CarMax Loses Round in Dispute Over Recalled Cars

Consumer advocates are lauding a court ruling this month that allows a claim against CarMax for selling a car with an unrepaired safety recall to continue.

A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in finding a complaint by Bakersfield, California, resident Tammy Gutierrez against the largest seller of used cars in the U.S. to be legally valid. The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresco finding last Thursday sends the case back to a lower court to proceed.

At issue is whether CarMax broke California law when it sold Gutierrez a 2008 Hyundai Elantra with an unfixed defect subject to recall.

"The new ruling shows a path for victims of such practices who allege that recalled vehicles fail to comply with the implied warranty of merchantability, and are therefore unfit for sale to the public as transportation, to provide additional relevant facts concerning the safety defects," the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, said in a news release.

"CarMax has led the industry in recall transparency and shares vehicle specific recall information in-store and online," the company said in an emailed statement to The Drive. "The California Court of Appeal's opinion supports the disclosure of open recalls when a dealer is aware of them, which is CarMax's current practice."

CarMax also stressed that the recent opinion is not the final decision in the case.

Safety advocates including the Center for Auto Safety released a report in September that found one in four, or about 27 percent, of vehicles at eight CarMax dealerships had defects subject to safety recalls.

You Can Ride Around on a Folding Bike From MINI

With the calendar turning over to March on Thursday it means that Spring is just around the corner. Time to dust off those tennis rackets, golf clubs and bicycles. Just in time for cycling season, MINI is unveiling a new version of its folding bike. You can’t get more fuel efficient than pedaling the last mile of your journey. This folding two-wheeler can easily fit in your trunk, even if that trunk is a MINI one.

MINI says that this new version is a “true all-rounder” bicycle that’s versatile. It’s made of lightweight aluminum and outfitted in such a way that it can be collapsed and unfolded again in a matter of seconds. It comes with its own bag made to stow it away in. The frame is a matte dark-grey highlighted with silver accents and a MINI Wing Logo on the crossbar. The seat and handlebar grips are both wrapped in cognac-colored leather.

Not your average ten-speed, the folding bike comes with eight speeds and a padded leather seat. You’ll be rolling on dubs in this one as the bike comes with 20-inch wheels and features a Teflon-coated chain. All-in-all the package weighs a touch over 24 pounds and will set you back about $800 dollars. It’s the perfect compliment to your MINI.

Can someone with a Hummer please buy this and use it every day? I’d love to see the looks on the faces of passersby when a guy hops out of a giant gas guzzler and unfolds this bike to pedal in from his parking spot.

Check out This McLaren Special Operations Carbon Fiber Senna

The 2018 Geneva Motor Show is almost upon us and with it, a host of exciting reveals. McLaren will be bringing the new Senna to Switzerland for the hypercar's first official public debut, but the brand just can't resist sharing more information about its new Ultimate Series performance car before March 6.

McLaren announced some additional information about the Senna on Wednesday, but the special "Carbon Theme" variant took the spotlight. Developed by McLaren Special Operations, this is one of five special themed editions McLaren's bespoke customization division will build. While the Carbon edition will be on stage at Geneva, the other four themes will be present only digitally at the press conference.

As the name suggests, the "Carbon Theme" Senna's main attraction is its carbon fiber exterior, made up of 67 special parts. The Solar Yellow accents on the front aero blades, exterior door sills, and rear wing combined with Laurel Green brake calipers are an homage to Ayrton Senna's helmet colors. The entire process for customizing this car takes roughly 1,000 hours, 250 of which are needed for the yellow accenting.

The car's interior features the same amount of customization, with Laurel Green covering the door gas strut and Solar Yellow on the seat stitching, steering wheel band, and door panels. A Senna "S" is featured on the seat headrests, and Carbon Black Alcantara adorns the rest of the interior's trim.

"With the [Senna] having generated so much interest since its unveiling in December, we knew we needed to produce something very special in order to showcase the unique talents of McLaren Special Operations," said Ansar Ali, managing director of MSO.

