* Posts by bazza

1950 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

Radio glitch as Schiaparelli lander probe splits from ExoMars mothership

bazza
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Radios Again?

They had problems with the radios on Huygens too. First they designed them wrong, they forgot to account for the Doppler shift between Huygens and its mother ship. Then, having adjusted trajectories to minimise that Doppler shift they forgot to turn one of the radios on. Almost a complete disaster.

And now they've got radio problems cropping up again. Wonder if it's the same guys?

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Google: We look forward to running non-Intel processors in our cloud

bazza
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@Nate Amsden

IBM doesn't have dividend shareholders?

Oh do have some imagination. Google could make them themselves, either using a contract fab like TSMC or just build their own fab. They've got the money.

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bazza
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Google might be tempted to stick with POWER. It's open so they can if they wish tailor it anyway they want. They can know for certain what they're actually doing (Intel's blob is questionable at best from a security point of view). And, if they wanted, they could probably make them themselves, cut out Intel and their dividend-demanding shareholders altogether.

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New Brit Hubble analysis finds 2,000 billion galaxies, 10x previous count

bazza
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Re: So...

I'll hazard a guess! It depends on the distribution or this new mass. It sounds like it's beyond the previously observed universe. If it's a concentrated shell of mass then it may be enough to explain the accelerating expansion of the universe. What we're seeing is simply the bits we can see being drawn to a lot of mass that's already out there.

It'll also push the age of the universe back some what further.

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Euro politicians are hyping the terror threat to steal your privacy

bazza
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Well then, make it an electoral issue.

And if that doesn't work, then you're stuck with it. The US constitution means that most of the time no one can force something to happen, meaning it's easy for anyone to prevent something. And for some organisations (big corporate), nothing happening is a victory!

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Mercedes answers autonomous car moral dilemma: Yeah, we'll just run over pedestrians

bazza
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Re: Hard decision but Mercedes are probably right

@Doctor Syntax,

For instance I've been about to overtake a couple of cyclists when one of them, for no obvious reason and with no prior indication, turned square across the road right in front of me, fortunately with just sufficient clearance for me to do an emergency stop and blow my horn (I hope his pants were festering by the time he got home). Had he done this a second later he'd have been a gonner.

Well yes, but that's a different scenario; your cyclist was in control of their actions. The imprudent kid, slipping pensioner, rolling pram, pushed crime victim is not.

Things vary by country. In the Netherlands all car/bike collisions are, by law itself, deemed to be the car's fault no matter what.

There are no doubt a lot of badly behaved cyclists; I regularly drive in Cambridge... The organised "cycle events" are pretty disgraceful sometimes too. Badly behaved inattentive cyclist? That is indeed what the horn is for, "warning other road users of your presence".

When I ride a bike I'm careful to follow the highway code, just as when I'm driving too. There's plenty of knobheads in cars, lorries and buses too.

The Dutch, in passing a one sided law, seem to have managed to get more people to behave better more of the time. And putting in a load of bike tracks helps too.

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bazza
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Re: Hard decision but Mercedes are probably right

Hmm, have you read anything like the Highway Code, driving fitness requirements, etc?

#1: Pedestrian recognition isn't perfect

As a driver you are expected to be fit enough (eyesight, sober) and driving at a speed appropriate to the conditions to ensure that you are guaranteed to be able to recognise pedestrians, cyclists, any road hazards, etc.

Why should a self driving car be somehow exempt from that just because the technology is hard?

If it is to be allowed on the roads and be fully autonomous and is less perfect than humans are required to be, then the manufacturer should take the responsibility. After all, if a human driver under performs and is blamed for an accident / injuries / death, they are held responsible. The machine and its maker cannot be given a let-off.

And if the technology is systematically less able than a human driver is required to be, then it shouldn't be allowed at all. We might as well start saying it's OK to be drunk behind the wheel.

#2: Take personal responsibility

Er, except that as a driver you are required to anticipate road hazards. Not every pedestrian is responsible for their actions. Ever seen a young kid run out into the road? Ever seen an elderly person fall off a slippery pavement? Ever seen someone pushed into the road by a mugger? Ever seen a pram roll away from a distracted mother? No? Well lucky for you. These things happen, and it's not their fault.

Your attitude is wrong, you should get it fixed. You're saying that the young kid, pensioner, crime victim or baby deserve to be run over.

#3: It's a hard decision.

No it's not - the pedestrian has no protection. The car occupant is surrounded by crush zones and air bags. I say the car should take a chance and trust its own structural integrity.

Not that it's ever going to come to that. If a self driving car is coded to drive in a manner that would allow such a situation to develop (i.e. too fast) then the car maker is as guilty of causing death by reckless driving as a human driver would be.

Now if the law is written appropriately (the car manufacture is liable for its behaviour and any accidents it causes), then the manufacturer would be held responsible for the accident / injuries / death caused by the car's inappropriate speed. So they're going to have to code their cars to drive like grannies in town.

If the law says otherwise, then I won't be getting in a self driving car. Trust my personal liberty to the behaviour of some software written by some guys who get no come-back if it goes wrong? No thanks.

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bazza
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Not sure this approach of protecting the occupants of the vehicle is so unusual.

Er, except in some European countries the exact opposite is codified in law. For example, if a car and a bike collide in The Netherlands, by law it is automatically considered to be the car driver's fault no matter what the circumstances.

