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Comment Re:It makes sense in NYC (Score 1) 124

Any additional sharing of rides will result in less vehicles on the road. But also no more driving around looking for a parking space so there is a double benefit. If we could get rid of half of the parking lots on the cities and do something more productive with them, we would live in a much different world. I've heard that 65% of the surface area of Los Angeles is dedicated to cars.

Autonomous cars will still need to park somewhere relatively close by to be useful. But parking/car storage can be further away than walking distance, so a 5 to 10 minute drive away instead of 5 minute walk. And if there can be fewer cars then that really does free up space for new development in desirable areas. Where car storage can go into vacant lots and industrial areas further away.

But I think planners need to be more careful than they have been in the past in permitting greater and greater density in order to avoid over saturating the road network again. So it would be good to see some of that parking used for pocket parks and amenities rather than all for new residential/commercial development. Make the cities more livable and enjoyable for people and not just pack in more people.

Comment Re:Say goodbye to a lot of tax revenue (Score 1) 124

Giving up $500M in city revenue is not worth some vaguely stated increase in prosperity.

It's great to be on the cutting edge of technology. But for that kind of revenue, why doesn't the city improve the current taxi system rather than let Uber in? Better systems and apps for drivers seems like a small price to pay in order to hang onto a rather significant revenue source.

City is going to get revenue one way or another. Autonomous vehicles wouldn't be tax free.

I wouldn't assume we are talking about Uber.

Comment Re:It makes sense in NYC (Score 1) 124

Ride shares and self driving cars will NOT solve the transportation gridlock problem. Cars simply do not have the capacity of real public transit:

MIT just showed that there is real potential for self driving cars to help the gridlock problem by reducing the number of cars on the road while still meeting the demand for point to point non-mass transit transportation.

In the sense that new technology can effectively increase capacity of the existing road network it is likely that new growth will simply take up the slack and result in more gridlock. Which is good in the sense that it enables economic growth up to the new capacity, but it would be better if there could be some limits put on that growth below the transportation system's saturation point.

People will always need lower capacity transportation options for last mile, low frequency routes and off peak transportation so mass transit is no panacea either and suffers from the same type of gridlock problems with over saturation of the network at peak times due to poor planning.

Comment Re:Say goodbye to a lot of tax revenue (Score 0) 124

Medallions cost around $1 million each. Do you really think a ten billion dollar asset is just going to roll over and play dead?

Whichever cities try to block autonomous taxis will be left behind economically. Even New York would eventually have to come around or else see their prosperity diminished.

When a technology comes around that can both improve quality of life and increase prosperity through economic efficiency blocking it is not a viable option.

Comment Re:Cars that don't have autonomous should be banne (Score 1) 151

Seat belts and airbags are not an apt comparison because they were always intended to be a cheap and basic solution. Autonomy is the exact opposite of that. It is hard to see if it can ever be adopted to the extent that will save a significant amount of lives. Therefore it shouldn't even enter into consideration at this point.

In what way is putting an explosive charge to inflate a bag in the steering wheel seem like a basic solution? That is some very precise engineering.

I don't see a few cameras, maybe a bit of lidar, with some coding to not hit stuff as too complicated. If you code it the right way then worst case it should stop when it sees something in its path. Cars are very complex systems already.

Comment Re:Cars that don't have autonomous should be banne (Score 1) 151

As long as Uber is putting these cars on the road intending for them to one day be autonomous and in the name of training them to be autonomous, then they should be technically ready to be autonomous. If they are not technically ready to be autonomous then they need to go back to the drawing board and get better hardware.

I've never heard a better description of a catch 22.

So, should we take every car off the road that has collision avoidance technology just because car manufacturers are collecting data with the intent of someday making the cars fully autonomous? This is technology meant to save lives. Seat belts and airbags also had their problems and failed to save lives under particular circumstances and with defects, but if we had used your criteria of provable perfection then a lot of people would be dead that didn't need to be.

Comment Re:Cars that don't have autonomous should be banne (Score 1) 151

If the Uber cars are really capable of avoiding cyclists, why does Uber not just say so? Also if their cars are so teachable why don't they just go through a couple proper turns with a pilot and resolve that issue forever more? If anything, regulation is highlighting some real glaring gaps in their implementation here and that's a good thing.

