressman Patrick Murphy, who was aboard the train, said, "It wobbled at first and then went off the tracks. There were some pretty banged-up people. One guy next to me was passed out. We kicked out the window in the top of the train car and helped get everyone out."
Transportation

Will Robot Cars Need Windows? 435

Posted by timothy
from the they-can-dream-without-them dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Atlantic has an article asking whether autonomous cars need windows. If there's no driver, will the passengers want to look outside? In the summer, will anyone want to endure the relentless heat from the sun? The robot cars offer us a great opportunity to rethink the platform which is largely devoted to supporting the driver. But if a computer is in charge and it sees with dozens of cameras ringing the car, what else can we change? What else don't we need? What can improve?
Space

Construction At SpaceX's New Spaceport About To Begin 57

Posted by timothy
from the nice-place-for-it dept.
schwit1 writes: SpaceX has begun prepping the construction sites at its private spaceport in Brownsville, Texas. The county has begun work on a road to where the spaceport command center will be, and SpaceX has established its construction headquarters in a double-wide trailer there. It is expected that actual construction of the command center will begin in August, with the launchpad construction to follow. The expected cost for building the entire spaceport: $100 million. Compare that to the billions the Russians are spending for Vostochny, or the billions that NASA spends on comparable facilities.
Businesses

Philippines Gives Uber Its First Legal Framework To Operate In Asia 27

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-rules dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Philippines has given Uber a rare boost in its hard-fought Asian territories, by granting new legislation that provides rules within which it may legally operate. To this end the country's Department of Transportation and Communications has created a new category of ride called the Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) classification — whilst at the same time mollifying beleaguered indigenous taxi-services by creating an equivalent classification for an app-hailed taxi able to accept credit cards. As with all its other negotiations in Asia, the fruits of Uber's consultation with the Philippine government was prefaced by unorganized invasion, trade complaints, bans and general conflict.
Transportation

The World's Most Dangerous Driving Simulator 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the welcome-to-the-carbon-monoxide-simulator-X-2 dept.
agent elevator writes: Lawrence Ulrich at IEEE Spectrum has an interview with the maker of a simulator for professional racers. The Motion Pro II from CXC Simulations costs racers $54,000 and up. It conveys amazingly fine sensations, including the feel of the car's tires wearing out or the car lightening as its fuel dwindles. It also has the kick to make you really feel a crash: "If you hit the wall in an Indy Car and don't take your hands off the wheel, you'll break your wrists. Our wheel is a one-to-one replication of that, but we don't turn it up that high. It's the first time we've been able to replicate racing forces so high that it introduces liability questions."
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars In California: 4 Out of 48 Have Accidents, None Their Fault 408

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-mister-bond,-i-expect-you-to-frown-and-examine-your-fender-for-dents dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Associated Press reports that 48 self-driving cars have been navigating the roads of California since the state began issuing permits last year. Of those, only four have been in accidents, and none of the accidents were the fault of the autonomous driving technology. Seven different companies have tested autonomous cars on California's roads, but Google, which is responsible for almost half of them, was involved in three of the four accidents — the other one happened to a car from Delphi Automotive. All four of the accidents happened at speeds of under 10 mph, and human drivers were in control during two of them. The Delphi accident happened when another car broadsided it while its human driver was waiting to make a left turn.

The AP pieced together its report from the DMV and people who saw the accident reports. But critics note that there aren't direct channels to find this information. Since one of the chief selling points of autonomous cars is their relative safety over cars piloted by humans, the lack of official transparency is troubling. "Google, which has 23 Lexus SUVs, would not discuss its three accidents in detail." Instead, the company affirmed its cars' accidents were "a handful of minor fender-benders, light damage, no injuries, so far caused by human error and inattention."