Power

New Solar Plane Plans Non-Stop Flight Around The World (bloomberg.com)

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: [A] Russian tycoon and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using only the power of the sun. If all goes well, a single pilot will fly for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners. The project isn't just a stunt. The glider-style airplane with a 36-meter (120-foot) wingspan will be a test of technologies that are set to be used to build new generations of autonomous craft for the military and business, say aerospace experts. They will fly continuously, have far greater reach and control than satellites and expand broadcast, communication and spying capabilities around the globe... "Our flight should prove that it's possible to make long-distance flights using solar energy," said Mikhail Lifshitz, Renova's director of high-tech asset development and a qualified pilot-instructor. A "flying laboratory" test-plane will be ready by year-end, Lifshitz said in an interview.
The plane will conserve power by slowly gliding down from the high altitudes at night -- without ever touching the ground. In comparison a solar plane (partially funded by Google) already circled the earth last year -- but it took 22 days, and made 17 different stops.
Transportation

IT Crash Causes British Airways To Cancel All Flights (cnbc.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend. The airline said it was suffering a "major IT systems failure" around the world. Chief executive Alex Cruz said "we believe the root cause was a power-supply issue and we have no evidence of any cyberattack." He said the crash had affected "all of our check-in and operational systems." BA operates hundreds of flights from the two London airports on a typical day -- and both are major hubs for worldwide travel. Several hours after problems began cropping up Saturday morning, BA suspended flights up to 6 p.m. because the two airports had become severely congested. The airline later scrapped flights from Heathrow and Gatwick for the rest of the day.
Mozilla

Former Mozilla CTO: 'Chrome Won' (andreasgal.com) 247

Responding to Firefox marketing head Eric Petitt's blog post from earlier this week, Andreas Gal, former chief technology officer of Mozilla (who spent seven years at the company) offers his insights. Citing latest market share figures, Gal says "it's safe to say that Chrome is eating the browser market, and everyone else except Safari is getting obliterated." From his blog post (edited and condensed for length): With a CEO transition about 3 years ago there was a major strategic shift at Mozilla to re-focus efforts on Firefox and thus the Desktop. Prior to 2014 Mozilla heavily invested in building a Mobile OS to compete with Android: Firefox OS. I started the Firefox OS project and brought it to scale. While we made quite a splash and sold several million devices, in the end we were a bit too late and we didn't manage to catch up with Android's explosive growth. Mozilla's strategic rationale for building Firefox OS was often misunderstood. Mozilla's founding mission was to build the Web by building a browser. [...] Browsers are a commodity product. They all pretty much look the same and feel the same. All browsers work pretty well, and being slightly faster or using slightly less memory is unlikely to sway users. If even Eric -- who heads Mozilla's marketing team -- uses Chrome every day as he mentioned in the first sentence, it's not surprising that almost 65% of desktop users are doing the same. [...] I don't think there will be a new browser war where Firefox or some other competitor re-captures market share from Chrome. It's like launching a new and improved horse in the year 2017. We all drive cars now. Some people still use horses, and there is value to horses, but technology has moved on when it comes to transportation. Does this mean Google owns the Web if they own Chrome? No. Absolutely not. Browsers are what the Web looked like in the first decades of the Internet. Mobile disrupted the Web, but the Web embraced mobile and at the heart of most apps beats a lot of JavaScript and HTTPS and REST these days. The future Web will look yet again completely different. Much will survive, and some parts of it will get disrupted.
Transportation

Amazon's Drive-Up Grocery Stores Are Now Open To the Public In Seattle (theverge.com) 36

Amazon has opened two drive-up grocery stores to the public that will allow Amazon Prime subscribers to place an online order and choose a two-hour pickup window for when they'd like to drive over and retrieve it. The Verge reports: Despite the stores being called "AmazonFresh Pickup," a membership to the company's home delivery grocery service isn't required. But if you do pay for AmazonFresh (an extra $14.99 per month on top of Prime's usual cost), your groceries will be ready within 15 minutes. Regular Prime customers have to wait at least two hours before the earliest pickup window becomes available. According to The Seattle Times, the first time you visit one of the two AmazonFresh Pickup locations, a concierge will enter your name and vehicle's license plate number into Amazon's systems. That way, during subsequent visits a license plate reader will automatically identify you and signal to employees that they should bring your order out to your car. The Times notes that this license plate scanning can be disabled from Amazon's website.
The Almighty Buck

