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Crime

The Coming Terrorist Threat From Autonomous Vehicles 212

HughPickens.com writes: Alex Rubalcava writes that autonomous vehicles are the greatest force multiplier to emerge in decades for criminals and terrorists and open the door for new types of crime not possible today. According to Rubalcava, the biggest barrier to carrying out terrorist plans until now has been the risk of getting caught or killed by law enforcement so that only depraved hatred, or religious fervor has been able to motivate someone to take on those risks as part of a plan to harm other people. "A future Timothy McVeigh will not need to drive a truck full of fertilizer to the place he intends to detonate it," writes Rubalcava. "A burner email account, a prepaid debit card purchased with cash, and an account, tied to that burner email, with an AV car service will get him a long way to being able to place explosives near crowds, without ever being there himself." A recent example is instructive. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were identified by an examination of footage from numerous private security cameras that were recording the crowd in downtown Boston during the Marathon. Imagine if they could have dispatched their bombs in the trunk of a car that they were never in themselves? Catching them might have been an order of magnitude more difficult than it was.

According to Rubalcava the reaction to the first car bombing using an AV is going to be massive, and it's going to be stupid. There will be calls for the government to issue a stop to all AV operations, much in the same way that the FAA made the unprecedented order to ground 4,000-plus planes across the nation after 9/11. "But unlike 9/11, which involved a decades-old transportation infrastructure, the first AV bombing will use an infrastructure in its infancy, one that will be much easier to shut down" says Rubalcava. "That shutdown could stretch from temporary to quasi-permanent with ease, as security professionals grapple with the technical challenge of distinguishing between safe, legitimate payloads and payloads that are intended to harm."
(And don't forget The Dead Pool.)
Moon

Kristian von Bengston's New Goal: The Moon 24

Kristian von Bengtson, co-founder of DIY manned space program Copenhagen Suborbitals (which he left in 2014) writes with this pithy plug for his newest venture: "This year, we (a great crew) have been preparing for the next adventure with a mission plan going public Oct 1. Go sign up and join the project at moonspike.com." (You may want to check out our video inteview with von Bengston; he's a person who gets things done.)
Transportation

Arro Taxi App Arrives In NYC As 'Best Hope' Against Uber 154

An anonymous reader writes with a report at The Stack that "New York City cabs have begun testing a new app-based taxi system in an attempt to win back customers lost to Uber and Lyft." The app is called Arro, and is being trialled in about 7,000 New York cabs. It sticks with metered prices, rather than the demand-based price increases that Uber institutes for times of peak demand. With so many cabs on the road already, the makers boast that Arro will outpace Uber soon. At least based on my limited experience with each, real competition with Uber or Lyft would require some seminars on good customer service.
Transportation

Uber Hires Hackers Who Remotely Killed a Jeep 31

An anonymous reader writes: The past several weeks have been rife with major vulnerabilities in modern cars, but none were so dramatic as when Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek tampered with the systems on a moving Jeep Cherokee. Now, Miller and Valasek have left their jobs to join a research laboratory for Uber. It's the same lab that became home for a number of autonomous vehicle experts poached from Carnegie Mellon University. From the article: "As Uber plunges more deeply into developing or adapting self-driving cars, Miller and Valasek could help the company make that technology more secure. Uber envisions autonomous cars that could someday replace its hundreds of thousands of contract drivers. The San Francisco company has gone to top-tier universities and research centers to build up this capability."
Transportation

Many Drivers Never Use In-Vehicle Tech, Don't Want Apple Or Google In Next Car 416

Lucas123 writes: Many of the high-tech features automakers believe owners want in their vehicles are not only not being used by them, but they don't want them in their next vehicle, according to a new survey by J.D. Power. According to J.D. Power's 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of 33 of the latest technology features. The five features owners most commonly report that they "never use" are in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); heads-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%). Additionally, there are 14 technology features that 20% or more of owners don't even want in their next vehicle. Those features include Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting. When narrowed to just Gen Yers, the number of vehicle owners who don't want entertainment and connectivity systems increases to 23%.
Transportation

When Should Cops Be Allowed To Take Control of Self-Driving Cars? 236

HughPickens.com writes: A police officer is directing traffic in the intersection when he sees a self-driving car barreling toward him and the occupant looking down at his smartphone. The officer gestures for the car to stop, and the self-driving vehicle rolls to a halt behind the crosswalk. This seems like a pretty plausible interaction. Human drivers are required to pull over when a police officer gestures for them to do so. It's reasonable to expect that self-driving cars would do the same. But Will Oremus writes that while it's clear that police officers should have some power over the movements of self-driving cars, what's less clear is where to draw the line. Should an officer be able to do the same if he suspects the passenger of a crime? And what if the passenger doesn't want the car to stop—can she override the command, or does the police officer have ultimate control?

