Kill animals and destroy property before hurting humans, Germany tells future self-driving cars

New auto rules approaching in the land of Das Auto

Germany’s government has answered the car ethics question once and for all: driverless cars should prioritize the protection of human life over the destruction of animals or property.

On Wednesday, the nation's Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure – a curious combination that suggests they took "information superhighway" too literally – announced it will "implement" guidelines devised by a panel of experts scrutinizing self-driving technology.

Back in June, the ministry's ethics commission produced a report on how computer-controlled vehicles should be programmed and designed in future. The panel of 14 scientists and legal eggheads suggested some 20 rules autonomous rides should follow. Now, Germany's transport regulator has pledged to enforce them in one way or another.

Among the proposed rules are:

Ultimately, drivers will still bear responsibility if their autonomous charabanc crashes, unless it was caused by a system failure, in which case the manufacturer is on the hook.

"The interaction between Man and machine raises new ethical questions during this time of digitization and self-learning systems," said transport minister Alexander Dobrindt. "The ethics commission has done pioneering work and has developed the world's first guidelines for automated driving. We are now implementing these guidelines."

This comes after a law was passed earlier this year in Germany requiring a human to be sat behind the wheel of all “driverless” cars so that they can take over at the first sign of trouble. This allows people to test their autonomous vehicle software and hardware, and prat about on their phone as needed while the computer does the rest.

Although Germany is, famously, home to a large number of car manufacturers – including BMW, Mercedes and Daimler to name but three – the most famous purveyor of autopilots in the Anglosphere is US-headquartered Tesla. The Musk-mobile maker has suffered a number of very high-profile crashes, including one where a driver who initially blamed the autopilot later told the media – seemingly with Tesla’s approval – that he himself was at fault.

In addition, 40-year-old Joshua Brown was killed when neither he nor his Tesla’s autopilot spotted a large light-colored lorry driving slowly across the motorway he was traveling on. America’s National Transportation Safety Board carried out a very detailed investigation into the crash, obtaining telematics data from the car’s systems.

It seems likely that Tesla’s autopilot software, off the shelf, will comply with Germany’s upcoming rules, which will be reviewed two years after they are implemented. Key on the list of “what does this mean?” questions for autonomous cars are:

This move by Germany will eventually put one solution to the question of “what should the car do in the event of an inevitable crash” on a legally binding footing. ®

Send us news
Get our Weekly newsletter

Satellite collision anticipated by EU space agency fails to materialize... for now at least

Internet rubberneckers and crisis-starved media left to ponder non-event

Two days ago, the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EU SST) initiative warned of a possible collision on Friday between two orbiting objects, but it now appears they passed each other without incident.

The two chunks of space junk are identified as OPS 6182 (1978-042A), a defunct US meteorological satellite, and SL-8 R/B (1981-041B), a rocket body launched in 1971 by the former Soviet Union to deliver a satellite into orbit.

Initially, EU SST estimated the chance of collision at above 1 per cent, and by Thursday, that figure had been revised upward to more than 20 per cent. The abandoned pieces of equipment were initially expected to come within 10m of each other, an uncomfortably small gap given the possible consequences.

Continue reading

Wormhole encrypted file transfer app reboots Firefox Send after Mozilla fled

Apps' developers believe they can manage potential abuse

Earlier this month, a startup called Socket, Inc., launched Wormhole, a web app for encrypting files and making them available to those who receive the URL-embedded encryption key, without exposing the files to the cloud-based intermediary handling the transfer.

That may sound a bit like what Mozilla tried to do with Firefox Send, launched in 2017 and shut down a year and a half later. And that's intentional.

"Wormhole is a reboot of Firefox Send, but with many improvements," explained Feross Aboukhadijeh, a widely known open source developer and co-founder of Socket, in an email to The Register. "We loved Firefox Send and were so disappointed when it was shut down that we decided to rebuild it, but with additional enhancements."

Continue reading

Texan's alleged Amazon bombing effort fizzles: Militia man wanted to take out 'about 70 per cent of the internet'

Someone hasn't heard of redundancy

The US Justice Department on Friday announced the arrest of Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, for allegedly planning to blow up a single Amazon data center in Ashburn, Virginia, which he thought would knock out around 70 per cent of the internet.

Pendley, the feds said, was arrested on Thursday after supposedly trying to buy explosives from an undercover agent in Fort Worth, Texas. He came to the attention of authorities after someone alerted the FBI on January 8, 2021 – two days after the violent US Capitol insurrection – to troubling statements posted by the suspect to, a forum for organizing militia groups.

Pendley's Facebook account, it's claimed, shows his boasting about participating in the protests in Washington, DC, on January 6. He's said to have told friends in private messages that he didn't enter the Capitol building but did manage to reach a platform outside where he took a piece of broken glass and "interacted" with the police.

Continue reading

Lenovo's latest gaming monster: Eight cores, 3.2GHz, giant heat sink, two fans. Oh, and it has a phone bolted on

Mammoth as a mobe, but serious as a game device

Lenovo's latest tech features top-shelf components and new cooling technologies.

