Self-driving vehicles

No Innovation Without Regulation: 'Safety Experts' Alarmed by Uber's Self-Driving Cars in Pittsburgh

What is not permitted is prohibited

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UberSelfDrivePittsburgh
Uber

One the laziest tropes in journalism is to report on the roll-out of a new technology and then round up alarmed activists who tut-tut that innovators are once again outracing the regulators. A perfect example of this type of story appears on the front page of today's Washington Post: "For some, Uber's self-driving taxi test is not something to hail."

Sometime this month, the ride-hailing service Uber is going to start putting around 100 self-driving Volvos on the streets of Pittsburgh. The goal is to test out the technology and accumulate data. While cars will drive themselves, each will be manned by two Uber engineers who can take over the driving if something goes awry. Customers can choose to opt-in to the program or not.

Sadly, in 21st century America there is now always a cadre of anti-technology zealots ready to stand athwart progress yelling stop. From the Post:

Uber's decision to bring self-driving taxis to the streets of Pittsburgh this week is raising alarms among a swath of safety experts who say that the technology is not nearly ready for prime time.

The unprecedented experiment will launch even though Pennsylvania has yet to pass basic laws that permit the testing of self-driving cars or rules that would govern what would happen in a crash. Uber is also not required to pass along any data from its vehicles to regulators. …

Over the past several years, self-driving cars have begun to be tested on the roads of at least four states. Yet the term "autonomous vehicles" is not mentioned anywhere in the federal motor-vehicle code — there are no safety standards for them, and no federal guidelines for testing. In Pennsylvania, regulators have proposed legislation that would allow for tests and require that companies doing them have insurance, and report information such as cybersecurity breaches, crashes and times when an engineer had to take over the wheel. But Uber's experiment will begin well before those proposals ever come up for a vote.

The article further notes that two years ago at "a Washington Post forum, Chris Urmson, the former Google executive who once led the company's self-driving car project, said 'one of the great things about American innovation' was that if the law 'doesn't say you can't do it, then you can.'" Just imagine!

To signify how dangerously disdainful of regulation Uber is to its readers, the Post mentions that CEO Travis Kalanick had "once extolled the virtues of 'principled confrontation' and used an icon of Ayn Rand's libertarian opus 'The Fountainhead' as his Twitter avatar."

The Post suggests, "Pittsburgh might be the exact environment that innovators love to leap into — a legal void that can be defined by technologists, not bureaucrats. The question is how fast, and under what conditions, should the testing of a life-changing technology occur."

No, the real question is why do so many reporters and editors think that innovators should have to ask for permission before they are allowed to bring us new products and services?

For more background see my July feature article, "Will Politicians Block Our Driverless Future?"

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  1. Must present bureaucratic obstacles to ensure any new competition knows whose palms to grease in order to ‘make things happen’.

    Shame if something were to happen to your potentially-child-murdering, cabbie-unemployment machine.

  2. “For some, Uber’s self-driving taxi test is not something to hail.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhu3NTOHz-M

    1. One of my Uber drivers last week when I was in Pittsburgh was all for it. He said he figured he had 10 years to drive the car. Also, he figures Uber is more likely to license the technology to truck fleets. Not 100% sure I agree with him, but I liked his attitude.

      1. Glad he was upbeat about his eventual replacement. I like the idea of autopiloted vehicles, and I like Uber’s business model, but how does Uber keep the business model under this plan? I haven’t read any articles about the autonomous Uber cars where the cars are owned by independent contractors, their drivers today. Everything I’ve read indicates these are going to be corporate owned vehicles. The model Uber has used to keep bureaucrats from demanding they have to pay the same fees and follow the same archaic rules as taxi companies is to say that their drivers, independent contractors, are sharing rides with the passengers as their drivers were already going from one place to another. If the car is owned by Uber and used to shuttle customers from one place to another, how can Uber not be declared as a taxi company and be required to face the rules set up for taxi companies?

      2. So I do Uber and Lyft on the weekends here in Seattle sometimes. My thoughts are this:

        Self driving cars will be feasible for private individuals before Uber. Why? Because PEOPLE are dumb shits. And to a lesser degree all the “odd” things that happen on the road I don’t think driverless systems will be able to deal with for some years.

        Riders are idiots. Not all, maybe not even most… But a sizable minority. They drop their pins in the wrong place ALL THE TIME. Even when sober. Sometimes half way across the city. More often, 2 blocks off or whatever. You could have a call center employee call them to figure this stuff out, but that’s a pain in the ass, and arguably not as good a way to deal with it as a guy in the car when factoring in issues below. Dumb people just fuck it up all the time.

        Proper drunk people bring a whole host of issues as well. I can honestly envision tons of vandalism, drinking booze in the car, leaving tons of trash, sex, smoking crack, and lord only knows what in a driverless car. It will be a problem. You can have a camera being watched by remote “security” people, but that’s gonna be creepy as fuck, and I don’t think people will like that much.

