How Powerful Should An Electric Bike Be? The UK Is Asking

As electric drives sweep their way to dominance in the automotive world, there’s another transport sector in which their is also continuing apace. Electric-assisted bicycles preserve the feeling of riding a bike as you always have, along with an electric motor to effortlessly power the rider over hill and dale. European electric two-wheelers are limited to a legal top speed of about 15 miles per hour and a 250 watt motor, but in a post-Brexit dash for independence the British government are asking whether that power should be increased to 500 watts.

The Westminster politicians think such a move will make electric bikes more attractive to consumers, and along with a move to motorcycle-style throttles rather than pedal-to-go throttles they want it to accelerate the take-up of greener transport in a country with plenty of hills. Meanwhile cycling groups and safety groups are concerned, the former whether the move is needed at all, and the latter over the fire risk from more powerful battery packs.

The Hackaday electric bike stable gives us a bit of experience on the matter, and our take is that with a 15 mile-per-hour limit there’s little point in upping the motor power. There’s a 350 watt European limit for three-wheelers though, which we could see would really benefit from a raise if applied to cargo bikes. We can however see that a readily-available supply of cheap 500 W motors would be worth having.

The UK Online Safety Bill Becomes Law, What Does It Mean?

We’ve previously reported from the UK about the Online Safety Bill, a piece of internet safety legislation that contains several concerning provisions relating to online privacy and encryption. UK laws enter the statutes by royal assent after being approved by Parliament, so with the signature of the King, it has now become the law of the land as the Online Safety Act 2023. Now that it’s beyond amendment, it’s time to take stock for a minute: what does it mean for internet users, both in the UK and beyond its shores? Continue reading “The UK Online Safety Bill Becomes Law, What Does It Mean?”

The British Government Is Coming For Your Privacy

The list of bad legislation relating to the topic of encryption and privacy is long and inglorious. Usually, these legislative stinkers only affect those unfortunate enough to live in the country that passed them. Still, one upcoming law from the British government should have us all concerned. The Online Safety Bill started as the usual think-of-the-children stuff, but as the EFF notes, some of its proposed powers have the potential to undermine encryption worldwide.

At issue is the proposal that services with strong encryption incorporate government-sanctioned backdoors to give the spooks free rein to snoop on communications. We imagine that this will be of significant interest to some of the world’s less savoury regimes, a club we can’t honestly say the current UK government doesn’t seem hell-bent on joining. The Bill has had a tumultuous passage through the Lords, the UK upper house, but PM Rishi Sunak’s administration has proved unbending.

If there’s a silver lining to this legislative train wreck, it’s that many of the global tech companies are likely to pull their products from the UK market rather than comply. We understand that UK lawmakers are partial to encrypted online messaging platforms. Thus, there will be poetic justice in their voting once more for a disastrous bill with the unintended consequence of taking away something they rely on.

Header image: DaniKauf, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Remote Driving Controversial In UK, But It’s Already Here

The automotive industry is rushing towards autonomous vehicles as a futuristic ideal. They haven’t got the autonomous part sorted just yet. However, as part of this push, the technology to drive vehicles remotely via video link has become mature.

In the United Kingdom, there has been great controversy on whether this should be allowed, particularly for vehicles piloted by individuals outside the country’s borders. That came to a head with a Law Commission repot published earlier this year, but since then, innovative companies have continued to work on remote driving regardless. Let’s dive in to the current state of play.

Continue reading “Remote Driving Controversial In UK, But It’s Already Here”

Automate The Freight: Autonomous Buses To Start Operation In UK

The UK will get its first full-size autonomous bus service this summer, if final road testing that begins in the next two weeks goes according to plan.

Known as Project CAVForth for the UK government’s Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and the Forth bridge, over which the buses will travel, it is said to be the most complex test of autonomous on-road mass transit yet undertaken in Europe. The full-size single-deck motorcoaches, five in total, will ply a 22-km (14-mile) route into Edinburgh from Fife, crossing the famous Firth of Forth on the Forth Road suspension bridge. The buses will carry about 36 passengers each and run at SAE Level 4 autonomy, meaning that a safety driver is optional under good driving conditions. Continue reading “Automate The Freight: Autonomous Buses To Start Operation In UK”

When Does Car Hacking Become “Tampering”? The British Government Seeks Guidance

When a government decides to take a look at your particular field of experimentation, it’s never necessarily a cause for rejoicing, as British motor vehicle enthusiasts are finding out through a UK Government consultation. Titled “Future of transport regulatory review: modernising vehicle standards“, the document explains that it is part of the process of re-adopting under UK law areas which have previously been governed by the European Union. Of particular interest is the section “Tackling tampering”, which promises a new set of offences for “tampering with a system, part or component of a vehicle intended or adapted to be used on a road“.

They go into detail as to the nature of the offences, which seem to relate to the production of devices designed to negate the safety or environmental features of the car. They’re at pains to say that they have no wish to target the legitimate car modification world, for example in motorsport or restoration, but it’s easy to see how a car hacker might inadvertently fall foul of any new rules. It’s worried the enthusiasts enough that a petition has been launched on the UK parliamentary petition site, making the point that the existing yearly MOT roadworthiness test should fulfill the function of taking any illegal vehicles off the road.

We’re always wary when governments wander into our purview, and given where this is being written it’s fair to say that British governments have had their fair share of ill-considered laws in their time. But before we call doom upon the future of car hacking for Brits, it’s worth remarking that they don’t always make a mess in this arena. The rules for the Individual Vehicle Approval test for putting a home-built car on the road are far from a bureaucratic nightmare for example, instead being a relatively sensible primer in building a safe motor vehicle.

So we’d suggest not to panic just yet, but perhaps any British readers might like to respond appropriately to the consultation and the petition in the interests of nudging them in the right direction.

Thanks [Adam Quantrill] for the tip.

The Politics Of Supersonic Flight: The Concord(e)

Every nation has icons of national pride: a sports star, a space mission, or a piece of architecture. Usually they encapsulate a country’s spirit, so citizens can look up from their dreary lives and say “Now there‘s something I can take pride in!”  Concorde, the supersonic airliner beloved by the late 20th century elite for their Atlantic crossings, was a genuine bona-fide British engineering icon.

But this icon is unique as symbols of national pride go, because we share it with the French. For every British Airways Concorde that plied the Atlantic from London, there was another doing the same from Paris, and for every British designed or built Concorde component there was another with a French pedigree. This unexpected international collaboration gave us the world’s most successful supersonic airliner, and given the political manoeuverings that surrounded its gestation, the fact that it made it to the skies at all is something of a minor miracle. Continue reading “The Politics Of Supersonic Flight: The Concord(e)”