According to a RAND Corp. report on the future of technology and law enforcement "the dark side to all of the emerging access and interconnectivity (PDF) is the risk to the public's civil rights, privacy rights, and security." It added, "One can readily imagine abuses that might occur if, for example, capabilities to control automated vehicles and the disclosure of detailed personal information about their occupants were not tightly controlled and secured."
Transportation

Tesla Partners With Airbnb, Subsidizes Chargers 59

Fortune reports that Tesla and Airbnb have teamed up; certain Airbnb properties will get Tesla chargers as a perk. There are 12 locations already equippped with chargers, but expect to see more soon, because Tesla is willing to pay for some of them, at least in California. To get on the list from which Tesla is drawing takes more than an air mattress in a spare room: An existing Airbnb host who lists an entire home, has had more than more than five bookings, and has an average overall star rating of 4+ is eligible to receive a free Tesla charger, which cost $750. The host must pay for the installation, which costs between $200 and $900 depending on the layout of the home.
Businesses

Not All Uber Drivers Like Surge Pricing, Either 250

CNET reports that Uber's practice of surge pricing, which sometimes raises the ire of passengers, isn't universally acclaimed by the company's drivers, either. "[M]ost Uber riders," according the the linked article, "despise surge pricing," though it's not clear quite how that "most" is arrived at. From the piece: They've complained about running up bills totaling hundreds of dollars, and have criticized the company for using surge pricing during emergencies, like Hurricane Sandy and the Sydney hostage crisis. The San Francisco Better Business Bureau gave Uber the grade of an F because of complaints related to surge pricing. And New York lawmakers have even proposed legislation to put limits on how high fares can go. Now some drivers, like [San Francisco Uber driver Peter] Ashlock, are also having second thoughts on surge pricing." On the other hand, what system would you propose to better reward drivers for working at high-demand times?
Transportation

San Jose May Put License Plate Scanners On Garbage Trucks 258

An anonymous reader writes: It's bad enough that some places have outfitted their police vehicles with automated license plate scanners, but now the city of San Jose may take it one step further. They're considering a proposal to install plate readers on their fleet of garbage trucks. This would give them the ability to blanket virtually every street in the city with scans once a week. San Jose officials made this proposal ostensibly to fight car theft, but privacy activists have been quick to point out the unintended consequences. ACLU attorney Chris Conley said, "If it's collected repeatedly over a long period of time, it can reveal intimate data about you like attending a religious service or a gay bar. People have a right to live their lives without constantly being monitored by the government." City councilman Johnny Khamis dismissed such criticism: "This is a public street. You're not expecting privacy on a public street."
Transportation

The Boeing 747 Is Heading For Retirement 345

schwit1 writes: After 45 years of service, Boeing's 747, the world's first jumbo jet, is finally facing retirement as airlines consider more modern planes for their fleets. The article gives a brief but detailed outline of the 747's history, and why passengers and pilots still love it. From the article: "The 747 was America at its proud and uncontaminated best. 'There's no substitute for cubic inches,' American race drivers used to say and the 747 expresses that truth in the air. There is still residual rivalry with the upstart European Airbus. Some Americans, referring to untested new technologies, call it Scarebus. There's an old saying: 'If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going.' A comparison to the European Concorde is illuminating. The supersonic Anglo-French plane was an elite project created for elite passengers to travel in near space with the curvature of the Earth on one hand and a glass of first growth claret on the other. The 747 was mass-market, proletarianising the jet set. It was Coke, not grand cru and it was designed by a man named Joe. Thus, the 747's active life was about twice that of Concorde."
Transportation

Hyperloop Getting Closer To Reality, Groundbreaking Set For 2016 107

An anonymous reader writes: On Thursday, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) said it would break ground on the futuristic railway in May 2016. The company says it has signed agreements with Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum and engineering design firm Aecom to work on the project. "It's a validation of the fact that our model works," says Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. "It's the next step."
ISS

HTV-5 On Its Way To the ISS 87

nojayuk writes: There's another launcher delivering cargo to the ISS apart from US and Russian vehicles, and it's Japanese. The fifth Koutonori (White Stork) cargo vehicle was successfully launched today at from pad 2 of the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima south of Tokyo at 11:50:49 UTC, carrying over 5 tonnes of food, spare parts and scientific equipment to the ISS in a pressurised cabin and an external racking system. This is the fifth successful launch in a row for the Japanese H2B launcher. The Koutonoris have carried over 20 tonnes of cargo in total to the ISS, more than double the amount of SpaceX's six successful CRS resupply flights.
Bug

Air Traffic Snafu: FAA System Runs Out of Memory 234

minstrelmike writes: Over the weekend, hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled in the Washington, D.C. area after air traffic systems malfunctioned. Now, the FAA says the problem was related to a recent software upgrade at a local radar facility. The software had been upgraded to display customized windows of reference data that were supposed to disappear once deleted. Unfortunately, the systems ended up running out of memory. The FAA's report is vague about whether it was operator error or software error: "... as controllers adjusted their unique settings, those changes remained in memory until the storage limit was filled." Wonder what programming language they used?
Books

