We talked with Peter Wayner about autonomous cars on June 5. He had a lot to say on this topic, to the point where we seem to be doing a whole series of interviews with him because autonomous cars might have a lot of unanticipated effects on our lives and our economy. Heck, Peter has enough to say about driverless cars to fill a book, Future Ride, which we hope he finishes editing soon because we (Tim and Robin) want to read it. While that book is brewing, watch for some thoughts on how autonomous cars (and delivery vans) might affect us in the near future.
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colinneagle writes "Bringing us one step closer to the hover-boards and flying cars that mid-20th century pop culture had predicted we would have by the year 2000, three Czech companies have come together to develop a functional flying bicycle. Designed by Technodat, Evektor, and Duratec, the flying bicycle weighs a little more than 187 lbs and limits its takeoff weight to about 350 lbs, according to a report from Polish bicycle news site Biketrendy. The report claims the bicycle, which is still just a prototype, is capable of staying in the air for about six minutes, although the companies working on the project hope to extend that to 50 minutes and top speeds of about 30 miles per hour. Currently, the fans propelling the bicycle are powered by a 50Ah battery."
McGruber writes "The BBC reports that the Airbus A350XWB (extra wide body) has made its first flight. Like the Boeing 787, the A350 offers airlines the chance to combine long-range services with improved fuel efficiency. The A350's fuselage is made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic, while many other parts of the aircraft use titanium and advanced alloys to save weight. It also has state-of-the-art aerodynamics, and engine manufacturer Rolls Royce has produced a new custom-designed power unit. Airbus claims that all of this means the A350 will use 25% less fuel than the current generation of equivalent aircraft. It also points out that noise and emissions will be well below current limits."
Zothecula writes "While quick charging technology installed at strategic points along a planned route might be a good fit for inner city buses, it's not going to be of much use to electric vehicles that stop infrequently. Volvo sees our future long-haul trucks and buses drawing the juice they need from the road itself, making large onboard batteries a thing of the past. 'The two power rails/lines run along the road's entire length. One is a positive pole, and the other is used to return the current. The lines are sectioned so that live current is only delivered to a collector mounted at the rear of, or under, the truck if an appropriate signal is detected. As an additional safety measure, the current flows only when the vehicle is moving at speeds greater than 60 km/h (37 mph). "The vehicle is equipped with a radio emitter, which the road segments can sense," explains Volvo's Per-Martin Johnansson. "If an electric vehicle passes a road segment with a proper encrypted signal, then the road will energize the segments that sense the vehicle.'"
schwit1 writes with a followup to a story we discussed in April about how using voice-activated texting while driving was no safer than using your hands. Now, a study by AAA has found that using voice commands to send texts is more dangerous than simply talking on your cellphone. "Texting a friend verbally while behind the wheel caused a 'large' amount of mental distraction compared with 'moderate/significant' for holding a phone conversation or talking with a passenger and 'small' when listening to music or an audio book, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found in a report released today. Automakers have promoted voice-based messaging as a safer alternative to taking hands off the wheel to place a call and talk on a handheld phone. About 9 million infotainment systems will be shipped this year in cars sold worldwide, with that number projected to rise to more than 62 million by 2018, according to a March report by London-based ABI Research. 'As we push towards these hands-free systems, we may be solving one problem while creating another,' said Joel Cooper, a University of Utah assistant research professor who worked on the study. 'Tread lightly. There's a lot of rush to develop these systems.' The findings from the largest U.S. motorist group bolster National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman's call to ban all phone conversations behind the wheel, even with hands-free devices."
cylonlover writes "Air travel today is a nightmare of long drives to crowded airports, long queues that move at a snail's pace, and long, boring waits in identical lobbies drinking overpriced coffee. It would be so much easier and less frustrating if catching a plane were like catching a train. If Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has its way, its Clip-Air project will one day produce modular aircraft that will allow you to board a plane at a London railway station and disembark in the middle of Rome without ever setting foot in an air terminal."
coondoggie writes "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this week put out a call to fuel producers to offer options that would safely let general aviation aircraft stop using leaded fuel by 2018. The FAA says there are approximately 167,000 aircraft in the United States and a total of 230,000 worldwide that rely on the current 100 octane, low lead fuel for safe operation. It is the only remaining transportation fuel in the United States that contains the addition of tetraethyl lead, a toxic substance, to create the very high octane levels needed for high-performance aircraft engines. Operations with inadequate octane can result in engine failures, the FAA noted."
New submitter WML MUNSON sends this quote from NJ.com: "License, registration and cell phone, please. Police officers across New Jersey could be saying that to motorists at the scenes of car crashes if new legislation introduced in the state Senate becomes law. The measure would allow cops — without a warrant — to thumb through a cell phone to determine if a driver was talking or texting when an accident occurred. It requires officers to have 'reasonable grounds' to believe the law was broken. There were 1,840 handheld cell phone-related crashes in New Jersey in 2011, resulting in 807 injuries and six deaths, according to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety. 'Think about it: The chances of the cop witnessing the accident are slim to none,' said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean), who has worked as a county and municipal prosecutor. 'He’s dispatched, and by the time he gets there — unless they’re unconscious and the phone is in their hands, or some passenger says they were on the phone — then he’s got to do what? Subpoena the service to see if the phone was actively used or not?'"