        There are other smaller issues, but I think those two would be the big ones.

      3. Tech Problems:

        GPS is still horrible, not only at directions, but at even knowing properly where you are (falling behind by a full block plus, thinking you’re on a different road than you are etc), that it would fuck up a ton on getting you from A to B and piss people off.

        How will they drive in conditions where you literally can’t see the road? Like snow. Actually controlling the car in bad traction situations aside, it probably wouldn’t even be able to figure out which side of the street to stay on on fully covered/weird roads. People look and go “uhhh, it’s 2 lanes, so that’s about the middle… I’ll stay on this side more or less and call it good.” I don’t think driverless cars would handle it like that. I imagine they’ll just say (for liability reasons) “This road is impassible due to road conditions, sorry please try again later or put vehicle into manual mode.” Hell, what about unmarked dirt roads for that matter? Not a biggie in the city, but in the other 95% of the country they’re everywhere. I’ve driven down tons of unmarked roads/long driveways and other weird things like that even in the Seattle area. It happens.

      4. What about dealing with a police car, with his siren off, randomly blocking a road because they’re a dick? This happens all the time. Or a garbage truck or whatever. What about an accident in the road? There are hundreds of weird situations that could obstruct a road which would be difficult for a computer to figure out what is going on and respond appropriately. Like when you have to make an “illegal” u turn on a 2 lane road because the road ahead is blocked by a cop car. It’s technically illegal, so is a robo car going to do that? I dunno.

        I could go on for days. But the main thing is that without somebody in the car, it’s going to be a mess for several years.

        In my mind in a few years they will probably be able to handle 90 percent of situations in summer weather in most parts of the country. However winter weather and oddities, combined with people problems, are going to make them a bit sketchy for Uber use for a number of years IMO.

      5. I think a Yuppie buying a Tesla in 5 years and letting it do 95% of his driving for him is totally realistic. But Uber won’t be able to can all the drivers in a few years because the cars will have too many problems in too many situations.

        So I can actually envision drivers buying said level of car, and then sitting back 95% of the time letting it do all the work while BSing with riders as a likely outcome in a few years. 10+ years out it’s harder to say, but I’d say between now and 10 years is a safe bet there won’t be full transition. Just the sheer number of vehicles would be tough to replace in and of itself.

  3. the real question is why do so many reporters and editors think that innovators should have to ask for permission before they are allowed to bring us new products and services?

    Why? Why?!? I’ll tell you why, Mr. aAarchist: Rules and laws are there for everyone’s benefit. They aren’t just some self-serving platitudes, or money-making schemes, like kkkorporations! If you don’t want to be told what to do, you can just go live in Somalia. Better yet-why not try living in a slum? See how you like not having rules to save you!

    /BigGov derp

  4. Mr. Anarchist

    /seriously, who’s standing athwart of the edit button around here?

  5. “it’s not ready for primetime.”
    “that’s why we are doing real world testing with two engineers in control of the system.”
    “There are no guidelines for testing.”
    “But we have to engage in testing in order to determine what the guidelines are.”
    “You sound like a fucking Ayn Rand follower.”

  6. No, the real question is why do so many reporters and editors think that innovators should have to ask for permission before they are allowed to bring us new products and services?

    Because if someone had applied this caution to the Internet then maybe these hysteriamongers wouldn’t be going the way of the dodo and the buggy whip.

    1. I think it’s just that progressives are terrified of change especially change they don’t control themselves. It is ironic given they consider themselves the open minded embracers of change when in reality they wish we would just all cram into choo choo’s like its 1876 so they wouldn’t have to deal with the psychological trauma of someone doing things without permission.

  7. Chris Urmson, the former Google executive who once led the company’s self-driving car project, said ‘one of the great things about American innovation’ was that if the law ‘doesn’t say you can’t do it, then you can.'”

    *clutches pearls, falls over on feinting couch*

    Maybe that’s what was really going on with Hillary yesterday: someone had just told her that Uber was going to test driverless cars without asking permission first.

    1. Did the couch’s feint work? Or did you still land on it?

      1. Winner

  8. …the real question is why do so many reporters and editors think that innovators should have to ask for permission before they are allowed to bring us new products and services?

    That’s easy: they’re statist asshats. No more explanation than that needed.

    1. Not only that, they’re state owned statist assholes.

  9. Wow, control freaks freak out when they see something that they aren’t sure is under their control? Shocking.

  10. I would be interested to see the data from self driving Volvos as they navigate Western Pennsylvania roads in January.

  11. Look, we have to make sure the public is safe we get our cut before we can allow these things on the road.

    /bureaucrat

  12. Obviously, it’s all about incentives. There is no incentive to a statist/bureaucrat in simply allowing someone to do something that could be grounds for expanding their own power/influence/budget/graft. Besides, who is going to stop them?

