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Government

Almost Half Of All TSA Employees Have Been Cited For Misconduct (mercurynews.com) 104

Slashdot reader schwit1 writes: Almost half of all TSA employees have been cited for misconduct, and the citations have increased by almost 30 percent since 2013... It also appears that the TSA has been reducing the sanctions it has been giving out for this bad behavior.
Throughout the U.S., the airport security group "has instead sought to treat the misconduct with 'more counseling and letters that explain why certain behaviors were not acceptable'," according to a report from the House Homeland Security Commission, titled "Misconduct at TSA Threatens the Security of the Flying Public". It found 1,206 instances of "neglect of duty", and also cited the case of an Oakland TSA officer who for two years helped smugglers slip more than 220 pounds of marijuana through airport security checkpoints, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The newspaper adds that "The misconduct ranges from salacious (federal air marshals spending government money on hotel rooms for romps with prostitutes) to downright dangerous (an officer in Orlando taking bribes to smuggle Brazilian nationals through a checkpoint without questioning)." Their conclusion? "The TSA's job is to make airline passengers feel safer and, not incidentally, actually make us safer. It's failing on both."
Businesses

VW Has Emissions-Cheating Fix Ready, Says Report (pressherald.com) 60

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Portland Press Herald: Volkswagen plans to fix the engines that were rigged to cheat on emissions tests by updating computer software and installing a larger catalytic converter to trap harmful nitrogen oxide, according to two dealers who were briefed by executives on the matter. The dealers said that limited details of the plan were made public last week at a regional dealer meeting in Newark, New Jersey, by Volkswagen of America Chief Operating Officer Mark McNabb. Portland Press Herald reports: "One dealer said the group was told that early testing of a small sample of repaired cars showed that the fix made 'no discernible difference' in the cars' mileage, horsepower or torque. Both dealers said they were told that more testing was needed and that the plans still had to be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. One of the dealers said the so-called 'Generation 1' diesels -- about 325,000 VW Jettas, Golfs, Passats and Beetles from the 2009 to 2014 model years – would get new software and bigger catalytic converters in January or February of next year. About 90,000 'Generation 2' Passats already have sufficient emissions systems and would get only a software update early next year. Another 67,000 'Generation 3' 2015 models would get software in October and would get additional hardware a year later, the dealer said. Dealers also were told that they'd be reimbursed by VW for sales losses due to the scandal, and that new vehicles are coming." Last month, Volkswagen agreed to a record $14.7 billion settlement over the emissions cheating.
Earth

There's A 50% Chance of Another Chernobyl Before 2050, Say Safety Specialists (technologyreview.com) 140

An anonymous reader writes from a report via MIT Technology Review: Spencer Wheatley and Didier Sornette at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Benjamin Sovacool at Aarhus University in Denmark have compiled the most comprehensive list of nuclear accidents ever created and used it to calculate the chances of future accidents. They say there is a 50:50 chance that a major nuclear disaster will occur somewhere in the world before 2050. "There is a 50 percent chance that a Chernobyl event (or larger) occurs in the next 27 years," they conclude. Since the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't publish a historical database of the nuclear accidents it rates using the International Nuclear Event Scale, others, like Wheatley and co, have to compile their own list of accidents. They define an accident as "an unintentional incident or event at a nuclear energy facility that led to either one death (or more) or at least $50,000 in property damage." Each accident must have occurred during the generation, transmission, or distribution of nuclear energy, which includes accidents at mines, during transportation, or at enrichment facility, and so on. Fukushima was by far the most expensive accident in history at a cost of $166 billion, which is 60 percent of the total cost of all other nuclear accidents added together. Wheatley and co say their data suggests that the nuclear industry remains vulnerable to dragon king events, which are large unexpected events that are difficult to analyze because they follow a different statistical distribution, have unforeseen causes, and are few in number. "There is a 50% chance that a Fukushima event (or larger) occurs in the next 50 years," they say.
Transportation