While these variants were built primarily to generate more hype for this hypercar, the MSO "Carbon Theme" can be added to your $1 million Senna for an additional $413,000. Hopefully all 500 buyers were made aware of this, because the Senna has been sold out since its December reveal.

McLaren also announced a new MSO wheel option for the Senna, designated the 7-Spoke Hybrid Carbon Fiber wheel. Made from a blend of carbon fiber and forged aluminum, this wheel is 10 percent lighter than the standard Senna wheel, allowing for better braking, steering response, and acceleration.

Be sure to tune in to Mclaren's press conference at 10:45 Central European Time on March 6 for even more information about the Senna, and surprise reveal the brand hinted at.

Windhorse Aerospace Wants to Send Edible Drones to Relief Areas

While unmanned aerial vehicles can certainly carry payloads containing medical supplies or food rations to those in need, Windhorse Aerospace has been pondering how to make that process even more effective by developing edible drones. That’s right, the young English aerospace company founded by Nigel Gifford has been hard at work on drones people could actually eat and get nutritional value from. How’s that for food delivery via drone?

According to Forbes, Windhorse Aerospace’s founder and chairman is extremely eager to balance the landscape of war, significantly aided by modern UAVs, with a more humanitarian and lifesaving counterpart. “Terrorizing populations has become one of the most effective methods of modern hybrid warfare,” said Gifford.

Apparently, the inciting incident motivating the founder to work on this humanitarian drone project started with a simple cup of coffee. Gifford was inspired by the verbalized frustrations of a Royal Air Force officer and his concerns regarding the delivery of food to Syrians in need. Why not produce a drone made out of edible material? There’d be no pilot, risking his life, and no need for safely designated landing zones. “I realized how sensible that was,” said Gifford.

The next step, of course, would be finding the right partners to produce this nutritional drone, which Gifford dubbed the "Pouncer." Most importantly, the Pouncer needed to be made of food durable enough to undergo and survive extended aerial journeys. According to Gifford, pasta, for example, is one-tenth as strong as aluminum. While that was a start, the consideration of religious and cultural food biases would have to be examined. “A lot of agencies deliver things the people won’t eat,” Gifford explained.

Let's have a look at the Pouncer drone, shall we?

The current plan is reportedly to develop three different models which would carry different-sized payloads and travel different distances. All of these would be deployed from either an aircraft or directly from the ground. The biggest of these models is going to have a 9-foot wingspan, and while Gifford and his team have already test-flown numerous prototypes (constructed from wood instead of food), Windhorse Aerospace is planning on having a fully operational fleet of drones by the end of this year.

Ocean Destroys $82,000 Range Rover Sport After Stupid Tourists Get Stuck on Protected Beach

The Land Rover Range Rover is one of the most luxurious and capable vehicles you can buy today. Its off-road heritage means it can surmount just about any obstacle—that is, except for the folly of man. And now a rental company in England is down one $82,000 Range Rover after a group of tourists drove it onto a protected beach at a nature reserve, promptly got stuck, and abandoned the pricey SUV to be consumed by high tide.

It's normally illegal to even walk on the beach at the U.K.'s South Walney Nature Reserve, a resting stop for migratory birds and home to sensitive vegetation, but neither that nor physical signs and barriers stopped the three men from driving the brand new Range Rover Sport onto the sand on Sunday. After cruising around for a while, the 5,000-pound truck eventually got stuck below the high tide mark.

A member of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust told The Telegraph that he watched the men "remonstrating wildly" as their attempts to dig out the Range Rover sank it further into the muck.

"They'd definitely gone to great lengths to get on that beach. There are very clear posts up seeing 'do not go on the beach' and there are even wooden trunks acting as a barrier," Tony Jesson said. "We sat there for an hour watching them trying to drive it out, pull it out, dig it out. It was very much stuck."