Uber Plans Millions In Back Pay After Shorting NYC Drivers (bloomberg.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Uber Technologies Inc. said it underpaid its New York City drivers by improperly calculating the company's share of passenger fares, and will pay out an average of $900 per driver in restitution, costing tens of millions of dollars. The back pay could run at least $45 million, based on the approximately 50,000 drivers the Independent Drivers Guild says work in New York City. The ride-hailing company has previously misled drivers about how much they could make and miscalculated fares. In this case, Uber was taking its cut of fares based on the pretax sum, instead of after taxes and fees as stated in its terms of service. The issue was also raised in a lawsuit against San Francisco-based Uber filed by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. In March, Uber acknowledged that it had underestimated drivers' pay in Philadelphia by millions of dollars. "We are committed to paying every driver every penny they are owed -- plus interest -- as quickly as possible," Rachel Holt, Uber's head of U.S. operations, said in a statement. "We are working hard to regain driver trust, and that means being transparent, sticking to our word, and making the Uber experience better from end to end."
Software

DJI Threatens To 'Brick' Its Copters Unless Owners Agree To Share Their Details (thesun.co.uk) 192

schwit1 quotes a report from The Sun: A top drone manufacturer has warned that customers' expensive gadgets will be crippled if they don't register their details on its website. DJI drones -- which cost between $1,200 and $3,000 -- won't be able to fly to their full potential or beam back footage if their owners don't sign up next week, the company warned. Those who splashed out for the snazzy gadgets will find they are limited to a teensy 50m radius and it won't be flying higher than 30m if they don't play ball. The company said on its website: "DJI will soon introduce a new application activation process for international customers. This new step, to take effect at the end of next week, ensures you will use the correct set of geospatial information and flight functions for your aircraft, as determined by your geographical location and user profile. All existing flight safety limitations, such as geofencing boundaries and altitude limits, remain the same. Even if you have registered when activating your aircraft upon purchase, you will have to log in once when you update the new version of DJI GO or GO 4 App."
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Could Cost America's Professional Drivers Up To 25,000 Jobs a Month (cnbc.com) 190

The full impact of self-driving cars on society is several decades away -- but when it hits, the job losses will be substantial for American truck drivers, according to a new report from Goldman Sachs. From a report: When autonomous vehicle saturation peaks, U.S. drivers could see job losses at a rate of 25,000 a month, or 300,000 a year, according to a report from Goldman Sachs Economics Research. Truck drivers, more so than bus or taxi drivers, will see the bulk of that job loss, according to the report. That makes sense, given today's employment: In 2014, there were 4 million driver jobs in the U.S., 3.1 million of which were truck drivers, Goldman said. That represents 2 percent of total employment.
Businesses

Pittsburgh Is Falling Out of Love With Uber's Self-Driving Cars (engadget.com) 82

A worn-out welcome: The city rolled out the red carpet as a host to Uber's driverless car experiments, but nine months later its mayor and residents have built up a list of grievances with the public-private partnership. From a report: While our experience in one of the autonomous vehicles was thankfully pretty safe, it wasn't long before reports of accidents and wrong-way driving began to surface during the first month of the operation. Nine months later, the relationship continues to sour, according to a report in the New York Times. The things Uber promised in return for the city's support -- including free rides in driverless cars, backing the city's $50 million federal transportation grant and jobs for a neighborhood nearby Uber's testing track -- have not materialized. The situation was an issue during the mayoral primary, too, with critics calling out incumbent Bill Peduto for not getting these agreements in writing from the ride-sharing company.
Transportation

Ford Ousted Its CEO And Is Doubling Down On Self-Driving Cars (qz.com) 122

An anonymous reader shares a report: At a press conference today, Ford announced that it had replaced CEO Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, director of the company's autonomous-car research. Previously the CEO of furniture company Steelcase (and a former athletic director at the University of Michigan), Hackett took a seat on Ford's board in 2013. He has been running the company's Smart Mobility subsidiary since March 2016. Smart Mobility is tasked with securing Ford's long-term future. The division houses Ford's self-driving car program, which plans to start ferrying employees around its Dearborn, Michigan campus in 2018. Outgoing CEO Mark Fields previously said that Ford would sell autonomous vehicles to consumers by 2025. [...] Hackett is expected to continue the push into self-driving cars. "We have to re-energize our business, we need to modernize our business," executive chairman Bill Ford said about the company's initiatives into new technologies at the conference.
Transportation

