Transportation

India's Transport Minister Vows To Ban Self-Driving Cars To Save Jobs (arstechnica.com) 140

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Companies in the United States, Germany, Japan, and other countries are racing to develop self-driving cars. But India's top transportation regulator says that those cars won't be welcome on Indian streets any time soon. "We won't allow driverless cars in India," said Nitin Gadkari, India's minister for Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, according to the Hindustan Times. "I am very clear on this. We won't allow any technology that takes away jobs." Gadkari is taking a very different approach from politicians in the United States, where both the Obama and Trump administrations have been keen to promote the development of self-driving vehicles. "We are bullish on automated vehicles," said Obama Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last year. His successor, Elaine Chao, has also signaled support for self-driving technology, while also expressing concerns about safety risks and potential job losses.
Earth

World's First Floating Wind Farm Emerges Off Coast of Scotland (bbc.co.uk) 247

AmiMoJo writes: The world's first full-scale floating wind farm has started to take shape off the north-east coast of Scotland. The revolutionary technology will allow wind power to be harvested in waters too deep for the current conventional bottom-standing turbines. The manufacturer hopes to cash in on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the west coast of the U.S., where waters are deep. The tower, including the blades, stretches to 175m and weighs 11,500 tons. The price of energy from bottom-standing offshore wind farms has plummeted 32% since 2012, and is now four years ahead of the government's expected target. Another big price drop is expected, taking offshore wind to a much lower price than new nuclear power.
Businesses

Uber Backers Discuss Stock Sale to SoftBank, Others (bloomberg.com) 25

Eric Newcomer, Olivia Zaleski, Dinesh Nair, and Alex Sherman, reporting for Bloomberg: Uber shareholders and its board, led by early backer Benchmark, have discussed selling some of their shares to Japan's SoftBank and other potential investors, people familiar with the matter said. The talks represent a major turning point for the company. It has amassed more than 500 investors who fought to own a piece of the world's most-valuable startup. The fact that some of the earliest backers now want to reduce their stakes suggests the scandals and other troubles this year have taken a toll. The deal could include an injection of new money into the ride-hailing startup, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. It's unclear what valuation those shares would carry or how much may be sold. Any private share sale like this would need to be approved by San Francisco-based Uber's board. Uber's former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, who remains on the board, didn't learn about Benchmark's effort to sell early shares until recently, two people familiar with the matter said. Kalanick has often opposed allowing early shareholders to sell their stakes, though the board has allowed occasional exceptions. Even though Benchmark led an investor revolt against Kalanick, at least three major shareholders said they were unaware of Benchmark's effort to sell shares as of Friday morning, three people familiar with the matter said. SoftBank, which recently launched a $93 billion technology fund, has no plans to invest in Uber, a person close to the Japanese company said. SoftBank has backed Uber's primary rivals in India, Southeast Asia and China. Some of Uber's investors would like to see the startup cut deals with overseas competitors -- as it did with Didi Chuxing in China and Yandex NV in Russia. Grab, a leading ride-hailing startup in Asia, is raising as much as $2 billion from backers including SoftBank and Didi.
China

Automakers Are Asking China To Slow Down Electric Car Quotas (electrek.co) 304

New submitter Kant shares a report from Electrek: The auto industry is once again attempting to slow down the rollout of electric vehicles. Virtually all automakers, except for Tesla of course, have sent a letter to the Chinese government in an attempt to have them drastically weaken their zero-emission vehicle mandate. As we previously reported, China, the world's biggest car market, has somewhat of an aggressive ZEV mandate that would force automakers to have zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) represent 8% of new car sales as soon as 2018 and quickly ramp up to 12% by 2020. Now Germany's WirtschaftsWoche magazine (via Auto News) reports that the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), which represents Chrysler/Fiat, Ford, and GM, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), which represents all major European automakers, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), have all sent a joint letter to China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology to ask for several significant changes to the mandate.

