A new study finds that states with bans on texting while driving saw an average 4% reduction in emergency department visits after motor vehicle crashes, an equivalent of 1,632 traffic-related emergency department visits per year. CNN reports: Researchers examined emergency department data across 16 US states between 2007 and 2014. The states were picked based on the availability of information regarding motor vehicle accident injuries for which emergency department treatment was needed. In the United States, 47 out of 50 states currently have laws restricting texting while driving. Of the 16 states researchers looked at in the study, all but one (Arizona) had one of these laws.
The states that had texting bans, regardless of the type or who it applied to, saw a 4% average reduction in emergency department visits, according to the results published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health. The states that chose to implement primary bans on all drivers saw an 8% reduction in crash-related injuries. Drivers of all ages, even those older 65, who are typically not known for texting while driving, saw reductions in the number of injuries following crashes.
AmiMoJo shares a report from Ars Technica: The afternoon commute of Reddit user Beastpilot takes him past a stretch of Seattle-area freeway with a carpool lane exit on the left. Last year, in early April, the Tesla driver noticed that Autopilot on his Model X would sometimes pull to the left as the car approached the lane divider -- seemingly treating the space between the diverging lanes as a lane of its own. This was particularly alarming, because just days earlier, Tesla owner Walter Huang had died in a fiery crash after Autopilot steered his Model X into a concrete lane divider in a very similar junction in Mountain View, California. Beastpilot made several attempts to notify Tesla of the problem but says he never got a response. Weeks later, Tesla pushed out an update that seemed to fix the problem. Then in October, it happened again. Weeks later, the problem resolved itself. This week, he posted dashcam footage showing the same thing happening a third time -- this time with a recently acquired Model 3. "The behavior of the system changes dramatically between software updates," Beastpilot told Ars. "Human nature is, 'if something's worked 100 times before, it's gonna work the 101st time.'" That can lull people into a false sense of security, with potentially deadly consequences.
Volvo is installing cameras and sensors in its cars from the early 2020s, monitoring drivers for signs of being drunk or distracted and intervening to prevent accidents. These new safety features come a couple weeks after the automaker announced it will limit the top speed to 112mph on all its new cars from 2020 to help reduce the number of accidents. Reuters reports: Head of R&D Henrik Green said cameras will be installed on all Volvo models built on its SPA2 platform for larger cars, starting from the XC90 SUV in the early part of the next decade, before being added to smaller cars built on its CMA platform. Volvo said intervention if the driver is found to be drunk, tired or distracted by checking a mobile phone - among the biggest factors in accidents - could involve limiting the car's speed, alerting the Volvo on Call assistance service, or slowing down and parking the car.
CEO Hakan Samuelsson said that while the strategies meant Volvo might lose some customers keen on high speeds, it also opened opportunities to win parents who wanted to buy the safest car to carry their children. "It would be easy to say that people can do whatever they like but we feel we have a responsibility to do this. Maybe people will see us as 'Big Brother,' but if we save some lives then it's worth it," he told journalists. Volvo also said it would introduce Care Key on cars from 2021, allowing buyers to set speed limits, and that it was talking to insurers to offer better terms for users of these safety features.
As the Lion Air crew fought to control their diving Boeing 737 Max 8, they got help from an unexpected source: an off-duty pilot who happened to be riding in the cockpit. Bloomberg reports: That extra pilot, who was seated in the cockpit jumpseat, correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system and save the plane, according to two people familiar with Indonesia's investigation. The next day, under command of a different crew facing what investigators said was an identical malfunction, the jetliner crashed into the Java Sea killing all 189 aboard.
The previously undisclosed detail on the earlier Lion Air flight represents a new clue in the mystery of how some 737 Max pilots faced with the malfunction have been able to avert disaster while the others lost control of their planes and crashed. The presence of a third pilot in the cockpit wasn't contained in Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee's Nov. 28 report on the crash and hasn't previously been reported. The so-called dead-head pilot on the earlier flight from Bali to Jakarta told the crew to cut power to the motor driving the nose down, according to the people familiar, part of a checklist that all pilots are required to memorize. Further reading: Flawed Analysis, Failed Oversight: How Boeing, FAA Certified the Suspect 737 MAX Flight Control System.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from public news station KNPR about how close weare flying taxi services:
The dream of flying cars is as at least as old as the automobile itself. Bell, which makes attack helicopters for the U.S. Navy, is working on this new project with another high-profile partner, Uber. The prototype, the Bell Nexus, was unveiled earlier this year. Boeing and Airbus also have prototypes of these flying cars in the works. Uber has become the face of the aerial mobility movement as it has the most public campaign touting its work so far. Elon Musk says he'll get us to Mars. Uber says it'll get a millennial from San Francisco to San Jose in 15 minutes flat (instead of the two-hour slog in morning traffic). And its timeline for this flying taxi that does not yet exist is 2023...