Jason Scott of Textfiles.com Is Trying To Save a Huge Storage Room of Manuals 48

martiniturbide writes: Remember Jason Scott of Textfiles.com, who wanted your AOL & Shovelware CDs earlier this year? Right now -- at this moment! -- he trying to save the manuals in a huge storage room that was going to be dumped. It is a big storage room and some of these manuals date back to the thirties. On Monday a team of volunteers helped him to pack some manuals to save them. Today he needs more volunteers at "2002 Bethel Road, Finksburg, MD, USA" to try to save them all. He is also accepting Paypal donations for the package material, transportation and storage room payment. You can also check his progress on his twitter account.
Crime

US No-Fly List Uses 'Predictive Judgement' Instead of Hard Evidence 264

HughPickens.com writes: The Guardian reports that in a little-noticed filing before an Oregon federal judge, the US Justice Department and the FBI conceded that stopping U.S. and other citizens from traveling on airplanes is a matter of "predictive assessments about potential threats." "By its very nature, identifying individuals who 'may be a threat to civil aviation or national security' is a predictive judgment intended to prevent future acts of terrorism in an uncertain context," Justice Department officials Benjamin C Mizer and Anthony J Coppolino told the court. It is believed to be the government's most direct acknowledgment to date that people are not allowed to fly because of what the government believes they might do and not what they have already done. The ACLU has asked Judge Anna Brown to conduct her own review of the error rate in the government's predictions modeling – a process the ACLU likens to the "pre-crime" of Philip K Dick's science fiction. "It has been nearly five years since plaintiffs on the no-fly list filed this case seeking a fair process by which to clear their names and regain a right that most other Americans take for granted," say ACLU lawyers.

The Obama administration is seeking to block the release of further information about how the predictions are made, as damaging to national security. "If the Government were required to provide full notice of its reasons for placing an individual on the No Fly List and to turn over all evidence (both incriminating and exculpatory) supporting the No Fly determination, the No Fly redress process would place highly sensitive national security information directly in the hands of terrorist organizations and other adversaries," says the assistant director of the FBI's counterterrorism division, Michael Steinbach.
Crime

Uber Lowers Drunk Driving Arrests In San Francisco Dramatically 204

schwit1 writes: According to crime statistics from the San Francisco Police Department there were only two drunken driving arrests last New Year's Eve in San Francisco, the lowest since 2009. This news comes on the heels of a new study revealing that the introduction of UberX reduces drunk driving deaths across California. Temple University's Brad Greenwood and Sunil Wattal published a paper that shows cheap taxi-like options make it easier for people to make the safer decision to call for a ride rather than driving home themselves.
Transportation

Ask Slashdot: Buying a Car That's Safe From Hackers? 373

An anonymous reader writes: I'm in the market for a new car, and I've been going through the typical safety checklist: airbag coverage, crash test results, collision mitigation systems, etc. Unfortunately, it seems 2015 is the year we really have to add a new one to the list: hackability. Over the past several weeks we've seen security researchers remotely cut a Corvette's brakes, shut down a Tesla's computer, unlock a bunch of cars, intercept Onstar, and take over a Jeep from 10 miles away.

So, how do we go about buying a car with secure systems? An obvious answer would be to buy a car with limited or archaic computer control — but doing so probably comes with the trade-off of losing other modern safety technology. Is there a way to properly evaluate whether one car's systems are more secure than another's? Most safety standards are the result of strict regulation — is it time for the government to roll out legislation that will enforce safety standards for car computers as well?
Transportation

Documents Indicate Apple Is Building a Self-Driving Car 118

An anonymous reader writes: The Guardian has obtained correspondence through a public records request that indicate Apple is seeking a facility in the San Francisco area to test a self-driving car. "In May, engineers from Apple's secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles." The station is a facility left over from WWII, and its 20 miles of highways and city streets are surrounded by barbed-wire fences. Honda and Mercedes-Benz have already used it to test their self-driving car technology. "This security is bound to appeal to Apple, which has hundreds of engineers quietly working on automotive technologies in an anonymous office building in Sunnyvale, four miles from its main campus in Cupertino."
Google

Google Research Leads To Automated Real-Time Pedestrian Detection 57

An anonymous reader writes with a link to a story about one of the unexciting but vital bits of technology that will need to be even further developed as autonomous cars' presence grows: making sure that those cars don't hit people. Google researchers have recently presented findings about a method that tops previous ones for real-time pedestrian detection using neural nets "that is both extremely fast and extremely accurate." From the article: There are other approaches that provide a real-time solution on the GPU but in doing so, have not achieved accuracy targets (in this real-time approach there was a miss rate of 42% on the Caltech pedestrian detection benchmark). Another approach called the VeryFast method can run at 100 frames per second (compared to the Google team's 15) but the miss rate is even greater. Others that emphasize accuracy, even with GPU acceleration, are up to 195 times slower.