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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Livemap Lands $300K Grant For Its Motorcycle Helmet With Built-In Navigation

As reported by TechCrunchAs we’re coming up on the next Consumer Electronics Show, I got an update from one of the companies that participated in TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield at the last CES — Russian startup Livemap.

The Livemap team is working to create motorcycle helmets with voice control and GPS navigation directly in your field of vision — so while you’re riding, you can see directions in your helmet display without having to fiddle with another device or look away from the road. (Back in January, the Livemap team demonstrated an early version of their display, which was transparent enough to show a map without obscuring the road ahead.)

CEO Andrew Artishchev told me via email that most of the past year has been spent building the pre-production prototype of Livemap’s optics. Those optics will be built entirely of aspheric lenses, allowing the helmet to, in his words, be “smaller and lighter and sometimes cheaper than the multi-lens design.” He added that the other big focus has been creating a design that will keep the optics costs down.
Now Livemap plans to unveil its prototype in the spring, and to start sales this summer in its first market, the United States.

To help create the prototype, Livemap has also received a grant of 14.7 million rubles from the Russian Ministry of Science. (That’s a little under $300,000 in U.S. dollars.). If you’re fluent in Russian or don’t mind using Google Translate, you can read more about the grant here.
Artishchev also commented on the emergence of a new competitor, Skully, which he dismissed as “only part of Google Glass.”
“The product called Skully P1 is, in short words, like Google Glass put into a helmet — with all its disadvantages like tiny screen, low saturation and contrast, low resolution,” he added.

Monday, December 29, 2014

GPS III and OCX Successfully Demonstrate Key Satellite Command and Control Capabilities

As reported by Space Flight Insider: Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Company successfully completed the fourth of five planned launch and early orbit exercises to demonstrate new automation capabilities, information assurance and launch readiness of the world’s most powerful and accurate Global Positioning System (GPS), the U.S. Air Force’s next generation GPS III satellite and Operational Control System (OCX).

Successful completion of Exercise 4 on Oct. 3 represents a key milestone demonstrating the end-to-end capability to automatically transfer data between Raytheon’s OCX and Lockheed Martin’s GPS III satellite. One additional readiness exercise, five launch rehearsals and a mission dress rehearsal are planned prior to launch of the first GPS III satellite with OCX.

The exercise used the latest baseline of Raytheon’s OCX Launch Checkout System (LCS) software featuring integrated information assurance functionality for the first time, and the latest version of Lockheed Martin’s GPS III satellite simulator. Exercise 4 successfully demonstrated mission planning and scheduling capabilities with the simulated Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) for the first time, including a replan scenario that would occur in the event of a launch slip.

The system also automatically generated antenna pointing angles for the simulated AFSCN, which until now have been manually generated. Exercise 4 expands on three previous exercises, introducing maneuver planning and reconstruction capabilities, as well as advanced planning and scheduling with AFSCN assets. The automation of these capabilities will allow GPS operators to spend their time optimizing system performance rather than focusing on routine operations.

“As part of establishing the LCS Block 0 baseline, the completion of Exercise 4 demonstrates the capability of OCX to successfully support a GPS-III satellite launch in an information assurance hardened environment,” stated Matthew Gilligan, Raytheon vice president and GPS OCX program manager. “Exercise 4 began the instantiation of vital OCX automation capabilities that give operators their time back in order to focus on mission critical activities, one of the important elements of a modernized GPS.”

“Launch Exercise 4 demonstrated the team’s ability to complete nearly 100 percent of the GPS III space vehicle 1 launch and early orbit mission sequence,” said Mark Stewart, vice president for Lockheed Martin’s Navigation Systems mission area. “The findings the team made during this robust launch exercise will help mature the processes, procedures and tools necessary to enter our rehearsal phase and, ultimately, the launch and checkout mission.”

GPS III satellites will deliver three times better accuracy, provide up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities, and include enhancements that extend spacecraft life to 15 years, 25 percent longer than the newest Block IIF satellites. GPS III will be the first generation of GPS satellite with a new L1C civil signal designed to make it interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems. The first GPS III satellite is currently undergoing integration and testing, with final space vehicle delivery planned for late 2015.

