Recently in intelligence Category

Linklist: May 8, 2012

Strib: No-frills air carrier is filling in gaps :

"Meet Great Lakes, a no-frills newcomer that believes there's a lucrative opportunity in connecting rural America with bustling airports like MSP. The Wyoming-based airline is in the midst of adding more than a dozen new cities to its local roster, with the Twin Cities serving as its hub for 20 percent of its destinations."
It provides "essential air services" with big government subsidy.

The frequent fliers who flew too much - Los Angeles Times. Matt Yglesias writes:

Back in 1981, American Airlines needed cash. Interest rates were sky high, so rather than borrowing the money, they hit upon a weird idea: sell lifetime passes good for unlimited first-class air travel for $250,000. Add a companion pass for $150,000 more. The resulting program, the AAirpass, turned out to be a huge disaster brilliantly chronicled over the weekend in the Los Angeles Times. Losing millions of dollars a year on its highest-use members, American has in recent years been employing investigators to try to find instances of rule violations that let them cancel members' passes.

I absolutely love this story because it illustrates so much about the business and economics worlds. It highlights the fact that there are a lot of ways to engage in "hidden borrowing" and that this kind of hidden leverage is often very costly. It illustrates the importance of avoiding adverse selection if you want to succeed. And most of all, it illustrates that over and above the structural issues facing the notably unprofitable U.S. aviation industry there also seems to be a problem of systematic mismanagement and repeated blunders.

Amtrak to Use iPhones to Streamline Service - NYTimes.com:

"Old-school train conductors are finally ready to give up their hole punchers to try something new: the iPhone.

Amtrak, the government-owned corporation that oversees the nation’s railroad train services, has been training conductors since November to use the Apple handset as an electronic ticket scanner on a few routes, including from Boston to Portland, Me., and San Jose, Calif., to Sacramento."

Ars: Google gets license to test drive autonomous cars on Nevada roads:

"On Monday, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles approved Google’s license application to test autonomous vehicles on the state’s roads. The state had approved such laws back in February, and has now begun issuing licenses based on those regulations.

The state previously outlined that companies that want to test such vehicles will need an insurance bond of $1 million and must provide detailed outlines of where they plan to test it and under what conditions. Further, the car must have two people in it at all times, with one behind the wheel who can take control of the vehicle if needed.

The Autonomous Review Committee of the Nevada DMV is supervising the first licensing procedure and has now approved corresponding plates to go with it, complete with a red background and infinity symbol."

The Prospect Park Newsletter sends me to Pete LeBak ... :

"Pete LeBak's barber shop is a neighborhood institution in Prospect Park.  He's been here over 31 years.  Light rail is going in on University Ave. now, and the work has wiped out the parking in front. Access is daunting folks; traffic has slowed to a trickle. So business has cratered.  By the way, that's 'Bug' (short for Ladybug) on the floor in her usual posture. She's about 110 in dog years.  Neighbors and friends are trying to get Pete some press and spread the word to help him make it through the construction gauntlet.  Pete was fixing to move out, but he thought back on the 31 years he'd been there, all the friends he'd made, and it got his back up.  Longtime customers stopped by to beg him not to go. So now he's fighting to stay.  We're rallying the troops."
[the external cost of transportation construction is non-trivial]

Linklist: February 23, 2012

TechCrunch says: Strategic Sharing: Zipcar Leads $13.7M Investment In Campus Car-Sharing Startup Wheelz:

"Well, you have to hand it to the strategy team over at Zipcar. Arguably the largest on-demand car-sharing network, Zipcar went public last year and not long after saw its market cap cross $1 billion. It’s since fallen back, and with collaborative consumption and the market for car-sharing heating up, the big players have to make moves. Zipcar has since forged a partnership with Ford, making it the largest provider of cars for Zipcar’s University program, and, in December, the company took a controlling stake in Spain’s largest car-sharing network, Avancar.

Today finds Zipcar making another strategic move to get its mitts in fellow car-sharing companies, again with a focus on universities, whose students are among the most eager adopters of car-sharing models. What do I mean? The company today announced that it is a lead investor in the $13.7 million Series A financing of Wheelz, a junior, university-focused version of itself."

KurzweilAI: GPS jamming: a clear and present reality :

"A secret network of 20 roadside listening stations across the UK has confirmed that criminals are attempting to jam GPS signals on a regular basis, according to New Scientist One Per Cent blog.

Jammers seem to be being used by truckers to prevent their journeys being tracked by their bosses, or by thieves stealing commercial vehicles."

Xconomy: Google Transit: A Search Giant Remaps Public Transportation :

"To enable all that, Google introduced a new standard in 2011 called GTFS-realtime. It builds on GTFS, but is a different animal, since it includes new feed types for trip updates, service alerts, and vehicle positions, as well as provisions for constantly refreshing this data throughout the day. In an advisory to agencies, Google puts it this way: “Because GTFS-realtime allows you to present the actual status of your fleet, the feed needs to be updated regularly—preferably whenever new data comes in from your Automatic Vehicle Location system.”"

How Google's Self-Driving Car Works

IEEE Spectrum: How Google's Self-Driving Car Works -

This is a nice article, read the whole thing and watch the videos (they are low quality, but the fast forwards and golf carts in motion are cool). The second video includes self-driving golf carts on the Google campus. Campus applications are a logical first step in deploying the technology.

First slugs, now oil

From DK:

For your blog since you've been keeping up with the slugs predicting roadways, here is a story of a drop of oil that solves a maze. I'm not sure what happens if the slugs get their hands on the oil, but there seems to be some spurious lesson about intelligence from these stories. What a maze-solving oil drop tells us of intelligence (New Scientist)
David Levinson

Network Reliability in Practice

Evolving Transportation Networks

Place and Plexus

The Transportation Experience

Access to Destinations

Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Financing Transportation Networks

View David Levinson's profile on LinkedIn

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