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Transportation

Tesla Unveils New Model S, Its Quickest Production Car (bloomberg.com) 116

Electric car maker Tesla said Tuesday that it is launching a 100-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery for its Model S and Model X cars. A report on Bloomberg says: Tesla is adding versions of its Model S sedan and Model X sport utility vehicle with a more powerful battery pack that the company said makes the Model S the world's quickest production car and gives it range of 315 miles on a single charge. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk is trying to appeal to sports car enthusiasts with the new Model S P100D with a 100 kilowatt-hour battery, which with Ludicrous mode can go from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds, compared with 2.8 seconds for the P90D Ludicrous version. The P100D Ludicrous upgrade costs $10,000 for customers who have ordered a P90D Ludicrous but haven't taken delivery, or $20,000 for owners who already have that vehicle type.
China

Didi Launches Car Rental Service In China 8

An anonymous reader writes: Ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is adding a car rental service for customers in several cities, to take advantage of the enormous domestic tourism market in China. Users can reserve a car through the Didi app and have it delivered to their door within two hours. The service, which is currently in beta testing in Shanghai, is expected to expand to several more cities in China over the next year. In a statement the company said, "Didi car rental is launched in response to the boom in China's short-term and tourist car rental market as the population goes through a lifestyle revolution." In 2015, 2.34 billion cars were rented for domestic tourists in China. That number is expected to more than double, reaching 5.8 billion by 2020.The move comes weeks after Uber announced it was selling its Chinese operation to Didi.
Businesses

Massachusetts Will Tax Ride-Sharing Companies To Subsidize Taxis (reuters.com) 440

Massachusetts will tax ride-sharing services -- 20 cents for each ride -- with 25% of the money raised going into a special fund for the taxi industry (according to an article shared by schwit1 ). Reuters reports: Ride services are not enthusiastic about the fee. "I don't think we should be in the business of subsidizing potential competitors," said Kirill Evdakov, the chief executive of Fasten, a ride service that launched in Boston last year and also operates in Austin, Texas. Some taxi owners wanted the law to go further, perhaps banning the start-up competitors unless they meet the requirements taxis do, such as regular vehicle inspection by the police...

The fee may raise millions of dollars a year because Lyft and Uber alone have a combined 2.5 million rides per month in Massachusetts... The 5-cent fee will be collected through the end of 2021. Then the taxi subsidy will disappear and the 20 cents will be split by localities and the state for five years. The whole fee will go away at the end of 2026.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed the law, which specifically bans ride-sharing services from passing those costs on to their drivers or riders. And the article notes that Taiwan has also hit Uber with a $6.4 million tax bill, while Seattle has passed a new law allowing ride-sharing drivers to unionize.
Security

German Minister Wants Facial Recognition Software At Airports and Train Stations (www.rte.ie) 110

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a surprising report from Ireland's National Public Service Broadcaster (based on a report in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag): Germany's Interior Minister wants to introduce facial recognition software at train stations and airports to help identify terror suspects following two Islamist attacks in the country last month... "Then, if a suspect appears and is recognised, it will show up in the system," he told the paper. He said a similar system was already being tested for unattended luggage, which the camera reports after a certain number of minutes. The article reports that other countries are also considering the technology.
The Courts

Tesla Owner in Autopilot Crash Won't Sue, But Car Insurer May (bloomberg.com) 93

Dana Hull, reporting for Bloomberg: A Texas man said the Autopilot mode on his Tesla Model S sent him off the road and into a guardrail, bloodying his nose and shaking his confidence in the technology. He doesn't plan to sue the electric-car maker, but his insurance company might. Mark Molthan, the driver, readily admits that he was not paying full attention. Trusting that Autopilot could handle the route as it had done before, he reached into the glove box to get a cloth and was cleaning the dashboard seconds before the collision, he said. The car failed to navigate a bend on Highway 175 in rural Kaufman, Texas, and struck a cable guardrail multiple times, according to the police report of the Aug. 7 crash. "I used Autopilot all the time on that stretch of the highway," Molthan, 44, said in a phone interview. "But now I feel like this is extremely dangerous. It gives you a false sense of security. I'm not ready to be a test pilot. It missed the curve and drove straight into the guardrail. The car didn't stop -- it actually continued to accelerate after the first impact into the guardrail." Cozen O'Connor, the law firm that represents Molthan's auto-insurance carrier, a unit of Chubb Ltd., said it sent Tesla Motors Inc. a notice letter requesting joint inspection of the vehicle, which has been deemed a total loss.
Robotics

