Leading the News
Sources: Apple Allegedly Developing Car Operating System In Canada.
Bloomberg News (10/25) reports that Apple Inc. has within the last year hired dozens of Canadian software engineers to help develop its car operating system, according to sources familiar with the matter. About two dozen of the Canadian engineers were hired from BlackBerry Ltd.’s automotive software development unit, QNX.
AppleInsider (10/25, Wuerthele) says the former QNX employees, including former CEO Dan Dodge and former senior engineer Derrick Keefe, are now based in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. The project is focused on developing self-driving car technologies and an augmented reality heads-up display that will integrate apps controllable by hands-off technologies, such as Siri.
On its website, CNBC (10/25, Balakrishnan) says the Kanata team is using virtual reality simulators to test self-driving vehicle software, allowing Apple to test its system without public road trials. Apple executives hinted that the company is highly interested in both self-driving car and augmented reality technologies, although the company has not openly confirmed the development of either a car or a virtual reality headset.
ITT Bankruptcy Trustee Asks Judge To Put Hold On Lawsuits, Regulatory Actions.
Politico Morning Education (10/25, Griffiths) reports that Deborah Caruso, the trustee in charge of liquidating and distributing the assets of bankrupt ITT Educational Services, “wants to put the brakes on just about everything as she dissects the carcass of the crumbled for-profit college” and has “asked a federal judge to freeze all FOIA and other requests about ITT and slap a hold on all federal and state lawsuits against the company.” She has also sought to forestall the SEC’s “pending civil fraud charges against two ITT executives.”
Udacity Partners With IBM To Train AI Workforce.
The San Francisco Chronicle (10/25) reports that online education platform Udacity is partnering with IBM, Amazon, and Did Chuxing on a new training program “for people seeking entry-level positions in artificial intelligence,” saying they “would fast-track its graduates for jobs.” The piece notes that Udacity has “pioneered nanodegrees, quick-hit online training leading to certifications in tech fields, by working with employers to develop course materials addressing the skills they seek.”
Research and Development
University Of Texas Engineers Taking Part In NSF Power Distribution Research Project.
WOAI-AM San Antonio (10/25) reports University of Texas-San Antonio mechanical engineering professor Bing Dong is taking part in a National Science Foundation project “which could completely change the way electricity is distributed.” Noting that electricity is “essentially wasted” when used to cool unoccupied buildings or operate empty refrigerators, the article reports “Dong says his team is looking at the possibility of having buildings ‘talk’ with one another, and distribute energy among them, so excess energy which would be wasted at one building would be transferred to the other building and not be wasted.” The research is associated with “Smart City” technology, “which would optimize the consumption and distribution of energy to an entire community.”
Increasingly Complex Technology Increases Risk Of Cyberattacks.
Farm Industry News (10/25, Wehrspann, Subscription Publication) reports that as technology in agriculture improves, there will be risk of cyberattacks, with CEO of Edge Case Research Michael Wagner saying that any vehicle with electronics and a modem can be hacked, rural or not. Wagner says the advent of unmanned aerial vehicles and self-driving farm vehicles have made safeguarding more complicated, and his group works to develop and test techniques that manufacturers can apply to systems to guard against attacks. Wagner says the most important thing for modern farmers is awareness, and recommends asking tough, diligent questions to manufacturers to show cybersecurity is a real safety issue that needs to be addressed. According to the article, Case IH says it is constantly evolving security methods with several layers of security, and Agco says it adheres to standards and best practices to protect customers.
NYTimes Analysis: Pentagon Developing Increasingly Complex Automated Weapons.
The New York Times (10/25, Rosenberg, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports in a 2,400-word analysis the Defense Department is designing robotic fighter jets that would fly into combat alongside manned aircraft. The DOD has “tested missiles that can decide what to attack, and it has built ships that can hunt for enemy submarines…without any help from humans.” Artificial intelligence is allowing the Pentagon “to reorder the places of man and machine on the battlefield.” But the “challenge for the Pentagon is to ensure that the weapons are reliable partners for humans and not potential threats to them.” Hundreds of scientists and experts warned in an open letter last year that developing even the dumbest of intelligent weapons risked setting off a global arms race. The result, the letter warned, would be fully independent robots that can kill, and are cheap and as readily available to rogue states and violent extremists as they are to great powers.
Pacific Northwest Senators Urge DOE To Pick Oregon For Wave Test Center.
