DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - A Yemen rebel drone strike this week on a critical Saudi oil pipeline shows that the otherwise-peaceful sandy reaches of the Arabian Peninsula now are at risk of similar assault, including an under-construction nuclear power plant and Dubai International Airport, among the world's busiest. U.N. investigators said the Houthis' new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 km (930 miles). That puts the far reaches of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two main opponents of the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen, within reach of drones difficult to detect and track. Their relatively simple design, coupled with readily available information online, makes targeting even easier, analysts say. "These installations are easily findable, like on Google Earth," said Tim Michetti, an expert on illicit weapons technology with experience in Yemen.
How do you bring a bad drone down? New kinds of drones that can fly autonomously can't be stopped with traditional techniques, the US Air Force has warned. It's put out a call for ideas to yank drones right out of the sky. Millions of drones are sold worldwide each year. Most are flown for fun, but a few have been put to criminal use: carrying cameras to bedroom windows, flying into secure airspace over nuclear power stations, and smuggling contraband into prisons.
The first 100 of Baidu's "Level 4" self driving buses have rolled off the production lines, said Robin Li, chief executive of China's largest search engine operator on Wednesday. The self-driving buses, which can seat up to 14 people, were co-developed by Baidu, which is transforming itself into an artificial intelligence (AI) company, and bus maker King Long United Automotive Industry Co. Level 4 operations means that the vehicles can take over all driving in certain conditions. With no steering wheel and high automation, the buses will be put into use in cities including Beijing, Xiongan, Shenzhen and Tokyo, Li said at the Baidu AI Developer forum being held in Beijing. "They will help with shuttle services around nuclear power stations and senior communities in Japan," for example, said Li. Baidu will partner with SB Drive, a subsidiary of SoftBank Group, to export the self-driving buses to Japan. Autonomous vehicles are a key part of the Nasdaq-listed Chinese company's future as it seeks to reshape itself into a major player in artificial intelligence, in line with China's national strategy to develop excellence in the field.
Few people ever need to deal with a stricken nuclear reactor, but that skill could turn out to be important for the evolution of smarter robots. In Pomona, California, this week, 25 of the world's most advanced humanoid robots will take part in a contest inspired by the challenge of stabilizing a nuclear reactor that's leaking dangerous radioactive material. Teams from universities across the U.S., as well as Japan, China, and Europe, are bringing robots that will try to walk across piles of rubble, climb ladders, operate power tools, and drive buggies, among other chores. Each challenge is inspired by something that might have helped stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan after it was damaged by an earthquake in 2011. Considerable academic kudos will go to whichever team completes the most tasks within the allotted time by the end of the contest.
French people love to drive, but with private radar companies set to give out way more speeding tickets, they may be willing to let machines take the wheel. Luckily, the Renault-Nissan Alliance has teamed with a company called Transdev to develop a fleet of self-driving vehicles "for future public and on-demand transportation," it said in a press release. The project will kick off with autonomous field testing of Europe's most popular EV, the 250-mile-range Renault Zoe. Transdev, which will supply the self-driving and logistics tech, recently launched what it claims is the "world's first" fully autonomous fleet to run on an industrial site. Its systems are used on the "Navya Arma" vehicles, shuttling employees around EDF nuclear power stations every five minutes.