News Article | January 14, 2016
One of the questions that gets left out of press about Uber and other ridesharing companies is whether they are increasing or decreasing carbon and pollution emissions. It turns out that they seem to be bad for the environment. Luckily, there are a couple of obvious policies which can deal with this. While the data is sketchy at present, there seem to be three factors where ridesharing has negative impacts on overall transportation emissions: Let’s look at these factors one-by-one to see how they impact emissions: Cars driven professionally run more with only the drivers and idle a lot more than cars driven by individuals for conveyance. “According to recent statistics, up to 30–40% of the time a taxi is on the road is dead mileage.” In theory, this will be lower for ridesharing, as UberX is focused dominantly on busy periods with lower numbers of vehicles on the streets at other times. It’s also, in theory, balanced by smoothed finding and paying for a car, so individual vehicles are more efficient. The flip side, however, is that UberX vehicles are not professionally driven, so there will be some loss of percentages. And there are always the trips between passengers that won’t go away just because the technological approach to getting the car is different. Someone living in the suburbs who needs a ride home leads to no guarantees of a trip back to denser hunting grounds. While ridesharing decreases somewhat actual car ownership, there are more miles driven per trip overall regardless. As lifecycle emissions from internal combustion vehicles are heavily weighted to the amount they are driven, this means that ridesharing is most likely increasing overall emissions on this factor alone. Uber and other ridesharing companies displace taxi trips. That’s just the reality, and the reason why cab companies in cities like Toronto are on strike trying to keep Uber out. “A new report (PDF) presented to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency by taxi officials on Tuesday says that cab use has tumbled by 65 percent in the last 15 months. In March 2012 an average San Francisco taxi gave about 1,400 rides per month; and, as of this past July, that number fell to around 500 rides, according to the report.” Taxi emissions standards in advanced cities such as San Francisco and Vancouver have driven significant increases in hybrid taxis, which significantly reduce idling emissions for overall fleet reductions. There are poorer overall emissions in the Uber/Lyft fleet in many cities than passenger vehicle averages, especially when considering the Black Car segment. This point is a mixed bag. There is anecdotal evidence already that people are choosing ridesharing over transit and biking, and it’s unclear if this is actually resulting in reduced car ownership. Amanda Eaken of the NRDC is running a year-long study of this with Berkeley to try to find out. “We don’t yet understand what impact Uber and Lyft are having on our transportation system,” she told The Verge. “Some people speculate that they are enabling people to live in cities without owning a car, which both saves them money — average cost to own a car is $9,000 a year — but also we know when people don’t own cars they drive less. No big surprise.” She added, “There could certainly be environmental benefits from these companies. On the other hand, some speculate that people are using Uber and Lyft instead of walking, biking, or transit. So there could be a detrimental effect.” There’s no real model where ridesharing displacing transit or cycling is going to be beneficial for overall transit emissions. The study will assess the overall pros and cons at least for a couple of urban areas and will reportedly have access to ridesharing corporate data, something which has been closely held until now. The combination suggests that ridesharing could be responsible for 30% to 50% higher emissions for the same passenger miles, on average. If true, as organizations such as Uber and Lyft achieve high penetrations in markets, carbon and pollution emission targets could be severely impacted. There is some research which suggests that, in hypothetical future situations where there are no resource constraints on availability of vehicles for passenger trip choices, ridesharing could reduce fleet emissions overall as part of a suite of strategies. “The SMART 2020 report estimates that employing information and communications technology (ICT) to optimize the logistics of individual road transport could abate 70 to 190 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide emissions (Global e-Sustainability Initiative, 2008).” But now we are in the future, or a variant of it. At present, the tea leaves appear to be suggesting more road miles per trip and displacement of lower emission options. We can hold out hope that the NRDC/Berkeley study shows that they are neutral or even positive, but it doesn’t seem likely. The answer to this, in my opinion, are policies which hasten the inevitable shift to fully electric passenger transportation and dominantly renewable generation. After all, the Uber Black Car drivers driving Teslas are not creating more emissions than the taxis and personal car trips that they displace, but radically less, and if they are fuelled with wind and solar electricity, there is no comparison at all. When the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model III are out, they will be in a reasonable price point for UberX. To net it out, ridesharing could be increasing total urban transit emissions by significant percentages, but banning them isn’t the solution, electrifying all transportation is. Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.” Come attend CleanTechnica’s 1st “Cleantech Revolution Tour” event → in Berlin, Germany, April 9–10. 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News Article | December 8, 2016
While ransomware can infect computers anywhere, researchers from security firm Malwarebytes say certain cities have been particularly hard hit, with the Las Vegas area at the top of the list. The Santa Clara company detects the malicious software on devices in the Las Vegas/Henderson area at a rate 500 times the average of the top 40 U.S. cities by ransomware detection, the company said this week. The city sees the most infections overall, as well as the most infections per computer and per resident, according to the company. That may be in part due to the number of tourists and convention-goers bringing their laptops to Las Vegas—then, after days filled with work and play, forgetting all the lessons they’ve heard about keeping their computers safe, says Adam Kujawa, head of malware intelligence at Malwarebytes. "They might have a few drinks, they’ll relax, they’ll see a show—that kind of environment is created almost specifically to lower people’s guards," he says. "It makes it a really prime situation for cybercriminals to dupe users." After ransomware gets on a computer, it typically encrypts files and effectively holds them prisoner until the owner pays a bounty. It’s often installed by clicking on attachments in scam emails or through automated downloads from malware-infected websites. While security firm Symantec said in a July report that the majority of ransomware infections are on consumer-owned, rather than corporate, machines, the attacks have also disabled computers at institutions from hospitals to police departments. Last month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency shut down fare payment systems and offered free subway rides after the agency said ransomware struck more than 900 office computers. "The SFMTA has never considered paying the ransom," the agency said in a statement. "We have an information technology team in place that can restore our systems, and that is what they are doing." In general, corporate networks get infected through the same types of attacks that infect personal machines, Kujawa says. "The intentional attack of large organizations, while it does happen, is not that common, and much more often these people might get infected by a mass campaign that one of their employees might fall for, and then it spreads through the network," he says. The company’s study, which tracked 400,000 cases where ransomware was detected from July through October, including incidents in more than 200 countries, found the U.S. overall had by far the greatest share of ransomware attacks, with 26% of all studied incidents, similar to numbers reported earlier this year by Symantec. "We wanted to see exactly what countries, what parts of the world, and even what cities were being hit the most," Kujawa says. "We found that the USA was actually hit the most, more than any country out there, with Germany being hit second." Ransomware attackers use increasingly sophisticated and targeted phishing emails to dupe victims, often masquerading as banks or payment providers like PayPal, he says. Many attackers are customers of so-called ransomware-as-a-service providers, which develop the software and split profits with attackers who craft the actual emails luring victims. "If they want to hire a scammer or spammer or somebody who might be running a malvertising campaign or just a drive by exploit campaign, they can do that," Kujawa says. The most common ransomware variant found in the Malwarebytes study was Cerber, which first appeared in March and is believed to be created by a ransomware-as-a-service provider based in Russia. The malware will generally refuse to infect computers in Russia and other former Soviet nations, according to Malwarebytes. Rounding out the list of top U.S. cities for ransomware infection were Memphis, Tennessee; Stockton, California; Detroit, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Buffalo , New York; San Antonio, Texas; and Fort Wayne, Indiana, according to Malwarebytes.
