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charlesarthur : cars   39

Florida man missing since 1997 found at the bottom of a pond thanks to Google Maps • BGR
Mike Wehner:
<p>when a car was spotted in a residential pond using Google’s high-flying satellites in late August, it shed light on a mystery far more intense than finding the quickest route across town.

As the <a href="">Sun Sentinel</a> reports, a neighbor of a Florida resident named Barry Fay first alerted him to what appeared to be a vehicle sitting in a pond directly behind his home. When police investigated the sighting, they found the final resting place of a man who had been missing since 1997.

The unexpected discovery was made thanks to Google Maps, which still shows the 1994 Saturn SL sitting in a pond in an upscale community in Wellington, Florida.

When police dragged the car from below the surface they found the remains of 40-year-old William Earl Moldt who went missing one evening in 1997. It’s still unclear how Moldt’s vehicle ended up in the pond, but it’s worth noting that the area where it was found was still under development at the time he went missing, and it’s possible an off-road accident and drowning were to blame.

As the Sun Sentinel notes, finding vehicles in canals and other small bodies of water in Florida isn’t exactly a rare occurrence, and sometimes those vehicles have human remains still seated inside. Careening off the road and into a pond or canal can quickly turn deadly when the vehicle is swallowed up, but it’s unclear if that’s what happened in this particular case.</p>

I'd quote directly from the Sun Sentinel, but apparently it's still working out how to make its website available in Europe under GDPR. Meanwhile: Google Maps exposes our weirdness.
cars  googlemaps 
2 days ago by charlesarthur
Apple lays off over 200 from Project Titan autonomous vehicle group • CNBC
Lora Kolodny, Christina Farr and Paul Eisenstein:
<p>Apple dismissed just over 200 employees this week from Project Titan, its stealthy autonomous vehicle group, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

An Apple spokesperson acknowledged the layoffs and said the company still sees opportunity in the space:

“We have an incredibly talented team working on autonomous systems and associated technologies at Apple. As the team focuses their work on several key areas for 2019, some groups are being moved to projects in other parts of the company, where they will support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple,” the spokesperson said.

“We continue to believe there is a huge opportunity with autonomous systems, that Apple has unique capabilities to contribute, and that this is the most ambitious machine learning project ever.”</p>

As someone remarked (on Twitter of course), they should just add the abbreviation for "integrated car" to the end of the project name. Just can't really see Apple doing cars.
apple  cars  selfdrivingcar 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
It takes just six minutes for a dog to die in a hot car • The Conversation
Jan Hoole and Daniel Allen:
<p>RSPCA Australia stresses it takes “Just six minutes” for a dog to die in a hot car.

Despite this, people continue to leave their dogs in cars. Between 2009 and 2018, the RSPCA had 64,443 reported incidents of animal and heat exposure in England and Wales. Around 90% of calls related to dogs in vehicles. This year the RSPCA emergency hotline received 1,123 reports of animals suffering heat exposure in just one week (June 25 to July 1 2018). That’s seven calls an hour.

Perhaps this happens because many owners don’t really understand what happens to a dog’s body in overheating and heatstroke. If a dog’s internal temperature goes above 41°C (105.8°F) it is at risk of heatstroke, which only 50% of dogs survive. Some breeds are more susceptible than others – large dogs, dogs with short faces such as bulldogs and boxers, and overweight or long-coated dogs are most at risk – but every dog has the potential to suffer from heatstroke. It doesn’t have to be boiling hot for this to happen either – when it’s 22°C, (71.6°F) outside, the inside of a car can easily reach 47°C within an hour(116.6°F).</p>

Either don't take the dog in the car, or take it out with you.
dogs  cars  heat 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Why nobody ever wins that car giveaway at the mall • The Hustle
Zachary Crockett dug into what's really going on:
<p>The car is a loaner from local dealer, Acura of Fremont — and despite what the sweepstakes’ marketing may suggest, it’s not up for grabs. (We called the dealer and they confirmed that the vehicle on display isn’t part of the giveaway at all.)

What you’re really signing up for is the opportunity to win an opportunity to possibly win a small amount of taxable cash.

Here’s what actually happens: 1) You enter the sweepstakes; 2) You have to attend a 90-minute timeshare presentation; 3) You get a scratch-off lotto ticket; 4) If you’re a “grand prize winner,” you get to play a game for a chance to win $100k.

The “game” is that the finalist gets to open 4 “mystery envelopes” with random amounts of cash. Last year’s two “big winners” walked away with checks for $575 and $700 — about enough to buy one side view mirror for your Acura..

That’s the absolute best-case scenario of entering one of these contests. Other aren’t so lucky.

Days after entering to win the car, Maggie Nicholson received a call informing her that her name was drawn. After sitting through a 2-hour timeshare presentation with Boiler Room-like sales tactics, she was told there was no car — but she was eligible for a vacation package.</p>

And then there's the way all your details get sold on, and sold on, and sold on... and you give up your do not call rights.
fraud  privacy  cars  data 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Self-driving cars are here • Medium
Andrew Ng of, which is introducing self-driving cars in Frisco, Texas in July:
<p>It is every self-driving company’s responsibility to ensure safety. We believe the self-driving car industry should adopt these practices:

• Self-driving cars should be made visually distinctive, so that people can quickly recognize them. Even with great AI technology, it is safer if everyone recognizes our cars. After examining multiple designs, we found that a bright orange design is clearly recognizable to pedestrians and drivers.

We deliberately prioritized recognizability over beauty, since it is recognizability that enhances safety.

• While a human driver would make eye contact with a pedestrian to let them know it is safe to cross, a driverless car cannot communicate the same way. Thus, a self-driving car must have other ways to communicate with people around it. is using exterior panels to do this.