'We're Just Rentals': Uber Drivers Ask Where They Fit In a Self-Driving Future (theguardian.com) 365

Bloomberg reported on Thursday about Uber's plan to bring its first fleet of self-driving cars to Pittsburgh as soon as this month, a move that has since been confirmed by the cab-hailing company. Amid the announcement, Uber drivers are disappointed at Uber, wondering what the future of the company lies for them. The Guardian reports:"Wo-o-o-o-w," 60-year old Uber driver Cynthia Ingram said. "We all knew it was coming. I just didn't expect it this soon." For Ingram, autonomous Ubers are an unwelcome threat to her livelihood. "I kind of figured it would be a couple more years down the line before it was really implemented and I'll be retired by then," she said. A paralegal with 30 years experience, Ingram began driving for Uber and Lyft in June 2015 when she lost her job. She said that she loves driving for Uber, though she has struggled to make ends meet. Rob Judge, 41, was also concerned with the announcement. "It feels like we're just rentals. We're kind of like placeholders until the technology comes out." A longtime customer service representative, Judge began driving for Uber three months ago to make money while he looks for other work. "For me personally, this isn't a long term stop," he added. "But for a lot of other people that I've connected with, this is their only means."
Transportation

Uber's First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month (bloomberg.com) 128

Ride-hailing app Uber will introduce self-driving cars in Pittsburgh as soon as this month, Bloomberg reports citing many officials and engineers at the company. The move is the first part of a pilot program to explore the future of the technology, the report added. The company plans to test 100 Volvo XC90s outfitted to drive themselves. Still, the cars will be accompanied by two humans: an engineer who can take control of the vehicle when needed and a co-pilot who takes note. Bloomberg reports: The Volvo deal isn't exclusive; Uber plans to partner with other automakers as it races to recruit more engineers. In July the company reached an agreement to buy Otto, a 91-employee driverless truck startup that was founded earlier this year and includes engineers from a number of high-profile tech companies attempting to bring driverless cars to market, including Google, Apple, and Tesla. Uber declined to disclose the terms of the arrangement, but a person familiar with the deal says that if targets are met, it would be worth 1percent of Uber's most recent valuation.
Transportation

Ford Plans a Fleet of Fully Autonomous Cars Operating in a Ride-Hail Service By 2021 (recode.net) 101

Ford will mass-produce autonomous vehicles without steering wheels by 2021, Ford chief executive Mark Fields said today at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, California. Recode reports:Fields announced that the company is working toward launching a fleet of commercial, level 4 (one level below a completely autonomous system, in which drivers don't have to be engaged) vehicles in a ride-hail service by 2021. The details of that ride-hail service -- such as which company Ford will partner with to operate it -- still haven't been determined. As part of that effort, Ford is investing in Velodyne, a self-driving tech company, and is working with three other startups. Ford has acquired Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company SAIPS, struck up an exclusive licensing agreement with machine vision company Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC and, as previously announced, invested in 3-D mapping startup Civil Maps.
China

Tesla Removes 'Self-driving' From China Website After Beijing Crash (reuters.com) 85

Last week, a Tesla owner in China blamed electric vehicle's "autopilot" feature for a crash. Amid the reports, Tesla quietly removed the term "self-driving" feature from its Chinese website. Reuters report: The Tesla driver crashed earlier this month while on a Beijing commuter highway after the car failed to avoid a vehicle parked on the left side but partially in the roadway, damaging both cars but causing no injuries. It was the first known such crash in China, although it follows a fatal accident in Florida earlier this year that put pressure on auto executives and regulators to tighten rules for automated driving. A check of Tesla's Chinese website on Sunday showed that the word "autopilot" had also been removed. But that term was subsequently reinstated on Monday. "At Tesla we are continuously making improvements, including to translations," a Tesla spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters when asked about the removal of the terms "autopilot" and "self-driving."
Transportation