Germany To Require 'Black Box' in Autonomous Cars (reuters.com) 56

Autonomous cars should be able to account for themselves, that's the thinking behind new legislation proposed by German's transport ministry. The country is planning new laws that require self-driving cars to include a black box, Reuters reports, similar to the flight recorder required on aircraft. From the report: The fatal crash of a Tesla Motors Inc Model S car in its Autopilot mode has increased the pressure on industry executives and regulators to ensure that automated driving technology can be deployed safely. Under the proposal from Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, drivers will not have to pay attention to traffic or concentrate on steering, but must remain seated at the wheel so they can intervene in the event of an emergency. Manufacturers will also be required to install a black box that records when the autopilot system was active, when the driver drove and when the system requested that the driver take over, according to the proposals. The draft is due to be sent to other ministries for approval this summer, a transport ministry spokesman said.
Transportation

Consumer Reports Calls For Tesla To Disable Autopilot (consumerreports.org) 329

Reader parallel_prankster writes: Consumer Reports is calling on Tesla to disable its "Autopilot" feature that enables hands-free operation. Citing the recent fatal accident involving a car with Autopilot engaged, Consumer Reports labels the feature as "Too Much Autonomy Too Soon." In an extensive article posted at the top of its website Thursday morning, Consumer Reports said Tesla should "disable hands-free operation until its system can be made safer." "By marketing their feature as 'Autopilot,' Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security," said Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports, in the article. "In the long run, advanced active safety technologies in vehicles could make our roads safer. But today, we're deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology. 'Autopilot' can't actually drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time. Tesla should disable automatic steering in its cars until it updates the program to verify that the driver's hands are on the wheel."

Tesla says it will continue development of Autopilot, insisting that drivers supported by Autopilot "remain safer than those operating without assistance."

The Military

Stuxnet/Cyberwar Documentary Reviewer: 'The U.S. Has Pwned Iran' (networkworld.com) 138

Slashdot reader alphadogg quotes an article from Network World: The new documentary about Stuxnet, "Zero Days", says the U.S. had a far larger cyber operation against Iran called Nitro Zeus that has compromised the country's infrastructure and could be used as a weapon in any future war. Quoting unnamed sources from inside the NSA and CIA, the movie says the Nitro Zeus program has infiltrated the systems controlling communications, power grids, transportation and financial systems, and is still ready to "disrupt, degrade and destroy" that infrastructure if a war should break out with Iran...

For the more technically inclined, the film contains some riveting interviews with researchers at Symantec who devoted their lives to unraveling the code line by line to figure out what it did, how it did it, who created it and what the target was. It was also a bit chilling in that after they figured out that governments were behind the worm they worried that the researchers themselves might be targeted to keep them silent. One Friday night, says Symantec researcher Eric Chien, he said to his research partner Liam O Murchu, "I'm not suicidal. If I should show up dead on Monday, it wasn't me."

In the film former NSA and CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden says "This stuff is hideously over classified."
Transportation

More Than 500,000 Hoverboards Recalled Because of Fire Hazards (go.com) 95

501,000 self-balancing scooters -- more popularly known as hoverboards -- are being recalled due to fire hazard concerns, said The U.S. Consumer Product Safety. The lithium-ion battery packs in the hoverboards can overheat -- which could result in sparking, smoking, fire, and explosion -- the agency added. ABC reports:The recall involves hoverboards from eight manufacturers/importers that are made with lithium-ion battery packs as well as 4,300 from Overstock.com and 1,300 from a store in Pennsylvania. Amazon.com is not listed in the recall, but in February, the online giant worked with the CPSC to offer refunds to any customer who wanted to return hoverboards purchased on the site. Hoverboards by Swagway make up more than half of those recalled -- 267,000. "We are urging consumers to act quickly," CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye told ABC News. "We've concluded pretty definitively that these are not safe products the way they were designed."
Transportation

Pod Planes Could Change Travel Forever (cnn.com) 298

Max_W writes: Every year we hear about people dying in plane crashes. This does not have to continue as there is a new revolutionary pod plane design [in the works via the Clip-Air project]. A passenger pod is not heavy because it does not contain fuel, engines, avionics, etc., so in case of an accident it can be ejected and land on parachutes. The obstacle to this new invention is that the whole obsolete airport and airline infrastructure must be rebuilt. So what? Shall we continue to get killed because it is easier to produce aircraft with a design from 1950s? The Clip-Air project is created by Switzerland's Federal Polytechnic Institute and consists of the flying component, which includes airframe, cockpit and engines, and the capsules, which are a number of detachable pods that can act as cabin or cargo hold, depending on the chosen configuration. What's particularly noteworthy about them is that they can allow passengers to board capsules well before a flight, and at a location besides an airport, such as a local bus station. As with any concept, many years of research and tests will be needed to validate the concept and turn it into a reality. Claudio Leonardi, manager of the Clip-Air project, and his team are preparing to build a small-scale Clip-Air prototype. They have already initiated some contacts with the aerospace industry.
Businesses