• Self-driving car companies should engage with local government to provide practical education programs. Just as school buses, delivery trucks, and emergency vehicles behave differently from regular cars, so too are self-driving cars a different class of vehicle with their own behaviors. It has unique strengths (such as no distracted driving) and limitations (such as inability to make eye contact or understand hand gestures). It’s important to increase the public’s awareness of self-driving through media, unique signage, and dedicated pickup and dropoff zones. We also ask members of the local community to be lawful in their use of public roads and to be considerate of self-driving cars so that we can improve transportation together.</p>

OK, but what about <a href="">people who seem like plastic bags</a>?
ai  cars  selfdrivingcar  drive 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Subprime carmageddon: specialized lenders begin to collapse • Wolf Street
Wolf Richter:
<p>The subprime auto lending business is highly cyclical. For example, according to Bloomberg, citing Moody’s data, 41 subprime lenders filed for bankruptcy during the subprime auto loan bust between 1997 and 1999.

But unlike subprime home mortgages, subprime auto loans won’t take down the financial system. About 25% of the auto loans written are subprime. For new cars, it’s about 20%. Of the $1.11trn in total auto loans outstanding at the end of 2017, about $280bn were subprime – less than a quarter of the $1.3trn subprime mortgages before the financial crisis. Even if the total subprime portfolio produced a net loss of 50%, the losses would amount to only about $140bn.

And there are other differences: Vehicles are quickly repossessed, usually after three months of missed payments. Even in bad times, there is a liquid market for the collateral at auctions around the country, and vehicles can be shipped to auctions with the greatest demand. The results are that lenders don’t end up holding these vehicles and loans on their balance sheet for years, as mortgage lenders did with defaulted home mortgages and homes.

But subprime will take down many more of the specialized lenders. And the survivors will tighten lending standards. This will prevent more car buyers from buying a new vehicles.</p>

Been coming for some time; it's the effect on new vehicle sales that could have broader knock-on effects.
cars  loans  subprime  credit 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
One single malicious vehicle can block "smart" street intersections in the US • Bleeping Computer
Catalin Cimpanu:
<p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

In the US, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has started implementing a V2I system called Intelligent Traffic Signal System (I-SIG), already found on the streets of New York, Tampa (Florida), Cheyenne (Wyoming), Temple (Arizona), and Palo Alto (California).

But the Michigan research team says the I-SIG system in its current default configuration is vulnerable to basic data spoofing attacks.

Researchers say this is "due to a vulnerability at the signal control algorithm level," which they call "the last vehicle advantage." This means that the latest arriving vehicle can determine the traffic system's algorithm output.

The research team says I-SIG doesn't come with protection from spoofing attacks, allowing one vehicle to send repeated messages to a traffic intersection, posing as the latest vehicle that arrived at the intersection.

Rresearchers say an attacker can use this bug and trick a traffic control system into believing cars keep arriving from all sides on the left lane. The system reacted by altering traffic lights and prolonging red light times to accommodate the non-existent vehicles, causing a delay in the entire intersection. (<a href="">Here's the simulation</a>.)

spoofing  cars 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
The car of the future will sell your data • Bloomberg
Gabrielle Coppola:
<p>Picture this: You’re driving home from work, contemplating what to make for dinner, and as you idle at a red light near your neighborhood pizzeria, an ad offering $5 off a pepperoni pie pops up on your dashboard screen.

Are you annoyed that your car’s trying to sell you something, or pleasantly persuaded? Telenav Inc., a company developing in-car advertising software, is betting you won’t mind much. Car companies—looking to earn some extra money—hope so, too.

Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington.

“Carmakers recognize they’re fighting a war over customer data,” said Roger Lanctot, who works with automakers on data monetization as a consultant for Strategy Analytics. “Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity.”

Carmakers’ ultimate objective, Lanctot said, is to build a database of consumer preferences that could be aggregated and sold to outside vendors for marketing purposes, much like Google and Facebook do today.</p>

Whooaaa horsey. First: Google and Facebook do <em>not</em> sell your data. They sell anonymised access to profiles - people searching for lobsters, or people who own old cars and live in Uttoxeter.

Second, I recall a lot of "smartphones with Bluetooth will mean retailers can beam special offers to you as you walk past in the street!" Hasn't happened.

Third, if cars were to do this, I think they'd get hacked pretty fast to stop them doing it.
Cars  advertising 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Fiat Chrysler pushed a UConnect update that causes constant reboots with no announced fix (updated) • Jalopnik
Jason Torchinsky:
<p>It appears that the over-the-air update to the UConnect system went out on Friday, and many, many owners have not had working center-stack systems since then. Many of these vehicles are nearly brand-new, which makes the issue even more maddening.

(I reached out to FCA to find out what was known about the issue, if it was affecting all versions of the system, when a fix was expected, and so on, but I was surprised to find that the representative I spoke with wasn’t aware of the problem until I described it. I reached out to FCA two more times, but the first time I was told they had no statement or information yet, and the most recent time I had to leave a message. We’ll update with FCA’s response when we get it.)

The failure of the UConnect system isn’t just limited to not having a radio; like almost all modern automotive infotainment systems, the center screen, controlled by UConnect, handles things like rear-view camera systems, navigation, cell phone connection systems like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, some climate control functions, many system and user settings, and more.

Losing access to the system on a new FCA vehicle is a major problem.</p>

To say the least. Naturally, one's imagination jumps forward to how it could be with self-driving cars.
Uconnect  cars  software 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Drivers who merge at the last minute may be annoying … but they're right • HowStuffWorks
Jesslyn Shields:
<p>If you're old enough to drive, you're old enough to have some thoughts about the best way to merge into highway traffic when your lane is ending or closing due to a wreck or road work. When you see the big, orange "LANE CLOSED IN 1000 FT" sign, you've got a couple of options:

• Immediately turn on your blinker and wait until somebody in the next lane lets you in.<br />• Just stay in your lane and wait for all the polite people to get out of your way before zooming to the front of the line and merging when the lane closes. Watch as people who merged early rage in your general direction.