With the sun setting and high tide coming in an hour, the group decided to cut their losses and walked back to higher ground. What happened overnight wasn't pretty; the expensive SUV was totally swamped by the ocean, with waves smashing several windows and flooding the interior with salt water.

The Range Rover was finally hauled off the beach on Tuesday by a tractor, and we can't imagine it's heading anywhere but the salvage yard. The Cumbria Wildlife Trust has lodged a formal complaint about the damage to the protected site from tire tracks and oil seepage, and police confirmed to The Telegraph that they're investigating the incident.

DARPA Wants to Use Fish and Other Sea Life to Track Enemy Submarines

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. military’s top research arm, is looking into whether it might be possible to exploit fish, shellfish, and other marine organisms as unwitting sensors to spot and track submarines and other underwater threats. The idea is create a low cost means of persistently monitoring naval activity beneath the waves across a wide area, but it could be hard to get the sea life to reliably perform their new jobs as discreet undersea spies.

DARPA first announced this project, which it calls the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors, or PALS, earlier in February 2018. The month before it had unveiled a broader concept for an “Ocean of Things,” which would also incorporate a large number of small, low cost, and environmentally friendly sensor nodes, either on the sea bed or floating up above, to monitor ship and submarine movements, as well as gather data about changing environmental conditions and other scientific information.

“The U.S. Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive,” Lori Adornato, the PALS program manager, said in an official statement. “If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles.”

At the most basic level, DARPA envisions developing a system that records marine animal activity, or the sounds they produce, and decodes that data to determine whether they’re just swimming along as normal or dodging an enemy submarine. This would not require actually implanting or otherwise “modifying” any fish or crustaceans.

This is how DARPA envisions the basic concept of its

“Our ideal scenario for PALS is to leverage a wide range of native marine organisms, with no need to train, house, or modify them in any way, which would open up this type of sensing to many locations,” Adornato added. DARPA notes that marine animals are otherwise already equipped, thanks to millions of years of evolution, to have the “equipment” necessary to monitor their own environment. Beyond just being able to see, touch, and hear potential prey or threats, they can often detect more subtle electro-magnetic and chemical changes to their surroundings.

This could all make the system more cost effective, since the U.S. military would only need to establish a network to collect the relevant information, categorize it, and transmit it onward to wherever it might need to go. DARPA’s goal is for each of those nodes to be able to monitor fish and other sea life more than 500 yards away and to be able to reliably discern between routine and abnormal movements and sounds.

It’s ambitious, but PALS could offer a novel solution to the U.S. Navy’s very real problem of trying to adequately monitor the movements of potentially hostile submarines or underwater drones across broad areas, especially in the Pacific Ocean. Advanced diesel-electric subs with air-independent propulsion (AIP) technology are only becoming more common and affordable, even to smaller countries.

AIP systems let conventional submarines sail more quietly and remain underwater for extended periods of time, offering capabilities closer to that of nuclear submarines, but without the costs and other factors associated with those boats. Among America’s potential near-peer opponents, China actively pursuing expanded submarine capabilities, including both nuclear and AIP-equipped submarines. At the same time, the country is looking to improve its own abilities to track American submarines in the Pacific through underwater sensor networks.

A Chinese Type 091 nuclear powered submarine in 2009.

Russia is also slowly adding advanced diesel-electric submarines as it overhauls its existing fleet, while North Korea is steadily growing its own capabilities in this regard to potentially include designs capable of firing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. Russia and China are also pushing their boats on the open market, and North Korea often collaborates with other potential opponents of America, all of which could put advanced designs into the hands of smaller, regional adversaries.

To handle these emerging threats, the Navy is already exploring the potential of using long-endurance unmanned surface craft to scour the open ocean semi-autonomously for threats. Unfortunately, existing unmanned undersea vehicles operating with limited human interaction far from friendly forces have proven vulnerable to harassment and capture. Forward deployed ships, manned aircraft, and drones, all offer additional maritime surveillance capabilities, but require significant manpower and logistical resources, as well as often complicated basing agreements with host countries.

