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US Air Force Wants To Plasma Bomb The Sky To Improve Radio Communication
Posted by News Fetcher on August 19 '16 at 02:41 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's drastic-times-call-for-drastic-measures department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: [The U.S. Air Force has plans to improve radio communication over long distances by detonating plasma bombs in the upper atmosphere using a fleet of micro satellites. Itâ(TM)s not the first time weâ(TM)ve tried to improve radio communication by tinkering with the ionosphere. HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in Alaska, stimulates the ionosphere with radiation from ground-based antennas to produce radio-reflecting plasma.] Now the USAF wants to do this more efficiently, with tiny satellites -- such as CubeSats -- carrying large volumes of ionized gas directly into the ionosphere. As well as increasing the range of radio signals, the USAF says it wants to smooth out the effects of solar winds, which can knock out GPS, and also investigate the possibility of blocking communication from enemy satellites. [There are at least two major challenges. One is building a plasma generator small enough to fit on a CubeSat â" roughly 10 centimeters cubed. Then thereâ(TM)s the problem of controlling exactly how the plasma will disperse once it is released. The USAF has awarded three contracts to teams who are sketching out ways to tackle the approach. The best proposal will be selected for a second phase in which plasma generators will be tested in vacuum chambers and exploratory space flights.]

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Flaming 'Blue Whirl' Could Be Used In Fuel Spill Cleanup
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 11:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fire-tornado department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science News: An unfortunate mix of electricity and bourbon has led to a new discovery. After lightning hit a Jim Beam warehouse in 2003, a nearby lake was set ablaze when the distilled spirit spilled into the water and ignited. Spiraling tornadoes of fire leapt from the surface. In a laboratory experiment inspired by the conflagration, a team of researchers produced a new, efficiently burning fire tornado, which they named a blue whirl. To re-create the bourbon-fire conditions, the researchers, led by Elaine Oran of the University of Maryland in College Park, ignited liquid fuel floating on a bath of water. They surrounded the blaze with a cylindrical structure that funneled air into the flame to create a vortex with a height of about 60 centimeters. Eventually, the chaotic fire whirl calmed into a blue, cone-shaped flame just a few centimeters tall, the scientists report online August 4 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The soot-free blur whirls could be a way of burning off oil spills on water without adding much pollution to the air, the researchers say, if they can find a way to control them in the wild. You can view the clean-burning 'blue whirl' here.

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Satellite Images Can Map Poverty
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 07:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's perspective department:
A new study using satellite images and machine learning plans to map poverty from space in an effort to "fix the world's problems." Satellite imagery can be less dangerous, slow and expensive than gathering the data on the ground. BBC reports: "A team from Stanford University were able to train a computer system to identify impoverished areas from satellite and survey data in five African countries. The latest study looked at daylight images that capture features such as paved roads and metal roofs -- markers that can help distinguish different levels of economic wellbeing in developing countries. They then used a sophisticated computer model to categorize the various indicators in daytime satellite images of Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi. 'If you give a computer enough data it can figure out what to look for. We trained a computer model to find things in imagery that are predictive of poverty,' said Dr Burke. 'It finds things like roads, like urban areas, like farmland, it finds waterways -- those are things we recognize. It also finds things we don't recognize. It finds patterns in imagery that to you or I don't really look like anything... but it's something the computer has figured out is predictive of where poor people are.' The researchers used imagery from countries for which survey data were available to validate the computer model's findings." The results of the study are published in the journal Science.

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America's First Offshore Wind Farm In Pictures
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 06:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's renewable-energy department:
Last week, an anonymous Slashdot reader submitted a story from the Associated Press, detailing the United States' first offshore wind farm that is set to open off the cost of Rhode Island this fall. Business Insider issued a report today with some additional specifications and stunning pictures of the Block Island Wind Farm: "GE and Deepwater Wind, a developer of offshore turbines, are installing five massive wind turbines in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They will make up the first offshore wind farm in North America, called the Block Island Wind Farm. Over the past several weeks, the teams have worked to install the turbines 30 miles off the cost of Rhode Island, and are expected to finish by the end of August 2016. The farm will be fully operational by November 2016." Fun fact: GE's offshore wind farm has turbines that are twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. You can view the slideshow of images here.