To most people, the first option seems more courteous and patient — less selfish. But study upon study proves the upstanding early-mergers among us are just creating a single long, slow line of traffic that's not only frustrating for drivers, it's inefficient because it minimizes the amount of usable road — and it even causes accidents.

What we all should be doing is called the "zipper merge," or Reißverschlusssystem, as the Germans call it. In this system, every car in the lane that's ending drives all the way up to the front of the line and takes turns merging with the other lane of traffic. (From above, it looks a bit like teeth on a zipper coming together.) Because the system uses all the available road space for as long as possible, it cuts congestion by 40%.</p>

Just putting this aside to read out to my wife for the next time we're on a motorway. That 40% figure is quite something. Given how bad tailbacks can be from this, why aren't there signs about it at such merge points?
cars  traffic 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Danger ahead: the government’s plan for vehicle-to-vehicle communication threatens privacy, security, and common sense • Electronic Frontier Foundation
<p>Imagine if your car could send messages about its speed and movements to other cars on the road around it. That’s the dream of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which thinks of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication technology as the leading solution for reducing accident rates in the United States. But there’s a huge problem: it’s extremely difficult to have cars “talk” to each other in a way that protects the privacy and security of the people inside them, and NHTSA’s proposal doesn’t come close to successfully addressing those issues. EFF filed public comments with both NHTSA and the FTC explaining why it needs to go back to the drawing board — and spend some serious time there — before moving forward with any V2V proposal.

NHTSA’s V2V plan involves installing special devices in cars that will broadcast and receive Basic Safety Messages (BSMs) via short-range wireless communication channels. These messages will include information about a vehicle’s speed, brake status, etc. But one big problem is that by broadcasting unencrypted data about themselves at all times, cars with these devices will be incredibly easy to track. </p>

To put it mildly.
cars  data 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Cars and second order consequences • Benedict Evans
Evans muses at length on what could follow from cars becoming autonomous and electric. There are many, many threads to this; what we really need is a history of what happened when horses were replaced by cars. So many stables, so much provision of hay, so many grooms, suddenly confronted a changed world. That's coming for us too, except we should be more prepared:
<p>Moving to electric reduces the number of moving parts in a car by something like an order of magnitude. It's less about replacing the fuel tank with a battery than ripping out the spine. That remakes the car industry and its supplier base (as well as related industries such as machine tools), but it also changes the repair environment, and the life of a vehicle. Roughly half of US spending on car maintenance goes on things that are directly attributable to the internal combustion engine, and much of that spending will just go away. In the longer term, this change might affect the lifespan of a vehicle: in an on-demand world vehicles would have higher loading, but absent that, fewer mechanical breakages (and fewer or no accidents) might mean a longer replacement cycle, once the rate of technology implementation settles down. 

Next, gas itself is bought in gas stations, of which there are about 150k in the USA. Those will also go away (unless there are radical changes in how long it takes to charge an EV). Since gas is sold at very low margins, these retailers make their actual money as convenience stores, so what happens to the products that are sold there? Some of this demand will be displaced to other retailers, and some may be going online anyway (especially if an Amazon drone can get you a bag of Cheesy Puffs in 15 minutes). But snacks, sodas and tobacco sell meaningful proportions of their total volume as impulse purchases attached to gasoline. Some of that volume might just go away. 

Tobacco in particular might be interesting - well over half of US tobacco sales happens at gas stations, and there are meaningful indications that removing distribution reduces consumption - that cigarettes are often an impulse purchase and if they're not in front of you then many smokers are less likely to buy them. Car crashes kill 35k people a year in the USA, but tobacco kills 500k. </p>
cities  automation  cars 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Inside Alabama’s auto jobs boom: cheap wages, little training, crushed limbs • Bloomberg
Peter Waldman:
<p>Parts suppliers in the American South compete for low-margin orders against suppliers in Mexico and Asia. They promise delivery schedules they can’t possibly meet and face ruinous penalties if they fall short. Employees work ungodly hours, six or seven days a week, for months on end. Pay is low, turnover is high, training is scant, and safety is an afterthought, usually after someone is badly hurt. Many of the same woes that typify work conditions at contract manufacturers across Asia now bedevil parts plants in the South.

“The supply chain isn’t going just to Bangladesh. It’s going to Alabama and Georgia,” says David Michaels, who ran OSHA for the last seven years of the Obama administration. Safety at the Southern car factories themselves is generally good, he says. The situation is much worse at parts suppliers, where workers earn about 70¢ for every dollar earned by auto parts workers in Michigan, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Many plants in the North are unionized; only a few are in the South.)

Cordney Crutcher has known both environments. In 2013 he lost his left pinkie while operating a metal press at Matsu Alabama, a parts maker in Huntsville owned by Matcor-Matsu Group Inc. of Brampton, Ont. Crutcher was leaving work for the day when a supervisor summoned him to replace a slower worker on the line, because the plant had fallen 40 parts behind schedule for a shipment to Honda Motor Co. He’d already worked 12 hours, Crutcher says, and wanted to go home, “but he said they really needed me.” He was put on a press that had been acting up all day. It worked fine until he was 10 parts away from finishing, and then a cast-iron hole puncher failed to deploy. Crutcher didn’t realize it. Suddenly the puncher fired and snapped on his finger. “I saw my meat sticking out of the bottom of my glove,” he says.