It is possible that the Navy could look to link those more traditional assets with a working PALS system in the future in order to extend their capabilities. This in turn could help them narrow their search area or make it more difficult for a hostile submarine to elude its pursuers after an initiation detection.

But leveraging sea life has the potential to eliminate many of those considerations entirely. Unfortunately, PALS’ objectives are likely to be easier said than done.

A US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol plane.

This is hardly the first time the U.S. military, including DARPA and its predecessor organizations, have investigated the possibility of employing local fauna to spot and track enemies with limited human interaction. Those past projects have almost universally failed to produce the results.

The biggest issue is that without some sort of control mechanism, animals are, well, animals. They can behave unexpectedly or erratically and their basic habits can change as they age or in response to broader changing environmental factors. The same species of fish or invertebrate might not even manifest the same characteristics in different areas of the ocean, a problem that emerged in a previous Navy program to turn whale songs into a covert communications tool.

Any sensor system collecting information about them will have to account for these things in order to avoid routinely sending back false positives. DARPA will need to run a wide array of tests with various species just build an initial dataset of the kind of responses it can expect when a submarine or other man-made underwater object passes by those creatures.

It’s a lot of potential clutter for any system to try and parse through quickly. Advances in artificial intelligence might be able to help speed up the process of identifying patterns of activity and correlating them into actionable information in the future, something the U.S. military is working on already as a way to help sift through bulk intelligence imagery.

US Navy sailors aboard the <em data-recalc-dims=Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS John S. McCain sailors monitor underwater objects using the ship's sonar." />

This lack of readily uniform results has stymied a number of earlier animal-based military projects, including the U.S. Army’s attempts to develop what it called “instrumented biosensors” during the Vietnam War. The basic idea was to build a hand-held device full of insects that would become agitated when they became exposed to air with traces of human sweat or waste. The operator would listen for increased buzzing or clicking through a set of headphones. The plan was to use the units to detect ambushers and as "people sniffers" to track insurgents hiding in dense jungle environments.

Needless to say, it didn’t work. The bugs didn’t always respond when the researchers hoped they would, or, more problematically, just did so in response to being shaken around as soldiers carried the prototype systems. As living organisms, they also had normal rest and activity schedules that meant they would regularly stop “working” entirely for extended periods of time.

A low quality scan showing one of the Army's Vietnam War-era bug-powered people sniffers.

DARPA has left open the possibility of “modifying” fish or other sea creatures with some additional equipment, such as miniaturized sensors, to help improve the reliability of any such system. This could easily prove politically controversial and the Navy already routinely fields criticism from environmental advocates that its operations, especially the use of active sonar, endanger whales and other aquatic animals.

Doing so would also likely limit the cost saving aspects of PALS, since it would require capturing the animals, installing the necessary components, and releasing them back into the wild. To make the system work at all, the U.S. military will already need to deploy and maintain the sensor net to process and transmit the data.

It would also limit the life forms that the U.S. military would be able to use at all. “DARPA expressly forbids the inclusion of endangered species and intelligent mammals, such as dolphins and whales, from researchers' proposals on the PALS program,” Jared Adams, a spokesperson for the agency, told Defense News. The Navy does use dolphins and sea lions to help hunt for underwater hazards and other items of interest, but in conjunction with human handlers.

If DARPA can find a way to make PALS practical and reliable, it could definitely be a boon for the Navy’s ability to locate potentially hostile submarines and other undersea threats. Unfortunately, past experience shows that there are already a number of challenges the project will have to overcome first.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

AR Start-Up Edgybees Raises $5.5M to Bring AR Platform to UAV First Response Industry

California-based augmented reality start-up Edgybees announced that it has raised $5.5 million in funding Wednesday. The company plans to use this capital to refine its AR platform, which has already been used by drones during emergencies and first response scenarios, such as the Hurricane flooding in Florida and the recent Northern California wildfires. According to Tech Crunch, the technology used by Edgybees essentially overlays useful guidelines on a drone’s camera-feed, such as street names or items of interest, which are obviously highly useful in disaster scenarios.

