Good news, bad news on self-driving cars

Self-driving cars

As Ryan Felton argued over two years ago, Uber may well have been over-optimistic in betting the bank on self-driving technology, which is to say, it may go bankrupt before it can eliminate human drivers,[1] and really, the same argument applies to Lyft:

For decades ahead, this fusion of human minds and machine reflexes will likely be the norm. Researchers at Cleveland State University estimate that only 10 to 30 percent of all vehicles will be fully self driving by 2030. That’s in line with predictions from others—a PwC analysis estimates that 12% of all vehicles will be fully autonomous by then. Initially, all fully self-driving vehicles will be Level 4—that is, they have to be in geographically constrained areas, and will only operate in good weather, as does Waymo’s fleet of self-driving vans that it is testing in Phoenix. Truly autonomous, aka Level 5, cars are still science fiction. . . .
That could have huge implications for the fortunes of companies like Tesla, whose CEO Elon Musk said would transform its existing fleet of cars into a 1 million-strong robo-taxi armada by 2020—something few analysts believe is feasible. It could also spell doom for companies such as Uber and Lyft, which aren’t yet profitable and might not be until they can cut out their high human costs—that is, removing drivers from vehicles.[2]

What’s cool, though, is that the advances being made in developing self-driving cars are being added to new human-driven models, making the latter significantly safer.[3]

But it’s all still bad news for me: If Lyft goes out of business because its business model is unsustainable (which, one has to assume, it likely will), I’ll be out of the only job I can find, even with a fucking Ph.D. And in the meantime, I’m not getting paid shit, so it isn’t like I can afford to save any money for an entirely foreseeable impending catastrophe: I’m working seven days a week just trying, not very successfully, to keep my head above water. And oh yeah, winter is coming, when icy conditions will increase my risks and limit the days I can work. Even in Pittsburgh, where my costs are indeed significantly lower, my income has dropped to match. My situation doesn’t appear sustainable here either.

(And I really wish people would stop with the “start your own business” or “write a book” suggestions. In the modern world, these require marketing ability. If I could market, I could market my way into a job.)

Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Have a Problem: Safer Human-Driven Ones,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-have-a-problem-safer-human-driven-ones-11560571203


Hong Kong

Natasha Khan and Chun Han Wong, “Hong Kong Suspends Extradition Bill That Sparked Protests,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hong-kong-to-suspend-controversial-extradition-bill-11560579580


Brexit

Boris Johnson got away with lying.[4] Again. Now he seems most likely to be prime minister.[5] The parallels between British and U.S. politics, dating back to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher on neoliberalism, now apparently to be with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, are becoming far too eery.

Robert Hutton and Tim Ross, “His Critics Say He Lies, But Tories Want to Trust Boris Johnson,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-14/his-critics-say-he-lies-but-tories-want-to-trust-boris-johnson


  1. [1]Ryan Felton, “Uber Is Doomed,” Jalopnik, February 24, 2017, https://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203
  2. [2]Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Have a Problem: Safer Human-Driven Ones,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-have-a-problem-safer-human-driven-ones-11560571203
  3. [3]Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Have a Problem: Safer Human-Driven Ones,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-have-a-problem-safer-human-driven-ones-11560571203
  4. [4]Gareth Davies, “Boris Johnson has misconduct allegations quashed in High Court,” Telegraph, June 7, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/07/boris-johnson-has-misconduct-allegations-quashed-high-court/
  5. [5]Robert Hutton and Tim Ross, “His Critics Say He Lies, But Tories Want to Trust Boris Johnson,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-14/his-critics-say-he-lies-but-tories-want-to-trust-boris-johnson

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