Hyperloop One Says It Can Connect Helsinki To Stockholm In Under 30 Minutes (theverge.com) 175

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Hyperloop One released a new study today that says a hyperloop connecting Stockholm, Sweden, and Helsinki, Finland, could turn a 300-mile trip that would normally take 3.5 hours flying into a breezy 28-minute ride. How much would they need to accomplish this? Only $21 billion (19 billion euros) to build it. That price includes $3.3 billion (3 billion euros) for one of the world's largest marine tunnels through the Aland archipelago, a chain of islands in the Baltic Sea. But the company did say the total cost would be offset by the rise in property values and productivity as facilitated by the new, super-fast transit system. Homes built nearby would be worth more, freight shipments would arrive sooner, and workers traveling between the two cities would spend less time commuting and more time working. The study claims the Nordic Hyperloop would start generating a surplus after 10 years thanks to its economic benefits. As for where it expects to receive the money, Hyperloop One envisions a combination of public funds and private investment, with the study authors recommending capturing some of the value from increased property values. Hyperloop is expected to generate somewhere between $969 million (875 million euros) and $1.1 billion (1 billion euros) in ticket sales annually. "We've said that, generally speaking, a Hyperloop system can be built at 50 [percent] to 60 [percent] of the cost of high-speed rail because Hyperloop technology requires less intensive civil engineering, its levitated vehicles produce fewer maintenance issues and its electric propulsion occupies far less of the track than high-speed rail," the company says. "With Hyperloop, passengers glide most of the way above the track in a near-vacuum tube with little air resistance." A hyperloop between Sweden and Finland would take up to 12 years to complete. Hyperloop One conducted the first successful test of its high-speed transportation technology in the desert outside Las Vegas in May.
Transportation

Elon Musk: Tesla's Autopilot Software Could Save Half a Million Lives Every Year (fortune.com) 265

An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of a deadly crash involving a Model S that was driving with its Autopilot software turned on, Tesla CEO Elon Musk issued a few interesting remarks on the technology to Fortune. Notably, the publication recently ran a piece attempting to portray Tesla in a bad light by noting that Musk sold more than $2 billion worth of Tesla stock just 11 days after the aforementioned May, 2016 accident. And all the while, shareholders were kept in the dark up until recently. "Indeed, if anyone bothered to do the math (obviously, you did not) they would realize that of the over 1M auto deaths per year worldwide, approximately half a million people would have been saved if the Tesla autopilot was universally available. Please, take 5 mins and do the bloody math before you write an article that misleads the public.
Power

Historic Route 66 To Feature Solar Road Technology (cnet.com) 202

An anonymous reader writes: The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has announced plans to upgrade a small stretch of the historic Route 66 roadway with solar-powered panels. The panels, which are created by Solar Roadways, can support the weight of cars, feature built-in LEDs to create light-up road markings, and can be used to generate electricity to donate back to the grid. The company has won a number of contracts with the U.S. Department of Transportation, though it's unlikely we'll see solar-powered roadways throughout the country anytime soon. MoDOT said it hopes to lay the first panels starting with the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center by the end of the year, The Kansas City Star reports. SolarCity released a new report recently that says their solar power systems have a usable lifetime of at least 35 years, which is 40% longer than what the market expects.
Transportation

