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Tesla Car Crash: US Identifies Company’s 12th Autopilot Accident in Incidents Involving Emergency Vehicles

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By Reuters | Updated: 2 September 2021

US auto safety regulators on Wednesday said they had identified a 12th crash involving Tesla vehicles using advanced driver assistance systems in incidents involving emergency vehicles and demanded the automaker answer detailed questions about its Autopilot system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on August 16 said it had opened a formal safety probe into Tesla driver assistance system Autopilot after 11 crashes. The probe covers 765,000 US Tesla vehicles built between 2014 and 2021.

The 12th occurred in Orlando on Saturday, NHTSA said. The agency sent Tesla a detailed 11-page letter on Tuesday with numerous questions it must answer, as part of its investigation.

Tesla’s Autopilot handles some driving tasks and allows drivers to keep their hands off the wheel for extended periods. Tesla says Autopilot enables vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within their lane.

Tesla did not respond to a request seeking comment. The company could face civil penalties of up to $115 million (roughly Rs. 840 crores) if it fails to fully respond to the questions, NHTSA said.

Tesla shares closed down 0.2 percent at $734.09 (roughly Rs. 53,630 crores) on Wednesday.

Tesla’s Autopilot handles some driving tasks and allows drivers to keep their hands off the wheel for extended periods. Tesla says Autopilot enables vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within their lane.

Tesla did not respond to a request seeking comment. The company could face civil penalties of up to $115 million (roughly Rs. 840 crores) if it fails to fully respond to the questions, NHTSA said.

Tesla shares closed down 0.2 percent at $734.09 (roughly Rs. 53,630 crores) on Wednesday.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk Invited by Telangana Commerce Minister to Set Up Units in State

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By ANI | Updated: 15 January 2022

Telangana Industry and Commerce Minister KT Rama Rao has made a strong pitch to Elon Musk for setting up units in India saying he would be “happy to partner Tesla in working through the challenges”.

Rama Rao’s response came in reply to a tweet from Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk a couple of days back in which he had said Tesla was working through many challenges in starting business in India.

“Still working through a lot of challenges with the government,” Musk tweeted on January 13 replying to a Twitter user who asked about an update on Tesla’s India business plan.

“Hey Elon, I am the Industry & Commerce Minister of Telangana state in India. Will be happy to partner Tesla in working through the challenges to set shop in India/Telangana. Our state is a champion in sustainability initiatives and a top notch business destination in India,” Rama Rao said replying to Elon Musk tweet.

Elon Musk announced in 2020 that Tesla would set up manufacturing units for electric vehicles in India. A Tesla subsidiary firm named India Motors and Energy Private Limited has been set up. The company is based out of Bengaluru.

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Facebook-Parent Meta’s VR Oculus Business Said to Be Probed by US States Over Potential Violations

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By Reuters | Updated: 15 January 2022

Multiple states have begun investigating potential violations in how Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, runs its virtual-reality Oculus business, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Two of the sources said the US Federal Trade Commission was also involved in the antitrust investigation. Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New York, North Carolina and Tennessee were among the states involved in the inquiry, one source said. A group of almost 50 states also asked an appeals court on Friday to reinstate their antitrust lawsuit, filed in December 2020, against Facebook.

The inquiries into Facebook’s Oculus business are part of the larger probe, one of the sources said.

The offices of the New York, North Carolina and Tennessee attorneys general did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

The inquiry was first reported by Bloomberg News.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Science

Avatar Robot Goes to School for Ill German Boy

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By Reuters | Updated: 15 January 2022

Joshua Martinangeli, 7, is too ill to go to school. But the German student can still interact with his teacher and classmates through an avatar robot that sits in class in his place and sends a blinking signal when he has something to say.

“The children talk to him, laugh with him and sometimes even chitchat with him during the lesson. Joshi can do that quite well, too,” Ute Winterberg, headmistress at the Pusteblume-Grundschule in Berlin, told Reuters in an interview.

Joshua cannot attend classes because he wears a tube in his neck due to a severe lung disease, said his mother, Simone Martinangeli.

The project is a private initiative paid for by the local council in the Berlin district Marzahn-Hellersdorf.

“We are the only district in Berlin that has bought four avatars for its schools. The impetus was COVID-19, but I think this will be the future well beyond the pandemic,” said district education councillor Torsten Kuehne.

“It does happen from time to time, for various reasons, that a child cannot go to class in person. Then, the avatar can give that child a chance to remain part of the school community,” Kuehne said.

He added that he had already brought up the project in political discussions at a state level.

“I like it either way because I like the avatar,” said student Noah Kuessner when asked if he is looking forward to seeing Joshua again.

“And I would like it better if Joshi could really come to school,” said another classmate, Beritan Aslanglu.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Technology

Tesla Cars’ Heating Issue Being Evaluated Over Safety Concerns by US Regulator

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By Reuters | Updated: 15 January 2022

The US auto safety regulator said on Friday that it is discussing heating issues of some Tesla vehicles with the automaker and evaluating “potential safety concerns.”