The "six recommended modifications" include slowing the rollout of the mandate by 1 to 3 years, reconsidering the penalty system if they don't meet the quota, having credits not only for all-electric cars but also plug-in hybrid cars, and basically making the whole mandate weaker so that they don't have to produce as many electric cars.

Data Storage

Western Digital Gets US Court Order To Access Toshiba Databases, Chip Samples (reuters.com) 12

Western Digital won a temporary U.S. court order on Tuesday saying that Toshiba must allow Western Digital's employees to access databases and chip samples as part of a joint venture with Toshiba around flash memory chip plants in Japan. Reuters reports: Toshiba is scrambling to sell its flash memory business and Western Digital is among the bidders. In a sign of high tensions around the deal, Toshiba threatened to lock Western Digital out of shared databases and quit sending chip samples. Western Digital sued Toshiba in San Francisco County Superior Court saying that its joint venture with Toshiba means Toshiba must get its consent for a sale. It asked the court for two separate orders: An injunction to stop the sale, and a temporary restraining order forcing Toshiba to give its workers access to shared databases. A judge granted the temporary order for access to the shared databases Tuesday and set a further hearing on July 28.
Japan

Elderly Drivers In Japan Could Be Limited To Vehicles With Automatic Braking (japantimes.co.jp) 148

AmiMoJo writes: Japan's National Police Agency has proposed several new rules to regulate elderly drivers, including limiting them to vehicles with automatic braking systems to increase public safety. "The panel was tasked with finding ways to mitigate the risks associated with dementia, poor vision and deteriorating physical strength associated with seniors," reports the Japan Times. "Deadly traffic accidents caused by people 75 or older are on the rise, though fatal accidents overall are on the decline." Automatic braking systems apply the car's brakes if a collision is imminent. Separately Japanese authorities are offering elderly drivers who give up their licenses a discount on their funerals.
Japan

Japan's Population Falls At Fastest Rate Since 1968 295

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Japan's population, excluding resident foreigners, fell at the beginning of this year at its fastest pace since comparable figures were kept in 1968, highlighting the demographic challenge to economic growth. As of Jan. 1, the number of Japanese people fell by a record 308,084 from a year earlier to 125,583,658, marking the eighth consecutive year of declines, government data showed Wednesday. The number of births fell 2.9 percent from the previous year ago to 981,202, the lowest since comparable data became available in 1974. People aged 65 or older accounted for 27.2 percent of the total population, the highest ratio on record, while the ratio of those aged 14 or younger fell to a record low of 12.7 percent, the data showed. The number of registered foreign residents increased to 2,323,428, up 6.9 percent from a year earlier, according to the data.
Japan

Japan Wants To Put a Man On the Moon, Accelerating Asian Space Race (cnn.com) 74

Japan plans to put a man on the moon around 2030, according to a new proposal by the government's Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). From a report: It is the first time JAXA has revealed an intention to send Japanese astronauts beyond the International Space Station, and it will mostly likely be part of an international mission, the agency said. The announcement from Japan is just the latest in a series of ambitious space exploration plans by Asian countries, with the increasing competition for space-related power and prestige in the region echoing that of the Cold War space race of the mid-20th century. In December 2016, China announced plans to land a rover on Mars by 2020 as well as a manned mission to the Moon at some point in the future.
Sony

Sony Will Start Pressing Vinyl Records After 28-Year Hiatus (fortune.com) 136

Sony said this week it will begin pressing vinyl records again, ending an almost three-decade hiatus. A dramatic increase in demand for vinyl music in recent years prompted the move, the company said. From a report: After a 28-year hiatus, Sony announced this week that it plans to open a new facility in Japan dedicated to pressing vinyl records. It's a back-to-the-future announcement at a time when the true digital music revolution -- downloaded and streaming via always-on Internet connectivity -- has quickly grown to dominate listening habits. According to Japan's recording industry association, the country produced nearly 200 million records per year in the mid-1970s. That's unlikely to return. But while many of us have been content to wirelessly download our music, a surprising number of people are going to the store -- or Amazon.com, let's be honest -- and purchasing a vinyl record, sleeve and all.
Earth

