Morning Ed: Transportation {2017.03.01.W}

How German carmakers plan to navigate the future of transportation.

The thing is, it wasn’t really the bug that caused the divorce… (though I’m not sure if they see it that way in France).

Purvi Rajani tells the story of cruise ships and pirates.

No gondola?

How did this happen somewhere other than in Florida?

Just when you think you’ve got a retrograde outrage, it gets a bit more complicated.

A look at Google’s lawsuit against Uber in the smart car battles. It involves lasers! Either way, Ryan Felton says Uber is doomed. If so, that doesn’t bode well for the future of Flying Cars.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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35 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Transportation {2017.03.01.W}

  1. I can appreciate the method of protest, but if the purpose is obscured, it strikes me as outrage for its own sake, which isn’t very useful.

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  2. Uber screwed up by poaching the Google engineer & going straight to a parallel project. They might prevail in the lawsuit, but the legal costs & PR hit is going to hurt.

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    • The hiring itself was probably legal. The copying of the entire petabyte of source code and data from Google was not. It might be that the hires also disclosed trade secrets.

      The thing about Kalanick is that before Uber, he ran two different file sharing companies. The first one went bankrupt when sued by the RIAA. He currently runs a company that could be described as an illegal taxi service. He’s kind of a Darth Vader wannabe, so I will call him a Kylo Ren.

      Google was an investor in Uber, and until last Friday owned a big chunk of them. They are pulling all that investment, and the prospective value of that investment is included in damages, as well as the prospective value of, you know, robot cars. Should Google prevail, Uber is dead.

      I’m a bit sad, though, because there’s a thing there in the Uber-Lyft space that seems worthwhile. I’ve kinda been screwed over by taxi companies, as I’ve mentioned before in this space.

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      • I agree that poaching the engineer wasn’t illegal, but the data dump certainly violates an employment contract at the very least, and exposes Uber to trade secret violations. My point about the lidar system is that, if nothing else, it was a big flare to Google that their former employee was sharing data.

        As for Kalanick, he’s not having a good year.

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        • Also, the price paid for a company with no product or working prototype that is less than a year old, that you had contact with while still employed at Google indicates to me that Uber was, at best, only technically ignorant about the source of the information because they did zero due diligence on the source (because they already knew but wanted plausible deniability in the most technical sense).

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    • A lot of dumping on Uber in that article, but the main thing that stood out to me was: “rider fares only cover roughly 40 percent of a ride, with the remainder subsidized by venture capitalists.” It looks like Uber is trying to overcome this with volume.

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        • Yeah, and I guess the other point is that even if Uber’s business model is not financially viable, I could still see the business purchased out of bankruptcy with the bad debt wiped-out and a new business model. Deadspin is still with us.

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      • My understanding of Uber’s strategic business plan is

        1. Drive traditional taxi businesses out of the market.
        2. Raise prices.

        There’s this other thing they do, which I think might have a place in the economy. Which is to utilize slack resources (vehicles and drivers) during peak demand times, which will result in more rides for riders and extra cash for people who already have cars which they use for other reasons.

        I kind of don’t have a problem with that, actually.

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  3. No gondola paid for by the Arlington County government. If the Georgetown BID wants to foot the entire bill, (and/or go in with the private real estate honcos that own & lease the Rosslyn office towers) the government of Arlington won’t object, as far as I can tell.

    (eta – I’ll admit, this is a thing that I would like, but I don’t want to pay for it at all)

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  4. From the story about the men on the couch in the McDonald’s drive-through, the sentence “Two local men, aged 28 and 39, will face yet-to-be-determined charges” carries a pronounced flavor of “We know it ought to be illegal, but we’re not sure exactly which laws were violated.”

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  5. Oh if only you’d waited one day to post these links…

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/technology/uber-greyball-program-evade-authorities.html

    Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was being resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been outright banned.

    The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities such as Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.

    Greyball was part of a broader program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The VTOS program, including the Greyball tool, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

    Greyball and the broader VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by the company…

    So I guess this is confirmation, as though it were really needed, that the sharing economy is mostly based on ignoring the laws that stop other people already doing the thing you want to do.

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    • If your regulation(s) result in a thriving black market, or widespread skirting/disobedience, you might be doing regulation wrong.

      Or not, depending on what your true desired result is (see also: The Drug War).

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      • “If your regulation(s) result in a thriving black market, or widespread skirting/disobedience, you might be doing regulation wrong.”

        Thing is, we don’t look at black-market operators and say “wow, they have come up with an amazing new economic model which will totally result in a better world for everyone and we shouldn’t restrict what they’re doing”. We look at black-market operators and say “they’re breaking the law”.

        The existence of a black market suggests that we should relax regulations, but I wouldn’t think that even the hardest of hardcore market-orthodoxists would suggest that a black market means we should allow people to flout the laws that exist.

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        • but I wouldn’t think that even the hardest of hardcore market-orthodoxists would suggest that a black market means we should allow people to flout the laws that exist.

          Yeah, that isn’t what I am saying.

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