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Nicole forces NASA resupply into Sunday launch: Crew must wait for their packet soup

bazza
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Also known in some circles as Crash-Bang...

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Linus Torvalds says ARM just doesn't look like beating Intel

bazza
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Re: The only safe PC is a SPARC

@Chasil,

It appears that the best "open" CPU architecture is the decade-old SPARC T2 - the full Verilog source for the CPU is provided, and there is no "management engine."

Not so. The openpower bunch have done some interesting things, and you can buy an ATX motherboard with a POWER CPU that is completely open. That is the CPU design, board schematic, BIOS source code and much else besides is freely available. They use (I think) the words 'blobless computing', referring to the fact that the source code for every bit of software and firmware is available.

The best bit is that it offers competitive performance, and is a lowish price too.

Take a look at Raptor Engineering

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bazza
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Re: "It's about time governments got involved and forced the market open."

@Pascal Monett,

But . . . but . . the market auto-corrects itself !

Doesn't it ?

There's a lot of people who say as such without stopping to wonder why the SEC and other regulatory bodies exist. Where there's a dysfunctional market you need a government regulator to clean it up.

A lot of the problems in the US were caused by things like sub prime mortgages, a good example of how inattentive oversight by regulators allowed awful practises to flourish to the point of bringing down the whole economy.

There's no really meaningful competition left in the online world. Google, and that's about it. Why they've not been broken up Bell style is simply because the politicians have no idea that there's a monopoly.

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bazza
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Re: Linux has facilitated the cituation he is lamenting about

Yep, open source types shouldn't be surprised if not everyone keeps up!

To me it sounds a little bit like he's thanking Microsoft, albeit indirectly. Having to be compatible with DOS then Windows was what drove the PC clone ecosystem to standardise. MS even weighed in with that with the PC System Design Guides (PC'97, PC'98, etc). That is also what made it practicable for Linux to thrive too - it was easier to get Linux to the point where you didn’t have to compile it to use it.

In my opinion MS missed an opportunity about 9 years ago to do the same with ARMs. As an experiment they showed Windows 7 and Office running on an ARM board, printing to an Epson printer. But instead of defining an ARM based PC or server architecture, they went off and did Windows RT, tablets, etc. We all know how well that went.

They kinda did it with mobiles, defining a hardware spec that would give binary compatibility with Windows mobile. Trouble was it wasn't open; not many bothered to follow it. Now had it been open, that hardware spec would have been ideal for all sorts of interesting things. Just as you can run Linux, Solaris, Windows, FreeBSD, etc on a PC, an open mobile spec would allow the same diversity to exist on handsets.

Instead we have proprietary mobile hardware that no-one can keep Android up to date on, punters are continually exposed to security risks, and manufacturers can gouge the market simply by not supporting their current product line.

It's about time governments got involved and forced the market open.

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Google 'screwed over' its non-millennials – now they can all fight back

bazza
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As well as having some of us older types on the staff, the investors need to talk to them and listen to what they say.

A lot of what we see is happening because investors become convinced some mad scheme is plausible, and then it's merely a case of assembling the right team to get it done ASAP before anyone else. And because the older more experienced staff are sucking their teeth muttering about how hard this is going to be, they’re off message and 'a barrier to progress'. Bye bye.

And so the team is reduced in experience until there's only youngsters left who don't know any better; they're all yes men/boys (another of Si Valley's problems is a gender bias...), and they'll recruit only those who are also on-message.

Look at Google's self driving car project. According to CA's published test results it's way off being reality, and probably won't ever happen. It's unsurprising that there's reports of discord in the (exclusively young?) team - they've just been taught a lesson by mother nature and they have no idea what to do next. Yet anyone who's ever read or studied anything at all about safety critical systems, machine vision and cognition could tell you that a self-driver is going to be really, really hard, probably impossible, don't waste your money.

So if your an investor, if your engineering team doesn't have grey haired / no haired / grey bearded staff members, worry about whether you'll see a return. They've either decided to quit before its too late, or are being kept out of the project for being off-message. A single 'no it won't work' from an engineer who knows their stuff could save you billions, and they can't say that if they're not there. No amount of positivity from an exciting bunch of youngsters is going to fool mother nature.

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Is Apple's software getting worse or what?

bazza
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Re: What is going on?

Incidentally, one of the major problems with Web apps like most of Google's stuff is that the programmers are all powerful and can push their latest wet dream of how-things-should-be down users throats with no warning or choice.

OK, so maybe the tech savvy in a company that uses Google Apps can adapt quickly enough, but there's plenty of people out there who aren't tech savvy and are left floundering for quite a while every time Google goes and changes something. Not helpful at all.

And when Google fuck it up completely (Google Maps is a complete cock up; moving / cancelling way points is a nightmare, never used to be) you're left with a real problem.

So I see web apps as being pretty dangerous; you're at the mercy of people you don't control and, based on current form, cannot trust. At least with native software running locally you can have some control over what your working environment looks like every day.

BTW, anyone else think that Google's search is pretty crummy these days?

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bazza
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Re: What is going on?

I think this has happened because something seemingly impossible happened, but nobody recognised it for what it was. And that something was as follows:

They had finished writing the software.

Now that's impossible, no program is ever finished there's always loads more that can added, etc. But with Windows 7, possibly Snow Leopard too, they were arguably complete. No changes needed, just maintenance and bug fixes, security improvements here and there.