Now Crutcher, 42, commutes an hour to the General Motors Co. assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., where he’s a member of United Auto Workers. “They teach you the right way,” he says. “They don’t throw you to the wolves.” His pay rose from $12 an hour at Matsu to $18.21 at GM.</p>

It's quite disturbing how low the bottom is in a race to the bottom.
manufacturing  cars  safety 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
Car apps are vulnerable to hacks that could unlock millions of vehicles • WIRED
Andy Greenberg:
<p>In the era of the connected car, automakers and third-party developers compete to turn smartphones into vehicular remote controls, allowing drivers to locate, lock, and unlock their rides with a screen tap. Some apps even summon cars and trucks in Knight Rider fashion. But phones can be hacked. And when they are, those car-connected features can fall into the hands of hackers, too.

That’s the troubling result of a test of nine different connected-car Android apps from seven companies. A pair of researchers from the Russian security firm Kaspersky found that most of the apps, several of which have been downloaded hundreds of thousands or over a million times, lacked even basic software defenses that drivers might expect to protect one of their most valuable possessions. By either rooting the target phone or tricking a user into installing malicious code, the researchers say, hackers could use any of the apps Kaspersky tested to locate a car, unlock it, and in some cases start its ignition.</p>

Happy days.
cars  hacking  android 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Beepi winding down after burning through $150m • WSJ
Yuliya Chernova:
<p>Beepi Inc. is inching toward winding down its business after blowing through $150m in venture capital, the latest casualty of investor caution after a frothy period.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based startup, founded in 2013, was operating an online marketplace for used cars. Having run out of cash, the startup has begun the process to sell its assets to satisfy creditors through an alternative to bankruptcy.

Neither equity investors nor employees are likely to get any money back, said a person familiar with the matter.</p>

Astonishing. If only John Updike were around to write "Rabbit is Venture-Funded".
beepi  cars  startup 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Cars as featurephones • Benedict Evans
Evans says that current cars are still in the featurephone area, awaiting their smartphone moment:
<p>a computer should never ask you a question that it should be able to work out for itself. These alerts and warnings, and all those buttons, are questions. And so, just as Windows doesn't ask you what sound card you have and smartphones don't ask you where to save a file or what your password is, what is a back-up warning but a question - do you want to stop now? Really, a car shouldn't have a back-up warning - it should just rubber-band to a halt. And that, in turn, is a step to autonomy - to level 3 and 4, the car that will try not to let you crash, and will increasingly drive itself. 

That is, the end-point is to have no interface at all. In a fully-autonomous, 'Level 5' car, with no steering wheel or manual controls at all, the only human-computer interface is when you say "take me home now". But most people in the autonomous driving field think that's at least 5 years away and more probably 10, or more. In the mean time we have a transitional phase, as you go from lots of warnings to one and you ask what fundamentally that warning should be, and as you sit in a car where you need to be in the driving seat and steering, mostly, or ready to steer, but the car might stop you, or drive itself. Something that drives itself until it doesn't can easily become dangerous. So, my struggle to turn off the HUD on my borrowed car might become something rather more urgent.   

This could, incidentally, be the best car opportunity for Apple. A car that you just tell to go home and forget about is Google's sweet spot, without much scope for Apple to add any unique insight as to how the experience should work. Conversely, a car that you still need to drive, somehow, but in radically new ways, seems like a fruitful place for thinking about how interfaces work, and that's Apple. </p>

I'd love a reversing system that stopped me reversing too far.
cars  apple  ux  software 
january 2017 by charlesarthur
Uber is quietly terrible for women and black people: study • Jalopnik
Damon Lavrinc:
<p>The National Bureau of Economic Research, a respected non-profit and non-partisan research organization, has <a href="">released the findings of a two-year study</a> that tracked discrimination of riders using Uber, Lyft, and Flywheel in Seattle and Boston. The study was done by researchers at MIT, Stanford and the University of Washington.

The study involved nearly 1,500 rides across the two cities, with work beginning in Seattle late last year to this March. Undergrads from the University of Washington were given identical phones with the three ride-sharing apps pre-loaded, instructed to take a handful of prescribed routes, and then noting when the ride was requested, when it was accepted by the driver, when they were picked up, and finally when they got to their destination.

In the Seattle experiment, trip requests from black riders took between 16 to 28 percent longer to be accepted by both UberX and Lyft, and breaking UberX out showed a wait time of 29 to 35 percent longer than their white counterparts.

Those figures are based on UberX usage, primarily because of the different ways a new ride is displayed to the driver through the Uber or Lyft app.

For Uber, drivers don’t see the name of the person they’re picking up until they accept the fare, at which point they can cancel. But for Lyft, which displays the rider’s name and picture (if they included it) before they accept the fare, means trying to quantize discriminatory practices through Lyft is largely impossible—a model Uber could conceivably adopt.</p>

Two years is a long time for a study. But this really is something Uber should respond to.
uber  racism  cars 
november 2016 by charlesarthur
People in Los Angeles are getting rid of their cars • BuzzFeed News
Priya Anand:
<p>Eric Spiegelman grew up in a six-car family in the San Fernando Valley and has lived in Los Angeles for the majority of his life. At the end of May, he let the lease on his Volkswagen CC expire, opting to live car-free in a city synonymous with car culture. For the past three months, he’s been commuting to and from work exclusively via Uber and Lyft — mostly using Pool and Line, cheaper options that allow passengers to share trips with other riders on similar routes.

“It ran so contrary to the culture that I’d been brought up in, and also my sense of what was doable,” Spiegelman, 39, told BuzzFeed News. “It was the most unnatural feeling thing at first. But it was so freeing.”
An understandable sentiment — after all, Spiegelman is president of the LA Taxicab Commission.

