Tag Archives: automated taxis

Canary in the Coal Mine

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I was talking with a journalist recently about the inevitable death of the taxi industry. He seemed surprised by my response, that taxis aren’t going anywhere.

“They may not look the same in the future,” I said, “or function the same, but when the day comes that a retired couple from Omaha flying into SFO is required to not only possess a smartphone but also download an app, give a third-party company their personal information, agree to terms of service that allow them to track their movements and then sell that information to other companies for marketing purposes just to get a ride into The City is the day you can officially say San Francisco has lost its soul.”

We were at The Orbit Room, and while he wrote down my comment, one of those old streetcars from Vienna clattered past on Market Street.

No, taxis aren’t going anywhere. And automated vehicles are a long, long way off. In San Francisco, anyway. Unless The City invests millions of dollars in public infrastructure.

Several months ago, I drove two guys who picked my brain about which streets in The City were the worst to drive on. As soon as I found out they worked for Ford, I challenged them on the issue of self-driving cars.

“You know they’ll never work here, don’t you?” I demanded. “It’s hard enough for a human to drive in this city, much less a computer. Besides potholes the size of Lake Merritt, many streets don’t even have clearly marked lanes. How are lasers supposed to detect something that’s not there? It’s impossible, right?”

Both guys nodded.

No, taxis aren’t going anywhere.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

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The Many Potholes on the Road to Self-Driving Cars

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“You know it’s a good ride,” Juneaux texts me after letting me know he’d gotten a ride to  Palo Alto, “when you’re using cruise control on the way back The City. 

Just as I’m about to respond with “You lucky bastard,” I get flagged by two guys on the corner of Post and Powell.

“Do you know of any strip clubs open this late?” one asks. 

Five minutes later and $50 richer, I drive away from New Century, thinking about the different services we offer as taxi drivers and how difficult it would be to replace the taxi experience with self-driving cars.

Take the four women I picked up earlier that day outside Magnolia on Haight for example. They’re going to the Marriott Maquis. 

“But first we need to see the painted ladies. Is that alright?”

That’s more than alright. A $15 fare turned into a $25 fare, since I obviously had to show them other Victorians in the neighborhood. 

How can you get service like that from a self-driving car? 

Read the rest here.

 

Self-Driving Uber Car on the Streets of San Francisco

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Spotted on Harrison between 7th and 8th, one of Uber’s self-driving cars. Notice the Pennsylvania plates. There were two people up front and two in the back. When the light turned green, the other cars took off, while the self-driving car didn’t seem to move. 

A fleet of Uber’s self-driving cars were released onto the streets of Pittsburgh last week with limited autonomous features. A driver is always in the front seat with his hands on the wheel as a technician sits shotgun. After watching multiple videos from tech sites and news sources, I can’t say I was impressed. 

After all, there’s only so much a driverless car can do:

 

Self-driving Uber cars and the future of taxis

Here’s my segment on the Will and Willie Show talking with Will Durst and former SF mayor Willie Brown about politics, the future of taxis and self-driving cars. I watched it all the way through without cringing too much, so that’s a good sign I guess…