This "impossible" event clearly caused major mental stress amongst these companies and their teams. Microsoft threw it all out with Windows 8, 8.1, and is still clearly ill given the state of Win 10. Apple has gone down the same sort of slippery slope and is showing no signs of responding to treatment. Even the Linuxers, especially RedHat and their backing of Gnome and systemd, are not immune. Gnome especially has got the bug badly, having ripped up the rule book and rewritten it badly on toilet paper using what I'm hoping is brown crayon but is probably shit.

Memo to all programming staff. When it's finished, stop fucking tinkering with it, and certainly don't throw it out and start again. Maintenance is boring but necessary. Sigh.

Windows 10 has a great kernel and a lot of excellent under-the-hood improvements. Imagine how ace it'd be with Windows 7's interface. Windows 8, 10 is what you get when you employ a lot of marketing and UI experts who have jobs to justify.

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OK Google, Alexa, why can't I choose my own safe, er, wake word?

bazza
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Re: Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

Ooops!

Shouting it too, that's telling the whole neighbourhood! I hope he's got plenty of flour...

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Super Cali: Be realistic, 'autopilot' is bogus – even though the sound of it is something quite precocious

bazza
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Re: self driving in Europe != success

I'd like to point out that the Japanese, an engineering nation universally renowned for studying all the possibilities then picking the very best way of doing something, also drive on the left.

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SpaceX searches for its 'grassy knoll' of possible Falcon rocket sabotage

bazza
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Re: Eliminated the obvious

Long shots indeed.

Dangerous Thoughts

For anyone to even contemplate such an explanation is not good for an organisation's culture. If this rumour that an accusation was made is actually true, whoever came up with that line of investigation should be pushed out the door quickly before that kind of reasoning becomes the standard approach to problem solving.

As the article says, Occam's razor applies. This is a relatively young design, they have had failures before due to poor quality control, and it went bang just as they were loading it with 100s of tonnes of propellant and O2. If they don't know why it went bang then that means their telemetry isn't up to scratch, simple as, and must be improved.

If in making improvements to their telemetry they add shock wave sensors to detect any incoming rounds, that's fine, just don't ever say why.

If this accusation was actually made, even if privately, with little evidence it is highly risky. It'd never remain private, It’ll worry their investors who will be keen that the company as a whole behaves in a sober and professional manner (traits essential to success in the rocket business). The investors won't welcome the legal bill either should ULA choose to make something of it in the courts.

And worse of all it'll put off customers, who really won't want to be dealing with amateurs.

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No surprise: Microsoft seeks Windows Update boss with 'ability to reduce chaos, stress'

bazza
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@OldCoder,

"The problem is that the approach used by those distros requires proper partitioning so that the patches only address the bugs in the specific package."

Cough cough systemd cough cough. Guess which way Linux is heading...

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Wow, still using disk and PCIe storage? You look like a flash-on victim, darling – it isn't 2014

bazza
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Old idea, except Flash is far from ideal for this purpose. Old, because this is the ultimate use of something like memristor and has been discussed in that context before. Flash is non-ideal, you still have to do wear levelling, else it wears out.

Now if HP ever did finish off memristor, or if any of the other players in that new-memory-tech game got their act together, that would be ideal. Faster than DRAM, great, non-volatile, check, wear-free lifetime, perfect. It'd be just like a SIMM that doesn't forget, ever.

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Uber: Can't sue if you die

bazza
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Really?

At least here in the UK there are laws about unreasonable contracts. I can't see a judge upholding those terms and conditions. Of course, things are different in the US..

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Hubble spies on Europa shooting alien juice from its southern pole

bazza
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Re: How did Clarke know ?!

@MacroRodent,

True! Though I'm fairly sure there was scholarly speculation about Europa and water before Voyager went past.

That's bound to be true at some level - Man has been seeing water all over the place since time immemorial (e.g. Mars's "canals", etc).

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bazza
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Re: How did Clarke know ?!

The suspicion that water was there stems from the thermal modelling one can do of a planet or moon.

It is a known distance from Jupiter and likely subject to strong tidal forces (though not as strong as Io, which is closer), so it'll get heated up. It clearly has an icy outer layer due to its brightness (it'd be a lot darker if it was rocky). Ice + the right amount of heat = water. In comparison Io is too hot for the water to have hung around, and Ganymede is too cold for the same process to take place. All of this can be worked out from earth based observations, knowledge of how rocks behave under pressure, spectroscopy / Mk I eyeball to identify the surface material, etc.

The various flybys that have occurred since Clarke wrote 2001 (in the 1960s) have only reinforced that analysis, and now Hubble (the 'scope that keeps on giving, tremendous value for money in the end) has practically confirmed it. The folk using Hubble to look for these jets were no doubt inspired by the accidental and most fortuitous discovery of similar jets on Enceladus.

So, all that remains is for Elon Musk to send a rocket up there with a big, empty tank and bring back a few thousand gallons of what would be the most expensive, and probably the least drinkable, mineral water and sell it in exclusive shops.

Clarke was a pretty clever guy, credited with inventing (well, at least nailing it) the concept of a geostationary comms satellite.

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Sinclair fans rejoice: ZX Spectrum Vega+ to launch October 20

bazza
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Excellent!

The return of proper games...

How things progress. I note that it supports SD cards, for storage. The micro controller in an SD card that does all the Flash wear levelling will have more grunt than the original Spectrum, probably.

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Apple wants to buy Formula 1 car firm McLaren – report

bazza
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Re: Apple have lost their way...

