Self-Driving Taxis Could Have a Vomit Problem

By David Welch and Gabrielle Coppola : bloomberg – excerpt (includes video and audio)

  • Managing self-driving rideshare fleets could be costly, yucky
  • ‘It is a really big issue and no one has figured it out’

It didn’t take long for Pritam Singh to learn a key lesson about working for Lyft. People are disgusting. They have a nasty habit of throwing up in moving vehicles.

Rideshare drivers are acutely aware that customers tend to do that, along with slightly less annoying things like wiping hamburger-greasy fingers on armrests and turning floor mats into swamps of slush. Singh, who ferries passengers for Lyft Inc. in Manhattan several evenings a week, drops about $200 a month cleaning — really, sometimes it feels like sanitizing — his Toyota Camry… (more)

People can be incredibly disgusting, and don’t respect other people’s property. If you take public transportation you know what to expect in a public car. Cars with no drivers are especially at risk of sustaining damage and being trashed.

But the major point of this article is that the industry is moving much too fast into unknown territory and there are a lot of reasons why the rush to robotize cars may not pan out to be as profitable as some people anticipate. Read the article and see what you think.

Uber’s terrible week gets worse; Google sues for alleged theft of self-driving technology

By Colin Deppen : pennlive – excerpt

Uber’s week started with a former employee alleging she encountered systemic sexual discrimination during her time with the company.

The week ended with Google filing a lawsuit against the ride-sharing service alleging the technology now fueling Uber’s self-driving fleet in cities like Pittsburgh was stolen. This as both companies remain locked in a costly and frenzied modern-day space race to perfect the nascent technology.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday, the Google self-driving-car group, now known as Waymo, , accuses Uber of using stolen technology to advance its own self-driving car development…

According to CBS News, the 28-page complaint accuses a former top manager for Google’s self-driving car project, Anthony Levandowski, of stealing pivotal technology that Google says is now being used to fuel Uber’s own fleet of autonomous vehicles for its ride-hailing service.

CBS adds that the alleged theft occurred in late 2015, before Levandowski left Google to found a startup called Otto that is “building big-rig trucks that navigate highways without a human behind the wheel.” Uber bought Otto for $680 million last year, and Levandowski is now overseeing Uber’s effort to develop and dispatch cars driven by robots… (more)

RELATED:
Does Uber have a sexual assault problem? Charge against Pa. driver highlights concerns

SFMTA: Inaccurate NextBus Predictions Will Take ‘Weeks to Restore’

by Fiona Lee : hoodline – excerpt

Over the past week, SFMTA riders have been frustrated by inaccurate NextBus predictions and tracking at stops and on their apps. Many have been left to wait for a train or bus that never arrives, an issue that is still happening today.

Now, the SFMTA says that the inaccurate predictions that have been plaguing the NextMuni system, also known as NextBus, are expected to last several weeks.

“The inaccurate predictions are due to a technical issue that we’re working aggressively to resolve,” explained Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA. “At this point, we expect it will take at least a matter of weeks to restore and phase in all missing Muni predictions.”

The agency expects to have more information and provide a detailed timeline on when a fix will happen by early next week, he added…

The NextBus system is also expected to be updated in 2018 as part of a larger, comprehensive overhaul.

In the meantime, the SFMTA asks riders to check its Twitter account for the latest updates on delays. And to help riders better predict arrival times, the agency posted a frequency timetable for all Muni bus and rail lines at the end of its blog post today.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and understand how important this information is to Muni riders,” Rose said.

SFMTA spends money on tech not bus service. New union contracts are coming up. They will fight the unions but not the tech companies. Track their spending on NextBus and figure that for each million dollars they spend they could be putting another bus into service. At least that is what we were told when we asked how many buses they could have added to Mission Street instead of painting the street red.

BTW if you drive down Mission Street in the rain, or Church or any of the other painted streets, check out how hard it is to see the color at night in the rain. Let the SFMTA know whether you would prefer more buses or more paint and tech expenditures. Copy the Mayor and Supervisors on those messages.

“As someone pointed out, not everyone has a Twitter account” or a smart phone with an account that works everywhere for that matter.

 

A Warning to People Who Bike: Self-Driving Ubers and Right Hook Turns

By Brian Wiedenmeier : sfbike – excerpt

Before the surprise launch of Uber’s autonomous vehicles on San Francisco streets this week, I rode in one. I can tell you firsthand: Those vehicles are not yet ready for our streets.

I was at one of the demonstrations covered in the SF Examiner, along with others who Uber hoped to impress with their new technology. None of us were told that just two days later, Uber would be releasing this technology on our streets on a large scale. I did tell Uber some things about the shortcomings of that technology, however.