OCX is being developed in two blocks using a commercial best practice iterative software development process, with seven iterations in Block 1 and one iteration in Block 2. Exercise 4 was conducted using the recently completed Iteration 1.5 software, representing an early delivery of the final software baseline. Exercise 5, scheduled for 2015, will include critical information assurance features needed to support launch of the first GPS III satellite.

The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Air Force Space Command’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.

About Lockheed Martin Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 113,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s net sales for 2013 were $45.4 billion.

About Raytheon Raytheon Company, with 2013 sales of $24 billion and 63,000 employees worldwide, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, security and civil markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 92 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems, as well as cyber security and a broad range of mission support services. Raytheon is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tesla Unveils 'Roadster 3.0' Update, Brings Car's Range to 400 Miles

As reported by PC MagIf you were expecting Tesla to announce a brand-new car today, we have a bit of bad news for you. Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk has taken to Twitter to tease that there would be some kind of Tesla announcement this week. It's finally here, but it's only an update for the Tesla Roadster series of cars—the company's first major electric vehicle release, we should note.

That said, it's quite an update. The new "Roadster 3.0" package mainly focuses on extending the car's range, which sits at around a claimed 245 miles or so in the car's most recent iteration. With Roadster 3.0, Tesla is making a bevy of improvements to push that range north of 400 miles, or a 40-50% improvement to the Roaster's capabilities. To demonstrate this fact, Tesla plans to drive a Roadster from San Francisco to Los Angeles non-stop in early 2015. And, no, the company couldn't probably make use of one of its recently announced battery-swap stations along the way—those are only for Tesla's Model S cars.
Three main improvements to the Tesla Roadster are responsible for its increased range, and existing Roadster owners can purchase the upgrade pack at some point next year for a yet-to-be-released sum. The first improvement is a brand-new lithium ion battery, which helps catch the Roadster up with modern times (its 2008 battery, novel then, is a bit technologically dated at this point).
"We have identified a new cell that has 31% more energy than the original Roadster cell. Using this new cell we have created a battery pack that delivers roughly 70kWh in the same package as the original battery," reads Tesla's blog post.
A new series of aerodynamic upgrades will cut the car's drag coefficient by 15 percent. As well, new tires and wheel bearings are expected to deliver a 20 improvement to the vehicle's rolling resistance. Altogether, that's how Tesla boosts the Roadster's range. We're more curious just how much it might cost current Roadster owners, though we suspect the price won't be much of a problem for those who didn't have an issue paying north of $100K for a single vehicle to begin with.
The new upgrades mean that Tesla's Roadster is actually its longest-range electric vehicle at this point (for a one-shot trip with no charging or swapping, that is). While Musk does hint that similar upgrades will also hit the company's Model S line of vehicles at some point, there's no word yet as to when Tesla might tweak its more "mainstream" electric cars.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Singapore Wants a Driverless Version of Uber

As reported by MIT Technology Review: As driverless cars edge slowly toward commercial reality, some people are wondering how cities might change as a result. Will traffic lights disappear? Will parking garages become obsolete? Will carpooling become the norm?

Singapore is keen to find out. The city-state will open one of its neighborhoods to driverless cars in 2015, with the idea that such vehicles could operate as a kind of jitney service, picking up passengers and taking them to trains or other modes of public transportation. The vehicles might be like golf carts, taking people short distances at low speeds, similar to the driverless vehicles demonstrated this year by Google (see “Lazy Humans Shaped Google’s New Autonomous Car”).

Lam Wee Shann, director of the futures division for Singapore’s Ministry of Transport, said during a panel held at MIT last month that the government wants to explore whether autonomous vehicles could reduce congestion and remake the city into one built around walking, bicycling, and public transit.

“Singapore welcomes industry and academia to deploy automated vehicles for testing under real traffic conditions on public roads,” Lam said in a follow-up e-mail interview. He declined to say whether Google or any other companies pursuing driverless cars have contacted Singapore yet.

At 700 square kilometers, Singapore is about three times the size of Boston, but it has 5.5 million residents versus Boston’s 646,000. Because it is so dense, Singapore is aggressively trying to discourage car traffic. For example, if you want to own a car in Singapore you have to pay a “certificate of entitlement” fee that’s roughly equal to the price of a car. It also offers free travel on city trains before peak periods (along with free breakfast vouchers).