A number of Tesla owners have complained that heat pumps are failing in extreme cold temperatures, according to Drive Tesla Canada.

The report said the heating problems happened even after Tesla early last year replaced faulty sensors in heat pumps in some 2020-2021 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles to address the issue.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it “is aware of the issue and is continuing to gather information, discuss the issue with Tesla and evaluate potential safety concerns.”

Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Canada’s auto safety regulator said on Thursday it has opened an investigation into the heating and cooling system of Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles following 16 consumer complaints about its performance during cold weather.

Transport Canada said it is concerned that a malfunctioning heating and air-conditioning system “may affect windshield defogging/defrosting and therefore driver visibility.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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US FAA Sets Rules for Some Boeing 787 Landings Near 5G Service

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By Associated Press | Updated: 15 January 2022

Federal safety officials are directing operators of some Boeing planes to adopt extra procedures when landing on wet or snowy runways near impending 5G service because, they say, interference from the wireless networks could mean that the planes need more room to land.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that interference could delay systems like thrust reversers on Boeing 787s from kicking in, leaving only the brakes to slow the plane. That “could prevent an aircraft from stopping on the runway,” the FAA said.

Similar orders could be issued in the coming days for other planes. The FAA has asked Boeing and Airbus for information about many models. Boeing said it is working with its suppliers, airlines, telecom companies and regulators “to ensure that every commercial airplane model can safely and confidently operate when 5G is implemented in the United States.”

The order for the Boeing jets comes a day after the FAA began issuing restrictions that airlines and other aircraft operators will face at many airports when AT&T and Verizon launch new, faster 5G wireless service Wednesday.

The agency is still studying whether those wireless networks will interfere with altimeters, which measure an aircraft’s height above the ground. Data from altimeters is used to help pilots land when visibility is poor.

The devices operate on a portion of the radio spectrum that is close to the range used by the new 5G service, called C-Band.

This week’s FAA actions are part of a larger fight between the aviation regulator and the telecom industry. The telecom companies and the Federal Communications Commission say 5G networks do not pose a threat to aviation. The FAA says more study is needed.

The FAA is conducting tests to learn how many commercial planes have altimeters that might be vulnerable to spectrum interference. The agency said this week it expects to estimate the percentage of those planes soon, but didn’t put a date on it.

“Aircraft with untested altimeters or that need retrofitting or replacement will be unable to perform low-visibility landings where 5G is deployed,” the agency said in a statement.

The order regarding Boeing 787s covers 137 planes in the US and 1,010 worldwide. The 787 is a two-aisle plane that is popular on longer routes, including many international flights.

The FAA said that based on information from Boeing, the 787s might not shift properly from flying to landing mode if there is interference, which could delay the activation of systems that help slow the plane.

AT&T and Verizon have twice agreed to postpone activating their new networks because of concerns raised by aviation groups and the FAA, most recently after the FAA and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg weighed in on the aviation industry’s side. Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson warned that flights could be canceled or diverted to avoid potential safety risks.

Under an agreement with the telecom companies, the FAA designated 50 airports that will have buffer zones in which the companies will turn off 5G transmitters or make other changes to limit potential interference through early July.

The 50 include the three major airports in the New York City area — LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Liberty — O’Hare and Midway in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Los Angeles International and San Francisco.

That concession by the telecoms was modeled after an approach used in France, although the FAA said last week that France requires more dramatic reductions in cell-tower reach around airports.

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Technology

Ukraine Hacks Add to Worries of Cyber Conflict With Russia

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By Associated Press | Updated: 15 January 2022

Hackers on Friday temporarily shut down dozens of Ukrainian government websites, causing no major damage but adding to simmering tensions while Russia amasses troops on the Ukrainian border. Separately, in a rare gesture to the US at a time of chilly relations, Russia said it had arrested members of a major ransomware gang that targeted US entities.

The events, though seemingly unrelated, came during a frenetic period of activity as the US publicly accused Moscow of preparing a further invasion of Ukraine and of creating a pretext to do so. They underscored how cybersecurity remains a pivotal concern — that the escalating animosity risks not only actual violence but also damaging digital attacks that could affect Ukraine or even the U.S.

The White House said Friday that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the disruptions, which targeted about 70 websites of national and regional government bodies, but it did not indicate who might be responsible.

But even without any attribution of responsibility, suspicions were cast on Russia, with its history of peppering Ukraine with damaging cyberattacks. Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU, said preliminary results of an investigation indicated the involvement of “hacker groups linked to Russia’s intelligence services.” It said most of the websites had resumed operations, and that content was not altered and personal data not leaked. The SBU said the culprits “hacked the infrastructure of a commercial company that had access, with administrator privileges, to websites affected by the attack.”