Spiegelman had been studying the economics of riding Uber and Lyft versus a taxi or driving a personal vehicle when he decided to run the math for his own car. He made a spreadsheet outlining the cost of leasing his Volkswagen: $458 monthly for the lease itself, $158 for insurance, $70 for gas, and at least $72 for parking, for a total cost of about $758. Based on those calculations, he said he has saved more than $1,100 in the last three months, spending an average of $3.42 for each UberPool or Lyft Line ride to work in August.</p>

Thinly sourced; there's no real data on how many people are getting rid of their cars. But as an indicator, it could be relevant. Parking tickets (and the hassle of finding parking places) rather than other costs might be important. Notice how large parking charges were in Spiegelman's calculation.
cars  uber 
september 2016 by charlesarthur research
<p>the driving dataset

7 and a quarter hours of largely highway driving. Enough to train what we had in <a href="">Bloomberg</a> [a prototype self-driving car built in a garage].


We present two Machine Learning Experiments to show possible ways to use this dataset:

<img src="" width="100%" />

<a href="">Training a steering angle predictor</a>

<img src="" width="100%" />

<a href="">Training a generative image model</a></p>

45GB compressed, so you'll need a fast link. More to the point, it's out there for you to do something with - if you're in machine learning.
machinelearning  cars  selfdrivingcar 
august 2016 by charlesarthur
Secretive Alphabet division aims to fix public transit in US by shifting control to Google • The Guardian
Mark Harris:
<p>Sidewalk Labs, a secretive subsidiary of Alphabet, wants to radically overhaul public parking and transportation in American cities, emails and documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

Its high-tech services, which it calls “new superpowers to extend access and mobility”, could make it easier to drive and park in cities and create hybrid public/private transit options that rely heavily on ride-share services such as Uber. But they might also gut traditional bus services and require cities to invest heavily in Google’s own technologies, experts fear.

Sidewalk is initially offering its cloud software, called Flow, to Columbus, Ohio, the winner of a recent $50m Smart City Challenge organized by the US Department of Transportation.

Using public records laws, the Guardian obtained dozens of emails and documents submitted to Challenge cities by Sidewalk Labs, detailing many technologies and proposals that have not previously been made public.</p>

Harris is one of the best journalists out there; he keeps finding out stuff in these areas long before anyone else.
cars  cities  google 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Slow adoption in automotive • Pearl blog
Bryson Gardner is co-founder and CEO of Pearl, whose co-founders used to work at Apple getting the iPod and iPhone out, and now want to get cars to be better sorted:
<p>Cars last longer than ever and are quickly left behind by the rapid pace of new technology. The industry’s ability to keep them up to date is fundamentally limited by 6-7 year design cycles and how few new cars are produced and bought every year. Historically new features, from airbags to antilock brakes, have taken 30-40 years to reach widespread adoption. The future will be no different, unless we re-think things.

While we see great promise in autonomous vehicles, recent reports project only 4% of the 2 billion cars in the world in 2035 will be autonomous. That leaves more than 95% of the cars without autonomous features nearly 20 years from now.

Should we really be waiting this long? Why not use the very same technological building blocks of the autonomous future to help every driver on the road today? ADAS technologies, such as the backup camera, blind spot warning and forward collision warning, are available in some new cars and have clear benefits, and these new technologies are just too important to limit to only new cars.</p>

They're starting with rear-view cameras, priced at $500.
pearl  cars 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Inside Uber’s auto-lease machine, where almost anyone can get a car • Bloomberg
Eric Newcomer and Olivia Zaleski:
<p>[Uber's short-term lease offering] Xchange isn't intended to be a moneymaker, said an Uber spokesman. But it has plenty of critics who accuse the company of looting the pockets of its drivers. The program is plagued by a lot of questions that surround other subprime lending programs aimed at risky borrowers with bad credit. Is Xchange really offering good deals? Does it ensnare drivers with commitments they can't meet? "You can buy the car for what they're charging you in weekly payments," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at personal-finance website But for many drivers who sign up with Xchange, it's their only option.

The terms of an Xchange lease run 28 pages. Drivers pay a $250 upfront deposit and then make weekly payments to Uber over the course of the three-year life of the lease. As the video promoting the arrangement puts it: "The best part: Payments are automatically deducted from your Uber earnings." At the end of three years, Uber keeps the $250 deposit to release the drivers from the lease. If they want to buy it, they'll need to fork over the residual value of the car, which could run many thousands of dollars. Uber declined to provide an average figure.</p>

Sub-prime, sub-optimal.
uber  economics  cars  leasing 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Apple R
Neil Cybart:
<p>The most shocking aspect about the amount of money Apple is spending on R+D is how little attention it has garnered in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street. Other than my R+D post last year, there is rarely any mention of Apple's R+D, and this doesn't seem to make much sense.

<img src="" width="100%" />

I suspect most of this has been due to the fact that Apple does not draw attention to its product pipeline and long-term strategy, choosing instead to embrace secrecy and mystery. Now compare this to Mark Zuckerberg laying out his 10-year plan for Facebook. It is easy and natural for people to then label Facebook as innovative and focused on the future. The same principle applies to Larry Page reorganizing Google to make it easier for investors to see how much is being spent on various moonshot projects. Jeff Bezos is famous for his attitude towards failing often and in public view, giving Amazon an aura of being a place of curiosity and boldness when it comes to future projects and risk taking. 

Meanwhile, Tim Cook has remained very tight-lipped about Apple's future, which gives the impression that Apple isn't working on ground-breaking ideas or products that can move the company beyond the iPhone. Instead of labeling this as a mistake or misstep, Apple's product secrecy is a key ingredient of its success. People like to be surprised. Another reason Apple takes a much different approach to product secrecy and R+D is its business model. Being open about future product plans will likely have a negative impact on near-term Apple hardware sales. Companies like Facebook and Google don't suffer from a similar risk. The end result is that there is a legitimate disconnect between Apple's R+D trends and the consensus view of the company's product pipeline. Apple is telling us that they are working on something very big, and yet no one seems to notice or care. I find that intriguing.</p>

You can see the spikes in R+D spending in 2001-5, when the iPod, iPad and iPhone got underway. The fact that it is ramping up so much while Apple's revenues have grown so enormously does, indeed, point to plenty happening.
cars  research  apple 
may 2016 by charlesarthur
Humans are slamming into driverless cars and exposing a key flaw » Bloomberg Business
Keith Naughton:
<p>“It’s a constant debate inside our group,” said Raj Rajkumar, co-director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab in Pittsburgh. “And we have basically decided to stick to the speed limit. But when you go out and drive the speed limit on the highway, pretty much everybody on the road is just zipping past you. And I would be one of those people."

