[Nfbmo] California tells Uber to shut down 'illegal' self-driving car ...

Gary Wunder gwunder at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 29 12:32:13 UTC 2016

Hello, Dan. You are one of the most intelligent and articulate people I
know, so getting the pleasure of exchanging views with you is one I savor.

One of the difficulties human beings have always had is to figure out how we
are unique in the universe or at least how we are unique on our own planet.
I have no doubt that when the lever was introduced, someone talked about the
perils of using something that would multiply human strength in the way that
the lever could. In one respect they were right: when we started lifting
things that were beyond our ability to lift without the lever, and when we
got them high enough that falling back to earth could crush someone, people
inevitably died. Death due to accident is always tragic, but seldom does it
stop us from doing productive work.

One problem we have had in teaching computers new activities is getting the
people who understand how to do those to sit down with us and explain how
they do what they do. All of us believe that, in addition to the logical
steps we take to accomplish a task, there are intuitive things we cannot
define - I just know it when I know it. So, if you asked me to have a
computer write the response that I am writing to you right now, I would tell
you that it is a uniquely human experience relying on some scientific
principles to know how to write and to some emotional experiences to know
how to come up with the points that I write and how best to articulate them.

I think that self-driving cars have a great deal to recommend them. They
will not be run on Windows 10, and operating system designed to run hundreds
of thousands of different programs. They will be run on a computer
specifically designed to handle the functions of driving, just as the
autopilot systems and other computers necessary to flight are run on
specifically designed computers and software. They will be tested with as
many scenarios as we can get human drivers to identify. Once we teach them
how to handle those scenarios, they will not be distracted by planning the
meeting they are late for, thinking about how they must hurry through work
to get to their child's Little League game, checking to see if they have
correctly applied their makeup in the mirror, or being distracted by noise
in the back seat.

Will computers make some mistakes that cost lives? Of course they will, and
when they do, there will be a significant outcry from those who believe that
computers should not be driving. It is the same kind of outcry we hear now
when we say that people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
should not be driving. It is the same kind of cry we hear when a young
person is involved in an accident, and we say that more experience should be
required before we let young people drive. We feel the same sadness and
outrage when we hear about an accident in which a child is killed by a
ninety-five-year-old driver, our first thought being that he probably has
been driving long beyond the time when it is safe for him to do so. When we
see accidents happening in a specific area and can identify why, even then
they must meet a threshold before we will address them, so, like it or not,
while we value human life, we do put a price on what we will spend to save

I have great sympathy for the argument you offer about technology being used
to displace people. You and I share many of the same views about the need
for quality jobs and the importance of an active labor movement to see that
human beings are not viewed as just another ingredient in a salable
commodity, one that we should get for as little money as possible. But the
issue of the self-driving vehicle goes way beyond Uber or Lyft. If we
develop computer technology as we should, doesn't it make sense to assign a
machine to do something that requires intense concentration and has no
susceptibility to distraction? Wouldn't it be wonderful if your ride to work
could be accompanied by an audiobook to which you could relax, reviewing an
agenda for that morning's meeting, or writing a letter to uncle Charlie, a
man you love but whom you give far little attention in the day-to-day grind.
Or, wouldn't it be great if you could pretend to be a Northwest pilot and
sleep while transporting your passengers?

I do believe that I am just as willing to trust my life to well-designed
hardware and rigorously tested programs as I am to some of my relatives
whose rides are herky-jerky and whose attention often seems to be elsewhere.
I hope to see a time when people the age of my mother-in-law will no longer
feel imprisoned because she can no longer drive and who believes that by
removing driving we have taken away a major part of her adulthood.

Just to close out what may be a rather controversial letter, I believe that
the uniqueness of the human being is not found in what rides above our
shoulders but in the sole. We're going to have to figure out meaningful jobs
for human beings when we replace those that we can with machines. Standing
in the path of this trend to use machines that work faster, are more
accurate, and never get tired is one that history shows to be doomed. Our
job in the here and now is not to fight for the preservation of those jobs
but to figure out how to fulfill the massive unmet needs that exist in our
world and simultaneously to figure out how much we value them and how much
we are willing to pay for them. Figuring out how to bring the dignity that
comes with work to each person who is capable of it is worthy of our
greatest thinkers, and may be, with the advent of self-driving vehicles, we
will provide them with enough time to think through some of these problems
and offer reasonable solutions.