In the ride I took through the streets of SoMa on Monday, the autonomous vehicle in “self-driving” mode as well as the one in front of it took an unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane. Twice. This kind of turn is one featured in a 2013 blog post that is known to be one of the primary causes of collisions between cars and people who bike resulting in serious injury or fatality. It’s also an unsafe practice that we address in all of the safety curriculum we offer to professional drivers, including the videos we consulted on for Uber as recently as this fall.

I told staff from Uber’s policy and engineering teams about the safety hazards of their autonomous vehicle technology. They told me they would work on it. Then, two days later, they unleashed that technology on San Francisco’s streets. Your streets…(more)

RELATED:
What was Uber’s endgame in the first place?

Mayor Lee demands Uber obtain permit for self-driving vehicles on SF streets

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Uber self-driving vehicles were still traveling on San Francisco streets Thursday without permission or permits from state regulators, a day after the ride-hail giant was threatened with legal action by the California DMV the same day it rolled out the self-driving vehicles.

Now Mayor Ed Lee has issued a statement strongly condemning Uber’s actions…

A source with close knowledge on the matter also told the Examiner that the mayor asked the San Francisco Police Department to investigate if The City had legal authority to impound Uber’s autonomous vehicles.

They found they could not legally do so…(more)

SFMTA Blames Uber And Lyft For San Francisco’s Traffic Woes

ed-head

San Francisco has the third worst traffic in the country, and the Bay Area at large has seen a 70 percent increase over the past six years. As with many things in life, the factors behind this are likely complicated and multifaceted, but that hasn’t stopped officials with the SFMTA from laying the blame on one culprit in particular: The ride-hail industry.

According to a state regulatory filling submitted last week to the California Public Utilities Commission on behalf of the SFMTA, drivers with Lyft and Uber are a significant factor in making San Francisco’s roads so congested. “For example, in San Francisco alone an estimated number of 45,000 Uber and Lyft drivers now operate in the City,” the document reads. “This number far surpasses the estimated 1,800 taxis operating in San Francisco.”

That number comes from the SF Treasure’s Office, and at least partially explains why it seems like Ubers and Lyfts are everywhere — because they pretty much are. And just in case the conclusion to be drawn from this is unclear, SFMTA wants you to know that “Much of the increase San Francisco has experienced in vehicular traffic can be attributed to the huge increase in the number of TNC [Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft] vehicles operating on city streets.”… (more)

SFMTA has to blame someone for the traffic. Next they will be blaming all the soccer moms and the shuttle buses (Opps?) for traffic. IF those shuttle buses would just stay out of the city, like SFMTA told them to? Could they be having a really bad day and forgot who to blame?

This is the funniest story I have read all week. SFMTA complaining about Ubers and Lyfts and claiming there are 45,000 of them, as if this is news to anyone. They really must have their heads buried deeper in the sand than we thought.

RELATED:

Has Uber/Lyft Created More Traffic Congestion In Your Neighborhood?
by Saul Sugarman : Hoodline – excerpt

When it comes to local traffic congestion, SFMTA officials have a bone to pick with Uber and Lyft. In a recent regulatory filing first noted by the Examiner, the agency chided state regulators for failing to properly consider rideshare companies’ effect on city traffic and the environment.

“In 2016, San Francisco was rated as having the third worst traffic congestion in the nation,” reads the December 6th filing with the state Public Utilities Commission. “Much of the increase San Francisco has experienced in vehicular traffic can be attributed to the huge increase in the number of [rideshare] vehicles operating on city streets.”

With an estimated 45,000 Uber and Lyft drivers on the road, the rideshare industry has far outpaced the city’s taxi drivers, which number around 1,800, the agency said.

And while around 20,000 rideshare drivers have complied with the city’s new registration requirements, which include paying a $91 annual fee, that still leaves roughly 25,000 who have not registered or paid up. (Uber and Lyft representatives did not respond to requests for comment.)

The SFMTA also argues that rideshare cars have had a “significant environmental impact” on the city, contributing to “a reduction in air quality, increased traffic congestion, increase risk to pedestrian safety, and transit delays.”

“These are real and tangible impacts to the physical environment, which, pursuant to state law, requires environmental review,” the SFMTA filing reads…(more)

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
After you come off the ceiling, think how you can use these admissions.

Muni Hackers Vow To Release 30GB Of Sensitive Data If Ransom Isn’t Paid

by Kevin Montgomery : hoodline – excerpt

The hackers behind the ransomware attack against Muni’s computer network this past weekend are continuing to escalate their threats against San Francisco’s transportation agency. Beyond controlling 2,112 of SFMTA computers, the hackers now claim to have stolen 30 gigabytes of sensitive departmental data and promise to release it if their demands are not met.

Yesterday, Hoodline learned the hackers, going by the pseudonym “Andy Saolis,” were demanding a 100 Bitcoin ($73,000) ransom to return control of nearly 25 percent Muni’s computer network.

The deadline for sending ransom payment passed early Monday morning—a point at which the hackers had previously claimed they would close their email account, leaving the department without a method to purchase the password to regain access to their network.

