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The San Francisco Chronicle reports that In an abrupt U-turn, the California Department of Motor Vehicles late Friday retracted its finding that drivers for ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar must obtain commercial license plates. That determination — based on a 1935 state law — ignited a firestorm of criticism from the San Francisco startups and their supporters as stifling innovation. Commercial licenses are cumbersome to obtain, meaning they could impede the companies’ growth, which relies on getting new drivers, many of whom work just part time, into service quickly. And commercial registration probably would have necessitated that drivers get commercial insurance, which is significantly more expensive than personal auto insurance. Republican Assembly members threatened legislation over the “nonsensical” interpretation if the DMV didn’t reconsider its stance before Feb. 17. Now the department says it will do just that. That doesn't mean drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft can expect to be left alone by the DMV, though, which according to the article "will meet with regulators and the industry to work through the issue."
151 comments | 8 hours ago
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that "Credible" bomb threats were made Saturday against two flights bound for Atlanta, an airport spokesman said. The flights landed safely after being escorted into Atlanta by military fighter jets. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport spokesman Reese McCrainie told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at 3 p.m. that both flights — Delta 1156 and Southwest 2492 — had landed and were sitting on a taxiway waiting to be swept by the Atlanta police Bomb Squad. ... Witnesses reported seeing multiple emergency vehicles on the tarmac, and the Federal Aviation Administration said just before 3 p.m. that departing flights were experiencing gate holds and delays of up to 30 minutes due to a bomb threat. USA Today says that the flights were on their way to Atlanta from, respectively, Portland, Oregon and Milwaukee, and adds that "NORAD Media Relations Specialist Preston Schlachter confirmed that two F-16 jets launched from McIntire Air Force Base in South Carolina as a precautionary measure."
106 comments | yesterday
mrspoonsi writes The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is adding crash imminent braking and dynamic braking support to its list of recommended advanced safety features for new cars. The former uses sensors to activate the brakes if a crash is imminent and the driver already hasn't. Dynamic braking support, on the other hand, increases stopping power if you haven't put enough pressure on the brake pedal. Like lane-departure and front collision warning systems, these features are available on some models already — this move gives them high-profile attention, though. And for good reason: As the NHSTA tells it, a third of 2013's police-reported car accidents were the rear-end crashes and a "large number" of the drivers either didn't apply the brakes at all (what?!) or fully before impact.
285 comments | yesterday
alphadogg writes SkyMall, the quirky airline catalog, looks as though it may be grounded before long. Parent company Xhibit has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and seeks to sell its assets. In an SEC filing, Xhibit explains that it has fallen victim to an "intensely competitive" direct marketing retail industry that now includes the likes of eBay and Amazon.com. Smartphones and tablets are largely to blame for SkyMall's downfall, according to the SEC filing. "Historically, the SkyMall catalog was the sole in-flight option for potential purchasers of products to review while traveling. With the increased use of electronic devices on planes, fewer people browsed the SkyMall in-flight catalog."
64 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes: Local Motors solicits design ideas through crowdsourcing, allows anyone to use open source software to contribute ideas, and then 3D prints car bodies according to the chosen specs in a matter of days. To prove they mean business, Local Motors 3D-printed a car on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show last week. "It took 44 hours to print the Strati’s 212 layers. Once 3D printing is complete, the Strati moves to a Thermwood CNC router—a computer-controlled cutting machine that mills the finer details—before undergoing the final assembly process, which adds the drivetrain, electrical components, wiring, tires, gauges, and a showroom-ready paint job."
Here's another big difference from the current auto industry: "Customers can also bring their vehicles in at any time for hardware and software upgrades, or they can choose to melt their vehicle down and, for instance, add a seat. Because Local Motors uses a distributed manufacturing system to make only what is purchased, it doesn't stock inventory. Anyone can come into a Local Motors microfactory, use its design lab, and work on a vehicle project free of charge."
118 comments | 2 days ago
HughPickens.com writes Stomp on the gas in a new Ford Mustang or F-150 and you'll hear a meaty, throaty rumble — the same style of roar that Americans have associated with auto power and performance for decades. Now Drew Harwell reports at the Washington Post that the auto industry's dirty little secret is that the engine growl in some of America's best-selling cars and trucks is actually a finely tuned bit of lip-syncing, boosted through special pipes or digitally faked altogether. "Fake engine noise has become one of the auto industry's dirty little secrets, with automakers from BMW to Volkswagen turning to a sound-boosting bag of tricks," writes Harwell. "Without them, today's more fuel-efficient engines would sound far quieter and, automakers worry, seemingly less powerful, potentially pushing buyers away." For example Ford sound engineers and developers worked on an "Active Noise Control" system on the 2015 Mustang EcoBoost that amplifies the engine's purr through the car speakers. Afterward, the automaker surveyed members of Mustang fan clubs on which processed "sound concepts" they most enjoyed.