A turbocharger for a ship or aircraft engine is designed to work at a single RPM, and is therefore useless on the road. It took Renault F1 to develop them into something that drove nicely without appalling lag and also worked across the rev range, no mean feat.

Slap a P38's turbo on a car and it just won't work well at all, except at a single speed. And indeed a car turbo on an aviation engine is also suboptimal (though that doesn't necessarily stop anyone doing that).

Also you're getting confused between a turbo charger and a super charger (something that Renault hasn't used anytime in the last 36 years). And to make you even more confused, the unit in a modern F1 engine is both combined.

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bazza
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Re: Apple have lost their way...

Actually, F1 has been the development ground for a lot of tech that has then flowed out to other applications. 3D printing originated in and was pioneered by F1, by Williams as far as I can recall. Williams also developed the only active suspension system that worked well, and have a cunning approach to kinetic energy recovery / reuse based on a toroidally geared flylwheel. Renault were heavily involved in taking the idea of a turbo charger (found on ships and piston engined aircraft) and altering it to be usable in automotive applications. Prior to them, a turbo was something that worked well at one engine RPM, but was pretty useless anywhere else. The current F1 engines, especially the Merc, have extremely sophisticated ways of saving energy, and if Merc in particular ever applied their long shaft turbo + electric super charger + hybrid + regen braking + intercooler-less engine architecture to road cars they'd be getting tremendous MPG and performance. The only reason they don't is because they currently don't have to to meet emissions regs, and it's expensive. McLaren, long time innovator in the use of carbon fibre in cars (race and road), have got so good at it that it's now a 4 man-hour job to make a CF chassis for one of their cars these days. It used to be 4000 hours. And they can do hollow CF in a single go, instead of having to glue it together afterwards like everyone else has to. Everyone wants to be able to do that in automotive, aerospace, and other applications where CF is a big deal. Gordon Murray, he of F1 / SLR fame, has developed a method of car manufacture that substantially reduces the cost of developing a new car model (design, passing crash test, production line tooling) without drastically increasing the manufacturing unit cost itself. Basically it involves tubular steel chassis but done properly, cleverly and quickly (not like TVR then). McLaren's Applied Technology division has worked with Glaxo, who now (for the same cost and plant) produce 6.7million extra tubes of toothpaste per year, and an extra £100million in value inside a single year.

F1 has long been a hotbed of engineering daring do, and there's a large number of very talented people involved in it (approx 100,000 in the UK). If you want a ready made team of ruthless, fast, clever engineers full of ideas that no one else has though of, a mature F1 team isn't a bad place to look.

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bazza
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Re: Only problem....

...and is able to blame losing races on "was holding the steering wheel wrong".

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bazza
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Re: Talk about the right company

Never mind which bit of the company they're talking about, Apple would be missing the whole point as to why the name is McLaren.

McLaren is named after Bruce Mclaren, and the current owners and top bods kept the name and continue to be involved in the group / team largely as an on-going homage to Bruce and their fondness for their friendship with him back in the day, before he was killed in a fatal crash in Goodwood.

The loss of a friend can set fixed limits on what people will contemplate. It's probable that Ron Dennis et al would see selling control of McLaren to someone like Apple as selling Bruce McLaren's soul to the devil with the highest bid. Now old Ron is certainly capable of ruthlessness, but I doubt he or the others would stoop to that.

Having said all that, McLaren have an engineering consultancy business, they've done some clever things, and it might be that that's what Apple are after. It's not associated particularly with the cars or the race team.

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bazza
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Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

Oh I dunno, it's never too early to get babes and infants hooked on iThings. Why not build them into the pushchair?

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bazza
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Re: Damn

"Vauxhall made good cars? When?"

Well, it's a bit of an import from Oz, but the Monaro was excellent for the purpose intended; lots of power, simplicity, very well priced. Considering what they set out to achieve, it was definitely "good".

Even the Astra got tonnes better, with Jeremy Clarkson having to honour a pledge to eat his own hair (a hair omelette, prepared and consumed on the spot on Top Gear) after Vauxhall followed up a car show concept with actual production.

The Insignia also failed to elicit a constant stream of loathing from the loud mouthed one.

So, good? That's subjective. But compared to where Vauxhall were in the 1990s to where their cars are now, they're definitely a contender in a lot of people's shopping lists. From a manufacturer's point of view, that makes them good.

Traditionally the problem lay with Opel, not Vauxhall. Vauxhall knew that given a decent chassis and a range of pokey engines they could shift warmed up hatchbacks easily and profitably. Opel got stuck in a mode of boring German stodgey conservativeness, leaving Vauxhall to try and sell cars that had all the appeal and handling of a day old soggy Weetabix. But that was a while ago now.

It's like in Germany there were two sorts of automotive engineer. The ones who believed in excitement, performance, power, etc. went to work for VW, Merc, Porsche, BMW, and Gumpert. The rest went to work for Opel...

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India court could stop Facebook’s WhatsApp mega-slurp

bazza
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Hmmm

So what we want is some sorta entrepreneur who is willing to splash a load of cash to set up a service a bit like WhatsApp used to be, run it, maybe charge a nominal fee, and then resist all temptation to sell out to some bunch like Facebook for $billions.

Anyone know anyone like that? Sort of a tricky thing to find, an utterly incorruptible well monied entrepreneur.