Uber is saying that these are not autonomous cars as defined under the California regulations. For the purposes of the regulations these are cars with driver assist technology being operated by licensed drivers. For regulatory purposes this should be regulated the same way as all the other car companies that are offering some sort of driver assist technology. It would be a mismatch if you make Uber go through some licensing/certification process intended for fully autonomous vehicles if they are not fully autonomous vehicles. Sure maybe Uber is trying to live in some gray area of regulation, like they like to do, but it also seems that the regulators are trying to apply some standards that may not be applicable.

Comment Cars that don't have autonomous should be banned. (Score 1) 151

San Francisco bicyclists can breathe a sigh of relief now

Yes, much better not to have cars that will automatically try to avoid hitting bicycles. People are much more reliable than machines... well except for the hundreds of thousands of times every year when people driven cars they hit people, other cars, and other stuff.

Sarcasm... yes. As a society we should be mandating adoption of this technology and improving it, not treating it like a safety threat to be slowed down. In the next 5 years there should be a prohibition against allowing any car on the market that doesn't have autonomous collision avoidance features. Once we have cars that won't allow drivers to hit stuff unless the driver specifically disables that feature (like choosing to disable an air bag or not buckling your seat belt) then fully autonomous is a natural progression.

Comment Re:DMV offered to bend the rules for Uber. (Score 1) 151

I didn't read it that way. Under the law it really did appear that Uber had a valid point that they weren't operating their cars fully autonomously since there was a driver at the wheel ready to take over control like with Tesla's and other manufacturer's cars. It isn't at all clear if all the other manufacturers have autonomous permits for their driver assist technologies like self braking. It seems the permit should only have been necessary when transitioning to fully autonomous operation with no driver at the wheel.

Comment Re:But... (Score 1) 44

But I was told by Slashdotters that government people didn't understand the Internet and therefore such attempts would be useless. What is next, saying that DRM actually has an effect on casual piracy?

That was true... until governments hired us all. Now we are the Man.

Comment Re:The no-rules no-ethics new dotcom boom (Score 1) 156

Exactly. People think the medallion system is some sort of magical fairy to assure quality and safety. It is hard to believe that people are that stupid.

Admittedly I have only take a few Uber rides, but in terms of safety and quality they compare favorably to the worst of the taxi service rides I have taken. I've had at least a few rides in taxis where I wasn't sure I was going to make it to my destination because of mechanical issues, a few rides in taxis where they were just dirty and unpleasant and a few rides in taxis where the person driving seemed to be a bit mentally unstable. I am sure there are plenty of people having those same sorts of experiences with Uber, but I think the customer feedback system are actually far more effective at correcting issues than city run inspections for taxi services. That is just my experience.

That said, I know here in Boston the city is pushing for Uber drivers to be finger printed like taxi drivers, supposedly to allow a more complete background check.. The counter argument is that you should be able to get all the information you need from the drivers license and even more sensitive workers like childcare workers and teachers don't get fingerprinted for their background checks. Of course why wouldn't you just fingerprint everyone with a driver's license if a driver's license is so easy to fake that you need to get fingerprints to ensure against identity theft. It would be relatively trivial to add a finger print scanner at the DMV/RMV where they take your picture.

Comment Re:The no-rules no-ethics new dotcom boom (Score 1) 156

Another uber troll without the facts https://ftalphaville.ft.com/20...

Not going to register with ft.com just to read an article with "taxi unicorns" in the title.

What I am is very much against the corrupt big city machine politics that created a system where you get a taxi "medallion" from the city through a corrupt good old boys network in order to be able to pick up passengers on the street in that city. That isn't about safety, that isn't about health, that isn't about any legitimate regulations or careful study of what level of taxi service meets the demand and provides an optimal transportation system. The medallion system is about political state control of a lucrative market in order to squeeze money out of it to feed the political machine. It is about the corporate deep state and the controlled violence that imposes the rule of men over the rule of law. That is what I am against... The mafia like control that the Democratic Party (and sometimes the Republican Party) exercises in the big cities and the taxi protection racket is a racket.