From: Nfbmo [mailto:nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Dan Flasar via
Sent: Friday, December 16, 2016 10:57 PM
To: nfbmo at nfbnet.org
Cc: DanFlasar at aol.com
Subject: Re: [Nfbmo] California tells Uber to shut down 'illegal'
self-driving car ...

I certainly do understand the appeal of new  technologies, but I'd put the 
brakes on a national system of driverless  cars.   Not a surprise that Uber 
is spearheading it - it's the perfect  solution to their burgeonging labor
issues contesting the companies unfair labor  standards - get rid of the
     Several  months ago I sent out a post that advised against using Uber
or Lyft, but after  spending a lot of time looking into the real condition
of local ride services, I  urge all who use Uber to tip their driver -
they're being driben to bankruptcy  by the companies overhiring and
capricious mileage rates.  At one time,  ride-share drivers could do fairly
well, but overcompetition from 'contract'  drivers is driving up costs and
cutting into available riders.  Give the  driver a tip - you may not have
him for long.
    The idea of  'smart' highways has been in tech news for  years, in one
form or another,  but whatever the plan, it will involve very high changes
to the roadway  infrastructure, which we taxpayers will pay for but which
will benefit a few  monopolies like Uber and Lyft.  At least the interstate
highway  system was a public utility, paid for with our taxes, but without
added  costs of private control of the roadways.   Anyone remember the days 
 when cell phone roaming fees were so high because some tower owners could
charge  whatever they wanted - sometimes $10/minute or more!  
       Why  not take the money and improve our mass transit system, 
especially in  rural areas, as so many other countries have  done?   
    It's one thing  to write computer code that might cause problems with a
database or a  spreadsheet but putting your life at the mercy of 
algorithms?   In  addition to eliminating a significant component of the
labor force 
(or in plain  terms, jobs), we will also find ourselves unwitting alpha- and

beta-testers for  an impossibly complex new system.   There is as yet no 
agreed upon  legal framework to identify who pays what in the event of an
      The  number of variables involved in driving is enormous - even
trains, which at  least can only navigate limited railways, still have to
have an 
 engineer.   Incorporating road conditions, traffic, pedestrians,  weather, 
visibility and other drivers is staggering.
    There was a joke  some years ago about technology:  if cars evolved as
much as computers  have in terms of cost, size format and power, we will all
be able to buy a car  for $5,  drive 1000 miles per hour, can fit one in our
pocket and crash  twice an hour.
    So you really  want to ride in a vehicle run by Windows 10?
    Polemics aside,  much of the country has no decent transit system -
especially outside of large  urban areas, which overburdens those who for
one reason or another cannot  drive.  But what, exactly, is the benefit of a
driverless car, really,  other than to eliminate labor issues.  Though your
per trip cost may be  cheaper (always a good thing), we will still bear the
costs in terms of various  taxes and fees, only to benefit a few very large
    There's a reason  San Francisco stopped Uber as fast as they did.
Dan Flasar
PS:   I still regret that  I didn't buy a $25 ticket for a commercial 
suborbital flight offered by a coupon  on a bottle of Tang.  
However, the placement of the homes is not consistent with the  address
sequencing.  So,  one would have to know which house that is  being looked
for by description.  It is not possible for these companies to  map
everything accurately, and so, I wonder how they are going to address  it.
In my employment, I have gone to some very isolated areas that were
confusing to find for a human who could think through what appears to be an
illogical situation.  

I believe that this will be a great  accomplishment for people of all
abilities.  It is very, very  exciting.