Among purists, the trickery has inspired an identity crisis and cut to the heart of American auto legend. The "aural experience" of a car, they argue, is an intangible that's just as priceless as what's revving under the hood. "For a car guy, it's literally music to hear that thing rumble," says Mike Rhynard, "It's a mind-trick. It's something it's not. And no one wants to be deceived." Other drivers ask if it really matters if the sound is fake? A driver who didn't know the difference might enjoy the thrum and thunder of it nonetheless. Is taking the best part of an eight-cylinder rev and cloaking a better engine with it really, for carmakers, so wrong? "It may be a necessary evil in the eyes of Ford," says Andrew Hard, "but it's sad to think that an iconic muscle car like the Mustang, a car famous for its bellowing, guttural soundtrack, has to fake its engine noise in 2015. Welcome to the future."
790 comments | 3 days ago
According to a story at Forbes, Digital Bond Labs hacker Corey Thuen has some news that should make you think twice about saving a few bucks on insurance by adding a company-supplied car-tracking OBD2 dongle: It’s long been theorised that [Progressive Insurance's Snapshot and other] such usage-based insurance dongles, which are permeating the market apace, would be a viable attack vector. Thuen says he’s now proven those hypotheses; previous attacks via dongles either didn’t name the OBD2 devices or focused on another kind of technology, namely Zubie, which tracks the performance of vehicles for maintenance and safety purposes. ... He started by extracting the firmware from the dongle, reverse engineering it and determining how to exploit it. It emerged the Snapshot technology, manufactured by Xirgo Technologies, was completely lacking in the security department, Thuen said. “The firmware running on the dongle is minimal and insecure. It does no validation or signing of firmware updates, no secure boot, no cellular authentication, no secure communications or encryption, no data execution prevention or attack mitigation technologies basically it uses no security technologies whatsoever.”
199 comments | about a week ago
An anonymous reader writes that Elon Musk wants to speed up the development of his proposed 800-mph tube transport. "Billionaire and entrepreneur Elon Musk is getting more hands-on with the Hyperloop. Musk, who heads up both space transportation outfit SpaceX and electric-vehicle maker Tesla Motors, casually announced via Twitter on Thursday that he's decided to help accelerate development of his vision for near-supersonic tube transportation, first outlined in August 2013. Musk said he will build a five-mile test track for the still-theoretical system for students and companies to use. A possible location would be Texas, he added, where presumably there is plenty of flat land to go around."
165 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes As vehicles increasingly rely on automation, software and technology enhancements to run basic functionality, those systems serve as a potential safety risk when under cyber attack. Mission Secure uses a proprietary methodology developed by the University of Virginia with the Department of Defense for identifying the most consequential and easy to carry out cyber attacks on any system that a defense capability must address. The goal of the pilot is to demonstrate how to identify vehicle safety threats malicious cyber attackers could use to easily compromise the vehicle's key control systems and how these attacks could be detected and protected.
52 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that Elon Musk, speaking at an industry conference in Detroit, said Tesla may not be profitable until 2020 but that Tesla plans to boost production of electric cars to "at least a few million a year" by 2025. Musk told attendees at the Automotive News World Congress that "we could make money now if we weren't investing" in new technology and vehicles such as the Model 3 and expanded retail networks.
Musk does not see the Chevrolet Bolt as a potential competitor to the Model 3. "It's not going to affect us if someone builds a few hundred thousand vehicles," said Musk. "I'd be pleased to see other manufacturers make electric cars." On another topic, Musk said he was open to partnerships with retailers to sell Tesla vehicles, but not until after the company no longer has production bottlenecks. "Before considering taking on franchised dealers, we also have to establish (more of) our own stores," said Musk adding that "we will consider" franchising "if we find the right partner." Musk did not elaborate, but said Tesla "is not actively seeking any partnerships" with other manufacturers "because our focus is so heavily on improving our production" in Fremont. Last year, Tesla delivered about 33,000 Model S sedans and said the current wait for delivery is one to four months. Tesla has already presold every Model S that it plans to build in 2015. "If you ordered a car today, you wouldn't get it until 2016."
181 comments | about two weeks ago
mpicpp notes that transportation company Uber will be sharing the transit data it collects with city governments in order to "provide new insights to help manage urban growth, relieve traffic congestion, expand public transportation, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions." The company's first partnership will be with Boston, where Uber and other ridesharing services have been formally recognized by the state. Mayor Walsh said, "[D]ata is driving our conversations, our policy making and how we envision the future of our city. We are using data to change the way we deliver services and we welcome the opportunity to add to our resources. This will help us reach our transportation goals, improve the quality of our neighborhoods and allow us to think smarter, finding more innovative and creative solutions to some of our most pressing challenges."