Coincidentally, the last time we announced that a drone-tech company received financial backing, it also planned on utilizing the funds for an in-house AR platform. As opposed to DroneBase’s AirCraft Pro AR platform, however, Edgybees is utilizing augmented reality in a more immediate way. Formerly focused on using AR for gaming purposes, the company has shifted toward the emergency response sector by augmenting virtual information over tangible landscapes.

Let's watch a video by Edgybees to demonstrate what this looks like in action.

Thanks to the recent funding, largely from companies such as Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, Verizon Ventures, 8VC, NFC, Aspect Ventures, and OurCrowd, the company hopes to maximize relief efforts through its AR platform, and has reportedly demonstrated that potential in emergencies.

In the next video, thanks to the aerial view in combination with overlaid AR data, you can really get a sense of how the AR technology used by Edgybees helps firefighters coordinate better, and have more functional information at their disposal.

“What started as technology powering a racing game is now saving lives around the world,” said co-founder and CEO Adam Kaplan. “The overwhelming response by commercial and industrial drone users looking to leverage AR, and partner with us in the fields of fire, public safety, and search [and] rescue has been amazing, and we can’t wait to expand the next set of drone applications into new markets," Kaplan added.

We've reported a tremendous amount on unmanned aerial vehicles in law enforcement and firefighting. The affordability in conjunction with the rather sophisticated technology provided makes the modern-day drone an extremely invaluable tool for these industries. What we have here is simply a new, added layer of practicality. If those in charge of saving lives can have a more descriptive, informative aerial view of what is occurring below, replete with descriptors, labels, and guidelines, then Edgybees might truly be at the forefront of making these lifesaving efforts even more efficient.

Canadian Man Flees Police By Floating Down River on a Block of Ice

In a story more Canadian than a curling controversy, a man in the province of New Brunswick was arrested after police say he fled the scene of an assault by using a floating block of ice as a getaway...vehicle, according to Global News.

The impromtu ice-capade began after Royal Canadian Mounted Police received a call about an assault at a residence in the city of Moncton early Thursday morning. When officers arrived, the suspect had already left—but shortly after, police spotted him floating down the nearby Petitcodiac River on what was described as a "large piece of ice."

Creative, yes. Effective, no. The ice floe didn't get very far before getting caught in a jam, and police began the difficult task of apprehending someone standing on a slippery, unstable surface. Rescue teams tried to entice him with a rope and a life jacket, but he reportedly "refused their help."

Eventually, officials contacted the Canadian Coast Guard, who sent over a search and rescue team with a helicopter to pluck him off the frozen river. Seeing that, the suspect clambered over to the marshy bank where he was arrested by RCMP officers.

"He’s very lucky to still be with us," Dieppe District Fire Chief Marc Cormier told Global News.

34-year-old Mike Delahunt was charged with assault, uttering threats, property damage, and breach of probation. Unfortunately, it seems like he'll still be on ice a while longer.

This Is The USAF’s “Safer” Carbon Fiber Bomb That’s Also Extraordinarily Expensive

For the third year in a row, the U.S. Air Force is asking for funds to buy a small number of bombs with special carbon fiber shells that make them less likely to endanger friendly forces, cause collateral damage, and accidentally kill civilians. It’s an increasingly important tool for the service to have, but it has yet to start buying them in bulk, likely in part because they’re amazingly expensive.

In the Air Force’s latest budget request for the 2019 fiscal year, which it released earlier in February 2018, the service asked for a little more than $8 million to buy just 70 of the 500-pound class carbon fiber BLU-129/Bs, also known as the Very Low Collateral Damage Weapon, or VLCDW. At that price, each one costs more than $116,000, or at least 40 times more than the regular 500-pound class BLU-111/B high explosive bomb and more than five times the cost of even the service’s new 2,000-pound class BLU-137/B bunker buster. This figure doesn’t include the cost of precision guidance kits or specialized fuzes either.