Designed for gaming, the Chinese firm claims it provides a 35 per cent performance boost plus a full suite of premium features over the previous generation. The kit is also equipped with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform. Yep. Because it is a phone.

Here are some specs for the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2:

Continue reading

Amazon claims victory after warehouse workers in Alabama vote to reject union

Retail union accuses the tech giant of illegally swaying votes, files complaint

Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against unionization, according to results announced on Friday.

The battle waged by pro-union workers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), was regarded as a crucial first step for fighting against working conditions at Amazon’s so-called fulfillment centers. The threat to the e-commerce giant could potentially set a precedent for other warehouses across the US to unionize.

But their efforts were shut down, after the majority of their colleagues voted against them. “Thank you to employees at our BHM1 fulfillment center in Alabama for participating in the election,” Amazon said in a statement.

Continue reading

State of Iowa approves $17m in budget for Workday project after bid to use coronavirus relief funds was denied

Questions raised about procurement process but, gosh, they badly need a replacement HR system

The US State of Iowa has approved $17m in its 2022 budget to replace an HR system dating back to the 1980s with Workday software.

Opposition state representative Chris Hall reportedly refused to back the funding, raising concerns about the lack of competitive bidding for the $52m, five-year project, which will also replace government financial planning software.

Questions have been asked about the procurement as former chief of staff to the state Jake Ketzner is now a lobbyist for the California SaaS specialist. Enthusiasts can listen to local newshound Erin Jordan get a firm "no comment" from Workday's Ketzner before he hangs up to go into a "meeting" here.

Continue reading

SpaceX's Starlink: Overhyped and underpowered to meet broadband needs of Rural America, say analysts

As the constellation stands anyway

SpaceX's Starlink has been described as the solution to dismal rural broadband. Like any project linked to Elon Musk, the satellite internet constellation is surrounded by a thick cloud of hype. But is it justified?

Analyst house MoffetNathanson isn't sure. A new report published earlier this week expressed doubts about Starlink's ability to cover the US market in its current form, citing the bandwidth concerns and end-user consumption rates.

The outfit suggested Starlink's total addressable market, based on the company reaching its lofty goals to deploy 12,000 satellites, hovers between just 300,000 and 800,000 households.

Continue reading

NASA's Mars helicopter spins up its blades ahead of hoped-for 12 April hover

Things to look forward to on Monday morn: Our Who, Me? column and 1st flight of Ingenuity

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is set to take its first flight after engineers spun its blades up to 50rpm in preparation.

The downlink from the first flight is due on 12 April at 0730 UTC (0330 ET) with a postflight briefing scheduled for 1500 UTC (1100 ET). The dates currently carry a "not earlier than" prefix as engineers keep an eye on Martian conditions, but the testing of the diminutive device's rotors indicates there is every chance the first flight will go ahead.

Continue reading

UK's National Cyber Security Centre recommends password generation idea suggested by El Reg commenter

Who says everything below the line is a cesspit of useless filth?

Nearly a third of Britons use the name of their pet or a family member as a password, the National Cyber Security Centre has said as it advised folk to adopt what looks very much like a Register forum user's suggestion for secure password generation.

A survey of 1,282 British adults commissioned by the NCSC showed that 15 per cent used a pet's name while 14 per cent use the name of a family member as a password.

The old staples of "123456" and "password" still each account for 6 per cent of login phrases used by Brits, the GCHQ offshoot found.

Continue reading

KPMG wins Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council's £18m everything-and-the-kitchen-sink IT deal

From org design to developing operations, consulting-outsourcing giant carries the can

Consultancy and outsourcing firm KPMG has been awarded an £18m contract to, for all intents and purposes, create the entire back-end operations, processes and technology system for the recently formed Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

Legally born on 1 April 2019 from the merger of constituent councils, BCP Council has been looking for a "more fundamental transformation... to fully realise the opportunities that local government reorganisation can bring, as well as remove the complexity, duplication and therefore cost of the operating model," according to the contract award notice.

KPMG, it appears, is the supplier to do that. It was inevitable, perhaps, because the consultancy giant had already developed the Organisational Design for the council [PDF].

Continue reading

Microsoft drops 64-bit OneDrive into the pool: Windows on ARM fans need not apply. As usual

Up to 18.4 million petabytes... which should be useful to someone

Microsoft has released a 64-bit preview of its OneDrive sync client for Windows, citing "large files" and "a lot of files" as a driver for the update.

The update has been among user wishes for a while, with a 2016 whinge topping the charts ahead of arguably more useful feature requests such as syncing over a local LAN or (whisper it) a Linux client.

"Make Onedrive 64 bit! Simple as that! 32 bit Onedrive process on 64 bit OS in 2016 is simply unacceptable!" was the request and, five years later, someone deep within the dark heart of Redmond set the necessary compiler switches, tweaked the code just so... and here we are.

Continue reading