Instead, as the deadline passed, Saolis sent a canned statement to several media outlets, including Motherboard, the Examiner and Forbes, with new claims that they extracted information from department computers before encrypting them and locking Muni out.

“I hope Company Try to Fix it Correctly and We Can Advise Them But if they Don’t , We Will Publish 30G Databases and Documents include contracts , employees data , LLD Plans, customers and … to Have More Impact to Company To Force Them to do Right Job!,” Saolis wrote in an email sent to the media.

The hackers, who acknowledged they do not reside in the United States, did not specify what they meant by “LLD Plans.”

According to a list, obtained by Hoodline, of Muni’s machines currently encrypted by the hackers, Saolis likely has control of the department’s payroll service, email servers, Quickbooks, several MySQL database servers, and personal computers for hundreds of employees…(more)

Castro Merchants Talk Demand-Responsive Parking Meter Pricing, Set To Roll Out Citywide In 2017

by Shane Downing : hoodline – excerpt

Demand responsive pricing will come to Castro parking meters early next year.

Over the past few years, seven San Francisco neighborhoods have served as a testing ground for SFpark, an SFMTA-initiated project that adjusts parking meter prices based on the time of the day and the day of the week.

Originally piloted with 25 percent of the city’s parking meters, SFpark’s demand-responsive pricing will roll out to the rest of San Francisco’s parking meters early next year—including in the Castro.

Parking is a product like anything else, and some spots are more valuable than others,” SFMTA parking policy manager Hank Willson told the Castro Merchants at a meeting this month. He argued that if people know where parking is available and how much they can expect to pay before they pull out of their driveways, it will reduce the amount of circling and unsafe driving practices…

According to SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose, the pilot program was a success. It decreased parking search time by 43 percent, and average meter and garage rates actually went down, by 11 cents and 42 cents an hour, respectively.

SFMTA says the program also helps businesses sell more, because potential customers are able to find a place to park. Between 2010 and 2013, sales tax revenues for businesses in non-SFpark areas increased 20 percent, but in SFpark neighborhoods, they went up by more than 35 percent, indicating that consumers were spending more in those neighborhoods…

Which neighborhoods saw the increase is revenue? Were they neighborhoods that did not receive the complete streets treatment? Did they get the full treatment of parking and traffic lane reductions or did they just the meters?

Another Castro merchant was curious as to how people are supposed to look up parking prices on the SFpark app while also driving and (hopefully) searching safely for a spot…

Are these people nuts or do they think we are? If the price changes all the time how will you know how much you are going to pay and what has this got to do with parking availability? These people are nuts.

The idea that you will drive a block further for cheaper parking is crazy because you can’t tell how much the parking is until you park and get out to look at the meter, even then, you don’t know until you start feeding it.

 

 

 

Commuters’ privacy is being clipped

sfgate.com – excerpt

Bay Area officials are encouraging public transit commuters to adopt the Clipper card, which is accepted by every major Bay Area transit system. The cards are convenient and easy to use, so it’s not surprising that people are adopting them enthusiastically – there are more than 1 million active cards in circulation.
But those commuters may be surprised at how much their Clipper cards know about them. If you use a Clipper card, your every move on public transit can be stored for up to seven years – even after an account is closed
This is an ongoing privacy battle with technologies ranging from Google to FasTrak. Unfortunately, the technological devices that rely on privacy invasions seem to be proliferating faster than the legal challenges against them… (more)

Related:
Privacy Advocates Raise Concerns Over Clipper Card Data

Mobile payments that matter: parking meters

GUEST POST : venturebeat.com

I was having coffee with local guru Greg Sterling yesterday afternoon at Another Cafe in San Francisco, and as we were chatting, Greg pulled out his iPhone and refilled his parking meter.
This has got to be one of the most compelling use cases for mobile payments: paying for parking.
In San Francisco, mobile payments for parking are handled by PayByPhone.
Unlike most mobile payments services, it solves three real problems:

  1. Many meters in San Francisco still don’t take credit cards; with PayByPhone, they all do. Finding quarters at the last second can be a challenge.
  2. The app keeps track of the time remaining. When a meter is about to expire, it alerts the user.
  3. It truly takes advantage of mobile. Instead of having to stop our conversation, walk to the meter, put in some coins, and walk back, Greg was able to add time to his meter with a few clicks.

That’s a much better return on effort for users than, say, a mobile payments app like Square, which replaces the marginal inconvenience of swiping a credit card with fumbling through a mobile app. (The barista at the coffee shop pointed out that although Pay With Square was cool, in many cases it took longer than normal transactions because people were unfamiliar with the app. Some even held up the line as they downloaded the app at the register.)
It’s also a use case where the alternative is quite painful: a ticket for $62 or $72 for parking at an expired meter. (more)

Continue reading