The Portland (OR) Business Journal (10/25, Subscription Publication) reports, “US senators from the Pacific Northwest have joined” the effort “to convince the federal government to build the nation’s first grid-connected wave energy device test center off the Oregon coast.” The bipartisan group of senators “from Oregon, Washington and Alaska took their message late last week to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.” The senators wrote in a letter to the Energy Secretary, that after “‘more than ten years of work and over $11 million in federal and non-federal funding,’ a Pacific Northwest group behind the Oregon project is best positioned to successfully develop the facility.” The Energy Department “is offering up to $40 million to help build the test center.”
Society Of Automotive Engineers Works To Develop Lithium Battery Shipment Standards For ICAO.
Aviation Week (10/24, Croft) reports that the Society of Automotive Engineers, under the guidance of the ICAO, is developing the standards for “defining the performance and testing of boxes to safely ship lithium-ion batteries are nearing completion.” The article mentions that the guidance will be finalized at the end of this year and published in mid-2016, while adoption by the ICAO will take another 6-12 months. In the meantime, companies are using draft standards that include a testing setup developed by the FAA.
Google Announces It’s Halting Fiber Roll Out.
The New York Times (10/25, Wakabayashi, Subscription Publication) reports Google-parent company Alphabet announced Tuesday it will begin “curbing the expansion of its high-speed fiber optic internet network and reducing staff in the unit responsible for the work.” Craig Barratt – who heads Access, the Alphabet division housing Google Fiber – “said he planned to step down” as the company shifts “to new technologies and methods of deploying high-speed internet,” the Times reports. The company hasn’t disclosed subscriber numbers in the cities where it offer service, which include Atlanta, Nashville, and Salt Lake City, though it “said it would continue to operate in markets where it already offers fiber optic service or has started construction.” It will not, however, move forward in “cities where it was considering expansion,” such as Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
According to CNET News (10/25, Hollister), Google had planned to roll out the service “in 34 US cities across 9 metropolitan areas as of 2014,” but the company said in a blog post it will now “pause” those expansion plans. Citing an unnamed source with information about the matter, CNET reports the company is planning to “prioritize cheaper, faster methods than fiber-to-the-home, such as the company’s recently acquired Webpass wireless technology.” The pause includes “layoffs and restructuring,” though the company hasn’t released details on the scope of the job cuts.
A Bloomberg News (10/26, Bergen) analysis says the “turbulence” at Alphabet could “reflect the arrival of fiscal discipline” instituted by new CFO Ruth Porat, but it could also “highlight deeper problems creating sustainable business models” – Google Fiber was one of the top two contributors in the company’s “Other Bets” category. Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson speculated, “It’s billions of dollars a year just to maintain this stuff, and Google doesn’t want to spend that kind of money on just being another player in that market.”
Federal Judge Approves $14.7B Volkswagen Settlement.
USA Today (10/25, Bomey) reports that Judge Charles Breyer of the US District Court in San Francisco on Tuesday authorized a $14.7 billion settlement over the Volkswagen emissions scandal, “setting into motion a massive vehicle buyback program and green-lighting environmental remediation efforts.” Volkswagen still faces a criminal investigations by the Justice Department and German prosecutors which could lead to additional penalties and criminal indictments. Breyer said the agreement is “fair, reasonable and adequate.” Bloomberg News (10/25, Mehrotra) reports that under the deal Volkswagen reached in June with consumers the EPA and Federal Trade Commission, and the California Air Resources Board, “car owners will be offered $5,100 to $10,000 each in compensation along with the option of a buyback or a fix.” Bloomberg reports that the settlements is “among the largest in corporate history.” The Sacramento (CA) Bee (10/25, Kasler) reports that offering an option to fix affected vehicles still requires the EPA and California Air Resources Board to agree on a repair plan. The AP (10/25) reports Volkswagen will spend up to $10 billion to buy back or repair the affected cars, and the settlement includes $2.7 billion “for unspecified environmental mitigation and an additional $2 billion to promote zero-emissions vehicles.” Reuters (10/25, Shepardson) also covers the ruling.
Volkswagen Reaches Settlement In Emissions Scandal. NBC Nightly News (10/25, story 8, 0:25, Holt) reported a federal judge approved a settlement in the Volkswagen emissions scandal, “the largest settlement for an auto scandal in US history.” Volkswagen admitted that approximately 475,000 VW and Audi vehicles with certain diesel engines “were programmed to cheat on emission tests.” The settlement “totals about $15 billion,” and “nearly a half-million Volkswagen owners and lease holders will be given the choice to sell their cars back or have them repaired.”