Electric Vehicles Can Meet Drivers' Needs Enough To Replace 90 Percent of Vehicles Now On The Road (phys.org) 986

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Phys.Org: Researchers at MIT have just completed the most comprehensive study yet to address whether or not existing electric vehicles could bring about a meaningful reduction in the greenhouse-gas emissions that are causing global climate change. Yes, they can. The study was published today in the journal Nature Energy. Phys.Org reports: "'Roughly 90 percent of the personal vehicles on the road daily could be replaced by a low-cost electric vehicle available on the market today, even if the cars can only charge overnight,' Trancik says, 'which would more than meet near-term U.S. climate targets for personal vehicle travel.' Overall, when accounting for the emissions today from the power plants that provide the electricity, this would lead to an approximately 30 percent reduction in emissions from transportation. The team spent four years on the project, which included developing a way of integrating two huge datasets: one highly detailed set of second-by-second driving behavior based on GPS data, and another broader, more comprehensive set of national data based on travel surveys. Together, the two datasets encompass millions of trips made by drivers all around the country. By working out formulas to integrate the different sets of information and thereby track one-second-resolution drive cycles, the MIT researchers were able to demonstrate that the daily energy requirements of some 90 percent of personal cars on the road in the U.S. could be met by today's EVs, with their current ranges, at an overall cost to their owners -- including both purchase and operating costs -- that would be no greater than that of conventional internal-combustion vehicles."
Software

Audi's Traffic Light Information System Tells You When The Lights Are Going To Turn Green (pcworld.com) 203

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: Audi's Traffic light information system offers a first: the ability to tell you when the stoplight is going to change from red to green. This is a big thing for the impatient driver, but it's an even bigger thing for the automotive industry. The new feature, announced Monday, will be available on 2017 Q7, A4, and A4 allroad models built from June, 2016 onward. As your car nears a traffic light, it will receive real-time data about the signals at that location. Because the data can be complex, Audi says the car's computer will decide whether it has enough information to know when the traffic light you're sitting at will turn green. If so, it'll display a countdown clock on the instrument cluster. Audi's General Manager of Connectivity, Pom Malhotra, said Audi tested the service on 100 cars for over a year. The company's working closely with the agencies that manage the 300,000 or so traffic lights in the United States, and data provider Traffic Technology Solutions (TTS) of Portland, Oregon. TTS processes a constant stream of traffic signal status in real time and sends it to Audi's own servers, which then send it to the car. Malhotra said, "A few things have been implemented that we think of as safeguards." For example, the countdown timer will disappear several seconds before the red light changes to green, forcing you to put down your phone or stop whatever you may be doing in the meantime and look at the light yourself. The feature will be available in the three models mentioned via Audi's Connect Prime infotainment package, which costs $199 for 6 months or $750 for 30 months.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Are There Secure Alternatives To Skype? (theguardian.com) 236

How can you make a truly secure phone call? An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: I have a Windows 8.1 phone and mostly use it for Skype calls and chats. A bit of browsing every now and then, and checking public transportation schedules... What can I do to be able to securely chat and place audio/video calls? What do you think is the best device to buy and what apps to use on it?
Skype for Windows Phone will stop working in 2017, and Skype's privacy was already suspect after Edward Snowden leaked evidence of Microsoft's secret collaboration with the NSA. But are there any good alternatives -- especially for a Windows Phone user? Leave your suggestions in the comments. What are the best secure alternatives to Skype?
Transportation

One In Five Vehicle Software Vulnerabilities Are 'Hair On Fire' Critical (securityledger.com) 85

Long-time Slashdot reader chicksdaddy quotes a report from Security Ledger: One of every five software vulnerabilities discovered in vehicles in the last three years are rated "critical" and are unlikely to be resolved through after the fact security fixes, according to an analysis by the firm IOActive. "These are the high priority 'hair on fire' vulnerabilities that are easily discovered and exploited and can cause major impacts to the system or component," the firm said in its report...