'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store (techcrunch.com) 85

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin, imagines a future where every grocery store has its own farm packed with herbs, vegetables and fruit. "The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system," reports TechCrunch. "Growing out from the center, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned ready for you, the customer, to harvest." From the report: The concept might not be entirely new -- Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation -- but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking. This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. In contrast, the Infarm system is chemical pesticide-free and can prioritize food grown for taste, color and nutritional value rather than shelf life or its ability to sustain mass production. Its indoor nature means it isn't restricted to seasonality either and by completely eliminating the distance between farmer and consumer, food doesn't get much fresher. When a new type of herb or plant is introduced, Infarm's plant experts and engineers create a recipe or algorithm for the produce type, factoring in nutrition, humidity, temperature, light intensity and spectrum, which is different from system to system depending on what is grown. The resulting combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics is akin to "Farming-as-a-Service," whilst , space permitting, Infarm's modular approach affords the ability to keep adding more farming capacity in a not entirely dissimilar way to how cloud computing can be ramped up at the push of a button.
Transportation

New Maglev Elevator Can Travel Horizontally, Vertically, and Diagonally (wired.co.uk) 213

An elevator that can move in any direction has been successfully tested by a German company named ThyssenKrupp. An anonymous reader quotes Wired UK: The Multi is the first ropeless lift, built using the same magnetic levitation technology used in Japan's bullet train and proposed for the Hyperloop. In the same way the train slides along a track horizontally, the lift travels both vertically, horizontally and diagonally around a building riding an electromagnetic field, a system known as a linear drive. "If you can run a 500-tonne train on magnets at 500km/h you should be able to elevate a cabin of 500 kilograms or 1,000 kilograms at a speed of five metres per second," [ThyssenKrupp CEO Andreas] Schierenbeck said.
The elevator can cost 3 to 5 times more than a regular elevator -- but can handle higher buildings than a conventional elevator.
Security

Honda Shuts Down Factory After Finding NSA-derived Wcry In Its Networks (arstechnica.com) 63

A Honda factory near Tokyo was shuttered for over 24 hours this week after its computers became infected with WannaCry, the same ransomware virus responsible for crippling systems in dozens of countries last month, the car manufacturer said Wednesday. From a report: The automaker shut down its Sayama plant northwest of Tokyo on Monday after finding that WCry had affected networks across Japan, North America, Europe, China, and other regions, Reuters reported Wednesday. Discovery of the infection came on Sunday, more than five weeks after the onset of the NSA-derived ransomware worm, which struck an estimated 727,000 computers in 90 countries. [...] Honda officials didn't explain why engineers found WCry in their networks 37 days after the kill switch was activated. One possibility is that engineers had mistakenly blocked access to the kill-switch domain. That would have caused the WCry exploit to proceed as normal, as it did in the 12 or so hours before the domain was registered. Another possibility is that the WCry traces in Honda's networks were old and dormant, and the shutdown of the Sayama plant was only a precautionary measure. In any event, the discovery strongly suggests that as of Monday, computers inside the Honda network had yet to install a highly critical patch that Microsoft released in March.
Anime

New 'Lupin III' Commentary Track Celebrates The Glories Of Ignoring Copyrights (terrania.us) 71

In 2004, film critic Roger Ebert "realized that auteurs weren't the only ones who had things to say about movies, and suggested that experts in other fields or even just fans of the movies could create MP3 commentary tracks to discuss their favorite films, which could then be downloaded and played alongside them." This inspired Slashdot reader #14,247 to produce his own commentary on Hayao Miyazaki's first movie, Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro -- and 13 years later, to release a new commentary track celebrating the film's 35th anniversary. Robotech_Master writes: Among other things, it offers proof that excessive copyright really harms creativity by restricting the uses people are able to make of prior art -- by showing what can happen when people get away with ignoring copyright and creating anyway. Not only were Lupin III and Cagliostro effectively inspired as "fanfic" of characters and works that had come before, many of those characters and works were effectively fanfic themselves -- and Cagliostro in turn inspired parts of a number of other works that came afterward, including a couple by Disney.
Anyone else have a favorite example of a movie that bends the rules of copyright law?
Censorship