Uber Plans To Start Monitoring Their Drivers' Behavior (sfgate.com) 96

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Uber "has developed a new technology that it plans on using to track driver behavior, specifically if drivers are traveling too fast or braking too harshly..." according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which writes that "Information about how a driver is performing will be shared with Uber, but will also be shared with the driver, along with safety tips on how they can improve their performance." Uber will roll this out as an update to their app, using existing smartphone functionality, and "in some cities Uber will also monitor whether or not Uber drivers are picking up their phones (either to text or even just to look at maps) during a ride using the phone's gyroscope."
Ride-sharing companies seem to be growing more and more powerful. One Florida county actually received a grant to offer free Uber rides to low-income workers, and to allow the county transit authority to arrange rides for those residents without a smartphone. Uber recently even became the "official designated driving app" for Mother's Against Drunk Driving, and published a graph suggesting Uber pickups correlate to a drop in drunk-driving arrests. And in other news, Uber rides have apparently even been used by a group of human traffickers to smuggle migrants from Central America into the United States.
Robotics

Rolling Drone Delivery Robots Have Arrived (starship.xyz) 65

Starship Technologies has begun testing their on-demand delivery robots in cities around the world -- including Washington, D.C. -- to manage the "last mile" for small deliveries. Slashdot reader Okian Warrior quotes the Starship Technologies site: Capable of carrying the equivalent of two grocery bags, the robots can complete local deliveries within 5-30 minutes from a local hub or retail outlet, for 10-15 times less than the cost of current last-mile delivery alternatives. Customers can choose from a selection of short, precise delivery slots -- meaning goods arrive at a time that suits them. During delivery, shoppers can track the robot's location in real time through a mobile app, and on arrival only the app holder is able to unlock the cargo.
Created by two Skype co-founders, the company uses ground-based delivery drones equipped with nine cameras, two-way audio capability, and GPS, according to ABC News, which has video of the robots in action. "When confronted with any kind of issue or trouble, a human at Starship can take over. The remote operator can have a two-way conversation with those around the robot... They hope to make the robots available for 24/7 delivery and for only a $1 fee." What could go wrong?
Transportation

Self-Driving Tesla Owners Share Videos of Reckless Driving (nytimes.com) 440

An anonymous reader writes: The driver killed in a Tesla car accident "celebrated the Autopilot feature that made it possible for him to cruise the highways, making YouTube videos of himself driving hands-free," reports the New York Times, adding that one of his videos of a near-miss went viral just 11 weeks before his death -- after it was shared on Twitter by Elon Musk. But USA Today reports that Tesla drivers have also filmed themselves playing Jenga and Checkers or sleeping while using the autopilot feature. "Even though Tesla tells drivers to 'keep your hands on the wheel at all times and stay alert,' the temptation to test a no-hands drive is just too much."

In April, a Volvo driver had criticized Tesla for releasing a dangerous "wannabe" Autopilot system. But when Tesla introduced the self-driving feature in October, Elon Musk argued that "Long term, it'll be way better than a person. It never gets tired, never has something to drink, never argues with someone in the car." He had also said that within three years Tesla cars should be able to drive a sleeping driver in to work -- but that that functionality is not currently supported.

Intel

BMW, Intel, Mobileye Partner On Self-Driving Cars, 'Turning Point For Automotive Industry': Reports (bloomberg.com) 59

BMW, Intel, and Mobileye NV are working to develop autonomous-car technology, reports Bloomberg, citing multiple sources. Senior executives from each company will hold an event on Friday to discuss the driverless-vehicle initiative, the report adds. From the article:Jerusalem-based Mobileye has been an early leader in providing cameras, software and other components that allow vehicles to see the world around them. BMW has been a client of Mobileye, along with General Motors Co. and Tesla Motors Inc. As automakers and their suppliers race to create systems to replace human drivers, most companies are betting on some form of artificial intelligence, which requires powerful processing.Reuters, citing one source, reports the same thing. The announcement will be a "turning point for the automotive industry," Amnon Shashua, the chairman and co-founder of Mobileye.
Transportation

DoNotPay Bot Has Beaten 160,000 Traffic Tickets -- and Counting (venturebeat.com) 180

Khari Johnson, writing for VentureBeat:A bot made to challenge traffic tickets has been used more than 9,000 times by New Yorkers, according to DoNotPay maker Joshua Browder. The bot was made available to New Yorkers in March. In recent years and decades, residents of The Big Apple have seen a persistent increase in traffic fines. A record $1.9 billion in traffic fines was issued by the City of New York in 2015. Since the first version of the bot was released in London last fall, 160,000 of 250,000 tickets have been successfully challenged with DoNotPay, Browder said. "I think the people getting parking tickets are the most vulnerable in society," said Browder. "These people aren't looking to break the law. I think they're being exploited as a revenue source by the local government." Browder, who's 19, hopes to extend DoNotPay to Seattle this fall.
AI