In spite of that price tag, the basic concept behind the weapon is relatively simple. When the bomb explodes, the carbon fiber body vaporizes, producing no shrapnel that might end up flying far away from the point of detonation, injuring innocent civilians or unnecessarily damaging private property.

This is effectively the opposite of the Air Force's new cast ductile iron bombs, which have their own special shell that is supposed to fragment uniformly for maximum damage across a broad area. Those weapons are supposed to offer a safer alternative to cluster bombs, leaving no unexploded bomblets behind, but would still be quite threatening to anyone caught in its wide blast radius.

An inert carbon fiber body for the BLU-129/B bomb.

Precision guidance can help reduce unintended damage, too, but it doesn’t do anything to limit the effects of a weapon once it explodes. According to the Air Force’s budget documents, the weapon is three times less likely than a standard 500-pound class high explosive bomb to cause damage to anything but the intended target. It’s also a significant improvement over the previous BLU-126/B Low Collateral Damage Bomb, or LCDB, which was simply a regular steel cased BLU-111/B, but with less explosive filler.

The Air Force fields the bomb in just one configuration, combined with a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GPS-guidance kit and the service refers to the complete system as the GBU-38(V)5/B. Ground crews will often assemble the weapons with air burst fuzes with DSU-33/B proximity sensor, which detonate the bomb at a preset height above the ground. Since its not designed to penetrate reinforced materials or create a cloud of deadly shrapnel, in any configuration, the bomb’s blast radius is relatively contained, making it less useful against hardened targets or enemy forces spread out across a wide area.

But the weapons are ideal for engaging hostile forces situated dangerously close to friendly troops or innocent civilians, especially those who are either entirely exposed or have no overhead cover. They’re particularly useful for operations in dense urban environments and the Air Force has already employed them against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and against the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan.

The Air Force, as well as other U.S. military services, have also been developing smaller guided munitions that allow for more precision targeting with less risk to nearby friendly forces or civilians. Of course, by virtue of their size, those weapons also generally lack the destructive power of larger bombs. Depending on the exact situation, a weapon such as the BLU-129/B might offer a sorely needed compromise when targeting specific terrorists or small groups of militants.

The bombs are also apparently a feat of engineering and materials science that the Air Force crafted together the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a Department of Energy research center better known for designing nuclear weapons. Since 1985, Energy has had a formal relationship with the Department of Defense to make those same resources available for conventional weapons development.

Personnel at LLNL use a special machine to wrap carbon fiber filament to produce cases for prototype BLU-129/B bombs.

And while carbon fiber is a well understood materiel, the scientists and engineers who developed the BLU-129/B had to craft a complex shell that was rigid enough to survive flying attached to a fast moving combat aircraft, falling thousands of feet, and then potentially breaking through a barrier such as the roof of a typical building, but would still produce no fragments when the bomb exploded. A special multiphase blast (MBX) explosive filler helps ensure that the casing disintegrates completely.

To help speed up the project, which began in 2010, personnel at LLNL heavily utilized supercomputer-powered models and simulations to determine how the bomb’s case would react to various stresses in order to determine whether it would function properly. According to an article in the March 2013 issue of laboratory’s internal Science & Technology Review magazine, scientists and engineers did 95 percent of the design work through modeling rather than physical testing and prototyping.

“In the ‘old’ days, we would build a prototype, test it, and revamp it based on the results,” Kip Hamilton, the project manager for the bomb at LLNL said in an interview for article. “Our advanced modeling and simulation capabilities reduce the time needed to determine the final design specifications for munitions.”

LLNL also said it designed the prototype weapons from the beginning with an eye toward mass production. Unfortunately, after the better part of a decade and despite the weapon’s obvious utility, this still hasn’t happened.

