The Switchboard: Legislators skeptical about self-driving car safety

November 20, 2013

(Steve Jurvetson)

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech stories you need to read.

Lawmakers question safety of driverless cars. "Lawmakers expressed a mix of wonderment and concern about driverless cars during a hearing Tuesday to consider the ramifications of the emerging technology," the Hill writes. "Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) said that he had 'so many questions' about the possibility of cars that can drive themselves being on the road with other vehicles."

US senators say there’s “no evidence” bulk metadata surveillance is useful. A lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, filed in July, challenges the legality of the NSA's collection of Americans' calling records. Ars Technica reports that "in a new amicus brief filed on Tuesday, Senators Mark Udall (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) say that they 'have seen no evidence that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records has provided any intelligence of value that could not have been gathered through less intrusive means.'"

First responder network ponders cash conundrum. "A new federal government project to bring first responders’ communications into the digital age is grappling with a key question: Who’s going to pay for it?" Politico reports that "Congress last year authorized plans for the wireless network, known as FirstNet, in a bid to remedy the communications breakdowns that plagued police officers and firefighters after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and during the Hurricane Katrina recovery. But the program’s funding of $7 billion fell far below what some said is needed to ensure it covers most of the country."

Hijack customers’ computers to generate bitcoins? New Jersey has a problem with that. "An online gaming company just agreed to a $1 million settlement in New Jersey for hijacking users' computers to generate Bitcoins for the company's benefit," our own Andrea Peterson writes. The complaint against E-Sports Entertainment "alleges that it was trying to cheat its customers by installing on their machines malicious code that enabled the company to monitor computers even when not signed into the service and linked the computers to a botnet to mine for bitcoins."

Obama wants to 'blow up' tech purchasing. "President Obama on Tuesday called for an overhaul of how the federal government purchases technology," according to the Hill. "The way the federal government does procurement and does [information technology] is just generally not very efficient," Obama said. "In fact, there's probably no bigger gap between the private sector and the public sector than IT."

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Andrea Peterson | November 19, 2013