Tag Archives: driverless cars

Bring on the Self-Driving Ubers

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The news last week that Uber had unleashed a fleet of driverless vehicles in San Francisco — much like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s recent announcement that Uber and Lyft are causing most of The City’s traffic congestion — was met by the majority of taxi drivers with a resounding: “Uh doy!”

We’ve been seeing these vehicles, as well as others outfitted with antennas and various gadgets, for months. The other day, I drove past an 18-wheeler run by OTTO, a company recently acquired by Uber that’s developing autonomous big-rigs.

Uber’s official roll out last on December 14, however, didn’t go as planned. By that afternoon, someone had photographed one of their self-driving cars almost running into an intersection on Van Ness, and a Luxor cab recorded video of another one blowing through a red light in front of SFMOMA, narrowly missing a pedestrian.

In the media feeding frenzy that followed, Uber blamed the mishaps on human error. OK. But if they can’t train humans to obey traffic laws, what does that say about their ability to create driverless cars?

Personally, I’d much rather share the road with automated vehicles than the typical inexperienced, out-of-town drivers who disrupt the flow of traffic. If Uber’s hiccup of a launch last week proved anything, it’s that the problem really is — in their own words — “the other dude in the car.”

As anyone who has spent a significant amount of time driving in San Francisco can attest, most Uber drivers are totally unpredictable, usually confused and potentially unhinged psychopaths…

Read the rest of this column, including my experience with a crazy Uber driver here.

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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out: Uber’s fleet of self-driving cars leave San Francisco… transported to Arizona, appropriately enough, on semi-autonomous semis.

This column generated some Facebook love:

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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…