The very human problem blocking the path to self-driving cars

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It was a game of Dots that pushed Erik Coelingh to rethink his entire approach to self-driving cars. Coelingh, Volvo’s head of safety and driver assist technologies, was in a simulator, iPad in hand, swiping this way and that as the “car” drove itself, when he hear an alert telling him to take the wheel. He found the timing less than opportune.

“They gave the message when I was close to getting a high score,” he says. Jolted away from the absorbing task, he had no idea of what was happening on the “road,” or how to handle it. “I just realized,” he says, “it’s not so easy to put the game away.”

The experience helped confirm a thesis Coelingh and Volvo had been testing: A car with any level of autonomy that relies upon a human to save the day in an emergency poses almost insurmountable engineering, design, and safety challenges, simply because humans are for the most part horrible backups. They are inattentive, easily distracted, and slow to respond. “That problem’s just too difficult,” Coelingh says.

And so Volvo, and a growing number of automakers, are taking you out of the equation entirely. Instead of developing autonomous vehicles that do their thing under most circumstances but rely upon you take the wheel in an emergency—something regulators call Level 3 autonomous capability—they’re going straight to full autonomy where you’re simply along the ride.

Continue reading… “The very human problem blocking the path to self-driving cars”

1099 or W-2? Uber, changing the way we think of transit

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The success of companies like Uber can be attributed to one factor: independent contractors. A business model built around the sharing economy, it’s brought about a boom of cash flow in niche markets. But with new territory comes new challenges, and already these industries are feeling the heat for their approach to labor management. Continue reading… “1099 or W-2? Uber, changing the way we think of transit”

Uber has made a real difference for women in Saudi Arabia

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Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. That leaves women reliant on male relatives or paid services to get to stores, school, and (increasingly) work. So when Uber launched in Riyadh in early 2014, its impact went beyond the general convenience of tech-enhanced ride hailing. The company has made a real difference in Saudi women’s mobility.

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Uber is being credited with the decline in California drunk driving deaths

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Uber along with  Mothers Against Drunk Driving released a study earlier this year taking credit for a decline in drunken driving-related car crashes among drivers under 30. It was called out for not producing enough evidence to make the connection.

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Uber’s new auto rickshaw service in India, allowing cash payments for first time

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The taxi hailing app war is heating up in India.  Late last week, news of Ola’s latest $310 million funding round surfaced, then just a few hours later, Uber introduced its first service that allows for cash payments in the country.   Continue reading… “Uber’s new auto rickshaw service in India, allowing cash payments for first time”