Businesses

Siemens Sends Do-Not-Fly Order For Pipistrel's All-Electric Channel Crossing 85 85

An anonymous reader links to Flyer's coverage of a squabble that seems to feature the aircraft giant Airbus aiming bad sportsmanship in the form of corporate pull against much smaller light aircraft maker Pipistrel, thereby "squashing the ambitions of light aircraft maker Pipistrel to be the first to fly an electric aircraft across the English Channel." Though Pipistrel acquired the flight permissions it anticipated needing in connection with its announced ambition to cross the channel, they've been grounded by allegedly underhanded means: Siemens, which supplies the electric motor used in the craft which was to make the journey, contacted Pipistrel to prohibit over-water flight with that motor (partly German). U.S. Pipistrel dealer Michael Coates believes he knows why (as quoted by Flyer): "Airbus managed to flex their muscle with Siemens who are supplying motors to Pipistrel and have the Pipistrel motor agreement immediately terminated," he said. "The Airbus E-Fan project does not use Siemens motors but it does have Siemens stickers over the side of their aircraft.
Communications

Switzerland Begins Trials of Expensive Postal Drones 50 50

An anonymous reader writes: Swiss Post has beat Amazon, Alibaba and other researchers into drone-based delivery by launching practical drops using a Matternet four-rotored drone this month. However the company says that five years of testing and negotiation with regulators lie ahead before it will be able to offer a commercial drone-based delivery service. Like Google's Project Wing, the Matternet drone in question is mooted as a potential lifeline in post-disaster situations, but from a business point of view the release notes its potential for 'express delivery of goods' — a further indicator that the future of postal drone delivery may be an exclusive and expensive one.
Transportation

Google's Waze Jumps Into the Ride-Sharing Business 82 82

An anonymous reader writes: Waze, the online mapping company owned by Google, is testing a ride-sharing service in Israel called RideWith. The service will allow commuters to pay drivers for rides to and from work. This is a hard limit — drivers can give no more than two rides per day. If the restriction remains after the initial test, it could be a simple way to avoid pseudo-professional drivers, and all the taxi-related legal problems that go with them (see: Uber). "RideWith calculates a cost based on the anticipated fuel consumption and 'depreciation' based on mileage, and the driver is free to accept or decline the ride accordingly." One can't help but speculate about future involvement with Google's autonomous car project.
Transportation

Why Electric Vehicles Aren't More Popular 662 662

An anonymous reader writes: Ars takes a look at a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences into the reasons why more people aren't driving electric vehicles. Of course infrastructure issues are a part of it — until charging stations are ubiquitous, the convenience factor for using a gas-powered car will weigh heavily on consumers's minds. (This despite the prevalence of outlets at home and work, where the vast majority of charging will be done even with better infrastructure.) But other reasons are much more tractable. Simply giving somebody experience with an EV tends to make the fog of mystery surrounding them dissipate, and the design of the car counts for a lot, too. It turns out car buyers don't want their EVs to look different from regular cars.
Transportation

Solar Impulse 2 Completes Record-Breaking Flight 21 21

An anonymous reader writes: Solar Impulse 2, the airplane powered only by the sun's light, has completed its flight from Japan to Hawaii. The distance sets the record for manned, solar-powered flight, both by distance (7,200 km, according to the BBC) and by time spent aloft (118 hours). This was one leg in a longer journey to fly around the world, and by far the longest they've attempted. Their next leg will send them across the rest of the Pacific Ocean, landing in Phoenix, Arizona. Then they'll stop off at New York before crossing the Atlantic Ocean on their way back to the journey's starting point, Abu Dhabi. Pilot Andre Borschberg was in good shape, despite spending almost five consecutive days in command of the aircraft. He was only allowed to sleep for up to 20 minutes at a time, so he took about a dozen naps every day. He did this at an altitude of 9,000 meters, and while taking medication to prevent thrombosis. Borschberg's partner, Bertrand Piccard, will fly the aircraft during the next leg to Phoenix. This will happen as soon as the plane is checked out and meteorologists think the weather will be placid enough for a safe crossing.
Transportation

Solar Impulse 2 Breaks Three Records En Route To Hawaii 37 37

Zothecula writes: Solar Impulse 2 has started smashing records even before the longest leg of its round-the-world flight is complete. At around three quarters of the way to its next touch down in Hawaii, the single-pilot aircraft has broken the world records for longest distance and duration for solar aviation, with the record for longest ever solo flight of any kind thrown in for good measure.
Transportation

Meet the Makers of an Exotic (Partially) 3-D Printed Car (2 Videos) 25 25

Last month, in a story headlined 3D Printed Supercar Chassis Unveiled, we promised video interviews with builders Kevin and Brad "in the near future." Here they are. First, we have Kevin Czinger, Founder & CEO of Divergent Microfactories. He says the way we build cars is more important from an environmental standpoint than how we fuel them, and that the way we make cars now is a lot less efficient and a lot more expensive than it needs to be. Divergent's first demo vehicle, the Blade, is a tandem-seating 700 HP supercar its makers say does 0 - 60 in 2.5 seconds. Price? No word yet, but it's safe to assume "plenty" might be an accurate guess.