Through the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, the city has had pilot tests of driverless cars for several years, starting with two driverless golf carts on the campus of the National University of Singapore. This year it added a Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car, retrofitted to be autonomous. A driverless bus called the Navia is used as a shuttle at Singapore’s Cleantech eco-industrial park and on campus at Nanyang Technology University.

All of these experiments “provide first-and-last mile connectivity to main public transport nodes,” Lam said.

This fall, people in Singapore were able to try out driverless cars for the first time. Driverless buggies were deployed in the Chinese and Japanese gardens in the Jurong Lake District. The system featured an online booking system and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. The buggies ran for two weekends, and carried 500 people over 400 kilometers in total.

Cities with driverless cars could eventually eliminate mainstays like traffic lights. Paolo Santi, a senior researcher with the MIT/Fraunhofer ambient mobility initiative, said at the MIT event that his lab has done simulations showing that twice as many driverless cars could route themselves through intersections, easing congestion and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions caused by stop-and-go driving. Santi hopes to carry out experiments in Singapore to see how pedestrians and bikes affect driverless cars at intersections.

Many challenges remain. On the panel at MIT, Nhai Cao, a senior global product line manager at TomTom, a navigation vendor, noted that, “current maps are not good enough for autonomous vehicles.” Driverless cars, he said, need maps that are three-dimensional and accurate to within 20 centimeters. 

Lam also noted that if driverless cars are available to everyone, that could translate into more people taking car trips. “An autonomous vehicle could add on a lot more road trips, and we can ill afford that,” he said. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

NASA Just Emailed A Wrench To The International Space Station

As reported by IFL ScienceFor the first time ever, hardware designed on the ground has been emailed to space to meet the needs of an astronaut. From a computer in California, Mike Chen of Made In Space and colleagues just 3D-printed a ratcheting socket wrench on the International Space Station. “We had overheard ISS Commander Barry Wilmore (who goes by “Butch”) mention over the radio that he needed one,” Chen writes in Medium this week. So they designed one and sent it up. 
“The socket wrench we just manufactured is the first object we designed on the ground and sent digitally to space, on the fly,” he adds. It’s a lot faster to send data wirelessly on demand than to wait for a physical object to arrive via rockets, which can take months or even years. 
The team started by designing the tool on a computer, then converting it into a 3D-printer-ready format. That’s then sent to NASA, which transmits the wrench to the space station. Once the code is received by the 3D printer, the wrench is manufactured: Plastic filament is heated and extruded layer by layer. The ISS tweeted this photo earlier this week, and you can see more pictures of the very cool wrench-printing process here.
Located on the campus of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Made In Space built the first 3D printer for microgravity, and it was launched to the ISS in September. Within a month, the astronauts 3D-printed their first object: a replacement faceplate for the printer’s casing (pictured below). 
“We chose this part to print first because, after all, if we are going to have 3-D printers make spare and replacement parts for critical items in space, we have to be able to make spare parts for the printers,” NASA’s Niki Werkheiser said in a news release back in November. “If a printer is critical for explorers, it must be capable of replicating its own parts, so that it can keep working during longer journeys to places like Mars or an asteroid. Ultimately, one day, a printer may even be able to print another printer.”
Since then, another 20 objects have also printed -- though these were designed before the printer left Earth and the files were delivered on a cargo supply flight. These first prints will be brought back down in 2015 for examination. Researchers will be comparing them to identical objects manufactured on the ground to study the effects of microgravity on the 3D-printing process. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

NASA's Orion Capsule - This is What it's Like to Reenter the Earth's Atmosphere: (Video)

Contours of turbulence intensity and isosurfaces of mean vorticity from a simulation of flow past a wind tunnel model of the Orion crew module during reentry at Mach 0.5.  Image credit: Paul Stremel, Matthew McMullen, NASA/Ames
As reported by Discovery NewsIn a mesmerizing new video released by NASA, the full reentry of the Orion test space vehicle is chronicled — and it’s a phenomenal 10-minute ride from fiery reentry to sudden splashdown into the Pacific Ocean, all put to dreamy space music.