News Article | December 15, 2016
Uber has a simple approach to business: Don't ask for permission, but be prepared to seek forgiveness. Its foray into self-driving cars in California is no different. Confirming news that CNET broke Tuesday, the ride-hailing company officially announced Wednesday that it's rolling out a fleet of self-driving cars to passengers in San Francisco, making California only the second state in which Uber offers such services. But Uber didn't run the plan past the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which requires a permit for such cars. Now, the DMV told Uber to cut it out ... or else. "It is illegal for the company to operate its self-driving vehicles on public roads until it receives an autonomous vehicle testing permit," the DMV wrote in a letter to Uber on Wednesday. "Any action by Uber to continue the operation of vehicles equipped with autonomous technology on public streets in California must cease." Self-driving cars are a hot topic in both the auto and tech industries. Toyota, Ford, Volvo, Tesla and other automakers have projects underway, while Silicon Valley giants including Google, Intel, Tesla Motors and Apple are also betting on the tech. But with Uber's efforts to beat out rivals, is the company going too far by skirting the rules? The DMV warned Uber a month ago that it needed a permit to operate self-driving cars in the state, according to Brian Soublet, the department's chief legal counsel, who held a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Soublet said he told the company the same thing Tuesday before its launch. But Uber didn't appear to listen. "We understand that there is a debate over whether or not we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco," Anthony Levandowski, Uber's vice president of self-driving technology, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "We have looked at this issue carefully and we don't believe we do." Twenty other companies working on self-driving technology have already received permits from California's DMV, including Google, Tesla, BMW, Honda, Ford, Mercedes Benz, Nissan and GM. Uber is the first of these companies to bring its autonomous vehicles to the public in the US. Levandowski criticized California's rules and requirements as overly strict, warning they "could have the unintended consequence of slowing innovation." Arizona, Nevada and Florida have been leaders in this arena, he said, proving they are "pro technology." Pennsylvania, where Uber first launched its self-driving cars in September, hasn't yet enacted autonomous vehicle legislation. California's rules apply to cars that are completely autonomous without a person monitoring the driving, Uber's Levandowski said in his post. Uber intends to have "safety drivers" who can take over if anything goes awry in a self-driving car, at all times. "Our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them," Levandowski said, adding the project is in its "early days." Soublet said in the conference call that the law applies to the kind of technology in the vehicle, not whether a human is behind the wheel. "They've equipped the vehicles that allows them to operate autonomously," Soublet said. "That's the key." The DMV says it encourages the development of self-driving cars as long as companies seek proper permission. The reason for that, the department says, is for public safety. "It is essential that Uber takes appropriate measures to ensure safety of the public," the DMV wrote in its letter to Uber on Wednesday. "If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action." Uber didn't return request for comment regarding the DMV's letter. Most companies working on self-driving cars tout the vehicles as a potentially safer alternative to human drivers. And, for the most part, testing of the technology has shown the cars to be safe. However, some autonomous vehicles have been involved in accidents, including a Google car collision and at least three crashes involving Teslas in autopilot mode, one of which was fatal. Since Uber introduced self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, there have been a few reports of cars involved in fender-benders, going the wrong way down one-way streets and ignoring traffic signals, according to Quartz. No injuries have been reported, however. A self-driving Uber ran a red light in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday morning, just hours after the company's launch. A dashboard camera video, captured by Luxor Cab taxi, shows the self-driving Uber Volvo SUV zooming through the light long after it turned red. Similar incidents have been reported throughout the city today, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Luxor Cab confirmed to CNET it recorded the video. An Uber spokesperson said in an email that the incident was due to human error. "This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers," the spokesperson said. "The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate." Uber's launch of self-driving cars in California without a permit isn't the first time the company has sallied forth without government permission. The company didn't seek permission when it launched its ride-hailing service in San Francisco in 2010. Four months after its rollout, Uber was hit with a "cease and desist" letter from the California Public Utility Commission and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The same thing happened when the company launched its carpool service UberPool in 2014. "We don't have to beg for forgiveness because we are legal," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told the Wall Street Journal in 2013 during an interview about the cease-and-desist letters. "There's been so much corruption and so much cronyism in the taxi industry and so much regulatory capture that if you ask for permission up front for something that's already legal, you'll never get it." As of this writing, Uber's autonomous vehicles are still cruising San Francisco's streets, despite the threats from the DMV. With self-driving cars, Uber appears to continue its modus operandi of dealing with regulators after the fact. Updated at 5:29 p.m. and 8:43 p.m.: First update adds confirmation from Luxor Cab and comment from Uber spokesperson. Second update adds information from the DMV.
