The Japan Times


Saudis say they don't want war with Iran but will defend themselves

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Saudi Arabia does not want war but will not hesitate to defend itself against Iran, a top Saudi diplomat said Sunday, after the kingdom's energy sector was targeted this past week amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf. On Sunday night, a rocket crashed in the Iraqi capital's heavily fortified Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy, further stoking tensions. No casualties were reported in the apparent attack. Adel al-Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs, spoke a week after four oil tankers-- two of them Saudi-- were targeted in an alleged act of sabotage off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and days after Iran-allied Yemeni rebels claimed a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline. "The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want war in the region and does not strive for that … but at the same time, if the other side chooses war, the kingdom will fight this with all force and determination and it will defend itself, its citizens and its interests," al-Jubeir told reporters.


Diet OKs revisions to transportation law to ensure safety of self-driving vehicles

The Japan Times

The Diet on Friday enacted legislative revisions aimed at creating systems to ensure the safety of self-driving vehicles. The revisions to the Road Transport Vehicle Act, approved unanimously by the House of Councilors at a plenary session, call for the applying of vehicle safety standards to self-driving equipment necessary to check the surroundings, including cameras and radars. Under the revised law, special certification will be granted to auto safety inspection business operators capable of undertaking maintenance work for self-driving equipment. The original law did not have provisions that assumed vehicles would ever be self-driving. The revisions also require automakers to provide technical information necessary to carry out inspections of self-driving equipment.


Imaging black hole like listening to broken piano, scientist Katie Bouman says

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - U.S. computer scientist Katie Bouman, who became a global sensation over her role in generating the world's first image of a black hole, has described the painstaking process as akin to listening to a piano with missing keys. Testifying before Congress on Thursday, the postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics also suggested that the technology developed by the project could have practical applications in the fields of medical imaging, seismic prediction and self-driving cars. A photo released last month of the star-devouring monster in the heart of the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy revealed a dark core encircled by a flame-orange halo of white hot plasma. Because M87 is 55 million light-years away, "This ring appears incredibly small on the sky: roughly 40 microarcseconds in size, comparable to the size of an orange on the surface of the moon as viewed from our location on Earth," said Bouman. The laws of physics require a telescope the size of our entire planet to view it.


Toyota considers offering self-driving technology to ride-hailing firms in Asia

The Japan Times

NAGOYA - Toyota Motor Corp. is considering offering autonomous driving technologies to ride-hailing firms, sources close to the matter said Thursday, in its latest push to become a company offering not only cars but also various mobility services. The automaker is planning to supply a new driverless system to be developed with U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. to companies such as Grab Taxi Holdings Pte Ltd. of Singapore and ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd.'s Ola of India, the sources said. Toyota said last month it will jointly invest $1 billion in Uber's new subsidiary to develop autonomous vehicles, together with SoftBank Group Corp. and auto parts supplier Denso Corp. SoftBank Group is the biggest shareholder in Uber and has also invested in Grab and Ola. Toyota is also a stakeholder in Grab, which has a wide range of businesses across Southeast Asia.


Bomb-laden drones of Yemen's Houthi rebels seen threatening Arabian Peninsula

The Japan Times

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.


Autopilot was in use before Tesla hit semitrailer in March fatal Florida crash: NTSB

The Japan Times

DETROIT - A Tesla Model S involved in a fatal crash with a semitrailer in Florida March 1 was operating on the company's semi-autonomous Autopilot system, federal investigators have determined. The car drove beneath the trailer, killing the driver, in a crash that is strikingly similar to one that happened on the other side of Florida in 2016 that also involved use of Autopilot. In both cases, neither the driver nor the Autopilot system stopped for the trailers, and the roofs of the cars were sheared off. The crash, which remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, raises questions about the effectiveness of Autopilot, which uses cameras, long-range radar and computers to detect objects in front of the cars to avoid collisions. The system also can keep a car in its lane, change lanes and navigate freeway interchanges.


Video game rivals Microsoft and Sony team up in cloud

The Japan Times

LOS ANGELES - Longtime video game console rivals Microsoft and Sony on Thursday announced an alliance to improve their platforms for streaming entertainment from the internet cloud. Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform will be used by the two rivals to support game and digital content streaming services, according to a statement from the companies. Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox have for years battled as the two leading video game consoles, with exclusive titles often used as weapons to win the loyalty of players. Sony and Microsoft will also collaborate on semiconductors and artificial intelligence, potentially combining the Japanese company's sensors and chips with the US computer titan's cloud systems and artificial intelligence. "For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas," said Sony chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida.


Casualties reported as Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit Sanaa

The Japan Times

SANAA - The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen carried out several airstrikes on the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Thursday after the Iranian-aligned movement claimed responsibility for drone attacks on Saudi oil installations. The Sanaa strikes targeted nine military sites in and around the city, residents said, with humanitarian agencies reporting a number of casualties. Rubble filled a populated street lined by mud-brick houses, a Reuters journalist on the scene said. A crowd of men lifted the body of a women, wrapped in a white shroud, into an ambulance. Houthi-run Masirah television quoted the Houthi health ministry as saying six civilians, including four children, had been killed and 60 wounded, including two Russian women working in the health sector.


Nissan to offer navigated highway driving system with hands-free component starting in fall

The Japan Times

YOKOHAMA - Nissan Motor Co. said Thursday that from this fall it will start offering a system that allows navigated highway driving and hands-off single-lane driving, in the automaker's latest push toward self-driving vehicles. Nissan said its Skyline sedan for the Japanese market can be equipped with the new driver assistance system, the first of its kind in the world. Aiming to revive its sluggish earnings, the automaker is seeking to enhance the quality and brand image of its vehicles with next-generation technologies under a medium-term business plan unveiled Tuesday. "No other company has this technology of a navigated highway driving system with hands-off single-lane driving," Nissan Executive Vice President Kunio Nakaguro told a news conference at the carmaker's headquarters in Yokohama. Tetsuya Iijima, general manager of Nissan's autonomous drive development, said it would not be easy for other carmakers to commercially offer a more sophisticated assistance system for the moment.


Curious cop pulls over self-driving vehicle on passenger-carrying project's debut day

The Japan Times

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND - A self-driving shuttle got pulled over by police on its first day carrying passengers on a new Rhode Island route. Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements said an officer pulled over the odd-looking autonomous vehicle because he had never seen one before. "It looked like an oversize golf cart," Clements said. The vehicle, operated by Michigan-based May Mobility, was dropping off passengers Wednesday morning at Providence's Olneyville Square when a police cruiser arrived with blinking lights and a siren. It was just hours after the public launch of a state-funded pilot for a shuttle service called "Little Roady."