  13. Fuck self-driving taxis. This is where the money is.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bFc0rBoFY8

    http://www.motorauthority.com/…..rder-trial

    1. Personally, I’m waiting for self-driving motorhomes.

      1. So you can cook like Tacy in The Long, Long Trailer?

    2. Self driving big rigs and self driving ships? big, big money there.

      1. And self-driving passenger jets… yeah, like, we can call it “autopilot” or “autoland”!
        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoland

        1. Or how about self-driving trains?
          https://reason.com/blog/2016/09…..dy-follies

          Imagine the savings, in dollars and lives: self-driving trains don’t speed or fall asleep or run their signals!

          The parts of the transportation industry that are most ready for automation happen to be those most subsidized by the federal government. Good luck any of that sees the light of day.

  14. “While cars will drive themselves, each will be manned by two Uber engineers who can take over the driving if something goes awry.”

    I hope they’re dressed appropriately:

    http://brooklynpeddler.com/product/engineer-hats/

    1. Well, the ones I saw were either manned by Uber engineers or homeless guys. I could only see grubby t-shirts, neckbeards, and long, stringy hair.

    2. I would bet money that after 100 trips, those engineers will not be paying enough attention to react in time to stop an accident if something goes wrong.

  15. The Post doesn’t really have any business criticising him for using a picture of the fountain head for his twitter avatar, since their whole article is essentially a reworking of passages from ATLAS SHRUGGED.

  16. No, the real question is why do so many reporters and editors think that innovators should have to ask for permission before they are allowed to bring us new products and services?

    Because they’re all Marxians.

    From planet Marx.

  17. RE: No Innovation Without Regulation: ‘Safety Experts’ Alarmed by Uber’s Self-Driving Cars in Pittsburgh
    What is not permitted is prohibited

    The little people must be controlled at all costs if we are to become a true socialist utopia, Just as importantly, their innovations and inventions must be controlled to the point of extinction. This way, the politically connected and their whores who “represent” them in the Politburo will maintain their elitist status in our beloved socialist society. Improving the lives of the unwashed masses only contributes to the decline of The State and those who kindly enslave us all. So it should come as no surprise the ruling elitist turds slap on miles of red tape, rules, regulations, laws, etc. But the do so for the good of the collective. Otherwise the untermenschen in our country might wander off Uncle Sam’s new and improved plantation accidentally and find the rewards of innovation and financial freedom.
    Nobody would wish that on anyone.

  18. “No, the real question is why do so many reporters and editors think that innovators should have to ask for permission before they are allowed to bring us new products and services?”

    No, the real question is why would anyone think the government, who has no skin in the game, would be a better arbiter for the safety of the project and its participants than those who have some much time and money at stake?

  19. “What is not permitted is prohibited”

    Ron, I think you mean what is not explicitly permitted is prohibited. Otherwise, you just have a tautology.

    Nice article, nevertheless.

  20. Two thoughts:

    1a) Brace yourselves, the Taxicab Lobby is coming. And we know they don’t play nice.

    1b) They’d better come out with some self-driving vehicles that aren’t obviously self-driving (i.e. the sensors and cameras on top are a dead giveaway) to protect from vandalism, tampering, and violent attacks by the aforementioned taxi drivers.

  21. Proggies are upset because, aside from the cabby unions, they didn’t get there first and force self-driving cars on everyone after they take our cars away. Talked to another dad at the playground the other day who works for a transportation policy think thank and he told me that self-driving cars will really only be a benefit if there are no human-driven cars on the road for them to collide with.

  22. Enjoying the irony of the progressives’ favorite new technology being stymied by intrusive regulations…

    The Left has always hated, hated, HATED the concept of the private automobile. Individual freedom of mobility goes against their sense of the proper social order – the masses must be kept on a short leash! So, they are anxious for new technology to literally take the steering wheel out of our hands. Read all the gleeful articles in Slate and Vox predicting the end of private car ownership in favor of a fleet of (shared) robo-taxis.

    Wait and see: Ostensibly for “safety” or “traffic management” (you might as well throw in “for the children!”), autonomous cars will be networked into central authorities that will have the power to limit where, when and how often you “drive”.

    Me? I don’t even want an automatic transmission! My car has three pedals, like God intended.

  23. No, the real question is why do so many reporters and editors think that innovators should have to ask for permission before they are allowed to bring us new products and services?

    Because minor glitches in this new product and service can easily kill and maim people?

    This isn’t Four Loko or Pokemon Go we’re talking about…. third parties can easily be harmed if something goes wrong.

  24. This is the equivalent of saying that the Wright brothers had no right testing their “flying whatsit” until the FAA and *shudder* the TSA had been formed. I’m really starting to wonder why “progress” is a fundamental part of the word “Progressive”.

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