Zothecula writes "Ever since it was first unveiled in 2007, many people were captivated with the sleek, futuristic looks of the Aptera. When Aptera Motors went out of business in 2011, not having commercially produced a single vehicle, those same people were understandably disappointed. Now, word comes that a new company may be manufacturing and selling Apteras as soon as next year." Says the article: "Aptera USA has most of the original company’s prototypes, equipment, patents and designs, so it wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Given that fact, Deringer hopes that Aptera USA could be making cars as early as the first quarter of 2014. He’s currently in the process of hiring engineers, and the company has already put in an order for 1,000 bodies from its Detroit-based supplier." Until there really is a super-charger network from central Texas to California, I wish I could get one of the gas-powered (or gas-electric hybrid) Apteras. Why should Tesla have all the fun?
McGruber writes with this news from late last week: "The Guardian is reporting that Nicaragua has awarded a Chinese company a 100-year concession to build an alternative to the Panama Canal, in a step that looks set to have profound geopolitical ramifications. The new route will be a higher-capacity alternative to the 99-year-old Panama Canal, which is currently being widened at the cost of $5.2bn. Last year, the Nicaraguan government noted that the new canal should be able to allow passage for mega-container ships with a dead weight of up to 250,000 tonnes. This is more than double the size of the vessels that will be able to pass through the Panama Canal after its expansion, it said."
savuporo writes "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation are considering technological solutions for people to stop using their cellphones while driving. Proximity detectors or requiring physical link with the car are the solutions under the scope. From the article: 'NHTSA wants automakers to make it impossible to enter text for messaging and internet browsing while the car is in motion, disable any kind of video functionality and prevent text-based information such as social media content or text messages from being displayed.' Obviously these regulations would need to go beyond cellphones, as laptop, tablet or any other gadget with a 3G data connection or even on a wi-fi hotspot made by your phone would be equally distracting."
New submitter lemur3 writes "After multiple months of discussing possible changes to the prohibited items list, the Transportation Security Administration in the United States has determined that it is best to go ahead without any changes to the list of items passengers may have in their carry-on baggage when traveling by air. Under the proposed change (discussed previously on Slashdot) pocket knives and other items, such as hockey sticks and ski poles, would have been allowed."
WheezyJoe writes "The Today Show had a piece this morning showing video of thieves apparently using a small device to open and enter cars equipped with keyless entry. Electronic key fobs, which are supposed to be secure, are replacing keys in more and more new cars, but the evidence suggests that a device has been developed which effortlessly bypasses this security (at least on certain makes and models). 'Adding to the mystery, police say the device works on some cars but not others. Other surveillance videos show thieves trying to open a Ford SUV and a Cadillac, with no luck. But an Acura SUV and sedan pop right open. And they always seem to strike on the passenger side. Investigators don't know why.' Police and security experts say they are 'stumped.'"
Peter Wayner is no stranger to Slashdot. Not only that, he's written a bunch of books, plus articles for InfoWorld, PC World, the New York Times, and many other publications. Now he's working on a book about Autonomous Cars. Last year Peter wrote an article for Car & Driver about the privacy implications of vehicle recorders. Driverless cars will bring us a whole new set of problems, questions, and -- no doubt -- legislation. We're hoping to have more conversations on this topic (and others) with Peter in the future, so with any luck this video will be the first of a long series. With all that said, take it away, interviewer Timothy Lord... Update: 06/05 21:56 GMT by T : Peter's book is still in progress, but it's got a website, if you'd like an early glance.
Newly released footage, writes reader Wowsers, shows that in 2004 "A German drone aircraft was within meters of bringing down a passenger aircraft with 100 people on board. The link shows stills from onboard the drone. The incident had been hushed up for nine years, and is creating waves in Germany now the footage has been leaked out."
Alsee writes "Center of flaming controversy across the Internet and here on Slashdot for claiming to travel 'Directly Downwind Faster Than The Wind, Powered Only By The Wind, Steady State' (DDWFTTW), the Blackbird is now up for auction on Ebay. It has been certified by the North American Land Sailing Association and Guinness World Records to have reached 2.8 times wind speed directly downwind and was subsequently modded to also achieve more than double windspeed directly upwind. It has been the subject of an MIT physics paper and was included as a model problem in the International Physics Olympiad, yet many still argue it would violate the laws of physics. Let the bidding (and debate) commence!"
dsinc writes "The Transportation Security Administration announced it has finished removing from all airports the X-ray technology that produced graphic and controversial images of passengers passing through security screening checkpoints. The machines, which the TSA first deployed in 2008, provoked public outrage as the technology, better able than traditional X-rays to detect hidden contraband, also created images that appeared as if they were 'virtual nudes.' Critics called this an invasion of privacy and questioned whether the scanning devices truly lacked the ability to save the images, as the TSA claimed."
dublin writes "Electric car manufacturer Tesla is planning to triple its construction of "supercharger" rapid charging stations, with a trail of stations in place for L.A. to New York trips by the end of this year. In addition to the east & west coasts, islands in Colorado, Illinois, and Texas will grow together to cover nearly the entire continental US by 2015. The two biggest obstacles for electric cars are high cost and range problems. Cost is still a problem, but this move to blanket the US with supercharger stations could fix the range half of the e-car equation."
Zothecula writes "Researchers at Stanford University have developed a small 'aircraft' that resembles a flying fish which can jump and glide over a greater distance than an equivalent jumping robot. Using a carbon fiber spring to take off, the jumpglider has a pivoting wing that stays out of the way during ascent, but which locks into place to glide farther on the way down."
kodiaktau writes "Five experts including: artist, environmentalist, aviation consultant, data visualization expert and philosopher interpret a flight map showing global flights. While the imagery of the visualization is intriguing, the interpretations are particularly interesting and show how individual background and experience impact they way they view the data."