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Is Tesla telling us the truth over autopilot spat?

bazza
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Re: Autonomous Cars

One other thing. The engineer who tells his company that something wildly ambitious cannot be achieved is worth a lot of money. They may very well be saving them from spending a fortune for no net gain. Certainly their point of view should be represented to the shareholders before the board decides to overrule them.

I suppose companies like Google and Apple, and maybe Tesla and Uber, have got money to burn on experiments such as self driving cars, but it's still their investors money, not their own personal funding to do with as they wish.

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bazza
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Re: Autonomous Cars

@JeffyPoooh,

"I'm not sure that quite captures the gulf between today's pathetic attempts and what the actual solution will look like so many years from now.

What you've written is like stating that fusion power is still just a bit immature. Or flying cars aren't quite ready for prime time. Or peace in the Middle East isn't expected in the coming months."

Quite. And it's a gulf the size of which the stats published by California unequivocally illustrated, to Google's apparent irritation.

You have to feel for the dev team, to have the true scale of their task writ large for them to fully comprehend. Yet it was always a challenge the scale of which was easy to comprehend with scholarly study of things like airliner automation, automated train systems, the first Ariane 5, etc. All these things point to it being a really tough challenge, and only one of them is actually fully automated and carries people (and operates in an artificially simplified environment; a railway). Given that there hasn't been a fundamental break through in machine comprehension (the sort that is demonstrably infallible, not just slightly better than the last one in lab demos), any old fool could conclude that a fully dependable self driving car isn't a viable option at this time.

You'd have to be really young and cocky to think that you could do better than all those predecessors. Well, Google are a young cocky company with, apparently, a lot of young cocky engineers. If they want to learn the lessons of life the hard and expensive way, so be it, that's up to them and their investors (a fool and his money will soon be parted. Anyone got shares in Tesla, Uber, etc?). So long as they don't manage to con everyone else into believing it works and get such things mandated by law...

The rest of us who have been there before will puff contentedly on our pipes whilst sitting in our most comfortable armchair and tells tales of yore...

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bazza
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@Big D

"The ADAC (German motoring organisation similar to the AA in the UK or AAA in the USA) did a test last month of the assisted braking systems in BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Kia, Subaru, VW/Audi and a couple of others."

Thatcham here in the UK put out a press release a few years back about their plans for how they'd test these sorts of systems. It was quite interesting.

I took a glance at it, one thing that stood out was that all their tests focused on determining that a car does actually stop when it should do in a variety of scenarios.

They were quite proud of their tests, but there was a glaring omission. How about proving that the car doesn't stop when it shouldn't?!

That's just as important. For example, you really, really, don't want your car getting spooked by flying leaves, rubbish, etc. when you're heading down a busy motorway. Yet none of Thatcham's tests were going to explore that important aspect of the behaviour of these systems. Nor was it clear that there'd be anyway for a driver to prove that this is what had happened, so when it does it'd be the driver that takes the blame. Great. Basically, it was a set up to ensure that the insurance industry's interests were looked after, but not the driving public's. Still, that's Thatcham's job I suppose.

I concluded that a dash cam would be an essential component of a driver's equipment to help act as independent corroboration of claims that such a car had taken inappropriate action all by itself.

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bazza
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Well put. But never mind Tesla and self driving cars in general, the OEMs have cocked it up already with simple things that have nothing to do with self driving.

The OEMs are rapidly discovering the costs of putting in even quite "simple" things like cellular modems and Internet connectivity into their cars. In the good ole' days they'd design a car, shove a bit of firmware here and there, sell it, forget about it (for the firmware will probably work trouble free for the lifetime of the car), move on to the next model design.

But now there's an Internet connection, suddenly they've become a software company with a permanently stood up dev team dealing with bug fixes, vulnerabilities, patches, updates, maintenance and compliance testing lasting years and years and years with a the burden of public expectation being far higher than that experienced by, e.g. Microsoft or Apple. The fact that they install their software in something that has an engine and four wheels is almost a passing consideration in comparison. And these devs aren't even working on new models, they're looking after the ones that already out there. Expensive!

And, as you point out, if they're ever caught out or get it wrong at any time over the next 20, 30, or 40 years then there may be hell to pay at worst, or severely pissed off customers at best. Fiat-Chrylser copped a half billion dollar fine for not addressing a trivial vulnerability in a software system that had limited real world utility for the customer/driver, and that didn't even kill anyone. Toyata, with their dodgy accelerator pedals a few years back, lost an absolute ton of market share and customer goodwill; imagine the reaction if a software fault / vulnerability was exploited to produce a similar effect.

At the Goodwood Festival of Speed once I saw a team trying to get a 10 year old F1 car running. They really struggled, and it was all software and control laptop antiquity. Ten years old, took them a few hours to work out how to get the damned thing running. What hope for Joe Public when their 10 year old Tesla/BMW/Audi doesn't work one morning?

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bazza
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Dangerous Trend

"Unfortunately, with a few notable exceptions, Tesla also seems to be receiving Silicon Valley-style unquestioning coverage."

And therein lies a considerable danger. Society, and by extension politicians, can easily be talked into a major change in the usage of an important piece of national infrastructure (the roads) by such unyieldingly favourable press coverage, simply because there's votes at stake.

The real problems may come if the robust yet permissive attitude pioneered by California becomes diluted by weak politicians caving into popular demand. However, "popular" is not the same as "correct". Richard Feynman's sage comment about public relations and the unfoolable reality of nature applies.