In the second video, Blade project lead Brad Balzer goes into detail about how, why, and where they use 3-D printing, and explains the modular nature of their car chassis design. He says they don't need to change many parts to go from ultra-sports car to pickup truck. He also says that while Divergent Microfactories is working on cars right now, their manufacturing system can be applied to many different industries. Indeed, their long-range goal is to help people build microfactories making many different kinds of products faster, more flexibly, and for less money than it takes to make similar manufactured items today.

Note: The transcript covers both videos and has a little 'bonus' material in it, too.
Transportation

Study Suggests That HUD Tech May Actually Reduce Driving Safety 195 195

Zothecula writes: Having a heads-up display constantly feed you information while cruising down the road may make you feel like a jet pilot ready to avoid any potential danger but recent findings suggest otherwise. Studies done at the University of Toronto show that the HUD multi-tasking method of driving a vehicle is dangerous. "Drivers need to divide their attention to deal with this added visual information," said Department of Psychology professor Ian Spence, who led the research. "Not only will drivers have to concentrate on what’s happening on the road around them as they’ve always done, they’ll also have to attend to whatever warning pops up on the windshield in front of them."
Crime

Uber France Leaders Arrested For Running Illegal Taxi Company 330 330

An anonymous reader writes: Two Uber executives were arrested by French authorities for running an illegal taxi company and concealing illegal documents. This is not the first time Uber has run into trouble in France. Recently, taxi drivers started a nation-wide protest, blocking access to Roissy airport and the nation's interior minister issued a ban on UberPop. A statement from an Uber spokesperson to TechCrunch reads: "Our CEO for France and General Manager for Western Europe were invited to a police hearing this afternoon; following this interview, they were taken into custody. We are always available to answer all the questions on our service, and available to the authorities to solve any problem that could come up. Talks are in progress. In the meantime, we keep working in order to make sure that both our customers and drivers are safe following last week’s turmoils."
Transportation

Airplane Coatings Help Recoup Fuel Efficiency Lost To Bug Splatter 117 117

MTorrice writes: When bugs hit the wings of oncoming airplanes, they create a problem. Their blood, called hemolymph, sticks to an airplane's wings, disrupting the smooth airflow over them and reducing the aircraft's fuel efficiency. To fight the problem, NASA is working on developing a coating that could help aircraft repel bug remains during flight. After experimenting with almost 200 different formulations, researchers recently flight-tested a few promising candidates. Results showed that they could reduce the amount of stuck bug guts on the wings by up to 40%. With further optimization, NASA says such coatings could allow planes to use 5% less fuel.
Transportation

Solar Impulse, Continuing World-Spanning Trip, Attempts To Cross The Pacific 40 40

The BBC reports that Solar Impulse has resumed its 'round-the-world attempt, having taken off today from Nagoya, Japan for what is intended to be a 120-hour voyage to Hawaii. [If pilot Andre Borschberg] succeeds, it will be the longest-duration solo flight in aviation history, as well as the furthest distance flown by a craft that is powered only by the Sun. The Pacific crossing is the eighth leg of Solar Impulse's journey around the world. But this stage has proven to be the most difficult, and has been hit by weeks of delays." The circumnavigation attempt began earlier this year.
ISS

A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension 316 316

MouseR writes with bad news about this morning's SpaceX launch: About 2:19 into its flight, Falcon 9 exploded along stage 2 and the Dragon capsule, before even the stage 1 separation. Telemetry and videos are inconclusive, without further analysis as to what went wrong. Everything was green lights. This is a catastrophe for SpaceX, which enjoyed, until now, a perfect launch record. TechCrunch has coverage of the failure, which of course also means that today's planned stage one return attempt has failed before it could start; watch this space for more links. Update: 06/28 15:06 GMT by T : See also stories at NBC News, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press (via ABC News). According to the Washington Post, what was a catastrophe for this morning's launch is only a setback for the ISS and its crew, rather than a disaster: A NASA slide from an April presentation said that with current food levels, the space station would reach what NASA calls “reserve level” on July 24 and run out by Sept. 5, according to SpaceNews. [NASA spokeswoman Stephanie] Schierholz said, however, that the supplies would last until the fall, although she could not provide a precise date. Even if something were to go wrong with the SpaceX flight, she said, there are eight more scheduled this year, including several this summer, “so there are plenty of ways to ensure the station continues to be well-supplied.” Of note: One bit of cargo that was aboard the SpaceX craft was a Microsoft Hololens; hopefully another will make it onto one of the upcoming supply runs instead.