A complete GBU-31(V)5/B JDAM with the BLU-129/B bomb.

In each budget request since the 2016 fiscal year, the Air Force has asked for the same amount, a little more than $8 million, to buy 70 of the bombs. In January 2017, the service cut a one-time fixed-price deal with General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems to build up to 500 of the carbon fiber bodies over an indefinite period.

According to the latest budget request for fiscal year 2019, the Air Force is still trying to determine how many BLU-129/Bs it should keep on hand at any one time in general. In the meantime, it says it is only buying just enough to meet stated operational demands.

One has to wonder whether the limited stockpile of the weapons to begin with, combined with their exorbitant cost, might make units flying missions over Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan less likely to use them or ask for more, though, even when they might be useful. The fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, in particular, involved major aerial campaigns over cities, such as the terrorist group’s de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa, where the carbon fiber bombs might have helped mitigate the reportedly significant numbers of civilian casualties.

Inversely, it is possible that there might be more demand if there were more of the bombs available. Larger purchases would likely help drive down the high unit price, at least to some degree, as well.

The video below shows a U.S.-led coalition air strike on a building in Raqqa, Syria in 2015, which gives a good sense of the effects of using standard high explosive bombs in an urban environment.

“The way wars are fought now is vastly different than it was even 15 years ago,” Hamilton said in 2013. “More consideration is given to protecting warfighters in close proximity to targets and to civilians not engaged in the fight.”

These statements have only become more pronounced since then in an age of cell phone cameras and the internet. Any errant shrapnel can quickly become a major propaganda tool and give ammunition to both actual enemy forces, as well as other critics, including opposing governments elsewhere in the world.

Battles inside built up areas full of both enemy forces and regular people caught up in the fighting are also likely to become increasingly more common as time goes on and as global populations grow and urbanization expands around the world. The Pentagon as a whole is increasingly becoming more concerned by the prospect of future conflicts that take place in part inside "megacities," which it defines as cohesive population centers with 10 million or more inhabitants.

Though they’re unlikely to ever replace all bombs in all situations, having options like the BLU-129/B, or a cheaper, more usable alternative, will be an important capability for the Air Force going forward. Hopefully, they’ll be able to find a way to bring the costs down and do so quickly.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

Startup Pony.ai Launches Autonomous Ride-Sharing Pilot in China

Pony.ai is the latest company to launch a ride-sharing service using self-driving cars. The startup recently launched a ride-sharing pilot on a 1.7-mile route near its Chinese headquarters in Nansha, Guangzhou.

It's a relatively small-scale effort, but impressive considering that Pony.ai is relatively new to the autonomous-driving game. The startup, which has dual headquarters in China and Fremont, California, was founded in 2016, and said it had only tested its self-driving cars on public roads for three months before launching the ride-sharing service.

The current fleet includes four Lincoln MKZ sedans and two GAC Chuanqi crossovers. Pony.ai recently signed an agreement with GAC to collaborate on autonomous-driving tech, so the Chinese automaker's cars will likely make up the bulk of its fleet as it scales up.

Two larger tech companies, Baidu and Shouqi, previously announced plans to team up on an autonomous ride-sharing service in China, but Pony.ai seems to have beaten them to the punch. However, the startup is far from the only company to launch a small-scale autonomous ride-sharing pilot.

NuTonomy began giving rides in self-driving cars in Singapore about two years ago, and it's now working with Lyft on a demonstration project in Boston. Waymo self-driving cars are currently giving rides to members of the public in Arizona, and Nissan will conduct a brief autonomous ride-sharing pilot program in Japan in March.

The goal is to create a robotic version of Uber, but that depends on regulations and the public's willingness to ride in autonomous cars. When it comes to the latter, China may be a better place to start than other countries. A recent study found that Chinese consumers are more willing to trust self-driving cars than their counterparts in both the United States and Germany.