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RealDoll CEO Aims To Make Its Sex Dolls Love You Back Via AI App
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's synthetic-love department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mirror.co.uk: Matt McMullen, CEO of RealDoll, revealed the next step in making the high-end sex toys will be to give them artificial intelligence to replicate humans more closely than ever. "We are building an AI system which can either be connected to a robotic doll OR experienced in a VR environment," he revealed as part of an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit. "I think it will allow for an option that never existed before, and for some, may represent a happiness they [users] never thought they could have. We are designing the AI to be fun and engaging, more than focusing on whether it can fool you into thinking it's a person," he said. He later added, when someone asked if dolls will ever love us back: "I hope that we can at least simulate that," McMullen responded. "That's the goal." In addition to AI and VR, Teledildonics are coming to the sex industry as well. "Teledildonics is technology for remote sex where tactile sensations are communicated over a data link between the participants -- with Siri, Alexa, Cortana and other AI software," reports Mirror.co.uk. The company is "putting the finishing touches" on its AI app, with plans to release it within the next six months. Oh, and it's also working on releasing a RealDoll with a robotic head by the end of 2017 to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

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'Smart' Electrical Socket Leaks Your Email Address, Can Launch DDoS Attacks
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's remote-control department:
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: There is an insecure IoT smart electrical socket on the market that leaks your Wi-Fi password, your email credentials (if configured), and is also poorly coded, allowing attackers to hijack the device via a simple command injection in the password field. Researchers say that because of the nature of the flaws, attackers can overwrite its firmware and add the device to a botnet, possibly using it for DDoS attacks, among other things. Bitdefender didn't reveal the device's manufacturer but said the vendor is working on a fix, which will be released in late Q3 2016. Problems with the device include a lack of encryption for device communications and the lack of any basic input sanitization for the password field. "Up until now most IoT vulnerabilities could be exploited only in the proximity of the smart home they were serving, however, this flaw allows hackers to control devices over the internet and bypass the limitations of the network address translation," says Alexandru Balan, Chief Security Researcher at Bitdefender. "This is a serious vulnerability, we could see botnets made up of these power outlets."

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How The US Will Likely Respond To Shadow Brokers Leak
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's decisions-decisions department:
blottsie writes: The NSA and FBI are both expected to investigate the leak of NSA-linked cyberweapons this week by an entity calling itself the Shadow Brokers, experts with knowledge of the process tell the Daily Dot. However, multiple experts say any retaliation by the U.S. will likely remain secret to keep the tactical advantage. Meanwhile, Motherboard reports that some former NSA staffers believe the leak is the work of a "rogue NSA insider." "First, the incident will be investigated by the National Security Agency as it tracks down exactly what went so wrong that top-secret offensive code and exploits ended up stolen and published for the world to see," reports Daily Dot. "An FBI counterintelligence investigation will likely follow, according to experts with knowledge of the process. [...] Following the investigation, the NSA and other entities within the United States government will have to decide on a response." The response will depend on a lot of things, such as whether or not an insider at the NSA is responsible for the breach -- a theory that is backed by a former NSA staffer and other experts. "The process is called an IGL: Intelligence Gain/Loss," reports Daily Dot. "Authorities suss out a pro and con list for various reactions, including directly and publicly blaming another country. [Chris Finan, a former director of cybersecurity legislation in the Obama administration and now CEO of the security firm Manifold Technology, said:] 'Some people think about responding in kind: A U.S. cyberattack. Doing that gives up the asymmetric response advantage you have in cyberspace.' Finan urged authorities to look at all tools, including economic sanctions against individuals, companies, groups, governments, or diplomatic constraints, to send a message through money rather than possibly burning a cyberwar advantage. Exactly if and how the U.S. responds to the Shadow Brokers incident will depend on the source of the attack. Attribution in cyberwar is tricky or even impossible much of the time. It quickly becomes a highly politicized process ripe with anonymous sources and little solid fact."

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Airbus Details Plan To Build Flying Taxis
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's science-fiction department:
CityAirbus is a new program from Airbus that aims to put commuters in the air to combat overcrowded cities. It sounds a lot like an airborne Uber, writes Brandon Turkus from Autoblog: "Passengers can use an app to book passage, head to their local helipad, climb aboard with a number of other passengers, and in the words of Airbus are 'whisked away to their destination.' Each ride would cost 'nearly the equivalent of a normal taxi ride for each passenger.' Beyond the advantages of avoiding traffic, Airbus claims its new conveyance will be faster, more sustainable, and, obviously, more exciting. Initially, the program would rely on a human pilot, but as with nearly every mode of modern transport, there would eventually be an autonomous version." The company has no timeline for when CityAirbuses will be ready for flight. They did note that the autonomous functionality will be the biggest challenge. "No country in the world today allows drones without remote pilots to fly over cities -- with or without passengers," writes Bruno Trabel from Airbus Helicopters. He leads the Skyways project, "which aims to help evolve current regulatory constraints." Project Vahana, a similar project that consists of an electric-powered, autonomous helicopter used for personal and cargo flights, will be tested in late 2017.