The bulk of vulnerabilities that were identified stemmed from a failure by automakers and suppliers to follow security best practices including designing in security or applying secure development lifecycle (SDL) practices to software creation... The result is that vehicle cybersecurity vulnerabilities are not solvable using "bolt-on" solutions, IOActive concluded...

The article argues we're years away from standards or regulations, while describing auto-makers as "wedded to the notion that keeping the details of their systems secret will ensure security."
Businesses

GM Expressed Interest In Buying Lyft, But Lyft Declined (techcrunch.com) 25

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: The Information has reported that GM has expressed interest in purchasing the ride-sharing company Lyft. GM reportedly specified a price it would've paid for the company, but Lyft declined their offer and opted instead to raise new funding. TechCrunch reports: "The Information's info suggests that GM's interest in the car sharing market extends beyond simply partnering up with an external party (Warning: paywalled). In statements to The Information, both companies expressed continued excitement and enthusiasm about their ongoing partnership. Depending on the size of the offer on the table, this could prove a risky move by Lyft. It already faces steep competition from Uber, which has far more cash on hand thanks to a series of monster equity and debt raises. Meanwhile GM could decide it wants to own its own operation, and either look around for another acquisition target like Daimler, or build an in-house on-demand ride-service, which is what Ford appears to be doing with its Smart Mobility subsidiary."
Transportation

More Airline Outages Seen As Carriers Grapple With Aging Technology (reuters.com) 145

An anonymous reader writes: Airlines will likely suffer more disruptions like the one that grounded about 2,000 Delta flights this week because major carriers have not invested enough to overhaul reservations systems based on technology dating to the 1960s, airline industry and technology experts told Reuters. Airlines have spent heavily to introduce new features such as automated check-in kiosks, real-time luggage tracking and slick mobile apps. But they have avoided the steep cost of rebuilding their reservations systems from the ground up, former airline executives said. Scott Nason, former chief information officer at American Airlines Group Inc, said long-term investments in computer technology were a tough sell when he worked there. "Most airlines were on the verge of going out of business for many years, so investment of any kind had to have short pay-back periods," said Nason, who left American in 2009 and is now an independent consultant. The reservations systems of the biggest carriers mostly run on a specialized IBM operating system known as Transaction Processing Facility, or TPF. It was designed in the 1960s to process large numbers of transactions quickly and is still updated by IBM, which did a major rewrite of the operating system about a decade ago.
Security

A New Wireless Hack Can Unlock Almost Every Volkswagen Sold Since 1995 (arstechnica.com) 115

Volkswagen isn't having the best of times. Tens of millions of vehicles sold by Volkswagen AG over the past 20 years are vulnerable to theft because keyless entry systems can be hacked using cheap technical devices, reports Wired (alternate source). Security experts of the University of Birmingham were able to clone VW remote keyless entry controls by eavesdropping nearby when drivers press their key fobs to open or lock up their cars. ArsTechnica reports: The first affects almost every car Volkswagen has sold since 1995, with only the latest Golf-based models in the clear. Led by Flavio Garcia at the University of Birmingham in the UK, the group of hackers reverse-engineered an undisclosed Volkswagen component to extract a cryptographic key value that is common to many of the company's vehicles. Alone, the value won't do anything, but when combined with the unique value encoded on an individual vehicle's remote key fob -- obtained with a little electronic eavesdropping, say -- you have a functional clone that will lock or unlock that car. VW has apparently acknowledged the vulnerability, and Greenberg (writer at Wired) notes that the company uses a number of different shared values, stored on different components. The second affects many more makes, "including Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, and Peugeot," according to Greenberg. It exploits a much older cryptographic scheme used in key fobs called HiTag2. Again it requires some eavesdropping to capture a series of codes sent out by a remote key fob. Once a few codes had been gathered, they were able to crack the encryption scheme in under a minute.
Medicine