Last year, Rajkumar offered test drives to members of Congress in his lab’s self-driving Cadillac SRX sport utility vehicle. The Caddy performed perfectly, except when it had to merge onto I-395 South and swing across three lanes of traffic in 150 yards (137 meters) to head toward the Pentagon. The car’s cameras and laser sensors detected traffic in a 360-degree view but didn’t know how to trust that drivers would make room in the ceaseless flow, so the human minder had to take control to complete the manoeuvre.

“We end up being cautious,” Rajkumar said. “We don’t want to get into an accident because that would be front-page news. People expect more of autonomous cars.”

Turns out, though, their accident rates are twice as high as for regular cars, according to a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Driverless vehicles have never been at fault, the study found: They’re usually hit from behind in slow-speed crashes by inattentive or aggressive humans unaccustomed to machine motorists that always follow the rules and proceed with caution.

“It’s a dilemma that needs to be addressed,” Rajkumar said.</p>

Well, strictly it's the humans who are at fault. The "key flaw" is that lots of humans drive badly, but they also have expectations of how the car in front will behave - so it's a "theory of mind" problem too.
automation  cars  google  selfdrivingcar 
december 2015 by charlesarthur
Car turns driver in for hit-and-run » WPBF Home
Becky Sawtelle:
<p>Police responded to a hit-and-run in the 500 block of Northwest Prima Vista Boulevard on Monday afternoon. The victim, Anna Preston, said she was struck from behind by a black vehicle that took off. Preston was taken to the hospital with back injuries.

Around the same time, police dispatch got an automated call from a vehicle emergency system stating the owner of a Ford vehicle was involved in a crash and to press zero to speak with the occupants of the vehicle.

The person in the vehicle, Cathy Bernstein, told dispatch there had been no accident, that someone pulled out in front of her and that she was going home. She said she had not been drinking and didn't know why her vehicle had called for help.

Police went to Bernsteins's home on Northwest Foxworth Avenue and saw that her vehicle had extensive front-end damage and silver paint from Preston's vehicle on it. Bernstein's airbag had also been deployed.</p>

Oh, but that isn't even the best of it. Read the rest. So, will self-driving cars use automatic numberplate readers to tell on vehicles that hit them? Add in dashboard cams, and that should be the end of disputes over crashes.. shouldn't it?
cars  ai 
december 2015 by charlesarthur
How Uber’s autonomous cars will destroy 10 million jobs and reshape the economy by 2025 » Zack Kanter
<p>Industry experts think that consumers will be slow to purchase autonomous cars – while this may be true, it is a mistake to assume that this will impede the transition. Morgan Stanley’s research shows that cars are driven just 4% of the time, which is an astonishing waste considering that the average cost of car ownership is nearly $9,000 per year. Next to a house, an automobile is the second most expensive asset that most people will ever buy – it is no surprise that ride sharing services like Uber and car sharing services like Zipcar are quickly gaining popularity as an alternative to car ownership. It is now more economical to use a ride sharing service if you live in a city and drive less than 10,000 miles per year. The impact on private car ownership is enormous: a UC-Berkeley study showed that vehicle ownership among car sharing users was cut in half. The car purchasers of the future will not be you and me – cars will be purchased and operated by ride sharing and car sharing companies.

And current research confirms that we would be eager to use autonomous cars if they were available. A full 60% of US adults surveyed stated that they would ride in an autonomous car, and nearly 32% said they would not continue to drive once an autonomous car was available instead.</p>

Today's children are the last generation that will have to pass a driving test. Think about that briefly. Then read the rest of Kanter's piece. (It's actually optimistic, overall.) And one more thing: it doesn't have to be about Uber.
cars  economy  technology  uber 
november 2015 by charlesarthur
The consumerization of the automobile supply chain » DIGITS to DOLLARS
Jonathan Greenberg:
<p>Last week I saw an interesting <a href="">post on Venture Beat about Acer Launching an Electric All-Terrain Vehicle</a> [quad bike, for UK readers]. This struck a chord because Taiwan-based Acer is a manufacturer of PCs and other consumer electronics (CE) devices. Acer is one of the most prominent companies in Taiwan’s CE complex, which builds almost all of our consumer gadgets. They are closely tied to some of the industry’s most important ODMs, component vendors and contract manufacturers. It is not that surprising to see a consumer electronics giant diversify into higher priced devices as they move up the value chain. However, if you don’t look at Acer as an device maker, but instead view them as a flagship of the Taiwanese electronics industry, the announcement has broader implications.</p>

You can see where this is going, can't you?
automotive  cars 
november 2015 by charlesarthur
Android Auto isn't slurping Porsche engine data, says Google – but questions remain » The Register
Iain Thomson follows up on the "Android Auto doesn't want data" denial from Google, pointing out that the CAN bus which controls data flow in cars generally doesn't have any security:
<p>In the above case, from the OpenXC platform, the Android device can be firewalled off from the critical CAN bus by a suitable CAN-to-USB translator; the Android gadget can only request information, such as wheel speed or whether the parking brake is on.