Japan Passes Controversial 'Anti-Conspiracy' Bill (privateinternetaccess.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Virtual Privacy Network Blog, News: Earlier today, after an intentionally rushed consideration process, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe passed a new mass surveillance law conveniently called the "anti-conspiracy bill." With the vague wording of the bill, anyone suspected of planning any of [the 277 acts listed in the bill] could be put under targeted surveillance. Of course, the Japanese government has promised not to overstep their boundaries and emphasized that the new law is only meant to increase security before the 2020 Olympics. Among the noted crimes that would be punishable in Japan under the new anti-terrorism law is copyright violation, which is a criminal offense not a civil offense in Japan. Both the Japanese Bar Association and the United Nation's Special Rapporteur have spoken out against the law, saying that it will severely curtail civil liberties in Japan.

BBC laid out some of the most ridiculous things that someone in Japan can now catch a potentially terrorism-related charge for even planning or discussing on social media the acts of: Copying music; Conducting sit-ins to protest against the construction of apartment buildings; Using forged stamps; Competing in a motor boat race without a license; Mushroom picking in conservation forests; Avoiding paying consumption tax. The stated rationale of the government is that these now-illegal acts, such as copying music to CDs or foraging for mushrooms in conservation forests, could be used to fund terrorist activities. Hence, planning or thinking about them is bad. If this sounds like the Thought Police, that's because it is.

Japan

Konami Reportedly Blacklisting Ex-Employees Across Japanese Video Game Industry (arstechnica.com) 120

The Nikkei Asian Review newspaper is reporting that the Japanese entertainment company Konami is blacklisting former employees in the Japanese video game industry. "The company is particularly targeting those who work for Kojima Productions, which was founded in 2016 by Hideo Kojima, who used to be a top designer at Konami," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Furthermore, according to the article, Konami is pressuring other companies not to hire its former employees. As the Nikkei Asian Review wrote: "One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant. Ex-Kons are not allowed to put their Konami experience on their public resumes. 'If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job,' explained a former employee. If an ex-Kon is interviewed by the media, the company will send that person a letter through a legal representative, in some cases indicating that Konami is willing to take them to court."
AI

Japan To Launch Self-Navigating Cargo Ships 'By 2025' (bbc.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Japanese shipping companies are working with shipbuilders to develop self-piloting cargo ships. The "smart ships" will use artificial intelligence to plot the safest, shortest, most fuel-efficient routes, and could be in service by 2025. The AI will also be used to predict malfunctions and other problems, which could help reduce the number of maritime incidents. The companies plan to build about 250 self-navigating ships. Shipping firms Mitsui OSK Lines and Nippon Yusen are working with shipbuilders including Japan Marine United to share both costs and expertise, according to the Nikkei Asian Review. The first ships will retain a small crew to oversee certain operations, but there are plans to develop completely autonomous vessels in the future.
Google

Google Has Finally Found a Buyer For Its Scary Robot Companies Boston Dynamics and Schaft: SoftBank (recode.net) 50