Engineering and Public Policy
North Carolina Governor Replaces Attorney General On Alcoa Hydroelectric Dams Case.
The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (10/25, Jarvis) reports Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina “has hired outside counsel to appear before an appeals court in a long-running lawsuit over hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin River” following a disagreement “with Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office on how to proceed with the case.” State attorneys “who had been working on the case filed notice in federal court on Tuesday asking to withdraw from making oral arguments in the Alcoa Power Generating lawsuit.” On Thursday “oral arguments in the case are scheduled to be heard in the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.” The North Carolina governor “has named former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr as lead counsel for the oral arguments assisted by K. Edward Greene, a former state appeals court judge.”
Major Ohio Corporations Urge State Republicans To Reinstate Renewable Energy Standards.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (10/25) reports nine major corporations in Ohio “oppose plans by state GOP lawmakers to get rid of state standards requiring utilities to sell increasing percentages of power generated by wind, solar and other renewables.” Firms including Whirlpool, Owens Corning, Nestle and Campbell Soup, released statements Tuesday “urging state lawmakers to bring back rules requiring power companies to provide annually increasing amounts of electricity generated by wind, solar and other renewable technologies.” Alli Gold Roberts, policy manager at Ceres, said Ohio’s renewable energy standards “are good for business, and failing to reinstate them will send the wrong signal to companies and investors throughout the state.”
Green Groups File To Block Southeast Pipeline Projects.
The Palm Beach (FL) Post (10/25) reports three environmental groups Tuesday filed an emergency motion asking FERC to “stop construction of a 685-mile natural gas pipeline that is slated to deliver fuel to Florida Power & Light Co.’s South Florida plants next year.” The Sierra Club, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and Flint Riverkeepers are seeking a stay of FERC certificates for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project through Alabama, Georgia ,and Florida, which includes the Sabal Trail gas pipeline. Lena Moffitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said that “rather than doubling down on outdated, dirty fuels, we should complete our transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”
California Bucks ED, Says Students Will Take Next Generation-Based Science Tests.
EdSource (10/25) reports that the California Department of Education has “decided that students will take only one statewide standardized test in science this spring, a pilot test based on new standards known as the Next Generation Science Standards.” However, ED told California officials late last month that “they must continue to administer the older science based on standards adopted in 1998, and publish the scores on those tests.” ED spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said California has the right to an appeal, but said “the department has not received an appeal and cannot speculate on what steps CDE will take to correct the issues identified in the letter.”
California District Working To Implement State-Of-The-Art Learning Environments.
The Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun (10/25) reports that students in California’s Desert Sands Unified School District study “robotics, coding, and the culinary arts” in addition to core subjects, but says “the subject matter isn’t the only thing that has changed.” The district recently “hosted a model classroom experience” in which educators “visited model classrooms at Adams Early Childhood Center to learn about options for their classrooms. Three rooms were set up to display large format display technology (LFD) and flexible furniture options from a variety of vendors.”
Girls Who Code Founder Takes Part In Wisconsin Event.
The Madison (WI) Capital Times (10/25) reports that the public library in Madison, Wisconsin on Monday had scheduled a screening of the documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” when “coincidentally, one of the main players featured in the movie decided to roll into town.” Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani “paid a visit to the headquarters of the tech firm Adorable.io on Monday afternoon prior to the documentary screening to talk about her work and, primarily, to campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.”
Texas City Launches Girls Who Code Club.
The Austin (TX) American Statesman (10/25, Subscription Publication) reports the public library in Pflugerville, Texas is launching the Girls Who Code program, which aims to expose middle and high school girls “to the basics of coding and computer programming.” The program “is meant to get more young women interested in pursuing future careers in science, technology, mathematics and science, or STEM.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Cybersecurity Contest Focuses On Hacking Critical Infrastructure.
• Google Partners With Tennessee State University On Software Training.
• AI Expert Sees No Current Need For “Guardian” Programs.
• Professor: Self-Interest Motivating Silicon Valley’s Push For Immigration Reform.
• Michigan Companies Building Parts For Mars Spaceship.
• White House Orders Accelerated Response To Solar Flare Grid Threats.
• Elementary School Speaker In IL Discusses Drone Technology.