That gateway could block requests for low-level statistics that manufacturers and drivers would rather keep private. But if that gateway honors any request for data, we're relying on Google keeping to its word and programming Android Auto to only fetch limited types of information.

The second thing that springs to mind is: can the connected smartphone write to the CAN bus as well as read from it? If the device is completely compromised in some way – such as by malware exploiting Stagefright bugs – can it fire commands into the vehicle's brain stem? Android Auto needs to be able to control the audio system to pump up the volume or turn it down, for example, and if that means it writes to the CAN bus to do so, then any mayhem can be caused by the phone.

Perhaps the cars compatible with Android Auto have compartmentalized CAN buses so the audio system is blocked by a gateway from the engine control hardware – although <a href="">reprogramming controllers</a> on the bus to bypass these defenses is possible.</p>

Slightly concerning, actually.
android  cars  security 
october 2015 by charlesarthur
On Apple’s insurmountable platform advantage » steve cheney
Cheney says it's all about the chips:
<p>The truth is the best people in chip design no longer want to work at Intel or Qualcomm. They want to work at Apple. I have plenty of friends in the Valley who affirm this. Sure Apple products are cooler. But Apple has also surpassed Intel in performance. This is insane. A device company – which makes CPUs for internal use – surpassing Intel, the world’s largest chip maker which practically invented the CPU and has thousands of customers.

This pedigree that Apple developed now has a secondary powerful force: portable devices serve as the reference platform whereby all chip design starts. Components from the smartphone market now power almost all other markets, giving Apple’s in-house team a comparative advantage as they enter new product categories, like wearables and electric cars.

All of this supplier / buyer power that Apple has secured will be extended to cars. And because cars are lower volume by many orders of magnitude than phones, no other car maker will be able to enter the chip making game. Both the costs and the risks of designing chips are way too high. Tesla sells around 100K cars a year. Apple sold that many iPhones every 30 minutes on opening day weekend.</p>
apple  chips  cars 
october 2015 by charlesarthur
Researchers could have uncovered Volkswagen’s emissions cheat if not hindered by the DMCA » Electronic Frontier Foundation
Kit Walsh:
<p>Automakers argue that it’s unlawful for independent researchers to look at the code that controls vehicles without the manufacturer’s permission. We’ve explained before how this allows manufacturers to prevent competition in the markets for add-on technologies and repair tools. It also makes it harder for watchdogs to find safety or security issues, such as faulty code that can lead to unintended acceleration or vulnerabilities that let an attacker take over your car.

The legal uncertainly created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act also makes it easier for manufacturers to conceal intentional wrongdoing. We’ve asked the Librarian of Congress to grant an exemption to the DMCA to make it crystal clear that independent research on vehicle software doesn’t violate copyright law. In opposing this request, manufacturers asserted that individuals would violate emissions laws if they had access to the code. But we’ve now learned that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Volkswagen had already programmed an entire fleet of vehicles to conceal how much pollution they generated, resulting in a real, quantifiable impact on the environment and human health.

This code was shielded from watchdogs’ investigation by the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA. Surprisingly, the <a href="">EPA wrote in</a> [PDF] to the Copyright Office to oppose the exemptions we’re seeking.</p>

With a headline like that, it sounds like an episode of Scooby-Doo. The EPA's argument in the linked letter is actually reasonable: you know that people will hack the ECM, especially if they get the source code.
cars  copyright  dmca 
september 2015 by charlesarthur
Toyota unintended acceleration and the big bowl of “spaghetti” code » Safety Research & Strategies, Inc
[Embedded software expert Michael] Barr testified:

"There are a large number of functions that are overly complex. By the standard industry metrics some of them are untestable, meaning that it is so complicated a recipe that there is no way to develop a reliable test suite or test methodology to test all the possible things that can happen in it. Some of them are even so complex that they are what is called unmaintainable, which means that if you go in to fix a bug or to make a change, you're likely to create a new bug in the process. Just because your car has the latest version of the firmware -- that is what we call embedded software -- doesn't mean it is safer necessarily than the older one….And that conclusion is that the failsafes are inadequate. The failsafes that they have contain defects or gaps. But on the whole, the safety architecture is a house of cards. It is possible for a large percentage of the failsafes to be disabled at the same time that the throttle control is lost."

Even a Toyota programmer described the engine control application as “spaghetti-like” in an October 2007 document Barr read into his testimony.

Koopman was highly critical of Toyota’s computer engineering process.

Remember how shonky the interfaces for VCRs and DVDs were? What if the people who did those were writing your car code? What if they already are?
cars  programming  software  embedded 
june 2015 by charlesarthur
Self-driving trucks are going to hit us like a human-driven truck » Medium
Scott Santens:
This is a map of the most common job in each US state in 2014.

<img src="*FAOTYaCoYpUhjiAe3sjofA.png" width="100%" />

It should be clear at a glance just how dependent the American economy is on truck drivers. According to the American Trucker Association, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US, and an additional 5.2 million people employed within the truck-driving industry who don’t drive the trucks. That’s 8.7 million trucking-related jobs.

We can’t stop there though, because the incomes received by these 8.2 million people create the jobs of others. Those 3.5 million truck drivers driving all over the country stop regularly to eat, drink, rest, and sleep. Entire businesses have been built around serving their wants and needs. Think restaurants and motels as just two examples. So now we’re talking about millions more whose employment depends on the employment of truck drivers. But we still can’t even stop there…

…Truck driving is just about the last job in the country to provide a solid middle class salary without requiring a post-secondary degree.

You can argue about the exact numbers, but the point that it's not just the driving that's affected is important. See also the later link about sewing.
cars  economics  jobs  technology 
june 2015 by charlesarthur
Not so fast: connected cars could cause data traffic jams » Reuters
Eric Auchard:
Traffic jams in the future could cause potentially dangerous data snarl-ups as cars packed with entertainment, safety and navigation features vie for airwaves with smartphones, tablets and networked features in other vehicles, according to a study.