On Dec. 5, Orion was blasted into space by a Delta 4 Heavy rocket in the first space worthiness test of the US space agency’s next-generation space vehicle. The successful test flight was intended to imitate the full force of slamming into the Earth’s atmosphere at velocities close to the speed a spacecraft would be traveling if it was on a return trajectory from a deep space origin.
The unmanned Orion test vehicle was sent on an elliptical orbit around the Earth, traveling a maximum distance of 3,604 miles from Earth, far beyond the orbit of the International Space Station. The manned version of Orion will will eventually be tasked with transporting astronauts to destinations beyond Earth orbit — an altitude an astronaut hasn’t traveled beyond since the Apollo era and the 1960′s and 70′s — to asteroids and, potentially, Mars.
So for now, we have this stunning video that gives us a capsule-eye view of reentry. For reference, the camera is looking ‘up’ from behind the capsule, so as Orion’s lager heat shield bears the brunt of atmospheric heating as it reenters through the stratosphere, we’re looking along the ionization trail of this man-made meteor as it dashes through the sky.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Over 100 Engineers Are Now Working on Elon Musk's 760MPH Supertube

The Hyperloop Transportation Technologies design for Elon Musk's Hyperloop. It hopes to produce a technical feasibility study finished in mid-2015.
As reported by the DailyMail: Musk believes it would take just 30 minutes to travel the 381 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco – half the time it takes in a plane – and likened the passenger experience to Disneyland's rocket ride Space Mountain.  

Now, the plans are beginning to take shape. 
The team believes the system could link the majority of America's major cities together.
The team believes the system could link the majority of America's major cities together.
A new firm, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, is developing plans to makes the tubes a reality - and it has recruited experts from around the world.

The crowdsourced firm has around 100 engineers on the projects, and nearly all of them have day jobs at companies like Boeing, NASA, Yahoo!, Airbus, SpaceX, and Salesforce.

Dirk Ahlborn, the CEO of the new company, says it seemed the perfect way to develop the plans, with a site called JumpStartFund that aimed to crowdsource ideas.

He got in touch with SpaceX, Musk's firm, and the work began.

The team includes about 25 UCLA graduate architecture students at a facility in Playa Vista, although most members work remotely. 

Ahlborn hopes to have a technical feasibility study finished in mid-2015, according to Wired.
So far, the team has made progress in three main areas: the capsules, the stations, and the route.

'They look at this like a blank sheet of paper on which they can realize their fantasies,' UCLA professor Craig Hodgetts said.

 Musk's idea is based on the pneumatic tubes that fire capsules of paperwork between floors in offices. In this case, the capsules would carry people – even cars – in low-pressure tubes to minimize turbulence and maximize speed.
Musk believes it would take just 30 minutes to travel the 381 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco – half the time it takes in a plane – and likened the passenger experience to Disneyland's rocket ride Space Mountain.
Musk believes it would take just 30 minutes to travel the 381 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco – half the time it takes in a plane – and likened the passenger experience to Disneyland's rocket ride Space Mountain.

On top of pylons is a hovering capsule inside a low-pressurized tube, which can reach speeds of up to 760 MPH.

'The only resistance would be the air in front of the capsule, which we moved to the back by using a compressor,' Hyperloop CEO Dirk Ahlborn said.

At its launch, Musk described the Hyperloop design as looking like a shotgun, with the tubes running side-by-side for most of the journey, then closing at either end to form a loop.

Trains of capsules would shoot through the almost air-free tube at up to 760 MPH,
accelerated by magnets which would also keep each pod on a steady course.

Each capsule would float on a cushion of air it creates as it speeds along – similar to an air hockey table.

So far, the team has made progress in three main areas: the capsules, the stations, and the route.
So far, the team has made progress in three main areas: the capsules, the stations, and the route.
The proposed route of the firstHyperloop follows Interstate 5, which runs through the agriculture-richCentral Valley in California. It would take seven to ten years to build. 
The proposed route of the firstHyperloop follows Interstate 5, which runs through the agriculture-richCentral Valley in California. It would take seven to ten years to build. 
Capsules carrying six to eight people would depart every 30 seconds, with tickets costing around $20 (£13) each way.

In his proposal released online, Musk wrote: 'Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would of course be awesome (someone please do this), the only option for super-fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment.'

The proposed route of the first Hyperloop follows Interstate 5, which runs through the agriculture-rich Central Valley in California. It would take seven to ten years to build.

Musk put the price tag at around $6.25B (£4billion) but pointed out that that is around one-tenth of the projected cost of a high-speed rail system that California has been planning to build.

