Sunday, May 22, 2016

Uber's Self-Driving Car and Policy View on Technology Innovation

  • Last week Uber Technologies Inc. announced on its website: “If you’re driving around Pittsburgh in the coming weeks you might see a strange sight: a car that looks like it should be driven by a superhero. But this is no movie prop — it’s a test car from Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh.
  • The car, a hybrid Ford Fusion, will be collecting mapping data as well as testing its self-driving capabilities. When it’s in self-driving mode, a trained driver will be in the driver’s seat monitoring operations. The Uber ATC car comes outfitted with a variety of sensors including radars, laser scanners, and high resolution cameras to map details of the environment.” 
  • Separately, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, in a presentation at the New America Annual Conference, said “Across the country, new companies are using the Internet to transform the way Americans work, shop, socialize, vacation, look for love, talk to the doctor, get around, and track down a 10-foot feather boa—which was my latest Amazon search … 
  • The most famous example is the rise of ride-sharing platforms in our cities … The ridesharing story illustrates the promise of these new businesses—and the dangers. Uber and Lyft fought against local taxicab rules that kept prices high and limited access to services ... While their businesses provide workers with great flexibility, companies like Lyft and Uber have often resisted the efforts of those same workers to access a greater share of the wealth generated from their work. Their business model is, in part, dependent on extremely low wages for drivers ... 
  • For centuries, technological advances have helped create new wealth and have increased GDP. But it is policy – rules and regulations – that will determine whether workers have a meaningful opportunity to share in that new wealth.”

MY TAKE
  • Regarding driverless cars -  Broad adoption will require understanding how to navigate the less predictable moves of pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Regarding Warren’s comments – While she seeks to protect worker rights in the “gig” economy, the larger challenge is how to address the impact of displacing workers by advances in technology and automation. 

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