By 2024, mobile networks will see machine-to-machine (M2M) connections jump 10-fold to 2.3 billion from 250 million in 2014. Half these links will be automotive, said the study published on Thursday by Machina Research.

On the roads, about one in five vehicles worldwide will have some form of wireless network connection by 2020, or more than a quarter of a billion connected vehicles, according to a forecast from technology research firm Gartner.
data  cars 
may 2015 by charlesarthur
HTC in-car wireless device certified » Digitimes
Max Wang and Steve Shen:
HTC is reportedly stepping into the IoV (Internet of Vehicles) market and has one of its in-car wireless devices, the Think+ Touch OBU 2015, certified by Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC), according to industry sources.

The Think+ Touch OBU 2015 features Bluetooth, GPS navigation, a lane departure warning system, tyre pressure monitoring system and sonar-based collision avoidance system, while supporting Android 4.4 KitKat platform, the sources noted.

Interesting move by HTC, though wonder how much retrofitting this would take (tyre pressure monitoring?). Also, please let "Internet of Vehicles" not be a thing.
htc  iot  cars 
april 2015 by charlesarthur
Connected car lawsuits begin » LinkedIn
Peggy Smedley:
It was only a matter a time before this was going to happen. And now it has. A lawsuit has been filed against three leading automakers seeking damages in the millions. But as I talked about on my radio show a little more than a week ago, this lawsuit just might surprise you.

From court documents filed in Dallas, Texas, it appears this class action has been issued against Toyota, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors, for selling connected vehicles for allegedly knowing these in-vehicle systems could be hacked.

But, more importantly, the court documents go on to assert the automakers attempted to mislead consumers by not revealing the dangers associated with connected cars and not addressing the safety concerns.
cars  connected 
march 2015 by charlesarthur
Miss a payment? Good luck moving that car »
Michael Corkery and Jessica Silver-Greenberg:
The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start.

The cause was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender.

Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.

“I felt absolutely helpless,” said Ms. Bolender, a single mother who stopped working to care for her daughter.

At present, this story has 983 comments. People feel strongly about this topic.
loans  cars 
march 2015 by charlesarthur
Avoidable Contact: the watery Big Bang, the 32-step power steering fluid check, disposable faux-ury » The Truth About Cars
Jack Baruth starts with racing cars, then veers into watches...
Hublot and other watchmakers are busy CAD-creating their own “manufacture movements” to replace the generic ETA/Sellita/Valjoux movements found in their products. In this, the Cretaceous period of watch enthusiasm, the ability to engineer and manufacture one’s own mechanical watch movement is essential for “credibility”. Not that the genuine prestige watchmakers all used their own movements anyways, but there’s a certain amount of Cadillac-at-the-Nurburgring idiocy going on: Rolex makes their own movements, and they are a respected brand, so we need to have our own movements as well, even more complicated and feature-packed, and then we will be more respected than Rolex.

There’s just one little problem with that strategy. The proliferation of quick-bake “manufacture” movements is creating an entire generation of hugely expensive, amazingly complicated, completely “bespoke” watches which will be impossible to fix.

...and then he comes out the other side and goes into Porsches, and 993s v Boxsters, but it's really about durability and inheritability. Very appropriate in light of you-know-what.
cars  replaceable  quality 
march 2015 by charlesarthur
BMW fixes security flaw in its in-car software » Reuters
Edward Taylor:
BMW said officials at German motorist association ADAC had identified the problem, which affected cars equipped with the company's ConnectedDrive software using on-board SIM cards - the chips used to identify authorised users of mobile devices.

BMW drivers can use the software and SIM cards to activate door locking mechanisms, as well as a range of other services including real-time traffic information, online entertainment and air conditioning.…

…cybersecurity experts have criticized the automotive industry for failing to do more to secure internal communications of vehicles with network-connected features.

The danger, they say, is that once external security is breached, hackers can have free rein to access onboard vehicle computer systems which manage everything from engines and brakes to air conditioning.

They fear it is only a matter of time before hackers might break into wireless networks on cars to exploit software glitches and other vulnerabilities to try to harm drivers.

<a href="">Charlie Miller</a>, ex-NSA, is very interested in hacking cars - just to see what can be done. He was the person who showed publicly how to hack the iPhone back in 2009. So what he's thinking, the NSA - and many others - probably are too.
cars  software  hacking 
february 2015 by charlesarthur
With $2 Gas, the Toyota Prius Is for drivers who stink at math >> Businessweek
It would take almost 30 years of fuel savings from the hybrid Prius to cover its price premium over the little Chevy Cruze, although that doesn't account for the Chevy buyer marking savvy investments with her savings in the meantime. It doesn't matter since we will all be flying around in futuristic Teslas before the Prius pays off. The all-electric Nissan gets a lot closer: The all-electric Nissan Leaf, without any gas stops, take just 3.8 years on the road to beat the cheaper sticker price of the Cruze.

The Cruze gets a respectable 30 miles per gallon of combined highway and city driving, but its real strength is relative affordability. Without a second engine and a massive battery, the average Cruze had a $21,322 sticker price last month, compared with almost $31,973 for a Prius and $32,933 for a Leaf. Even after federal tax breaks, Cruze buyers start with an advantage of $8,151 over the Prius and $4,111 over the Leaf. That’s a lot of gas money.

For the 13 states with no hybrid incentives, this is where the equation stops.

This is the real reason why the US hasn't made any progress on electric cars: the lack of tax incentive. True, the idea that carbon emissions are a problem is relatively new, but the US's dependence on foreign oil (and hence oil) was seen as a problem as far back as Jimmy Carter's time in the 1970s.
electric  cars  oil 
december 2014 by charlesarthur

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