The 100 person team is spread around the world
The 100 person team is spread around the world.
The tyeam has even built models in their bid to find out if Hyperloop could actually work
The team has even built models in their bid to find out if Hyperloop could actually work
However, transport experts received the proposal with scepticism, citing barriers, such as the threat of earthquakes in the region.

Musk has said he is too focused on other projects, for example his rocket building company SpaceX, to consider building the Hyperloop, and instead is publishing a design that anyone can use or modify.

Musk said he started thinking about the idea when plans for a 130 MPH (210km/h) high-speed train connection between LA and San Francisco were revealed, but now he has detailed his own version on Tesla's site.

'Flight' of the future: The hyperloop will travel the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco in only 30 minutes
'Flight' of the future: The hyperloop will travel the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco in only 30 minutes
Smooth ride: 'It would have less lateral acceleration which is what tends to make people feel motion sick than a subway ride, as the pod banks against the tube like an airplane,' creator Elon Musk said
Smooth ride: 'It would have less lateral acceleration which is what tends to make people feel motion sick than a subway ride, as the pod banks against the tube like an airplane,' creator Elon Musk said.
'I originally started thinking about [Hyperloop] when I read about California's high-speed rail project which was somewhat disappointing,' he told a Google Hangout with Richard Branson last week.

'It's actually worse than taking the plane. I get a little sad when things are not getting better in the future.

'Another example would be like the Concorde being retired and the fact there is no supersonic passenger transport. I think that is sad. You want the future to be better than the past, or at least I do.'

The entrepreneur made his fortune with the internet payment system PayPal before switching his skills into developing the new Falcon rocket system for NASA and the Tesla electric car.

Mr Musk claims Hyperloop would be a practical solution for city pairs separated by 1,000 miles (1,600km) or less. Beyond this distance, it would be better to take a plane, he explained.

Unique: Travellers would enter aluminium pods which are mounted above the ground on columns 50 to 100 yards apart
Unique: Travelers would enter aluminum pods which are mounted above the ground on columns 50 to 100 yards apart.

Modern: This image shows how people would travel in the pods
Modern: This image shows how people would travel in the pods.

But for the shorter distance, his new concept would beat the plane, he argues, because it would not waste time ascending and descending.

'You want a transport system that is roughly twice as fast as the next best alternative, that costs less, that is safer, that is not subject to weather and is more convenient,' Mr Musk said.

'If there were such a thing, I think most people would take it. In fact, it would increase the travel between the city pairs because of the increased convenience.'

Experts say Musk's track record could help the plan become a reality.

'Hyperloop is quite an old science fiction idea but Elon Musk is the sort of man who could make it work,' said physicist Martin Archer from Imperial College London.

Space-like: This conceptual design of the machine shows that it will have a futuristic look
Space-like: This conceptual design of the machine shows that it will have a futuristic look.
Built to last: The inventor boasted that the tracks would be immune to weather and earthquakes, though it is not immediately clear how so
Built to last: The inventor boasted that the tracks would be immune to weather and earthquakes, though it is not immediately clear how so.

Creature comforts: The legroom is said to give would-be passengers a disruption-free ride
Creature comforts: The legroom is said to give would-be passengers a disruption-free ride.

'He's the guy who made electric cars go fast with Tesla, which many people didn't think would be possible; and he's the head of SpaceX which is the only commercial rocket builder that has managed to hook up with the International Space Station.'

Musk says he will leave it to others to build the system initially.

'I have to focus on core Tesla business and SpaceX business, and that's more than enough,' he told investors of Tesla, his electric car firm.

'If nothing happens for a few years, with that I mean maybe it could make sense to make the halfway path with Tesla involvement,' Musk said.

'Hyperloop consists of a low pressure tube with capsules that are transported at both low and high speeds throughout the length of the tube,' Musk said in an exhaustive paper detailing the system posted online.

'The capsules are supported on a cushion of air.'

Each of the capsules is pressurized, and Musk says they have an emergency braking system as well as a reserve air supply in the event of an emergency.

Appealing to environmentalists: This graph shows the energy cost per passenger on different modes of transportation for the specific San Francisco-Los Angeles journey
Appealing to environmentalists: This graph shows the energy cost per passenger on different modes of transportation for the specific San Francisco-Los Angeles journey.
There and back: The 'loop' portion highlights the fact that there would only be two stops
There and back: The 'loop' portion highlights the fact that there would only be two stops.
He admits the scheme came from a disdain for current systems.

