Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Still Need a Lot of Human Help

By Maya Kosoff : vanityfair – excerpt

They can barely go a mile without human intervention, according to leaked documents.

Travis Kalanick has described self-driving technology as “existential” to Uber’s future as a company. But according to recent internal documents obtained by Recode and BuzzFeed News, Uber is still nowhere close to having a fully autonomous vehicle. Recode reports that during the week ending March 8, Uber’s self-driving cars traveled, on average, just 0.8 miles on their own before a human had to take over, in a process known as “disengagement.” That Uber’s cars cannot travel a mile without human intervention does not bode particularly well for a company whose future is predicated on its self-driving technology… (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)

 

 

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)

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

Thankfully San Francisco missed this one.

Sorry, Google: California’s self-driving car bill would prioritize unknown rival

the Mark Harris : guardian – excerpt

The bill, AB1592, would permit autonomous vehicles ‘not equipped with a steering wheel, a brake pedal, an accelerator, or an operator inside the vehicle’

A California lawmaker has introduced a bill that would legalise autonomous vehicles without human drivers for the first time in the US.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla wants to change California’s rules so that GoMentum Station, a testing ground for autonomous vehicles located in her district near San Francisco, can test completely driverless vehicles on public roads.

The bill, AB1592, would permit self-driving cars “not equipped with a steering wheel, a brake pedal, an accelerator, or an operator inside the vehicle”. However, only GoMentum Station would be allowed to conduct the pilot tests, and the trials would be limited to a specific business park and top speeds of 35mph.

California law currently requires all autonomous vehicles on public roads to have a human safety driver and manual backup controls… (more)

Will Self-Driving Cars Cost California Millions in Revenue?

Thomas Lee : govtech – excerpt

The state collects around $300 millions from automotive fees based largely on human errors, but the influx of autonomous vehicles could cause this number to drop significantly.

When it comes to public finances, government officials tend to live in the moment. They might want to make an exception in this case.

Google, Uber and Tesla are all testing cars in which powerful software, not humans, operates the vehicles. It’s not hard to foresee the danger these self-driving cars pose to automobile sales, which is one reason why General Motors last week decided to invest $500 million in San Francisco on-demand car service Lyft. Smart move, since GM officials seem to be getting ahead of what could be the mother of all disruptions.

Mayors and governors should adopt GM’s forward thinking because driverless cars will inevitably drain hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue from public coffers each year.

Reduced car ownership will mean fewer automobile sales to tax. But perhaps more important, cops and meter maids will write a lot fewer tickets because smart cars presumably won’t double park, change lanes without signaling or bust through the speed limit. Since cars sit empty about 95 percent of time, self-driving cars can greatly increase efficiency by constantly being in use…

GAS TAX A FAILURE

“Increased fuel economy and electric vehicles have made the gas tax a failure,” said Richard Wallace, director of the transportation systems analysis group for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Yet you see no political will to do something” to replace the revenue…

FEE FOR CAR USE

Still, autonomous vehicles hardly represent a zero sum game. If self-driving cars are safer than human operated ones, fewer people will get hurt in accidents, resulting in cost savings for the taxpayer. The National Highway Transportation Administration estimates that public revenue pays 7 percent of vehicle crash costs. Therefore, autonomous vehicles could save taxpayers about $10 billion a year, according to the Brookings Institute.

Throw in less traffic congestion and need for road repairs, the savings could jump to more than $100 billion a year, the think tank said.

But states and cities will still need to offset the immediate loss of direct revenue from parking and traffic violations. One idea is to move to a system where the government charges people who use self-driving cars fees based on usage, including miles traveled. Last year, Oregon became the first state in the country to start such a pay-as-you-use program for all cars, not just self-driving ones, which charges about 1.5 cents per mile.

In any case, officials probably won’t deal with the problem until they see a dramatic drop in revenue, Williams said.
“Things will get so bad that they have to dream up some approach” to the issue, he said… (more)

RELATED:
The Costs of Self-Driving Cars: Reconciling Freedom and Privacy with Tort Liability in Autonomous Vehicle Regulation

Tesla software update allows self-parking, limits speed

How many problems could we expect to see to our economy, legal liabilities, and personal freedoms if self-driving cars take over the roads?
The self-driving cars are more expensive than Teslas, so, not many people can afford to own one. Insurance rates will be high. Many industry-related jobs could be cut out of the economy.
No way around it, public transit costs more than private transit. There must be a balance to pay the bills. Who is going to pay for the public transit systems when you remove the car drivers from the equation?

Recap: What Is The Future Of The Car?

by George McIntire : the bolditalic – excerpt Jul 28 at 10am

If you take a look at past conceptualizations of what the future will look like, they almost always involve flying cars. Those obviously don’t exist, but that concept was an underlying theme about the importance of cars and transportation in decades to come. At our “Gearing Up: The Future Of The Car” tech panel last Monday (co-hosted with General Assembly and sponsored by Metromile), we brought together a group an extremely knowledgeable panelists from different backgrounds to discuss what path cars and technology will take in the future.