I applaud the robust attitude taken by the State of California - allow limited, supervised and controlled experiments with instrumentation and published results. Unfortunately for Google the results weren't flattering, and they clearly didn't like the results being published. Now we hear reports of discord within Google's team. That suggests to me that they've run out of ideas on how to improve their system, meaning they're going nowhere fast.

Tesla's approach seems doomed to fail at this point (if self driving is what they're aiming at). Anyway, it's relatively pointless given that their major theme is "electric car". An electric car doesn't have to be self driving or auto piloted in anyway. Autopilot is a needless distraction from their real end goal.

So if we want to progress towards provably safer self driving cars without the mass public experiment, that's going to mean a significant changes to what a road is. The only level of system we can prove to be correct using today's technology is essentially nothing more complicated than a unmanned railway (such as the Docklands railway in London, though even that has a manned control centre). If we made the roads more like railways then we could prove in advance that it would be better than today's human driven cars.

However, that would mean no more motorbikes, cycles, pedestrians, road workers, deer, horses, other wildlife, pot holes, pedestrian crossings, snow, ice, fog, heavy rain, earthquakes, land slides, fallen trees, etc. on our highways.

Can't see that happening.

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Hackers hijack Tesla Model S from afar, while the cars are moving

bazza
Silver badge

I'll say, but the obviousness of it say say lot able the car industry.

Marketing: "I know, we'll add a remote connection and Internet to the cars, that'll make them sell better!"

Engineering: "Er....."

Marketing: "Remote control, mobile apps, live streaming!!!"

Engineering: "Er this is going to be really hard..."

Marketing: "Don't care do it or be sacked with vigour"

Engineering: "(brown trouser) Er, Okay I guess"

The long term strategic consequences for a car manufacturer of putting any kind of long range radio data connection (eg 3G network, or WiFi) has been wildly underestimated by the auto industry.

For example, there's already 3G in some cars as part of an automatic emergency services alerting system for when the car crashes. Fine, but 3G won't be in use in 10 years time. Are they going to recall and upgrade all those cars to 4G? Or silently let the system fall into disuse? Both are expensive...

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bazza
Silver badge

Poor old Elon

He's not having a good month, is he?

This should be a warning to all manufacturers putting remote connectivity into their cars. It's easy to do, generates enormous and never ending reputational risk.

The only sure way Tesla have right now to fix it is to do a firmware update that disables the remote connectivity. That totally ruins the car, but if this hack (particularly the application of the brakes) goes unfixed for any appreciable length of time they'll risk copping a massive fine, just like Fiat Chrysler did.

Hopefully they'll learn the exact vulnerability exploited here and be able to fix it properly in the very near future.

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iPhone 7's Qualcomm, Intel soap opera dumps a carrier lock-out on us

bazza
Silver badge

CDMA/CDMA2000 were indeed always niche - only a few hundred million users vs a few billion GSM/UMTS users across the rest of the world. Back in the good old days of Nokia their best phones would always be GSM/UMTS, and maybe they'd do a CDMA version eventually. Market forces at work.

I'm sure its the reason why Apple earlier iPhones were GSM, simply because they couldn't afford (at that time; different now of course) to do a CDMA version for a comparatively small market. It was the right decision by a long way.

GSM did indeed win because of the availability of the standards. More than that, they were totally complete. They tell you absolutely everything you need to know to build handsets, base stations, NOCs, connection to the rest of the world. It was all there.

In contrast, even if you'd paid for the CDMA standards, actually you'd only bought part of the story, and you still had to go back to Qualcomm to get the rest of it. The standards (especially those for CDMA One back in the day when that was brand new) were woefully incomplete. I think that they're much more complete nowadays, but it's too late. It was tool late all the way back in 1993.

Voice over 4G has been a complete cockup. Most networks in the UK are falling back to 3G when you make voice call. Missing circuit switched voice out of 4G was a massive mistake, and is going to make it unnecessarily hard to ditch legacy 2G and 3G networks.

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bazza
Silver badge

Re: CDMA

Dual SIM phones tend to be found, and are most useful, in countries with poorly integrated mobile networks with patchy coverage. If you can't phone a friend because they're on a different network, you carry a phone for that network too. Dual SIM simply means not having to carry too many phones.

AFAIK they never used to sit on both network simultaneously (which would require two of every radio), but simply allow you to swap between them on demand. Perhaps that's changed nowadays - a second radio chip is probably a trivial thing to integrate these days.

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bazza
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Re: CDMA isn't dying

The carriers should be keen to ditch CDMA/CDMA2000/UMTS as quickly as possible. The cell breathing characteristic inherent in any system using a CDMA-style signal has made network deployment planning a nightmare, and is the main reason behind poor coverage and poor network performance. This was especially a problem in Europe, where the carriers who'd previously rolled out 2G (which is piss easy in comparison) failed to understand just how hard it is to get a 3G network nicely planned to meet demand.

Things were different in Japan. They were amongst the first to roll out 3G (UMTS), and the cell density they put down overcame the inherent difficulties of 3G network planning. This was, I'm sure, a hang over from their previous indigenous network standard that had a far higher cell density than Western standards. I suspect they simply re-used their existing sites for 3G. Anyway, the NTT-Docomo 3G network is a masterful piece of network deployment, and really showed what you could do if you really went for it. The consequence:- it was (and still is) extremely expensive. It's very cool though to be on a Bullet train, going through a tunnel at 186mph, getting 20Mbit/s on a 3G downlink whilst watching the signal strength bars bounce up and down as you go past the micro-cells that line the tunnel.