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iOS and Android Combined For Record 99% of Smartphone Sales Last Quarter
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 02:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's duopoly department:
An anonymous reader writes: The research firm Gartner has crunched some numbers and found that Android and iOS accounted for a record 99.1% worldwide market share in the second calendar quarter of 2016, which is compared to 96.8% in the year-ago period. What some may view as even more shocking is that Android accounted for 86.2% of the market share in the second quarter, up from 82.2% a year ago. Meanwhile, iOS lost some ground as it dropped to 12.9% market share from 14.6% in the year-ago period. It's no surprise that Windows and BlackBerry have been losing market share. They dropped to 0.6% and 0.1% market share worldwide respectively. Just six years ago, BlackBerry and Symbian operating systems were industry leaders. Now, they're industry losers. Which third-party operating system has what it takes to take on the establishment?

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The $5 Onion Omega2 Gives Raspberry Pi a Run For Its Money
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 02:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's this-or-that department:
An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Daily Dot: Onion's Omega2 computer may give the Raspberry Pi a run for its money if the success of the Kickstarter campaign is any indication. The Daily Dot reports: "With an initial goal of just $15,000, over 11,560 backers have pledged the company $446,792 in hopes of getting their hands on this little wonder board. So why are thousands of people losing their minds? Simple; the Omega2 packs a ton of power into a $5 package. Billed as the world's smallest Linux server, complete with built-in Wi-Fi, the Omega2 is perfect for building simple computers or the web connected project of your dreams. The tiny machine is roughly the size of a cherry, before expansions, and runs a full Linux operating system. For $5 you get a 580MHz CPU, 64MB memory, 16MB storage, built-in Wi-Fi and a USB 2.0 port. A $9 model is also available with 128MB of memory, 32MB of storage, and a MircoSD slot. The similarly priced Raspberry Pi Zero comes with a 1GHz Arm processor, 512MB of memory, a MicroSD slot, no onboard storage, and no built-in Wi-Fi. Omega2 supports the Ruby, C++, Python, PHP, Perl, JavaScript (Node.js), and Bash programming languages, so no matter your background in coding you should be able to figure something out." You can also add Bluetooth, GPS, and 2G/3G support via add-ons or expansions. It looks promising, though it is a Kickstarter campaign and the product may not come into fruition.

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Gawker.com To End Operations Next Week
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 12:51 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's end-of-era department:
After nearly 14 years of operations, Gawker.com will be shutting down next week, the company's outgoing CEO Nick Denton told the staff Thursday. The decision comes days after Univision said it would buy Gawker Media properties -- Gizmodo, Jezebel, Kotaku etc (but not Gawker.com) -- for a sum of $135 million. The publication is currently in the middle of multiple lawsuits, with billionaire Peter Thiel revealing his clandestine legal campaign against the company. In a blog post, Gawker made the announcement. From the story:Nick Denton, the company's outgoing CEO, informed current staffers of the site's fate on Thursday afternoon, just hours before a bankruptcy court in Manhattan will decide whether to approve Univision's bid for Gawker Media's other assets. Staffers will soon be assigned to other editorial roles, either at one of the other six sites or elsewhere within Univision. Near-term plans for Gawker.com's coverage, as well as the siteâ(TM)s archives, have not yet been finalized.

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Millions Of Steam Game Keys Stolen After Hacker Breaches Gaming Site
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 12:51 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's security-woes department:
An anonymous reader writes:A little over nine million keys used to redeem and activate games on the Steam platform were stolen by a hacker who breached a gaming news site last month. The site, DLH.net, provides news, reviews, cheat codes, and forums, was breached on July 31 by an unnamed hacker, whose name isn't known but was also responsible for the Dota 2 forum breach. The site also allows users to share redeemable game keys through its forums, which along with the main site has around 3.3 million unique registered users, according to breach notification site LeakedSource.com, which obtained a copy of the database. A known vulnerability found in older vBulletin forum software, which powers the site's community, allowed the hacker to access the databases. The data stolen from the forum includes full names, usernames, scrambled passwords, email addresses, dates of birth, join dates, avatars, Steam usernames, and user activity data. Facebook access tokens were stolen for those who signed in with their social account.