University Collects Medical Samples Via Drones In Madagascar (phys.org) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Stony Brook University is using drones to transport medical samples for laboratory analysis to and from remote parts of Madagascar. Phys.Org reports: "The drones are about the size of a large picnic table and have two sets of wings. They take off and land like helicopters and have a flight range of about 40 miles. Blood and other medical samples can be secured in small compartments in the body of the aircraft. Drones are being used in other parts of the developing world to deliver medications and other supplies to remote areas, but Stony Brook officials say theirs is one of the first efforts involving a small unmanned aircraft that actually lands in remote villages and returns quickly to a laboratory. Diagnosis of ailments, like tapeworm disease, which causes life-threatening seizures and contributes to malnutrition in villages on the island, can now be completed within a few hours, said Dr. Peter Small, founding director of Stony Brook's Global Health Institute. To reach these villages, medical workers have had to travel on foot -- there are no roads -- a trip that takes five to nine hours each way. By drone, they can dispatch the medical samples back to Stony Brook's Centre ValBio research station and get lab results within an hour or two, said Patricia Wright, the station's executive director."
Security

Hacker Uses Fake Boarding Pass App To Get Into Fancy Airline Lounges (helpnetsecurity.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Help Net Security: Przemek Jaroszewski, the head of Poland's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), says anyone can bypass the security of the automated entrances of airlines' airport lounges by using a specially crafted mobile app that spoofs boarding pass QR codes. He created one for himself, and successfully tried it out on a number of European airports. Usually, to enter these lounges, travelers need to let the scanner at the entrance scan the QR code on their boarding pass, and the doors open automatically. Jaroszewski created an Android app that creates fake but acceptable QR codes. He says that aside from a valid flight number, the QR code doesn't have to include correct information (traveller's name, flight destination, etc.). According to WIRED, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) don't consider this particular issue a problem that needs fixing. They said "any such boarding pass security flaw would be the airlines' issue." Here is an unlisted video of the hack in action.
Crime

US Finds New Secret Software In VW Audi Engines, Says Report (cnet.com) 227

An anonymous reader writes: It looks like Volkswagen's diesel scandal could keep rolling as reports claim that the automaker has three hidden software programs in its 3.0-liter engines. Concerns about the German car manufacturers' 2.0-liter engines could soon reach a conclusion, but the discovery of the hidden software has thrown the future of 3.0-liter diesels into uncertainty. That secret software in Volkswagen's 3.0-liter diesels can turn off the vehicles' emissions controls, Reuters reports, citing the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. The emissions control system allegedly shuts off after 22 minutes, when most emissions tests take about 20. If this software does exist, it likely resides in all 3.0-liter diesels that Volkswagen sells in the U.S.. This includes the Audi Q7, Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne SUVs. Approximately 85,000 of these cars are roaming around the US, and they're already under scrutiny for some software that VW "forgot" to tell regulators about.
Bug

Delta Air Lines Grounded Around the World After Computer Outage (cnn.com) 239

Delta Air Lines says it has suffered a computer outage throughout its system, and is warning of "large-scale" cancellations after passengers were unable to check in and departures were grounded globally. The No. 2 U.S. carrier said in a statement Monday that it had "experienced a computer outage that has impacted flights scheduled for this morning. Flights awaiting departure are currently delayed. Flights en route are operating normally." A power outage in Atlanta at about 2.30 a.m. local time is said to be the cause of computer outage. CNN reports: "Large-scale cancellations are expected today," Delta said. While flights already in the air were operating normally, just about all flights yet to take off were grounded. The number of flights and passengers affected by the problem was not immediately available. But Delta, on average, operates about 15,000 daily flights, carrying an average of 550,000 daily passengers during the summer. Getting information on the status of flights was particularly frustrating for passengers. "We are aware that flight status systems, including airport screens, are incorrectly showing flights on time," said the airline. "We apologize to customers who are affected by this issue, and our teams are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible."

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