The White House said it was still assessing the impact of the defacements but described it as “limited” so far. A senior administration official, meanwhile, said the White House welcomed news of the arrests in Russia of alleged ransomware gang members, an operation Moscow said was done at the request of US authorities.

The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said one of those arrested was linked to the hack of Colonial Pipeline that resulted in days of gas shortages in parts of the US last year. The arrests are thought by the White House to be unrelated to the Russia-Ukraine tension, according to the official.

Russia’s past cyber operations against Ukraine include a hack of its voting system before 2014 national elections and of its power grid in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, Russia unleashed one of the most damaging cyberattacks on record with the NotPetya virus, which targeted Ukrainian businesses and caused more than $10 billion (roughly Rs.74387 crore) in damage globally. Moscow has previously denied involvement in cyberattacks against Ukraine.

Ukrainian cybersecurity professionals, aided by more than $40 million (roughly Rs. 296.625) in the US State Department assistance, have been fortifying the defenses of critical infrastructure ever since. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday the alliance will continue to provide “strong political and practical support” to Ukraine in light of the cyberattacks.

Experts say Russian President Vladimir Putin could use cyberattacks to destabilise Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries that wish to join NATO without having to commit troops. Tensions between Ukraine and Russia are high, with Moscow amassing an estimated 100,000 troops near its extensive border with Ukraine.

“If you’re trying to use it as a stage and a deterrent to stop people from moving forward with NATO consideration or other things, cyber is perfect,” Tim Conway, a cybersecurity instructor at the SANS Institute, told the AP last week.

The main question for the website defacements is whether they’re the work of Russian freelancers or part of a larger state-backed operation, said Oleh Derevianko, a leading private sector expert and founder of the ISSP cybersecurity firm.

A message posted by the hackers in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish claimed Ukrainians’ personal data had been placed online and destroyed. It told Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst.” In response, Poland’s government noted Russia has a long history of disinformation campaigns and that the Polish in the message was error-ridden and clearly not from a native speaker.

Researchers from the global risk think tank Eurasia Group said the Ukraine defacements don’t “necessarily point to an imminent escalation of hostilities by Russia” — they rank low on its ladder of cyber options. They said Friday’s attack amounts “to trolling, sending a message that Ukraine could see worse to come.”

The defacements followed a year in which cybersecurity became a top concern because of a Russian-government cyberespionage campaign targeting US government agencies and ransomware attacks launched by Russia-based criminal gangs.

On Friday, Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, announced the detention of members of the REvil ransomware gang. The group was behind last year’s Fourth of July weekend supply-chain attack targeting the software firm Kaseya, which crippled more than 1,000 businesses and public organisations globally.

The FSB claimed to have dismantled the gang, but REvil effectively disbanded in July. Cybersecurity experts say its members largely moved to other ransomware syndicates. They cast doubt Friday on whether the arrests would significantly affect ransomware gangs, whose activities have only moderately eased after high-profile attacks on critical US infrastructure last year, including the Colonial Pipeline.

The FSB said it raided the homes of 14 group members and seized over RUB 426 million (roughly Rs. 41.66 crore), including in cryptocurrency, as well as computers, crypto wallets and 20 elite cars “bought with money obtained by criminal means.” All those detained have been charged with “illegal circulation of means of payment,” a criminal offense punishable by up to six years in prison. The suspects weren’t named.

According to the FSB, the operation was conducted at the request of the US authorities, who had identified the group’s leader. It’s the first significant public action by Russian authorities since Biden warned Putin last summer that he needed to crack down on ransomware gangs.

Experts said it was too early to know if the arrests signal a major Kremlin crackdown on ransomware criminals — or if they may just have been a piecemeal effort to appease the White House.

“The follow-through on sentencing will send the strongest signal one way or another as to IF there has truly been a change in how tolerant Russia will be in the future to cyber criminals,” Bill Siegel, CEO of the ransomware response firm Coveware, said in an email.

Yelisey Boguslavskiy, research director at Advanced Intelligence, said those arrested are likely low-level affiliates — not the people who ran the ransomware-as-a-service, which disbanded in July. REvil also apparently ripped off some affiliates so it had enemies in the underground, he said.

REvil’s attacks crippled tens of thousands of computers worldwide and yielded at least $200 million (roughly Rs. 1487.73 crore) in ransom payments, Attorney General Merrick Garland said in November when announcing charges against two hackers affiliated with the gang.

Such attacks drew significant attention from law enforcement officials around the world. Hours before the US announced its arrests, European law enforcement officials revealed the results of a months-long, 17-nation operation that yielded the arrests of seven hackers linked to REvil and another ransomware family.

The AP reported last year that US officials, meanwhile, shared a small number of names of suspected ransomware operators with Russian officials.

Brett Callow, a ransomware analyst with the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, said whatever Russia’s motivations may be, the arrests would “certainly send shockwaves through the cybercrime community. The gang’s former affiliates and business associates will invariably be concerned about the implications.”

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