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When We're Happy, We Actively Sabotage Our Good Moods With Grim Tasks
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 11:21 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's human-nature department:
Beth Mole, writing for Ars Technica: Always keeping your house tidy and spotless may earn you the label of "neat freak" -- but "super happy" may be a more accurate tag. When people voluntarily take on unpleasant tasks such as housework, they tend to be in particularly happy states, according to a new study on hedonism. The finding challenges an old prediction by some researchers that humans can be constant pleasure-seekers. Instead, the new study suggests we might seek out fun, uplifting activities mainly when we're in bad or down moods. But when we're on the up, we're more likely to go for the dull and dreary assignments. This finding of "flexible hedonism," reported this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may seem counterintuitive because it suggests we sabotage our own high spirits. But it hints at the idea that humans tend to make sensible short-term trade-offs on happiness for long-term gains. "Although our data cannot directly tell us whether regularly engaging in unpleasant activities predicts psychological and social adjustment five or 10 years down the line, a large body of work has consistently demonstrated the importance of sleeping, employment, and living in a reasonably clean and organized home on mental and physical health," according to the study authors, led by Maxime Taquet of Harvard and Jordi Quoidbach of the University Pompeu Fabra in Spain.

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Twitter Has Suspended 235,000 Accounts Since February For Promoting Terrorism
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 11:21 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's taking-a-stand department:
An anonymous reader writes: Twitter has suspended 235,000 accounts since February for promoting terrorism, the company said in a blog post today. "Daily suspensions are up over 80 percent since last year, with spikes in suspensions immediately following terrorist attacks," the company wrote. "Our response time for suspending reported accounts, the amount of time these accounts are on Twitter, and the number of followers they accumulate have all decreased dramatically." The company said it's also expanded the team that works on flagging such content, and claims to have made progress on stopping accounts from starting again under a new handle. In a previous post from February, Twitter said it had suspended 125,000 accounts since mid-2015.

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'Only Voice Memos Can Save Us From the Scourge of Email'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 10:01 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's taking-back-control department:
Emails are great -- so much so that many believe that it's one of the best inventions of all time. But when you get hundreds of emails everyday, things could get harder to handle. Understandably, many have resorted to alternatives such as Slack, Gchat, and other IM services to offload many of the things they previously did exclusively via emails. An article on Quartz today argues that perhaps voice notes is the best alternative to emails. From their article: There's a solution staring us right in the face: a technological tool that preserves the intimacy of the human voice without requiring people to sync up their schedules. As a number of remote workers, diaspora communities and expats have already discovered, voice notes might just be the answer we've been waiting for. Barcelona-based filmmaker Philippa Young, for example, relies on WhatsApp's voice notes to communicate with her nomadic yet tight-knit team of 15. She sends audio notes throughout the day that range from just a few seconds in length to 10 minutes. The system allows her far-flung coworkers to respond whenever the sun rises in their time zone or they manage to find a stable wifi connection. [...] Voice notes also offer an antidote to one of the primary anxieties of the digital eraâ"the fear that emails, texts and instant messaging rob conversation of emotional nuance, leading to endless misunderstandings and social blunders. "The thing that I really value about it for our team spread out across the world is that when I get a voice note from someone, they've spoken to me and I hear their tone of voice," Young adds. "You can hear in someone's voice how they're feeling."

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Microsoft PowerShell Goes Open Source and Lands On Linux and Mac
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 10:01 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's Microsoft-loves-Linux department:
Microsoft announced on Thursday that it is open sourcing PowerShell, its system administration, scripting, and configuration management tool that has been a default part of Windows for several years. The company says it will soon release PowerShell on Mac and Linux platforms. PCWorld reports: The company is also releasing alpha versions of PowerShell for Linux (specifically Ubuntu, Centos and Redhat) and Mac OS X. A new PowerShell GitHub page gives people the ability to download binaries of the software, as well as access to the app's source code. PowerShell on Linux and Mac will let people who have already built proficiency with Microsoft's scripting language take those skills and bring them to new platforms. Meanwhile, people who are used to working on those platforms will have access to a new and very powerful tool for getting work done. It's part of Microsoft's ongoing moves to open up products that the company has previously kept locked to platforms that it owned. The company's open sourcing of its .NET programming frameworks in 2014 paved the way for this launch, by making the building blocks of PowerShell available on Linux and OS X. By making PowerShell available on Linux, Microsoft has taken the skills of Windows administrators who are already used to the software, and made them more marketable. It has also made it possible for hardcore Linux users to get access to an additional set of tools that they can use to manage a variety of systems.