I couldn't give a damn about Uber or Lyft or whatever. People can drive for or use whatever service they want.

Comment Re:The no-rules no-ethics new dotcom boom (Score 2) 156

Regardless of what you think of Uber's practices, the Uber model itself is a more free market model of supply and demand. Versus The Taxi model which is an artificially limited supply in order to raise prices.

Taxis are one of the pillars of big city corruption and machine politics... along with bribes for liquor licenses and special permits for construction.

That is why some people attack Uber. Because the political machine isn't getting greased enough for their liking. And the result of all that lack of bribery and middle men is lower costs and better service for consumers.

Comment Re:Colour me suprised (Score 1) 255

There are simply too many conditions in which a self-driving car could occasionally need a human pilot, and the vast majority of those are when a quick decision that is not safety related is required, and the rest are when the vehicle is operating on something other than conventional roads.

For example, if I'm going to an event in a rural area I'm probably going to have to park in an improvised parking area on an unimproved or only marginally improved surface. I may have to drive down a trail that itself is unimproved or only marginally improved, either following the directions of humans waving at me or else following something like the occasional orange cone or even the tracks of previous vehicles. A self-driving car is probably not going to interpret the directions of a teenager with a yellow safety vest and will instead see the person merely as an object to avoid colliding with. It will not see bits of orange tape on the ground or ruts as a path. It probably won't handle being told to enqueue to park in rows, peeling off after the next vehicle to park per human-guided hand signals.

In this kind of scenario, which is common to outdoor concerts, festivals, campgrounds, renaissance festivals, theme-parks, lodges, and many other situations, a car that cannot be directly driven by a human being would not be able to function. The vehicle may well drive the vast majority of the time on its own, but it still needs to be capable of being occasionally human-operated or at least very directly human-instructed. Entirely eliminating the conventional driver controls makes that difficult.

Furthemore, having owned many vehicles in various states of repair and condition for around twenty years now, I do not want a vehicle to be stranded when its autonomous systems have malfuctioned. Flat out that's a non-starter. Vehicles break. This is a fact of life. I don't want a vehicle with no issues with the powertrain to strand me because the controller can't figure out how to drive on the road. If nothing else, in general emergencies it may be necessary for me to make decisions that the vehicle is not capable of making itself, like in having to drive in the aftermath of a hurricane or tornado when the roads are messed up with debris.

Don't get me wrong, the idea of a vehicle functioning as a hackney carriage, getting in and telling it where to go and it does that, has appeal, but I don't want it to only function that way.

What you describe are the risks you are willing to take as an owner of a car.

The use cases of a fully autonomous car without allowing human control are equivalent of a taxi service where the passenger doesn't own or control the vehicle. As a business, as soon as you give over control over the vehicle to a passenger, then you are operating the equivalent of a rental service. So that would mean making sure that the person has a license and is insured and making sure there are rules of usage that are followed.

There are many many scenarios where you wouldn't want to provide the option of manual override to a passenger. At least not without popping the hood and flipping a switch or something... What if the only passenger doesn't have a license to drive? What if they are elderly and physically incapable of driving? What about a child that is old enough to be a passenger, say 14 years old, but not old enough to drive? What if the passenger is drunk?

Having an easily accessible manual override in many scenarios would open a taxi service up to liability and endanger the passengers, pedestrians, other vehicles and property.

I don't object to having a steering wheel and other manual controls in every car, but manual override shouldn't always be as easy as pressing a button on the dash and taking over control of the vehicle. The use case for autonomous cars as a service is that the passengers should not be expected to ever be in a position to take over manual control.

If that means the vehicle won't go off-roading or park on the grass when you tell it to then I think that is an acceptable trade.... and I am pretty sure many taxi drivers would refuse to drive in many of the conditions you describe. So expecting an autonomous car to drive into a ditch just because you tell it to doesn't seem wise.

Sure if you own the vehicle, have a drivers license, have insurance, then you should be physically able to drive wherever and however you want. Heck if you want to drive Mad Max style then you should be able to disable the safety features that don't let you hit stuff and have at it.

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