'When the California 'high speed' rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too.

'How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world's knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?'

Musk claims the scheme can power itself through solar energy.

'By placing solar panels on top of the tube, the Hyperloop can generate far in excess of the energy needed to operate.

'This takes into account storing enough energy in battery packs to operate at night and for periods of extended cloudy weather', he claims.

Newest US GPS 2F-8 Satellite Goes Active

As reported by Spaceflight NowThe fourth modernized Global Positioning System satellite launched this year has completed in-orbit testing and joined the constellation.  

Launched from Cape Canaveral atop a ULA Atlas 5 rocket on Oct. 29, the GPS 2F-8 satellite became an active member of the navigation network last Friday, Boeing announced Thursday.
The Boeing-built Block 2F series of a dozen spacecraft offer advanced atomic clocks, stronger anti-jamming, and a new third civil signal and longer design life.
“We made great progress this year in the quest to modernize GPS services,” said Dan Hart, vice president of Government Space Systems for Boeing Network & Space Systems. “With two-thirds of the 12 Boeing GPS 2Fs now on orbit, the constellation is setting new records for accuracy and the Boeing GPS 2F’s are consistently among the best performing.”
This year marked the busiest tempo of GPS launches since 1993, back in the days of launching Boeing-built GPS Block 2A satellites to populate the constellation.
“We believe that our track record on GPS speaks for itself, with more than 525 years of on-orbit operation,” Hart said. “We continue to support today’s GPS mission, and are looking forward to delivering the remaining four GPS 2F satellites into service. At the same time, Boeing continues to explore innovative new solutions that will further enhance and improve the next generation of GPS satellites.”
Three more GPS satellites are scheduled for launch in 2015.

Congressional Spending Bill Requires Trucking EOBR/ELD Ruling by June 1, 2015

As reported by The Trucker: Lost in all the hubbub and rancor about the suspension of the post July 1, 2013, 34-hour restart rule, which was part of the $1.1 trillion spending bill signed by President Barack Obama Tuesday night, was the fact that Congress decided to turn up the heat a bit with respect to a new electronic logging devices (ELD) final rule.

The bill requires that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issue its final rule on Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service (HOS) Support Documents by June 1, 2015.

The agency has published a schedule that says the new rule will be sent to the Office of the Secretary by May 11, 2015, and then to the Office of Budget and Management by June 12, 2015.

The published schedule says that the OMB would release the rule by Sept. 16, 2015, and that the final rule would be published by Sept. 30, 2015.

Based on previous rulemakings, especially one of such consequence as the ELD rule, published schedules are seldom met.  Congress mandated an electronic logging device rule in MAP-21, the surface transportation bill passed in 2012.

The process of getting an electronic logging device rule in place is a process that has taken so long that the vernacular has been changed from electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) to ELDs.

The original effort came in January 2007 when the agency issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would have required motor carriers that were deemed serious violators of the Hours of Service rule to install EOBRs.

The rule became final in 2010, but before it could be implemented, the FMCSA in 2012 rescinded the rule in the wake of Congressional pressure to extend the EOBR requirement to all commercial vehicles.

The agency then wrote a proposed rulemaking that required EOBRs in all commercial vehicles, but the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sued, saying the rule did not prohibit the harassment of drivers.

The court agreed and the FMCSA was forced to work on the rule to eliminate the possibility of driver harassment and make other refinements, all of which are now supposed to be incorporated a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that was issued last March.

The FMCSA accepted comments on the SNPRM through June and is now culling through those comments (some 854) as it prepares the final rule.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

US Official: Foreign GNSS Signals Need FCC Authorization for Use in United States

Orbits of four GPS/GNSS communication systems for terrestrial navigation: US-GPS,
EU-Galileo, Russia-GLONASS, China-Beidou/COMPASS compared to orbits of other
satellites (Iridium), and the Hubble telescope as well as the International Space Station.
As reported by Inside GNSSA rule largely aimed at opening trade in telecommunication services will require Russia and other international providers of GNSS services to apply for authorization before their navigation signals can be legally used in the United States, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) official has told GPS experts on the Space-based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board.

