Hackaday Links: May 29, 2022

ByElizabeth J. Bohn

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It looks like the ongoing semiconductor shortage isn’t getting any better, and if the recent spate of computer thefts from semi trucks is any indication, it’s only going to get worse. Thieves seem to be targeting the Freightliner Cascadia, probably the most popular heavy freight truck on the road in North America today, with “smash and grab” thefts targeting the CPC4, or Common Powertrain Control module. These modules are sitting ducks — they’re easy to locate and remove, the chip shortage has made legit modules nearly unobtanium from dealers, and they truck won’t run without them. That’s driven the black market price for a CPC up to $8,000 or more, making them a tempting target. And it’s not only individual trucks parked in truck stop lots that are being hit; gangs are breaking into trucking company lots and bricking dozens of trucks in short order. So the supply chain problem which started the semiconductor shortage caused the module shortage, which drives the thieves to steal modules and take trucks off the road, which only worsens the supply chain shortage that started the whole thing. Nice positive feedback loop.

Speaking of crime, among the gadgets 007 had available on his Aston-Martin DB5 courtesy of the Q Branch boffins, probably the least-prosecutable one to actually equip your car with would be the license plate flipper. But least-prosecutable doesn’t mean legal, as two people in California learned when they were nabbed for allegedly having a plate-flipper on their Mercedes. The pair allegedly used the flipper, which just turned the plate over so it couldn’t be seen, to help dodge the notice of security cameras while committing burglaries from vehicles in parking garages. The plate flipper shown in the video below is pretty clever — it poses as a somewhat stocky-looking license plate frame that obviously hides a small motor. It looks like something that’s commercially available, although it would be pretty easy to 3D print something like that. Nah, forget we even said that.

Are you tired of the heartbreak of self-unwrapping burritos? God knows we are, but thankfully we’re living in the future, where edible adhesive tape is a thing. Or soon will be, if the “Tastee Tape” invented by some engineering students at Johns Hopkins goes anywhere. The ingredients of the edible tape are being kept under tight wraps (lol) due to a pending patent application, but they will say that the tape is completely edible and uses ingredients and additives common to the food industry. A casual inspection of the ingredients list on any pre-packaged food item suggests that this means they had a huge cupboard to work from, so we’d be curious to see what’s in there. From the picture in the article it almost looks like nori, but they say that version was dyed for presentation, and the production recipe yields a clear tape. Which is good, because that blue stuff doesn’t look too “Tastee.”

And finally, last week we featured the last painful seconds of a Starship delivery robot, whose guidance system betrayed it by telling it to cross railroad tracks at a most inopportune moment. Knowing that nobody got hurt — aside from the college students who didn’t get their pizza, of course — made it easy to laugh at the snuff film, especially when the bot’s lithium batteries did the thing that lithium batteries tend to do when smooshed by a train. But this photo of a seemingly lost Starship wandering around in the woods is somehow a little less funny. It was taken in England, where the delivery bot was spotted trundling down a trail in a nature preserve. It turns out that rather than being lost, the bot was exactly where it wanted to be — the paved trail was actually the shortest route to its delivery destination, so everyone who thought the bot had gone feral turned out to be wrong. After all, not all who wander are lost.


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