Japan's SoftBank is buying robotics group Boston Dynamics -- the makers of the bipedal Atlas, the jumping Sand Flea and the animal-like BigDog, Spot and Wildcat robots -- from Alphabet, more than a year after Google's parent put the unit up for sale. From a report: Google acquired Boston Dynamics in 2013 under the leadership of Andy Rubin, the co-inventor of Android, who was leading a wave of acquisitions of robotics companies under the search giant. Boston Dynamics' robots routinely make headlines, including a high-profile demo at this year's TED conference. The company, led by CEO Marc Raibert, has made a robotic cheetah that can run 28 miles per hour, a robotic dog that it recently used to deliver packages to doorsteps in Boston, and most recently a massive legged and wheeled robot that can clear hurdles and walk down stairs. The firm has been hailed by other roboticists for its ability to blend hardware and artificial intelligence to make machines capable of dynamic, agile movements. Its most recent wheeled robot, Handle, can manipulate objects that are comparable to its own weight, and its four-legged, animal-like robots can maneuver over different types of terrain.
Transportation

Toyota Demos A Flying Car. It Crashes. (ap.org) 107

thomst shares the AP's report on Toyota's latest venture. From the article: A startup backed by the Japanese automaker has developed a test model that engineers hope will eventually develop into a tiny car with a driver who'll be able to light the Olympic torch in the 2020 Tokyo games. For now, however, the project is a concoction of aluminum framing and eight propellers that barely gets off the ground and crashes after several seconds... At a test flight Saturday in the city where the automaker is based, the gadgetry, about the size of a car and loaded with batteries and sensors, blew up a lot of sand and made a lot of noise. It managed to get up as high as eye level for several seconds before tilting and falling to the ground... After several attempts, the endeavor had to be canceled after one of the covers got detached from the frame and broke, damaging the propellers.
Project leader Tsubasa Nakamura envisions seamlessly transitioning from driving to flight like the DeLorean in Back To The Future, and his team still plans to perform their first manned flights by 2019.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Ships Its Last Ever PlayStation 3 In Japan (engadget.com) 64

After 11 years, Sony has stopped shipping the PlayStation 3 to retailers in Japan. The country stopped production on the 500GB model in December last year, but now a recent update on PlayStation Japan's website suggests that the other lingering units have all been shipped as well. It's only a matter of time before the console stops being produced altogether in other parts of the world. Engadget reports: Selling over 70 million units in just seven years, the PlayStation 3 was certainly a console to be reckoned with. Yet, for all its achievements, the long-surviving gaming machine initially made a name for itself for all the wrong reasons. With Sony riding high on the PlayStation 2's market-leading sales numbers, its successor launched at the eye-watering price of $499 -- and consumers weren't too happy about it. Luckily for Sony, publishers stuck with the pricey console, and exclusive games like Uncharted, Heavy Rain, The Last Of Us and Metal Gear Solid 4 helped to right the course of Sony's initially water-riddled ship. With the sun-setting on the aging console in the East, the news doesn't bode well for the future of the PlayStation 3 across the rest of the world. Sony has previously announced that PS Now will soon move exclusively to PS4 and PC. While few players will be mourning the loss of the pricey service, there are many PS3 owners still benefitting from free games on PlayStation Plus and downloading new content from the PS Store. As Sony slowly begins to start winding the console down, it's unlikely that gamers will be able to continue to use these services for much longer on the aging gaming system.
Businesses

Renewable Energy Powers Jobs For Almost 10 Million People (bloomberg.com) 132

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency's (IRENA) annual report, the renewable energy industry employed 9.8 million people last year, which is up 1.1 percent from 2015. The strongest growth was seen in the solar photovoltaic category with 3.09 million jobs. Bloomberg reports: Here are some of the highlights from the report: Global renewables employment has climbed every year since 2012, with solar photovoltaic becoming the largest segment by total jobs in 2016. Solar photovoltaic employed 3.09 million people, followed by liquid biofuels at 1.7 million. The wind industry had 1.2 million employees, a 7 percent increase from 2015. Employment in renewables, excluding large hydro power, increased 2.8 percent last year to 8.3 million people, with China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany the leading job markets. Asian countries accounted for 62 percent of total jobs in 2016 compared with 50 percent in 2013. Renewables jobs could total 24 million in 2030, as more countries take steps to combat climate change, IRENA said.

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