For 4G the standards engineers finally remembered that network planning matters, and builds on aspects of GSM to relieve the problem. It should be far easier to roll out, and should result in 4G coverage being far better than 3G ever attained. No doubt they'll screw it up again with 5G.

2
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Google GPS grab felt like a feature, was actually a bug

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Netguard is your friend

Shhh! Google will banish it as an inappropriate application if they get to hear of this...

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bazza
Silver badge

"Probably wouldn't do much good, since TomTom provide the basic mapping data for Apple devices already."

Aha, now that I didn't know. I thought they'd gone to Open Street map, and erroneously assumed that'd gone no further. I wonder, did they buy data from TomTom after moving to Open Street Map? There was a time when iPhones didn't know where whole towns in Australia were.

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bazza
Silver badge

Hmm, except that it sounds like if location services is turned on then Play Services would log your position and pass it back to Google.

Google need to know where people are to i) do location aware adverts ii) make the traffic overlay on Google Maps work. A pernicious Catch 22 for Android users; if they all turn off location services then traffic data on Google maps is not going to be useful.

Once upon a time such perniciousness would be cause for government intervention and a forced company break up.

Other companies do it differently. BlackBerry teamed up with TomTom, who get their traffic data from a variety of sources. They've a deal with Vodafone to get aggregated location data derived from base station tracking of mobiles, some TomToms have a 3g modem in them so can report home, and I think they also use companies like Traffic Master. Just as acquisitive? Maybe, but then TomToms don't show ads to you whilst your driving or once you've got there. Anyway, TomTom's traffic data seems to be much more dynamic than Googles.

I'm slightly puzzled why Apple haven't bought TomTom. Apple's own mapping is slightly rubbish, TomTom have a lot of map data, an excellent and complete service and, these days, a pretty good range of hardware. Their maps aren't quite global (not Japan for example), but that could be fixed with some cash that Apple could throw in for the purpose.

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Tesla to stop killing drivers: Software update beamed to leccy cars

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Mansfield bars

@ma1010

Of course it likely won't happen here because...corporations...Congress, etc. You know.

Er, I thought it was to do with rail road crossings in the USA. The lorries are much longer than European ones, crossings are very often hump back, and there's millions of them like that.

Mandating Mansfield bars now would result in lots of lorries getting stuck on crossings, which leads to a lot of nasty accidents, especially if there's a collision with an oil train. Mandating them at all will cost a vast fortune in crossing redesign across the whole country. And in Canada, Mexico too.

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bazza
Silver badge

"Tesla's answer to the height issue is to use its network of cars to build up a database of road signs, bridges and other similar objects using radar to build up a blueprint. The car can then compare that blueprint with the real world as a car travels along the road. If it sees something out of the ordinary, it is far more likely to be a possible obstruction.

"If several cars drive safely past a given radar object, whether Autopilot is turned on or off, then that object is added to the geocoded whitelist," the company notes."

Yeah, good luck with that. With every piece of metal littering the road showing up they'll be going down the road at a snail's pace. Radar data processing is a fiendishly difficult job, and clutter processing especially so. They'll be logging every dropped nail, cats eye, soda can on the road.

Will it see a slab-sided lorry angled across the road as being an obstacle spanning the whole road? Or will it see it as two sets of clutter at either end of the lorry with nothing in between? The F117a is an extremely good example of how flat surfaces don't reflect radio waves back to a monostatic radar if angled just so. The straight metal side of a container lorry (the bit you'll drive into) would have a similar property, but the wheel sets at either end won't.

Crowd Sourced?

As no two Teslas will go down the same road following exactly the same path, they're all going to see the clutter environment differently, and very often that'll be completely differently. That's going to play merry hell with building a meaningful clutter map for every part of every road. The necessary in built pessimism could make the system pretty annoying in real world conditions.

Why not lidar?

Well, its very expensive (in both equipment and processing costs). But at least you get a good 3D map of the environment. In contrast the type of radar Tesla are using is almost certainly not an imaging radar (such as SAR, scanned phased array, etc). At best it'll be getting a set of returns the range to which will be measured quite well, but the angle to which will be pretty vague. In other words, it won't really know whether something is by the side of the road or right in front of the car. It's a poor man's way of attempting 3D scene reconstruction.

Doppler

Doppler processing (if they're doing that) will allow them to tell vehicles from stationary objects. However even that's full of problems. The spokes on a car wheel at the bottom of the wheel are 'stationary' in terms of speed along the road and therefore have the same Doppler shift as something stationary. So they'll look like a set of non-moving objects that magically appear and disappear all the time. That'll make their processing even harder, especially if the spoke return comes and goes (like when the car in front goes round a corner).

All For Nothing?

To me this all sounds a bit, well, desperate. I don't see how this combination of sensors can ever be used to produce a reliable system that can be trusted, with or without a bunch of crowd sourced data and any amount of processing. Sure, it's probably better than nothing, but it's not "perfect".

And thus we return to the fundamental problem; Tesla are selling a car with a fancy cruise control and being honest in saying what it does and how it should be used, but they've given it the name Autopilot. And most people are reading the word "Autopilot" and then not paying any attention to the system's stated limitations.