News Article | November 28, 2016
Hackers forced the light rail network to let passengers ride free to avoid a massive disruption to service. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was taken for a ride of its own when hackers used ransomware to shut down its ticketing systems and demand payment. The agency—usually known as Muni—found that around 2,000 of its servers and computers, including many ticket machines, were locked by ransomware over the Thanksgiving weekend. According to the Verge, machines displayed a message that read: "You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted. Contact For Key(email@example.com)ID:681, Enter.” Ticket machines were labeled “out of order” over the weekend, and people traveled on the agency’s light rail network for free. A Muni spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle that the hack had “no impact to transit service, to our security systems or to our customers’ private information.” But the incident is still a sign that important city infrastructure is wide open to digital attack. According the the BBC, the hackers demanded 100 bitcoins—currently around $70,000—for the decryption key. It’s not clear whether or not the transport agency has paid up, though a Bitcoin locker that the Register claims was set up to receive the ransom is empty at this writing. Ransomware is a simple form of malware: it infects a computer, uses strong encryption to lock down files, and then provides the user with a ransom note demanding money in exchange for a key to unlock the data. It’s lucrative, and it has become more pervasive in recent years. According to Symantec, millions of ransomware attacks are now attempted every day. Regular users may see their computers infected by rogue websites, images, or videos. It’s not currently clear how the Muni system became infected, and its staff has not released any details, citing an ongoing investigation into the attack. There have been other notable ransomware attacks in the past, the most worrying of which was a spate of incidents that affected hospitals. In those cases, medical records were rendered inaccessible. One hospital, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles, ultimately paid hackers $17,000 to recover its data. Techniques are available that allow researchers to detect ransomware attacks before it’s too late. But antivirus companies have so far struggled to turn them into tools that work in the real world. For now, then, individuals and organizations alike must simply follow best security practices to avoid infection and ensure that data is backed up. That way, it doesn’t matter too much if a hacker takes you for a ride. (Read more: Verge, BBC, The San Francisco Chronicle, “Two Ways to Stop Ransomware in Its Tracks,” “With Hospital Ransomware Infections, the Patients Are at Risk,” “Holding Data Hostage: The Perfect Internet Crime?”
News Article | November 28, 2016
Computer Technology - How Laptops, Personal Computers And Tablets Are Changing The World The San Francisco Municipal Railway was hacked and riders were able to enjoy free bus and trolley rides late Friday and all day on Saturday. SF Muni computer systems handling fares were apparently hacked, so fares were free for all. The machines allowing riders to fill up their fare cards had special signs attached on Saturday, showing "free Muni" and "out of service" messages. As the San Francisco Examiner reports, SF Muni computers displayed a message saying "You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted." The hack apparently involved ransomware, as the message displayed on SF Muni computers also offered an email address where authorities could contact the hackers to obtain a key to unlock the hijacked systems. In ransomware cases, a computer system is hijacked and locks users out until a ransom is paid. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) spokesman Paul Rose told the Examiner that the agency was "working to resolve the situation," but did not offer any additional details. "At this point there are not any indications of any impacts to customers," Rose said on Sunday. "We're doing a full investigation to find out exactly what we are dealing with." The Examiner learned from a Muni operator who asked to remain anonymous that the systems had been hacked since Friday afternoon. "There is an ongoing investigation and it wouldn't be appropriate to provide additional details," Rose further told the Examiner. It remains unclear for now who is behind the hack or what the perpetrators wanted in exchange for unlocking the systems. The hack did not impact transit services, which means there were no interruptions during the hack — just free rides. Nevertheless, some SFMTA employees told the Examiner that their emails were not working. It's unclear whether this issue extended to the nearly 6,000 people employed by the SFMTA. Muni subway fare gates were locked in an open position, station operators told the Examiner. The lock did not allow them to close the gates electronically. According to Rose, the fare gats were locked in an open position intentionally, in order to enable the free Muni rides. In light of the hack, employees were also unsure whether they will still get their paychecks this week, CBS's local San Francisco affiliate reports. The transit agency doesn't know yet who is responsible for the hack, or what they want in return, but it's looking into the matter. More details will likely surface after the investigation is completed, and we'll keep you up to date as soon as we learn more. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Lee J.,San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Transportation Research Record | Year: 2011
When transit customers pay fares, they contribute their fair share to help fund service. In San Francisco, California, anecdotal observations had reinforced perceptions that a high percentage of Muni (the San Francisco Railway transit system) riders were not paying, possibly costing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) tens of millions of dollars annually in lost revenue. In 2009, SFMTA, which operates Muni, conducted a proof-of-payment study to answer long-standing questions about fare payment patterns and identify strategies to improve fare enforcement. The resulting survey of 41,239 customers on 1,141 vehicle runs provided enough samples by time period, route, and vehicle occupancy to identify fare payment patterns at a disaggregated level. The study found a 9.5% minimum systemwide fare evasion rate that varied by route, location, time period, level of enforcement, and door of entry and amounted to an estimated $19 million annually in uncaptured revenue on the basis of 2009 fares. Although surveyors observed that there was no typical violator, the data showed that fare evasion was more prevalent on certain routes and during the afternoon and evening hours. Besides providing base data to measure future progress, the study enabled SFMTA to educate its customers about proof-of-payment requirements and deploy its fare enforcement personnel more efficiently and cost-effectively in an effort to improve fare compliance.