Sent from my iPhone

> On Dec 16, 2016, at  7:08 AM, Gary Wunder via Nfbmo <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
>  What is so interesting about self driving cars is the unresolved 
> issue
> whether they will be self driving or be self driving with a human  backup.
> Some of the companies involved in this research believe that it  is
unsafe to
> rely on a human driver in the event that the computer  guidance system 
> has difficulty. In the meetings I have been in the  companies 
> promoting these vehicles say that you can't have it both ways:  if a 
> person is in a self driving car, he or she will not pay attention  to 
> the road in the same way that a normal driver would. They say that  
> they are unequivocally opposed
> putting out systems that can do 95% of  what needs to be done and 
> relying
> human beings to fill the  gap.
> In the case of one company I have had the pleasure to work  with, they 
> claimed that their vehicles had driven over 350,000 miles and  that 
> the
> accident recorded was when one of their vehicles was rear  ended by
> I think legislators and regulators need to  think not only about the 
> technology but the psychology behind a self  driving vehicle. Not only 
> do
> want to one day be able to go from point  X to point why without 
> relying
> someone else, but I want the safety  that can be a part of a 
> computerized system that is not distracted by a  noise in the 
> backseat, by trying to rubberneck when going by a fire, or  by trying 
> to text and drive. These
> exciting times. 
>  -----Original Message-----
> From: Nfbmo [mailto:nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org]  On Behalf Of Daniel 
> Garcia
> Nfbmo
> Sent: Wednesday, December  14, 2016 8:41 PM
> To: NFB of Missouri Mailing List  (nfbmo at nfbnet.org)
> Cc: Daniel Garcia
> Subject: [Nfbmo] California  tells Uber to shut down 'illegal' 
> car service in San  Francisco
> Source:
>  elf-driving-car-service-to-a-second-city/?utm_term=.0e765e2b0635
> Uber expanded its self-driving car service to San Francisco on  
> Wednesday, but state regulators are calling for a halt. (Courtesy of  
> Uber)
> Not even a full day after Uber launched its self-driving  service in 
> San Francisco did California regulators tell the company to  shut it down.
> The California Department of Motor Vehicles  threatened legal action,
> the company that it must first obtain a  special permit to test 
> autonomous vehicles on the state's  roadways.
> Uber launched the service Wednesday morning and  acknowledged at the 
> time that it might run afoul of state regulators.  The company had 
> declined to obtain a permit on the grounds that its cars  require 
> human monitoring and thus do not meet the state's definition of  an 
> autonomous vehicle, a spokeswoman said early Wednesday.
> The DMV disagreed. It called Uber's program illegal and demanded the
> cease operations until it received a permit that would require  the
> to prove that it is financially responsible, has qualified  drivers, 
> and
> report collisions and other safety information to  state regulators.
> "These requirements serve to build public  trust in the safety of the 
> technology and to foster confidence in  allowing autonomous vehicles 
> on public streets," Brian Soublet, the  department's deputy director 
> and
> counsel, wrote in a  letter.
> A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately  respond to a 
> request
> comment on the letter. Uber said earlier  Wednesday that it hoped
> would see the merits of its  self-driving vehicle program, including 
> the potential to improve traffic  safety, and not create barriers to
> "Pittsburgh,  Arizona, Nevada and Florida in particular have been 
> leaders
> this way,  and by doing so have made clear that they are pro technology. 
> hope  is that California, our home state and a leader in much of the
>  dynamism, will take a similar view," Anthony Levandowski, the head of
> advanced technology group, wrote on the blog.
>  Uber began matching a small number of riders with vehicles that rely 
> on  Uber's self-driving technology rather than human drivers on 
> Wednesday  morning. Those vehicles still had a safety driver on board 
> who can take  control if necessary, as well as a company engineer.
> San Francisco is the second city in the country to officially  test 
> Uber's service, which the company has said will be critical to the  
> future of
> ride hailing and urban transportation. Uber first  deployed 
> self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh three months ago.
> "With its challenging roads and often varied weather, Pittsburgh
provided a
> wide array of experiences. San Francisco comes with its own  nuances 
> including more bikes on the road, high traffic density and  narrow lanes,"
> Levandowski wrote on the blog.
> The  rollout in San Francisco started with just a handful of 
> self-driving  vehicles, and was expected to gradually scale up as more 
> cars become  available, a spokeswoman said. Uber has a partnership 
> with Volvo to
> the company's self-driving vehicles, including the newly  released 
> XC90, which comes equipped with a system of lasers and cameras  for
> Only users with a credit card tied to a San  Francisco address are
> for the program. Those who are matched  with a self-driving car will
> an alert that allows them to learn  more about the program or opt out, 
> a spokeswoman said.
>  Uber is the second Silicon Valley company to make self-driving car 
> news
> week. Google announced Tuesday that its self-driving car project  
> would be spun off into a separate company, called Waymo. The move is a  
> sign that
> company intends to bring the technology to market, though  an exact
> remains unclear.
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