This new firmware will also have its limitations, and I think Tesla's tightening up how the car monitors the driver's attentiveness is absolutely necessary. But if that means that people may as well not use it, what's the point of having it in the car in the first place? If it goes badly wrong then it's bad publicity for Tesla. It adds nothing to the car's supposed main appeal (battery powered, stonking acceleration, lots of other tech built in).

And with Apple (a company with $200billion in the bank) dropping their self driving car project I think that's a sign that serious companies are beginning to go off the idea of a self driving car. It seems like

* at best it'll be extremely expensive to develop,

* will likely never be allowed to be fully autonomous, not whilst there's bikes, deer, workmen, dogs, children, motorcycles, pedestrians, etc. on the road too

* will be a very difficult sell to all sections of the general public (who, in owning mobile phones that suffer endless software problems, would be wondering why a self driving car from the same company would be any better, and will be disappointed to be told that it won't drive them home from the pub)

* doesn't generate any more useful data on a person that you can't already collect merely by selling them a cheap Android of iOS mobile phone.

In other words, what's the business plan?

4
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'Oi! El Reg! Stop pretending Microsoft has a BSOD monopoly!'

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

Penguins can fly, you just need a trebuchet to get them started...

Best to aim at an open body of water though unless you want issues with the landing...

So you're saying that a trebuchet-launched penguin is going to make a splash one way or other?

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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

Oh, but they can. Under water.

Then that'd be a submarine...

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bazza
Silver badge

Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

Not surprising I suppose, penguins can't fly...

24
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Airbag bug forces GM to recall 4.3m vehicles – but eh, how about those self-driving cars, huh?

bazza
Silver badge

Re: "already been blamed for one fatal crash and three others involving serious injuries"

@AC,

"No they were not, air bags should not go off if you do not have a seat belt on, they will cause greater injury, as in death, if you don't have a seat belt on. They are to reduce neck and head injury caused when wearing a seat belt."

Er, it depends on where you are.

Across Europe and vast swathes of the civilised world it's normal (and a legal requirement) to wear a seat belt. The thing that actually saves your life is the explosive charge in the seatbelt pre-tensioner that goes off as the shunt starts. This hauls you back rigidly into your seat, and allows the crumple zones of the car to absorb your kinetic energy as the passenger cell (and the now firmly restrained passengers) decelerates. The airbag (which is actually quite small) simply goes off to prevent you face being mushed by the steering wheel or dashboard and to take some of the energy out of the head, reducing the whiplash caused by the body recoiling back into the seat (where the headrest takes out the remainder).

Without the belt and pre-tensioner you're simply a 40+mph missile moving forward through the passenger cell, not being slowed down by the crumple zones at all, injuring or killing everyone else you hit along the way.

In the USA, where weirdly there's states where you don't have to wear a seat belt, the airbag takes on the primary job of decelerating the passengers. Consequently they have to be much bigger, needing to fill the space between the entirety of the passenger's body and the dashboard / steering wheel. They go off as the shunt starts, aiming to cushion the blow as the passenger's unrestrained body hurtles inexorably towards the dashboard and steering wheel. Clearly this is an inferior solution, is of no help whatsoever in a side-swipe, and actually leads to people not sat normally in their seat (leaning forward, for example) being killed by the airbags going off in quite minor shunts. An airbag is quite capable of decapitating someone. Nasty.

Why Is it Law To Wear A Seat Belt

This is because an unrestrained body inside a car involved in a high speed shunt can be lethal to other passengers in a car. For example, if you're a passenger in the back seat not wearing a seat belt, you will likely kill the driver in the front if the car is in a fast enough shunt. It's also not inconceivable that an unbelted passenger in one car kills people in the other in a head on collision as they fly through two windscreens. I turf out passengers who refuse to wear their belt; I don't want their stupidity to kill me if some other idiot decides to drive into my car at high speed.

The extra cost of your lengthier rehabilitation courtesy of the NHS subsequent to your more severe injuries in the less likely circumstances of you surviving such a crash is a secondary consideration.

This is also related to the reason why air passengers are told to put things away during landing and take off and put their seatbelts on. Things like laptops, phones, books, etc. all become 150mph+ missiles hurtling through the cabin if the plane crashes. Your ability to get out of a burning aircraft is greatly enhanced if you've not been knocked unconscious by some other idiots laptop. Same reason why they're not keen for people to be standing up during taxiing (might be doing 40mph+), or on take-off / climb or landing / approach; passengers have no warning of how the aircraft will manoeuvre / collide next, and unseated / unbelted they're 80+kg of fuckwit selfish lard just waiting to become a deadly flying object within the cabin. You only have to look at the carnage caused by high altitude turbulence where unbelted passengers cause a lot of injuries to others as well as themselves.

In all transport an unbelted passenger is a prime example of an ignorant and selfish human being. It's notable that the only forms of transport where belts are not generally compulsory is ones that are slow (city buses, trams), or not normally exposed to rapid decelerations (trains, ships, submarines). Of course when a bus or train or ship does have a high speed crash the carnage is immense. For example a sailor unfortunately died of head injuries and 98 were injured when USS San Francisco collided head on with a sea mount at 30+mph.

Trains operate at high speed but in highly constrained environments (the rails), and generally the only thing that is a threat to them is another train, wheel failure or derailment. But even then modern designs are quite remarkable. The seating is designed to help keep passengers more or less in place should a train derail. They're also pretty good nowadays at not coming apart in crashes, saving a lot of life. However, you're still probably better off in a backwards facing seat in the middle of a carriage in the middle of the train.

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