Elon Musk has posted a note on the company's Twitter channel: "Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data."
Earth

Weather Promising for Sunday Morning SpaceX Launch 49 49

USA Today reports that the weather looks good for Sunday morning's planned launch at 10:21, Florida time (14:21 GMT) of SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule, loaded with a docking adapter intended for future manned-crew access to the International Space Station. An excerpt: "The forecast calls for a 90% chance of weather good enough to permit SpaceX's 208-foot Falcon 9 rocket to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during an instantaneous launch window. ... "This is actually pretty cool, because it does play right into our next Crew Dragon program," [Hans] Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president for mission assurance, said of the docking adapter in a separate news briefing. "It's something that we bring up for our own future, and so we're really motivated to bring this up." Related: astroengine points out that as part of this launch, SpaceX will make another attempt at landing the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform off the coast of Florida after sending the Dragon cargo vehicle to the International Space Station. Although SpaceX is hoping to achieve something the rocket industry has never done before (true usability of rocket engines, cutting costs), it's not the only game in town — Blue Origin, ULA and Airbus all have rocket return desires.
Transportation

Aiming To Beat Tesla's "3", Chevy Tests and Teases a Cheaper 200-Mile Electric Car 249 249

PC Magazine is one of many to note Chevrolet's upcoming effort to beat Tesla's Model 3 to market with a car that is "affordable" (a lot more affordable than the Model S) but which tops the 200-mile range that right now only Tesla beats in a widely available pure electric car. The Model 3 is expected to feature many of the features of the currently Tesla S variants, but in a smaller package and with a much lower price tag. The linked article features GM-supplied video of Chevy's all-elecric bolt, about which it says The car maker doesn't reveal much beyond what we already know: 200-plus-mile range and a starting price tag of $30,000. The video shows various Chevy engineers putting the camouflage-wrapped Bolt EV through its paces—climbing hills, accelerating, and coming to a stop, as well as enduring extreme heat and charging.
Transportation

World's First Commercial Jetpack Arrives Next Year 119 119

An anonymous reader writes: The good news is that soon, you'll finally be able to buy that jetpack you've always wanted. The bad news is that it'll run you about $150,000. The Martin Jetpack will use fans, rather than rockets, to lift humans weighing up to 120kg (~256 lbs). Its makers say it can reach altitudes of up to 1 kilometer, and fly for up to 30 minutes at a time. The jetpack will be sold commercially to emergency services next year, and then a smaller, personal version will hit the market in 2017.
Transportation

After Protest, France Cracks Down On Uber 177 177

An anonymous reader writes: Just a day after taxi drivers began a high-profile protest of Uber in France, the nation's interior minister has issued a ban on the car-sharing service UberPop. The minister stated that the service was illegal, and ordered police to begin seizing vehicles defying the order. French president Francois Hollande agrees that UberPOP "should be dismantled," but says the state isn't legally permitted to seize cars itself without court authorization. "UberPOP is a car-sharing service offered by Uber, which brings together customers and private drivers at prices lower than those charged by both traditional taxi firms and even other Uber services. UberPOP differs because it allows non-professional drivers to register their car and transport other passengers. It has been illegal in France since January, but the law has proved difficult to enforce and the service continues to operate, AFP news agency reports."
Transportation

University Students Made a Working Model Hyperloop 154 154

derekmead writes: Elon Musk's Hyperloop gets people excited. Promise the ability to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than an hour, and you're going to get people salivating. But for as much as we've heard about it, we've had scarcely little to see—until a team of students at the University of Illinois decided to build their very own miniature hyperloop.

Mechanical engineering students at the university built a functioning 1:24 scale model of the Hyperloop, a "fourth mode of transportation" that sends pods through a partially pressurized tube at very high speeds, as part of a senior design project. It was designed to test some of the key components of Musk's design, which was outlined in a much-read, open source whitepaper (PDF) published in August of 2013. That said, there are several key differences, which keep this from truly being a proof-of-concept as to whether or not the Hyperloop will ultimately work.
Security

My United Airlines Website Hack Gets Snubbed 187 187

Bennett Haselton writes: United Airlines announced that they will offer up to 1 million air miles to users who can find security holes in their website. I demonstrated a way to brute-force a user's 4-digit PIN number and submitted it to them for review, emailing their Bugs Bounty contact address on three occasions, but I never heard back from them. Read on for the rest. If you've had a different experience with the program, please chime in below.
Transportation

How Etak Built a Car Navigation System In 1985 31 31

harrymcc writes: Thirty years ago, a startup called Etak released the Navigator, an in-car navigation system. It provided turn-by-turn driving directions despite the fact that GPS did not exist, and stored its maps--which Etak had to create itself--on cassette tapes. And some of its data and technologies are still in use in today's navigation apps. Over at Fast Company, Benj Edwards tells this amazing story. I remember reading about (and lusting over) this system back then, in the much-missed DAK catalog.
Transportation

Anti-Uber Taxi Protest Blocks Access To Airports In France 333 333

An anonymous reader writes: Taxi drivers in France have been complaining that a recently passed law against unlicensed commercial drivers is being flouted by Uber, and going relatively unenforced by authorities. They claim to have lost 30% of their income to Uber over the past two years, and they've become fed-up with the situation. The taxi drivers have now started an indefinite, nation-wide strike in protest. Part of that strike involves blocking access to Paris's Roissy airport as well as the main road encircling the city. Protesters have also blocked access to train stations in Merseille and Aix. "The drivers — who have to pay thousands of euros for a license — say they are being unfairly undercut by Uber, which is not licensed by the authorities. Prosecutors have cracked down on Uber, filing almost 500 legal cases involving complaints about UberPOP. About 100 attacks on Uber drivers and passengers have been reported in recent weeks."