Headlines 

Uber Unveils the Flying Taxi It Wants to Rule the Skies

If you trust the folks with their eyes tilted upward and their hands waving in the air, flying taxis could be a traffic panacea, leveraging the third dimension to make room for everyone. Uber is among the most fervent believers, and today the company revealed the vehicle it hopes will realize this congestion killer: the aspirationally—if not inspirationally—named Common Reference Model. The concept is all-electric, and seats four people plus a pilot, in single file in a slim, cylindrical body with large windows. The design, reminiscent of a catamaran, features…

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Heat-Seeking Cameras Could Help Keep Self-Driving Cars Safe

After Uber’s fatal self-driving crash last month in Tempe, Arizona, most observers had two basic question: Why did the car not see Elaine Herzberg crossing the street and stop before hitting her? And how can we stop this happening again, to someone else? The ride-hailing company has indefinitely suspended its testing program, and is cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the crash. The NTSB hasn’t revealed any findings yet, but the lidar—the laser-shooting sensor that should have spotted Herzberg, even in the dark—is an obvious focus. Maybe…

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Headlines 

How Southwest Flight 1380’s Pilots Landed With a Blown Engine

A Southwest Airlines flight flying from New York City to Dallas turned terrifying this morning, when the left-side engine failed at 31,000 feet. Debris from the engine, which appears to have exploded, punctured the fuselage, leading to the violent depressurization of the cabin. Oxygen masks above every passenger dropped from the ceiling of the plane, and the pilots also quickly descended the Boeing 737 to below 10,000 feet, where the 143 passengers and five crew could breathe, before making an emergency landing about 15 minutes later, in Philadelphia. The National…

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Headlines 

Inside the Safety Issues Surrounding the NY Helicopter Crash

Hoisted into the air by a crane, the mock helicopter cabin swayed above the water in total silence. I sat inside, as tense as the four-point harness holding me in place. Then everything went dark. Wind from giant commercial fans roared toward us to replicate the downwash from a main rotor, water sprayed in from every angle, and we fell into a deep, barely lit indoor pool below, water suddenly pouring in from every opening. The fuselage began rotating upside-down as the operator, standing poolside with a remote control, drove…

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Headlines 

China and the Children Will Save the Electric Car From Scott Pruitt’s EPA

Efforts to put cleaner cars on American roads are being threatened. In a few days, The New York Times reports, the Environmental Protection Agency will move to weaken the regulations that demand automakers producer cleaner and more efficient vehicles. The existing standards, which Barack Obama pushed for in 2012, demand each automaker nearly double the average fuel efficiency of its cars, to deliver 36 miles per gallon. But before President Donald Trump, EPA head Scott Pruitt, or anyone else can knock that number down, they must tangle with California. The…

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Odds and Ends 

Just a 1920s Steam Engine Doing a Casual 55 MPH on the Highway

Built in 1927, the Santa Fe 3751 steam locomotive is seen here doing a casual 55 MPH on the highway between Los Angeles and San Bernardino on April 12, 2014. The sight and sound of a steam-powered locomotive is awesome, especially in contrast to the other vehicles on the highway! The video was captured by YouTuber TrainTrackTrav who was kind enough to answer a few interesting questions in the comments: 1: Is the Metrolink diesel pushing the steam locomotive? No, the diesel is there to provide electrical power for the…

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Headlines 

The Unavoidable Folly of Making Humans Train Self-Driving Cars

The British Royal Air Force had a problem. It was 1943, and the Brits were using radar equipment to spot German submarines sneaking around off the western coast of France. The young men sitting in planes circling over the Bay of Biscay had more than enough motivation to keep a watchful eye for the telltale blips on the screens in front of them. Yet they had a worrying tendency to miss the signals they’d been trained to spot. The longer they spent looking at the screen, the less reliable they…