Let's Stop Freaking Out About Artificial Intelligence (fortune.com) 150

Former Google CEO, and current Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Google X founder Sebastian Thrun in an op-ed on Fortune Magazine have shared their views on artificial intelligence, and what the future holds for this nascent technology. "When we first worked on the AI behind self-driving cars, most experts were convinced they would never be safe enough for public roads. But the Google Self-Driving Car team had a crucial insight that differentiates AI from the way people learn. When driving, people mostly learn from their own mistakes. But they rarely learn from the mistakes of others. People collectively make the same mistakes over and over again," they wrote. The two also talked about an artificial intelligence apocalypse, adding that while it's unlikely to happen, the situation is still worth considering. They wrote:Do we worry about the doomsday scenarios? We believe it's worth thoughtful consideration. Today's AI only thrives in narrow, repetitive tasks where it is trained on many examples. But no researchers or technologists want to be part of some Hollywood science-fiction dystopia. The right course is not to panic - it's to get to work. Google, alongside many other companies, is doing rigorous research on AI safety, such as how to ensure people can interrupt an AI system whenever needed, and how to make such systems robust to cyberattacks.It's a long commentary, but worth a read.
AI

Drivers Prefer Autonomous Cars That Don't Kill Them (hothardware.com) 451

"A new study shows that most people prefer that self-driving cars be programmed to save the most people in the event of an accident, even if it kills the driver," reports Information Week. "Unless they are the drivers." Slashdot reader MojoKid quotes an article from Hot Hardware about the new study, which was published by Science magazine. So if there is just one passenger aboard a car, and the lives of 10 pedestrians are at stake, the survey participants were perfectly fine with a self-driving car "killing" its passenger to save many more lives in return. But on the flip side, these same participants said that if they were shopping for a car to purchase or were a passenger, they would prefer to be within a vehicle that would protect their lives by any means necessary. Participants also balked at the notion of the government stepping in to regulate the "morality brain" of self-driving cars.
The article warns about a future where "a harsh AI reality may whittle the worth of our very existence down to simple, unemotional percentages in a computer's brain." MIT's Media Lab is now letting users judge for themselves, in a free online game called "Moral Machine" simulating the difficult decisions that might someday have to be made by an autonomous self-driving car.
Transportation

Star Trek Actor's Death Inspires Class Action Against Car Manufacturer (cnn.com) 365

Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the new Star Trek movies, was killed Sunday when his own vehicle rolled backwards. Now Slashdot reader ripvlan writes: It has recently emerged that his vehicle was a Jeep. As discussed on Slashdot previously consumers are having a hard time knowing if the vehicle is in "Park." A new class action lawsuit is gaining momentum... Also Maserati has a similar system and can join the class action.
In fact, Maserati "is recalling about 13,000 sedans that have the same sort of gear shifter that was used in the Jeep that killed Yelchin," according to CNN Money, and Chrysler Fiat had in fact already filed a recall notice with federal regulators in April for Yelchin's band of Jeep, "but owners had only received a warning and not an official recall notice at the time of Yelchin's death". The lawsuit claims Chrysler "fraudulently concealed and failed to remedy a gear shifter design defect affecting 811,000 vehicles and linked to driverless rollaway incidents," including 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees, 2012-2014 Chrysler 300s, and 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers.
Businesses

Volkswagen To Pay $10.2 Billion In Emissions Lawsuit (bbc.co.uk) 124

Reader Khashishi writes: Slashdot has been following the story of Volkswagen manipulating diesel emissions tests for some time now. The control software contained algorithms which reduced emissions during testing but not during normal driving. Well, now Volkswagen has agreed to pay $10.2 billion (alternate source: BBC) to settle the case, according to Associated Press. This is higher than the $430 million damages estimated in this story. It appears that vehicle owners will have the choice of fixing their cars or selling them back. Most of the money will go towards fixing the cars, buying them back, and compensating owners.

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