Texas Legislature Clears Road For Uber and Lyft To Return To Austin (austinmonitor.com) 107

schwit1 shared this article from the Austin Monitor: The Texas Legislature has cleared the road for Uber and Lyft to return to Austin on their own terms. On Wednesday, the state Senate overwhelmingly approved House Bill 100 on second and third readings, sending the statewide ride-hailing regulations to Governor Greg Abbott's desk for his signature. If Abbott signs it, as he is expected to do, the new law will preempt regulations City Council passed in December 2015 that both Uber and Lyft deemed too restrictive on transportation network companies such as themselves.
The new rules still require criminal background checks, but drop the requirement for fingerprinting. "We find it unfortunate that the 36 lobbyists deployed by the Silicon Valley giants were effective in convincing the State Legislature that there was a need to overrule the Austin voters," said a local ride-sharing company, which vowed to continue operating -- and to at least continue fingerprinting their own drivers. Houston's mayor complained the new statewide rules handed down are "another example of the legislature circumventing local control to allow corporations to profit at the expense of public safety."
Transportation

Delta Airlines Tests Facial Recognition To Speed Up Baggage Check-In (cnn.com) 57

Would you let Delta airlines scan your face if it meant you could skip the line to check-in your baggage? An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Delta is testing a face-scanning kiosk for baggage check... It uses facial recognition technology to match your identity to your passport photo. You tag your own bags, pay the fee and drop your luggage on a conveyor belt... Delta will test four of the machines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this summer. The airline spent $600,000 on the four kiosks.
A senior staff attorney at the EFF warns this could be a slippery slope -- at what point this morphs into airline surveillance? But a Delta spokerspeson insists the images won't be stored, that they're complying with privacy laws, and that the kiosks could double the number of passengers whisking through their check-in procedures.
The Almighty Buck

Uber Starts Charging What It Thinks You're Willing To Pay (bloomberg.com) 235

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Uber drivers have been complaining that the gap between the fare a rider pays and what the driver receives is getting wider. After months of unsatisfying answers, Uber is providing an explanation: It's charging some passengers more because it needs the extra cash. The company detailed for the first time in an interview with Bloomberg a new pricing system that's been in testing for months in certain cities. On Friday, Uber acknowledged to drivers the discrepancy between their compensation and what riders pay. The new fare system is called "route-based pricing," and it charges customers based on what it predicts they're willing to pay. It's a break from the past, when Uber calculated fares using a combination of mileage, time and multipliers based on geographic demand. Daniel Graf, Uber's head of product, said the company applies machine-learning techniques to estimate how much groups of customers are willing to shell out for a ride. Uber calculates riders' propensity for paying a higher price for a particular route at a certain time of day. For instance, someone traveling from a wealthy neighborhood to another tony spot might be asked to pay more than another person heading to a poorer part of town, even if demand, traffic and distance are the same.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Working With Automakers On Antivirus Tool For Your Car (reuters.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: BlackBerry is working with at least two automakers to develop a security service that would remotely scan vehicles for computer viruses and tell drivers to pull over if they were in critical danger, according to a financial analyst. The service, which would also be able to install security patches to an idle car, is being tested by luxury automakers Aston Martin and Range Rover. The service could be launched as early as next year, generating about $10 a month per vehicle for BlackBerry, according to Papageorgiou, who has followed BlackBerry for more than 15 years. Vehicles increasingly rely on dozens of computers that connect to each other as well as the internet, mobile networks and Bluetooth communications systems that make them vulnerable to remote hacks.
United Kingdom

London City First In UK To Get Remote Air Traffic Control (bbc.co.uk) 43

New submitter lifeisshort writes: "Instead of sitting in a tower overlooking the runway, controllers will be 80 miles away, watching live footage from high-definition cameras," reports BBC. "The new system, due to be completed in 2018, will be tested for a year before becoming fully operational in 2019. The technology has been developed by Saab, the Swedish defense and security company, and will be introduced as part of a 350 million EUR development program to upgrade London City Airport. It will also include an extended terminal building, enabling it to serve two million more passengers a year by 2025.The remote digital system will provide controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield via 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom. The cameras will send a live feed via fibre cables to a new operations room built at the Hampshire base of Nats, Britain's air traffic control provider." As far as reliability is concerned, "the system will use three different cables, taking different routes between the airport and the control centre, to ensure there is a back up if one of those cables fails." In spite of recent large scale hacks, what could possibly go wrong? And the next obvious step is giant Bangalore ATC outsourcing company...
Transportation