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Headlines 

Airlines Draw U.K. Scrutiny Over Extra Fees

Aviation Minister Sugg says passengers need more information Fees can cover passenger details and printing of boarding pass Elizabeth Sugg said in an emailed statement. “When passengers book flights, they can sometimes be hit with additional charges over and above the original quoted flight cost,” Sugg said. “Through our aviation strategy, we will explore ways to improve and enhance the information available, so passengers can make well-informed decisions.” The extra fees represented a large chunk of about $45 billion in ancillary revenue for 66 airlines in 2016, according to a…

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Volvo’s Polestar and Volkswagen Unveil New Rivals for Tesla

If you're an auto industry bigwig, you're spending the week in calm, chocolate-gobbling, yodeling Switzerland. But despite its surroundings, there's nothing restrained about the Geneva Motor Show. The annual gathering is the venue of choice for supercar manufacturers, and so Europe's bastion of neutrality becomes a battleground where horsepower, luxury features, and dramatic styling win out. Among this year's first-timers is Polestar, the brand Volvo created last year to focus on electric performance. To make its mark, the company—formerly dedicated to gasoline-powered track cars—entered the fray with the Polestar 1…

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Headlines 

The Engineering Challenge of Giving Formula 1 Cars Halos

We're just a month from the start of the 2018 Formula 1 season, and that means it's debutante season, where teams take the wraps off the extreme machines they’ve spent the offseason building. So far, the theme seems to be retro-chic. McLaren has gone for an “papaya” orange and blue livery for its MCL33 car, inspired by its early 1970s racing machines. Ferrari’s SF-71H has returned to a classic red, dropping last year’s splashes of white. Red Bull is being cagey about its competition colors, revealing its new RB14 in…

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Headlines 

Airlines Wont Dare Use the Fastest Way to Board Planes

Maybe you don’t think you and your favorite airline agree on anything: on how much room an adult human requires, on what counts as food, or on how much it should cost for a soothing, tiny bottle of wine. But surely you agree on at least one point: People take way too long getting to their seats. For passengers, the cumbersome boarding process—watching people insist that yes, this bag will fit in the overhead bin, it has before!—means more time spent jammed in a too-small seat. For airlines, it means…

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Headlines 

A Bid to Solve Californias Housing Crisis Could Redraw How Cities Grow

Scott Wiener, the California state senator representing San Francisco, has a pretty good idea for how to save the world. In fact, sitting in a coffee shop in his city’s Financial District, Wiener seems downright perplexed that anyone would be against it. Here’s the idea: Build more housing. So, with his fellow senator Nancy Skinner, he authored a bill, SB 827, that overwrites some metropolitan zoning—putting policies that had been in the hands of cities under the authority of state government—to allow medium-sized multistory and multiunit buildings near transit stops.…

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Headlines 

Why Tesla’s Autopilot Can’t See a Stopped Firetruck

On Monday, a Tesla Model S slammed into the back of a stopped firetruck on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles County. The driver apparently told the fire department the car was in Autopilot mode at the time. The crash highlighted the shortcomings of the increasingly common semi-autonomous systems that let cars drive themselves in limited conditions. This surprisingly non-deadly debacle also raises a technical question: How is it possible that one of the most advanced driving systems on the planet doesn't see a freaking fire truck, dead ahead? Tesla…

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Headlines 

Elon Musk Wants to Dig Another Tunnel Under LA

The Boring Company sure sounds sexy. It’s founded and funded by Elon Musk, the guy who makes electric cars (Tesla) and sends rockets into space (SpaceX). It has come up with a new—albeit unproven—concept for dismantling traffic. It wants to build underground creations that you, mere human, can ride at speeds up to to 150 mph, without ever encountering a speck of traffic. But before it sinks its machines into the ground and tunnels to victory, the Boring Company has to do something truly monumental: get past local government. On…

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Headlines 

The Potential Pitfalls of Electric Cars, in 5 Charts

If we're going to put the brakes on climate change, electric cars will be crucial. At least, that's the general consensus: Get the heck out of that Hummer, and into something without an exhaust pipe. At least seven countries plan to ban the sale of cars with internal combustion engines sometime in the next few decades, and the specter of losing out on markets like the UK, France, and most of all China (the world's biggest car buyer) has pushed the auto industry to mobilize. This week, Ford announced plans…

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