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency | Date: 2015-09-21
Downloadable mobile applications for use in purchasing and using public transportation fares and accessing information about public transportation.
News Article | November 28, 2016
(Reuters) - The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said on Monday it had contained a cyber attack, which disrupted its ticketing systems and forced it to offer free service to some customers during the Thanksgiving weekend.
News Article | November 28, 2016
San Francisco public transportation authorities have contained a ransomware attack after hackers got onboard the computer system governing the city's light-rail and bus services over the holiday weekend. During the attack, confirmed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, payment systems throughout the Muni Metro system were closed down. Screens in the transit system displayed a message reading, "You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted," according to the San Francisco Examiner. The hackers reportedly asked for $73,000 in bitcoin to restore the system. The so-called ransomware attack began on Friday. Some riders posted photos of the attack message on Twitter, which included an email address from a Russian web service. SFMTA called the situation "fully contained" on Sunday, adding "we have prioritized restoring our systems to be fully operational." The transportation service said some computer systems, including email, were were disrupted. Service and safety, as well as customer privacy, were unaffected, the SFMTA said.
News Article | November 28, 2016
Over the weekend, riders of San Francisco's municipal transit system (Muni) were allowed to travel for free because hackers had infected subway computers with ransomware. According to CSO Online, the attackers have demanded some $73,000 worth of bitcoin. Now, the hackers have made a new threat: the release of 30GB of databases and documents belonging to the San Francisco Muni, including contracts and customer and employee data, if they don't receive payment. "To Have More Impact to Company To Force Them to do Right Job!" the hackers, which used the moniker "andy saolis," told Motherboard in an email exchange on Monday. "Anyone See Something like that in Hollywood Movies But it's Completely Possible in Real World!," they added, presumably referring to the rather bizarre site of a public transport system becoming infected with ransomware. "It's Show to You and Proof of Concept, Company don't pay Attention to Your Safety!" they continued. The hackers claimed to have infected over 2,000 of Muni's systems, including payment kiosks and email servers. According to CBS San Francisco, which first covered the hack on Saturday, the message "You Hacked" has been sprawled across Muni station monitors. A commentator on Bleeping Computer indicated that the same hackers may have hit another target in September, and CSO Online reported that the ransomware behind the attack is a variant of HDDCryptor. According to a Trend Micro report from September, this particular strain of ransomware is pretty aggressive, targeting drives, folders, printers, and serial ports. The hackers' latest threat appears to be on top of their use of ransomware. Often, hackers will deploy one tactic or the other: either, they will threaten a company with the release of internal data, or they will keep the victim's files locked down with malware. But seeing both in one go is fairly unusual. However, it's not clear how many internal documents the hackers have actually stolen, if any. When asked several times to provide proof to back up their claims, the hackers told Motherboard they were still waiting for the company to contact them, and declined to send any sample files. "we proof our capability before ! we don't want leak really but if they don't pay attention , it's will be our plan, [sic]" they wrote. After the publication of this article, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) published a statement, denying that the hackers had accessed any internal data. "The malware used encrypted some systems mainly affecting office computers, as well as access to various systems. However, the SFMTA network was not breached from the outside, nor did hackers gain entry through our firewalls. Muni operations and safety were not affected. Our customer payment systems were not hacked. Also, despite media reports - no data was accessed from any of our servers," the statement read. "The SFMTA has never considered paying the ransom. We have an information technology team in place that can restore our systems, and that is what they are doing," it continued. The SFMTA is working closely with the FBI and DHS, the statement added. Update: This piece has been updated to include a statement from the SFMTA, and has also been updated to clarify that the hackers are also threatening to release data about Muni customers.