NASA is another Uber partner. While Jaiwon Shin, NASA's associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, thinks Uber is being a little bullish -- he'd put the timeline further out, to the mid-2020s -- Shin says it's close. "Convergence of many different technologies are maturing to the level that now aviation can benefit to put these things together," he said. The batteries that power electric cars can evolve further, to power flight. Companies can stockpile and pool data, and build artificial intelligence to take over air traffic control, managing the thousands of drones and taxis in the air.
And Uber, his partner, is really well-connected. While fighting the legacy taxi industry, Uber made so many government and lobbyist contacts, that that Rolodex can help grease the wheels -- or wings.
"While no flying taxi exists yet, Uber has dared to estimate the 'near-term' cost of that San Francisco to San Jose trip: $43," the article reports -- suggesting that could create a new division in society.
"With flying cars, the haves can escape to the air and leave the have-nots forgotten in their potholes."
The Boring Company's tunnel project in Chicago is "in doubt" (according to the Chicago Tribune), while a project connecting Washington to Baltimore "is waylaid in the environmental-review process."
But it looks like Las Vegas will officially get a tunnel from Elon Musk, CNET reports, "perhaps within this year."
The billionaire's Boring Company on Tuesday got the approval from the 14-member board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) to build and operate an underground loop that would carry people in autonomous electric vehicles at the city's convention center.
Musk has responded to the approval in a tweet, saying he'll make the tunnel "operational by end of year," even though the convention center's expansion won't be done until 2021, according to LVCVA's release... A LVCVA spokeswoman said in an email that the underground loop will be ready in 2021 if the contract with the Boring company is approved at LVCVA's board meeting on June 11.
The Las Vegas Sun has more details, pointing out that travellers would be carried in electric vehicles moving through two parallel tunnels, one running in each direction. And that fleet of electric vehicles "could include Tesla's Model X and Model 3 and a vehicle with capacity for about 16 people â" all manufactured by Musk. All the vehicles would be fully autonomous, meaning they won't have backup drivers, and would move at speeds of up to 50 mph."
The mayor of Las Vegas, also a member of the board, actually voted against the tunnel, calling the Boring Company "exploratory at this time" and warning that "we are considering handing over the reins of our most important industry."
Last night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company's brand new electric SUV, the Model Y. The car is only slightly larger than the Model 3 and shares 75% of its parts, leaving many people wanting more. But, as USA Today reports, "The ho-hum reaction to Tesla's new electric SUV is, oddly enough, exactly what the company needs. [F]or a company that needs a little less pizzazz and a little more substance to make good on its promise to become a sustainable force in the auto industry, the Model Y hit the right marks." From the report: It's essentially a crossover version of the Tesla Model 3 compact car, bearing the design hallmarks of a hatchback and sharing the same architectural platform as its car sibling. That Tesla devotees weren't rewarded with sizzling new features on the Model Y illustrates that the company is getting serious about selling vehicles. After all, a compact SUV is precisely what Americans want: a driveable vehicle that puts safety first and flash second. Versions with five and seven seats will be available, with starting prices ranging from $39,000 for the base version to $60,000 for a performance model. If Musk had tried to break new technological barriers or adopt outlandish styling on the Model Y, he would have risked making the vehicle too difficult to manufacture and unappealing to conventional SUV buyers.
The first-available model will start at $47,000 and arrive in fall 2020. You can place a refundable deposit of $2,500 to secure your place in line when the vehicle becomes available. The base model of the Model Y -- the $39,000 version -- won't be available until "sometime in 2021," Musk said. Families can make the Model Y their primary vehicle since the battery range goes from 230 miles to 300 miles depending on the version. That stacks up well against other EVs on the market, such as the Chevrolet Bolt's 238 and the Hyundai Kona's 258. And while techies might not find the Model Y exhilarating, it will come equipped with software and sensors capable of autonomous driving, whenever it becomes legal. But buyers will have to pay for the system upgrade of $3,000 to $5,000.
As if there weren't enough safety concerns surrounding electric scooters, here's a new one. Researchers at mobile security firm Zimperium discovered a bug in the Xiaomi M365 scooter that allows a hacker to remotely access the device. Once the have taken over, the attacker can make the scooter accelerate or brake without the rider's input.
The Justice Department has charged ten Chinese nationals -- two of which are intelligence officers -- of hacking into and stealing intellectual property from a pair of unnamed US and French companies between January 2015 to at least May of 2015. The hackers were after a type of turbofan (portmanteau of turbine and fan), a large commercial airline engine, to either circumvent its own development costs or avoid having to buy it. According to the complaint by the Department of Justice, a Chinese aerospace manufacturer was simultaneously working on making a comparable engine. The hack afflicted unnamed aerospace companies located in Arizona, Massachusetts and Oregon.
Cathay Pacific, the primary airline of Hong Kong known for its high-speed WiFi, was hit with a major data breach that affects up to 9.4 million passengers. The company said that personal information including passport numbers, identity card numbers, credit card numbers, frequent flyer membership program numbers, customer service comments and travel history had been compromised. No passwords were compromised, which may not be any consolation.