The SFMTA touts license plate recognition tech

By Eve Batey : curbed – excerpt

It will be interesting to hear what San Francisco privacy advocates, who’ve previously opposed things like speed-limit enforcement cameras, will respond to a press release sent by the SFMTA this morning. Intended to tout the “new parking access and revenue control systems” in the city’s 22 SFMTA-owned garages, the release says that one of the improvements that “will make parking in city-owned garages Hassel-free [sic]” is a “New system [that] will address lost tickets with a license plate recognition system.”

It appears that this system was nearly a year in the making, as a June 3, 2016 press release from the SFMTA announced the kickoff of the systems’ installation. And it’s not like this is the MTA’s first foray into license plate recognition, as it’s obviously used to send tickets to double-parkers that block camera-enabled Muni vehicles.

A July, 2016 article from Parking Today, reports that a German company called SKIDATA was awarded a $19 million contract for the parking lot upgrades. That includes the “License Plate Recognition (LPR)” which “will be deployed in most garages to secure revenue and add exciting new use cases.” According to SKIDATA’s site, those who oversee the new system have the ability to see “operational data in real time,” including the license plate information of those who arrive and depart the parking facilities. On the plus side, as the SFMTA notes, you likely won’t get stuck with that “full day” ding for a lost ticket. On the possible negative, your movements just got tracked a little bit more (more)


Look What the Fog Rolled in

Paris Marx : bolditamlic – excerpt

Why Uber’s Expansion Plans Would Make City Life Unbearable

Uber’s riders earn an average of 70% more than the median income. If Uber were subsidized, the wealthy would reap the benefits.

Public transit is indispensible in any urban environment. It provides people from all walks of life an affordable way to move around the city. It reduces the need for cars, resulting in less traffic and lower carbon emissions. But with the encroachment of Uber and other ride-hailing apps, are the benefits of public transit in jeopardy?

Uber’s growth has been exponential as its footprint has expanded globally. The company has spent more on lobbyists in California than Facebook and Apple did combined — all to ensure that it isn’t subject to regulations that apply to other transportation companies.

While some local authorities continue to fight Uber’s predatory expansion, others are embracing it. In September, Dublin became the first municipality in California to subsidize Uber rides for residents, following similar deals with towns in Florida that cover 25 percent of Uber fares to train stations and 20 percent of fares for other rides…

When public authorities subsidize Uber, it’s wealthier residents who get the largest benefit — the very people who least need subsidized transit…(more)(more)(more)



Uber’s Ready to Fix the World

by : sfweekly – excerpt

It’s been an up and down week for Uber, but then again most are. When you’re so successful yet so controversial at the same time, that’s life. But two things that happened this week to the San Francisco ride-share app are far more interesting, and connected, than meets the eye…

First, let’s review Uber’s bad week. Uber had settled a lawsuit with some 300,000 drivers over pay and employee classification in April, but on Thursday a federal judge in San Francisco tossed it out, saying it was unfair to the drivers. While the company had agreed to pay out $100 million, the settlement had not been viewed positively because what drivers really want is to be considered full-fledged employees so they get better pay and some benefits.

No one was really surprised over this outcome, but it could hurt Uber’s chances of continuing to save tons of money by employing independent contractor drivers. Or it could be bad for the drivers — even if those drivers don’t last much longer.

Which brings us to Uber’s good week. It’s no secret that Uber is obsessed with driverless automobiles, and on Thursday it was revealed that the company’s first such cars will start operating in Pittsburgh this month. Of course, there will be a human monitoring the robot (which means this experiment could become 2001: A Space Odyssey in no time)…

Still, Kalanick insists Uber is not out to replace humans entirely, offering this happy assessment of the future to USA Today: “This isn’t an overnight thing, it’ll take a really long time. But let’s take a city like San Francisco. Let’s say over a decade or two we go from 30,000 cars on the (Uber) system to a million. Well, there will still be routes then that software can’t do, it’ll be too hard. So you’ll need drivers in those software-equipped cars to help out. And way out, if everything’s autonomous, you’ll need tens of thousands of people to maintain a fleet of a million cars. So the jobs are there.”… (more)

Would you get in a driverless car? Would you rather drive or be a mechanic? Why let the robots have all the fun?


Robot Runs Over Child in San Francisco Shopping Center

By Nahema Marchal : heatst – excerpt

If you thought all wide-eyed, gliding, egg-shaped robots were as cute and harmless as Wall-E, then think again.

Last Thursday at a Stanford shopping center, a security robot ran over a 16-month-old toddler’s foot, much to the horror of his parents and bystanders. Luckily, the child didn’t suffer any major injury.

“The robot hit my son’s head and he fell down facing down on the floor and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward,” Harwin’s mom Tiffany Teng told ABC 7.

According to one of the mall’s security guards, this is the second time that the autonomous machine has trampled over a kid. Another was hurt from the same robot just days before… (more)

Guest Editorial: Driverless Cars Could Wreck Livable Cities

by : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

Over the past year driverless cars have been promoted as a panacea for livable cities. The storyline is that driverless cars will help reduce car ownership, free-up urban space for walking and biking, and help reduce death and injury. The USDOT has joined the parade with its “smart city challenge,” awarding Columbus, Ohio a $40 million prize to implement a demonstration project that includes incorporating driverless cars.

San Francisco was among the finalists for this award, but it might be a good thing that the city fell short. San Francisco’s political establishment – the mayor, Board of Supervisors, and its proxies at the SFMTA and Planning Department – frequently talk up their sustainable transportation ambitions, but by-in-large, when it comes to decisions about San Francisco streets, they pander to motorists. With driverless cars and other “connected” vehicles, the pandering may intensify. We’ll see more, not fewer cars.

Here’s why… (more)


Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs working to revolutionize public parking and transportation in American cities

thetechportal – excerpt

A report from The Guardian points towards the fact that a secretive subsidiary of Alphabet called Sidewalk Labs is working on services that could radically rebuild public parking and transportation in American cities. The Labs call the services “new superpowers to extend access and mobility.” This whole effort might just be the future of transit management.

This essentially means that Google is working on technology that will make it easier to drive and park in cities. The company is also creating hybrid public/private transit options. The latter is highly dependent upon ride-share services such as Uber. This means that the traditional public transport services will take a big hit.

Privatization of everything we do is what they have in mind. Not sure how society run by robots pays for services. Would like to see that part explained along with how they plan to replace all the workers with machines.

Sidewalk Labs was established last June with a mission to “improve city life for everyone”. Until now, the subsidiary has made many developments. These include a being part of an association that deployed several hundred free Wi-Fi kiosks in New York. It is also rumoured to be building a city from scratch that is designed for self-driving cars.

The latest project of Sidewalk is offering Columbus a three-year demonstration project consisting of 100 Wi-Fi kiosks and free access to Flow. Columbus, Ohio recently won a recent $50m Smart City Challenge organized by the US Department of Transportation which is the reason Google will be running its initial tests for Flow there

Redefining public transport

Imagine getting all your transit details– duration, distance, price etc– right at your fingertips. Flow will provide all this info to you, too. The service will  integrate information and payment for almost every form of transport into Google Maps.

All this is going to be run as a pilot in Columbus…(more)

SF leader on ‘Smart City’ challenge leaves SFMTA for Google X

Thankfully San Francisco missed this one.