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Facebook Teams Up With Unity To Create a Gaming Platform To Rival Steam
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 08:31 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's friend-of-enemy department:
Facebook is now shifting its attention back to capturing the gaming market. The company said Thursday that it's working with game engine Unity to build a dedicated, downloadable desktop gaming platform. The social juggernaut added that it is also broadening the Facebook.com experience for gamers. BetaNews reports: Facebook is starting to take gaming far more seriously. Not content with funneling the likes of Candy Crush through its servers, the social network is now joining forces with the company behind the Unity game engine to create its own desktop gaming platform. The aim is to tap into not only the millions of gamers that are already on Facebook, but also to gather more from the PC-gaming community. It's a new venture that very clearly treads on the toes of Steam, and is likely to cause ripples in the gaming world. The scope of the work between Facebook and Unity Technologies is quite wide. It will bring together Unity's 2D, 3D, VR and AR development platform with Facebook's own game development tools. While Facebook is currently associated with very casual gaming, hooking up with an established serious player in the field means we're likely to see the social network appealing more to hardcore gamers.

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T-Mobile Brings Back Unlimited Data For All
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 08:31 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's one-plan-to-rule-them-all department:
An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: T-Mobile is eliminating data plans for new customers -- and for current ones who opt in. The company is getting rid of all its wireless data plans and instead offering new customers one unlimited plan, T-Mobile said Thursday. Under the new plan, everyone will get unlimited talk, text and high-speed 4G LTE data. The company has also changed prices for unlimited. The first line will be $70 a month, the second line will cost $50 a month and additional lines will be $20 a month for up to eight lines with auto-pay turned on. The price is $5 more a month without auto-pay. For a family of four, the new plans will cost $40 a month per person. While this plan will benefit those looking for unlimited, it will cost more for people who have been subscribed to the lowest data plans. The current plan starts at $50 for 2GB of data per month. This means individual customers on its new plans will pay $20 more a month. But the new price is lower than the cost of unlimited right now. Today, T-Mobile customers who want unlimited pay $95 a month for an individual line.

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AMD Says Upcoming Zen CPU Will Outperform Intel Broadwell-E
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 07:02 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's promises department:
Reader MojoKid writes: AMD has been talking about the claimed 40% IPC (Instructions Per Clock) improvement of its forthcoming Zen processor versus the company's existing Excavator core for ages. Zen's initial availability is slated for late this year, with lager-scale roll-out planned for early 2017. However, last night, at a private press event in San Francisco, AMD unveiled a lot more details on their Zen processor architecture. AMD claims to have achieved that 40 percent IPC uplift with a newly-designed, higher-performance branch prediction and a micro-op cache for more efficient issuing of operations. The instruction schedule windows have been increased by 75% and issue-width and execution resources have been increased by 50%. The end result of these changes is higher single-threaded performance, through better instruction level parallelism. Zen's pre-fetcher is also vastly improved. There is 8MB of shared L3 cache on board now, a unified L2 cache for both instruction and data, and separate, low-latency L1 instruction and data caches. The new archicture offers up to 5x the cache bandwidth to the cores versus previous-gen offerings. However, after all the specsmanship was out of the way, AMD actually showcased a benchmark run of an 8-core Zen Summit Ridge procesor versus Intel's Broadwell-E 8-core chip, both running at 3GHz and processing a Blender rending workload. In the demo, the 8-core Zen CPU actually outpaced Intel's chip by a hair. Blender may have been chosen for a reason but this early benchmark demo looks impressive for AMD and its forthcoming Zen architecture.

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Uber's First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month
Posted by News Fetcher on August 18 '16 at 07:02 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's future-is-here department:
Ride-hailing app Uber will introduce self-driving cars in Pittsburgh as soon as this month, Bloomberg reports citing many officials and engineers at the company. The move is the first part of a pilot program to explore the future of the technology, the report added. The company plans to test 100 Volvo XC90s outfitted to drive themselves. Still, the cars will be accompanied by two humans: an engineer who can take control of the vehicle when needed and a co-pilot who takes note. Bloomberg reports: The Volvo deal isn't exclusive; Uber plans to partner with other automakers as it races to recruit more engineers. In July the company reached an agreement to buy Otto, a 91-employee driverless truck startup that was founded earlier this year and includes engineers from a number of high-profile tech companies attempting to bring driverless cars to market, including Google, Apple, and Tesla. Uber declined to disclose the terms of the arrangement, but a person familiar with the deal says that if targets are met, it would be worth 1percent of Uber's most recent valuation.

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