32 comments | about two weeks ago
'The EnOcean technology is an energy harvesting wireless technology used primarily in building automation systems; but is also applied to other applications in industry, transportation, logistics and smart homes,' says Wikipedia. There's also a Siemans spinoff company called EnOcean, and today's video is an interview with its president, Jim O'Callaghan. But EnOcean technology is the real star here. The idea is that energy-efficient sensors can be powered by energy harvesting, i.e. drawing energy from their surroundings, including such low-level sources as light, temperature changes, and pressure, which can be the pressure of your finger on a switch or even changes in barometric pressure. The EnOcean Alliance has a professionally-produced video that describes their technology and notes that self-powered wireless sensors not only save energy but save miles of wire between sensor nodes and controllers, which means it's possible to install more sensors sensing more parameters than in the past. (Alternate Video Link)
46 comments | about two weeks ago
MikeChino writes Tesla, take cover – General Motors is taking aim at the affordable electric vehicle market with the brand new Chevy Bolt, which was just unveiled at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. The all-electric vehicle is able to travel 200 miles on a single charge, and it will cost about $30,000 – which puts it squarely in the ring with the Tesla Model 3. According to the article, "Chevrolet is planning to launch the Bolt EV in 2017, and inside sources say that it will be available in all 50 states."
426 comments | about two weeks ago
New submitter 0x2A writes: A Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX successfully launched a Dragon cargo ship toward the International Space Station early Saturday— and then returned to Earth, apparently impacting its target ocean platform during a landing test in the Atlantic.
"Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho," Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the launch. He added that they didn't get good video of the landing attempt, so they'll be piecing it together using telemetry and debris. "Ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced."
213 comments | about two weeks ago
astroengine writes: Test flights of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo are on schedule to begin again this year – this time with its own pilots, the chief executive of Richard Branson's space startup said Friday. The first in a series of planned passenger spaceships was destroyed on Oct. 31, 2014, during a fatal test flight being conducted by manufacturer Scaled Composites. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the accident, determined that co-pilot Michael Alsbury, who died in the crash, released the ship's moveable tail section early. The vehicle was not traveling fast enough for aerodynamic forces to keep the so-called "feather" pinned in place, as designs called for. As a result, the ship was torn apart, jettisoning pilot Pete Siebold in the process, who managed to parachute to safety.
20 comments | about two weeks ago
mrspoonsi writes Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licenses. Fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are also included as "mental disorders" now barring people from driving. The government says it is tightening medical controls for drivers because Russia has too many road accidents. "Pathological" gambling and compulsive stealing are also on the list. Russian psychiatrists and human rights lawyers have condemned the move. The announcement follows international complaints about Russian harassment of gay-rights activists.
412 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes in with news about Ford's latest automobile technology unveiled at CES. "Ford showcased the semi-autonomous vehicles it has on the road at CES and gave attendees a glimpse into fully autonomous vehicles now in development. The carmaker also announced a series of experiments with drivers around the globe to test its vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity, autonomous cars and the use of big data collected from vehicles. The company said a fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle is undergoing road testing now. The vehicle relies on the same semi-autonomous technology used in Ford vehicles today, while adding four LiDAR (light, radar) sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment."
73 comments | about three weeks ago
BarbaraHudson writes SpaceX has passed NASA's "certification baseline review," which required the company to outline exactly how it plans to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station using the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket under SpaceX's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with NASA. The contract will include at least one test flight with an astronaut in the spacecraft.
70 comments | about three weeks ago
cartechboy writes: Mercedes-Benz has finally taken the wraps off its autonomous concept car, dubbed the F015 Luxury in Motion Concept. Shown at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas last night, the concept is a self-driving, fully-connected, hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid that touts a vision of driving in the future. Mercedes says this concept is not only a means for getting someone from one point to another, but also a usable space for entertainment or work as well as a platform for communication and interaction. The hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid system is unique in that it produces zero emissions at all times. It consists of a hydrogen fuel cell stack, a lithium-ion battery, and two electric motors. The F015 has a driving range of 124 miles with a fully charged battery, and up to 684 miles with a full tank of hydrogen. While not intended for production, Mercedes shows us that it has the technology today to produce a zero-emission vehicle that can drive itself. In related news, Audi has just shown off an A7 that drove itself 550 miles from San Francisco to Las Vegas for CES.
167 comments | about three weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes that Toyota will share almost 6,000 hydrogen fuel cell patents. "Hoping to speed development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Toyota said Monday that it would offer thousands of patents on related technologies to rival automakers, for free. The announcement, made at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, echoes a similar move by electric car maker Tesla in 2014, when Chief Executive Elon Musk made Tesla patents available to all, hoping to spur innovation in the electric vehicle world (and, perhaps, to draw publicity.) Toyota has similar goals for the fuel-cell car market. 'At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen,' Bob Carter, senior vice president at Toyota, said before the announcement. 'The first generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, launched between 2015 and 2020, will be critical, requiring a concerted effort and unconventional collaboration.'"
124 comments | about three weeks ago