The provision will also require manufacturers to get multi-constellation receivers certified for U.S. use, said Ronald Repasi, deputy chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology.
Ronald Repasi, deputy chief of the FCC's Office
of Engineering and Technology speaking at a 2012
hearing of the House Energy and Commerce
“If we seek comment on a proposed use of the satellite band, it could be a foreign system right?” Repasi told the board at a December 10 meeting. “We would put that up for public comment and the public has the opportunity to object to us, agree to issuing that authorization or supporting it or finding other some issues that may be important from their perspective like power levels and out of band emission levels and such."
Repasi suggested that the Adjacent Band Compatibility (ABC) Assessment now under way by the Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Administration should look at the possibility of co-locating GPS receivers with high-powered MSS receivers and see if those would be compatible uses.
The rule, which is implemented and enforced by the FCC, has its roots in the World Trade Organization Telecom Agreement of the late 1990s. It has only recently become an issue for the satellite navigation community as non-GPS GNSS constellations — known as radio navigation satellite systems (RNSS) in the world of radio spectrum regulation — have come into service.
“Section 301 (of the Communications Act of 1984) basically says you need a license from the FCC if you are going to transmit any energy intentionally from some radio transmitter in radio frequency spectrum,” Repasi told the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board December 10 in Washington, D.C.
FCC Notice on RNSS Waivers
The issue is not new, he noted. The FCC issued a public notice March 15, 2011,detailing the criteria for securing a waiver, if recommended by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), acting on behalf of the administration.
In a letter accompanying the public notice, Karl Nebbia, the NTIA associate administrator, Office of Spectrum Management, wrote, “Upon receipt of a request from a foreign government implementing a RNSS system in compliance with applicable rules and procedures established by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), NTIA will consider recommending that the FCC grant a waiver of its licensing requirement. . . .”
Conditions on which the NTIA would recommend such a waiver include: 1) granting the waiver is in the public interest, 2) the waiver is consistent with trade and treaty obligations, 3) the applicant complies with United Nations space debris mitigation guidelines, and 4) the waiver request is limited to receive-only radio navigation services.
In a footnote to its letter, the agency said, “NTIA expects that this request will be as a result of a bilateral consultation led by the Department of State with the foreign administration.”
Effect on International GNSS Relations
Brad Parkinson, the acting chair of the PNT Advisory Board expressed concern about the international ramifications of the filing rule.
“If we don't authorize their signals,” Parkinson said, “there is a danger that they are going to turn around and say ‘We’re not going to use your signals.’”
Tracking systems using multiple satellite signals
can provide better redundancy and performance
as well as better resistance to jamming and
signal spoofing.
A source familiar with the issue told Inside GNSS the United States is not currently required by any country to file for authorization for the GPS signals to be received. Concern has arisen, however, that that might change, particularly if U.S. agencies implemented adverse rulings on other nations’ GNSS systems.
“Despite the fact that this is a fair (application) process because everyone has to do it,” the source said, “some of the nations around the world might decide that they might want to try to apply this process to GPS.”
The issue is not with establishing an application process, the expert added, but if that process is used to create a competitive advantage.
If another nation's application process “was as simple as our process, that would be fine,” the source explained. “It would be bad for anyone to use this process as an excuse to create their own process which is not fair and actually is a trade barrier.”
The near-term consequences for those in the United States, however, appear to fall more in the realm of what cannot be done. An unauthorized signal may not, for example, be protected from interference.
NTLabs GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/BeiDou
RF front-end with reduced power consumption.
Failing to have a signal authorized, said Repasi, meant that that signal cannot be used by services like E911 even though having a device capable of using a foreign signal was not illegal.
“Right now there are literally hundreds of thousands of GPS-GLONASS nonfederal receivers using GLONASS for very useful purposes, to navigate tractors and all kinds of stuff, and iPhones probably,” said Parkinson. “The horse has sort of left the barn — but is he going to get shot? What are you going to do with this thing?”
“It comes down to what we expect to happen in the public comment process when we get a request to operate with those foreign systems,” said Repasi.
That process could begin soon. A source, who asked not to be named in order to be able to speak freely, said the Europeans have already applied for U.S. authorization for Galileo signals, although the application has not yet been posted for public comment.
While the full implications of the rule were unclear, they were deemed potentially serious by the board, decided to flag the issue for the National PNT Executive Committee, the most senior of the nation’s management groups for PNT.