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Comment Re:Robots (Score 1) 154

The main costs for a transportation company (ignoring lobbying, which is Uber's actual largest cost) are drivers, vehicles, and fuel. Uber's found a clever way to avoid the last two entirely and seriously underpay the first. All autonomous cars will do is bring vehicles and fuel back onto Uber's balance sheet. Given that those costs aren't covered Uber right now (their drivers tend to quit once they do the math and realize that they're not going to come out ahead on car/fuel costs), Uber's expenses will go way up with driverless cars.


Comment Re:Worked for Amazon. (Score 1) 154

Sure, from a technical perspective you could probably run Uber off a small server farm*. But, you forgot about all the lawyers, lobbyists, and canvassers needed to sway local populations and politicians to change the laws to make Uber legal. And the subsidies to drivers so they can undercut their competition's prices.

*Though I doubt the Uber developers architected for performance (when you have money, you hardware looks cheap) and it's probably running on a few thousand nodes on some cloud service somewhere. For comparison, in the early days of the internet, the mapping company I worked for (the one everyone used from 1995 until Google pretended they invented web-based mapping/trip routing) ran the whole thing off five servers. Serving hundreds of thousands of directions and millions of maps each day and running an ad serving business on the side. And that was on mid-90s hardware.

Comment Re:I would invest (Score 5, Insightful) 154

Webvan was great. So was So is Uber.

Unfortunately, none of those companies had/have a chance without investor money to subsidize their services. Once forced to actually pay their costs, they will have no choice but to raise their rates or go out of business. With Webvan and, customers left when the rates went up. Same will happen with Uber.

That said, I'm happy to spend investor's money to save a buck. Use it while it's there!


Comment Re: Some of us... (Score 1) 366

If there is UBI for them then they are not totally worthless.

Giving people free money doesn't give them worth. It gives them money.

And that money can cover expenses so they can pursue things that actually make their lives worthwhile. Art, music, maker tech, volunteering, and all those other things we do that fulfill us when we're not working. You know, those things that help make us human and not just worker bees.


Comment Re:"Sharing" (Score 1) 133

I agree the term "ride sharing" is wrong, but I've giving up pushing that point when discussing Uber. Using the term "Transportation Network Company" (a more accurate term that most cities are adopting when drafting regulations to differentiate them from Taxi companies) just confuses people.

While an employer doesn't prevent a free market, what Uber does is in no way a free market service. The riders and drivers have no say over the rates. There's nothing free about that market. It's a tightly regulated market controlled by Uber.

Saying drivers regulate their price is the same as saying riders regulate what they're willing to pay - you're using the term regulate to mean something different than it usually means in these conversations. From the context of a market, regulation is a set of rules that limit how the market can function, not individual choices by actors participating in the market.

In my first scenario, the free market regulates the driver's rates. That's how a free market works. The driver can set whatever rates he wants and riders are free to accept them or counter them. According to free market theory, in that case the riders and drivers are free to negotiate a price. Given enough riders and drivers the "market" will eventually settle on a price that's agreeable to both parties.


Comment Re:"Sharing" (Score 1) 133

Uber and Lyft are in no way representative of free market principles.

In a free market, I need a ride somewhere, I put out a bid for what I'm willing to pay for that ride. If a driver likes my offer, they can accept it or counter. That's free market ride sharing.

Uber is simply a market for rides regulated by Uber, just as taxi services are markets for rides regulated by governments. You, as the rider, are completely at their mercy for setting your fare. Drivers are also completely at Uber's mercy for setting their rate. That's the opposite of a free market.

Even if you look at it from the service perspective of allowing ride sharing companies to create competing ride markets, Uber fails. Uber is heavily subsidized by its investors and foreign governments (Saudi Arabia's $3.5B investment, for example) and has never had to compete on costs. Again, something antithetical to free market principles.

Of course, just like I had deliver 50lb bags of dog food for free in 1999 and used Instacart until they jacked up their rates, I'm happy to spend investor's money on cheap rides. No point in missing out on the party while it's happening.


Comment Re:What the world needs is non-profit version of U (Score 1) 45

When Uber and Lyft stomped out of Austin like whiney, spoiled brats, the free market stepped in a started creating alternatives. One of them is a non-profit:

I haven't used it yet, but I like the idea of non-profit or B-Corps competing side by side with the for-profit companies.


Comment Re:That's money in the bank baby! (Score 5, Informative) 258

"Earlier this month the site compared this year's drunk driving arrests to last years -- and discovered that in the three weeks since Uber and Lyft left Austin, 7.5% more people have been arrested for drunk driving."

Keep in mind that that was a 6 week sample in absolute terms (not relative to population growth or corrected for any other factors, like more aggressive policing, festivals/events that could have spiked rates, weather, etc - it was just raw year-over-year numbers). It's bad statistics. It's been a bit depressing to watch so many techies (including many of my data science friends who should know better) blindly believe Uber/Lyft's messaging.

I live in Austin and I'm really sick of the Uber/Lyft propaganda machines. All they're doing is spending their VC money on lobbying and lawyers to mold communities in their image rather than trying to develop a service that actually works with the communities they serve (seriously: they spent $9MM trying to influence a local election. What a waste of some investor's money.) Uber is just a grand VC experiment in seeing how they can run illegal businesses and force laws to change for them. They tried it in health (23andMe, Therenos) and found the FDA to be a formidable opponent and instead went after an unpopular industry (taxis) to develop their playbook. Once they work out the playbook with taxis, they'll go after other regulated industries.