Panel Lineup:
Moderator: Damon Lavrinc, Silicon Valley Correspondent, Jalopnik
Panelists:
Dan Preston, CEO, MetroMile
Danny Shapiro, Director of Marketing, NVIDIA
Ezra Goldman, Founder & CEO Upshift
Steven Rahman, Director of Technology & Research, Samsung Research America

We live in a time where technology moves at an increasingly rapid pace. Each year there’s a new iPhone with a smaller and faster microchip. Cars and the technology they employ seem to be an exception to that rule. The question of why cars don’t innovate as fast as our other tech gadgets was the first one to be tackled by our panel. Shapiro highlighted safety as a key factor. “The car is a life or death situation, which requires more engineering, testing, and work than other technologies.” The panelists agreed that the room for error is much smaller for cars and this translates to slower innovation and upgrading.

The panel’s primary focus was what the near future of driving will look like, analyzing what we’re likely to see by the year 2020 or 2025. Four experts were in accordance that data will play an even larger part in our experience. We’re very likely to see more sensors and even cameras installed in our vehicles that will be used to improve the safety and comfort of driving. Facial recognition could be used to replace keys and to alert the driver that his/her driving is unsafe.

Halfway through, Lavrinc decided he to address the “800-pound gorilla in the room” which is the subject of autonomous/self-driving cars. He asked the audience if they would like to see or own one, and the majority raised their hands.

As for it actually happening? The panelists threw cold water on that prospect and basically said don’t hold your breath. Figuring out the insurance and liability issue is something that will take years to solve. However, this is a goal that tech and automakers are diligently working on, as evidenced by the fact that every major car company has a presence in Silicon Valley(more)

Does Your City Need a Transit Riders Union?

By EMILY BADGER : theatlanticcities.com – excerpt

They tell a favorite story within the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union about the moment when the barely two-year-old organization first began to wield real power in the city. It was 1994, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority was preparing to raise fares and eliminate the monthly bus pass on which many low-income riders depended. The Bus Riders Union filed for a temporary restraining order against the changes. And a judge actually gave it to them.
“For us, that was the single biggest breakthrough, and we knew the entire county was not going to be seeing us in the same way again,” says Francisca Porchas, an organizer with the union today. “We were the people who had actually stopped the fare increase from going into effect.”…
With the help of the NAACP, the Bus Riders’ Union went on to sue the MTA for violating the Civil Rights Act in creating separate and unequal transit: one aging and overcrowded bus system for the city’s predominantly low-income, minority population, with newer rail investments for the region’s upper-income suburbs. The MTA ultimately signed a 10-year consent decree – doggedly monitored over the years by the Bus Riders Union – requiring substantial reinvestment in the bus system, with added hours of service, new vehicles and a new weekly bus pass…
“Even in liberal San Francisco, we have elected officials and transit officials that are really nervous to push back against the conventional wisdom of the car being really the king of the road,” Kaufman says. “Even if they are saying it rhetorically, they’re still kowtowing to their constituents who are saying ‘don’t give away my parking space for this, it isn’t worth it.’ It’s hard to think of the collective good when there’s one guy who keeps on nagging and poking you saying ‘don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this.'”
The city’s bike community is remarkably well organized, with a 13,000-member coalition and a multi-million dollar budget. Dave Snyder, who started that group, is also one of the organizers behind the transit union, and Kaufman says they hope that that group will similarly grow in influence. Today, it has about 200 members each giving $25 a year (or 10 hours in volunteering). Their biggest success to date sounds small, but it’s something: In July, the union pushed the Municipal Transportation Authority to institute all-door boarding.
The whole idea for most of these organizations isn’t just to fight for current service and fare levels (some of which are clearly financially unsustainable), but rather to build better transit systems for the long run. Elected politicians and transit officials won’t necessarily get there on their own. History is full of examples, Porchas says, of unempowered people who’ve had to organize for what they need.
“We’re in a crisis,” Kaufman says. He wasn’t referring to peak oil, but the more mundane crisis of congestion, of transportation paralysis, of a system in San Francisco where buses and trains run at 8 miles per hour, often transporting with the least efficiency the people who can least afford to sit there. “This is really the only solution. The Google self-driving car, cars that are going to run on water – those are really cool technologies. They’re exciting. But they’re not going to solve our congestion problem.”… (more)

How can cars be blamed for buses that running at 8 miles an hour that take two hours to get across town when the cars, running on the same streets, get across town in 20 to 30 minutes? The cars can’t be slowing the buses down.
What do the private shuttle buses have going for them that works better for their riders than the public system? Could it be that they serve their riders instead of the system?