Americans No Longer Have To Register Non-Commercial Drones With the FAA (recode.net) 113

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a federal rule that required owners of recreational drones and other model aircraft to register the devices with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA had announced the rule in 2015 in response to growing reports of drones flying near manned aircraft and airports. Drones have become increasingly popular with hobbyists and more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft were registered within the first year it was required. From a report: The court ruled that the FAA's drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft -- in other words, rules that restrict how non-commercial hobbyist drone operators fly. Now, if a person buys a new drone to fly for fun, they no longer have to register that aircraft with the FAA. But if flying for commercial purposes, drone buyers still need to register. The lawsuit was won by John Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast, who brought the case against the FAA in January 2016. Since first opening the FAA's registration system in December 2015, more than 820,000 people have registered to fly drones.
Transportation

America's Cars Are Suddenly Getting Faster and More Efficient (bloomberg.com) 482

Kyle Stock and David Ingold, writing for Bloomberg: Sometime in the next couple of months, the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and its 808 horsepower will show up in dealership windows like some kind of tiny, red, tire-melting factory. Yes, 808 horsepower. There's no typo. Last year, U.S. drivers on the hunt for more than 600 horsepower had 18 models to choose from, including a Cadillac sedan that looks more swanky than angry. Meanwhile, even boring commuter sedans are posting power specifications that would have been unheard of during the Ford Administration. The horses in the auto industry are running free. We crunched four decades of data from the Environmental Protection Agency's emission tests and arrived at a simple conclusion: All of the cars these days are fast and furious -- even the trucks. If a 1976 driver were to somehow get his hands on a car from 2017, he'd be at grave risk of whiplash. Since those days, horsepower in the U.S. has almost doubled, with the median model climbing from 145 to 283 stallions. Not surprisingly, the entire U.S. fleet grew more game for a drag-race: The median time it took for a vehicle to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour was halved, from almost 14 seconds to seven.
EU

US and EU Reject Expanding Laptop Ban To Flights From Europe (bbc.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes: US and EU officials have decided against a ban on laptops and tablets in cabin baggage on flights from Europe. But after a four-hour meeting in Brussels to discuss the threats to aviation security, officials said other measures were still being considered. US officials had previously said they were looking into extending to Europe a ban on electronics on flights from eight mostly Muslim countries. The measure was introduced over fears a bomb could be concealed in a device. The meeting was requested by EU officials after recent reports suggested US authorities had new information regarding laptop parts being turned into explosives.
China

Drone Pilots In China Have to Register With the Government (engadget.com) 58

China's Civil Aviation Authority has announced that drone pilots will be required to register any unmanned aerial vehicle heavier than 0.55 pounds with the government starting on June 1st. "Online registration will open up on May 18th, and the government will start publishing no-fly zone data for civilian airports on the same day," reports Engadget. From the report: The initiative will also see regulators working with local government and police to curb drone interference, and will eventually standardize commercial drone use with four main categories: aerial photography, agricultural use, aviation photography and license training. The country already recognizes over 200 training outlets that have issued over 14,000 certificates so far, so some of this standardization would really just expand on what's already happening. It's hard to escape concerns that this will help the government crack down on drone pilots for spurious reasons, such as when they record protests or questionable government activities. However, the registration officially comes as a response to a mounting number of safety incidents involving drones at airports. Authorities note that Chengdu alone saw eight examples of drone interference since April, six of which grounded 138 flights. If those sorts of figures are applicable elsewhere, that's a lot hassle and potential danger.
Google

Google Will Soon Add Job Listings To Search Results (usatoday.com) 83

Google's mission is to steer people to the information they need in their daily lives. One crucial area the Internet giant says could use some work: Jobs. USA Today adds: So Google is launching a new feature, Google for Jobs, that collects and organizes millions of job postings from all over the web to make them easier for job seekers to find. In coming weeks, a Google search for a cashier job in Des Moines or a software engineering gig in Boise will pop up job openings at the top of search results. With Google for Jobs, job hunters will be able to explore the listings across experience and wage levels by industry, category and location, refining these searches to find full or part-time roles or accessibility to public transportation. Google is determined to crack the code on matching available jobs with the right candidates, CEO Sundar Pichai said during his keynote address Wednesday at Google's annual I/O conference for software developers here. "The challenge of connecting job seekers to better information on job availability is like many search challenges we've solved in the past," he said.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust (theverge.com) 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.

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