Remember, Uber and Lyft were not forced out of Austin. They simply left because they didn't want to play by the rules. They could have stayed. What's exciting is that the market is working and a whole new crop of TNCs are evolving in Austin that are willing to work with the community rather than against it.

And don't get me wrong, I love the idea of TNCs. They're great services, they just need to play by the same rules as everyone else and when those rules don't seem to be right, work with the community to find ones that do (compromise is part of that). Right now, Uber and Lyft are just acting like that spoiled rich kid you knew growing up who was never held accountable for his actions.


Comment Re:Uber income (Score 5, Insightful) 323

Interesting what you did there, calling the $13.00 after expenses a "profit". What's left out in the expenses is the salary for the contractor. That $13.00 is their take home pay after the expenses of running their car. So, if you have zero living expenses and don't eat, then sure, call it profit. But since Uber drivers are humans, they actually need food and shelter. Some of us also think that all humans should have a decent standard of living and have a decent work/life balance, not just those of us that can make six figures surfing the web all day and occasionally banging out a few lines of code.

$13.00 take home pay equates to roughly $26k/year (using the standard 2000 hour work year that every software person I know uses to compute their "salary" based on their consulting rate). The poverty line in the US is roughly $23k.

tl;dr: the $13.00 is not profit, it's salary; $13/hr won't even let you save and the US deems that salary the bare minimum to just scrape by. Working more destroys the work/life balance.


Comment Re:here's an idea (Score 1) 82


"Apple declined to comment on why it didn’t follow its usual procedure."

Someone did ask, Apple didn't say anything.

Which is Apple's usual procedure (not responding). Heck, even within Apple engineers aren't allowed to share details like this outside of their immediate team.

But, as many other posts have pointed out, the source code for most of the kernel is already open source and iOS was unencrypted until iOS 8. Not really much to see here...

(on a side note, what's up with /. suddenly becoming just a string of "gotcha" stories about software bugs and corporate mistakes?)

Comment Do we have this bubble's Enron? (Score 1) 63

Probably not, but...

If you remember the dot com bust, there were a few precipitating events that got everyone looking closer at sky-high valuations. Enron is probably the most important of those. While Enron wasn't a dot com, they used some very creative accounting practices to book revenue and inflate their value (innovative, disruptive, new economy, and all that). Their crash helped highlight the funny math going on at internet companies and helped get investors and regulators asking the hard questions.

The current bubble has a few possible candidates for an Enron-style scandal. I've thought that Theranos might be it - they fit the broader narrative of youthful founders disrupting stodgy industries and minting new billionaires. Then there's Uber, but they have enough investor money in the bank to hide any structural issues with their business model for years. Palantir is another that may help burst the bubble as they learn that the outrageous consulting rates and blind faith in their methods they received from the military are difficult to replicate in the business world when you have some level of accountability to shareholders and customers. They have less cash than Uber to mask their situation much longer.

But, maybe it will be just like before: good old math that no longer adds up. At some point, all the SaaS companies using the clouds will run out of credits and goodwill from the providers and be asked to pay real rates for the services (just in case you don't know: almost no SaaS company actually pays for their hosting on the major cloud providers for the first year or so, and even then they pay deeply discounted rates. And if you're at a SaaS paying full rates to Amazon or similar, you need to call your rep - your competition is paying less than you. The cloud providers do this in hopes that strong businesses will emerge that they can eventually reap profits from - Salesforce is the classic example). I'm guessing* that all the major cloud providers are using some form of funny math to hide this.

So, Oracle's probably not going to suffer the fate of Enron. But, just like in the last bubble, "clever" accounting may be what finally pops it.


*ok, I know from direct experience how at least two of them are doing it, and yes, they're doing it

Comment Re:Hydogen is just a way to store energy (Score 5, Interesting) 630

Of course existing infrastructure is bad for hydrogen, but upgrading existing infrastructure is part of the benefit for the hydrogen crowd. While the physical elements of our current infrastructure definitely won't support hydrogen, the business infrastructure is already in place to match the existing fuel distribution model. A one-time cap-ex investment to swap out fossil fuel infrastructure components with components that can support hydrogen is all that is needed to maintain the existing business model. Sure, it won't be cheap, but it will likely be a supported by tax incentives (create local jobs to do the retrofit, write off retrofit) and it provides an opportunity for the oil service industry to learn hydrogen infrastructure by developing it on the taxpayer's dime.

Don't think about this like a financial engineer, not a civil engineer. It doesn't matter what makes the most sense from a technical perspective, what matters is not disrupting cash flow for entrenched industries. I didn't really appreciate this argument until I started running a company. But after spending the last four years around finance people, I have a new appreciation about how they (and by extension, most businesses) view the world. They optimize around profits, not technology.


Comment Re:Hydogen is just a way to store energy (Score 5, Insightful) 630

Where are mod points when I need them???

This. This. This!

I remember talking with my grandfather years ago about the future of energy for cars. He's a EE who ran a telecom infrastructure company for years and always saw things from the infrastructure perspective. Whatever was least disruptive to the energy ecosystem as a whole was going to win. Given the entrenched players at every stage in the distribution chain, hydrogen made the most sense. Each industry segment would profit greatly from upgrading their infrastructure to support hydrogen while not having to abandon their place in the process.

Electric cars upend multiple industries - from oil services all the way to convenience stores. Change will be fought tooth-and-nail. I just hope Elon doesn't run out of cash before he's had a chance to force the issue on electric cars.


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