Uber fires Anthony Levandowski amid self-driving tech lawsuit with Waymo

Uber on Tuesday announced the immediate firing of Anthony Levandowski, one of the leaders of its self-driving car efforts, amid a lawsuit accusing it of using data allegedly stolen from Alphabet’s Waymo unit.

Levandowski has remained silent, refusing to cooperate with either Uber or a federal judge, choosing instead to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.

Apple’s own self-driving efforts have been largely kept in the dark. The company has started public testing using modified Lexus RX450h SUVs, but it remains unknown if the company intends to partner with an existing automaker or design its own vehicle. That decision could happen by the end of 2017.

appleinsider – Uber fires Anthony Levandowski amid self-driving tech lawsuit with Waymo

[HT mikeyp]

Californians are paying billions for power they don’t need (Los Angeles Times)

This is a consequence of long lead times for infrastructure projects, overshoot, and the difficulty of predicting the future.

The over-abundance of electricity can be traced to poorly designed deregulation of the industry, which set the stage for blackouts during the energy crisis of 2000-2001.

No longer able to produce as much of their own electricity, they ran up huge debts buying power that customers needed. Blackouts spread across the state.

State leaders, regulators and the utilities vowed never to be in that position again, prompting an all-out push to build more plants, both utility-owned and independent.

Idea: Public policy, which must be revisited/re-evaluated every year, and written alongside stated assumptions (as exhaustive as possible) such that checks can be performed as to if those assumptions still hold true (or are expected to hold true for the time frame in question).

via Californians are paying billions for power they don’t need (Los Angeles Times)

Optimizing the news feed – The sideways view

Paul proposes explicit A/B news feed user testing and optimization, with emphasis on considering the mechanisms for reflection.

After all, the press, the tech industry, and the public intellectuals all tend to share a set of common views. And those views are probably correct (says bay area techie to other bay area techies).

Interesting discussion here.

via Optimizing the news feed — Sideways view

HT Jacob Steinhardt

Our Automated Future

Ford worries that we are headed toward an era of “techno-feudalism.” He imagines a plutocracy shut away “in gated communities or in elite cities, perhaps guarded by autonomous military robots and drones.” Under the old feudalism, the peasants were exploited; under the new arrangement, they’ll merely be superfluous. The best we can hope for, he suggests, is a collective form of semi-retirement. He recommends a guaranteed basic income for all, to be paid for with new taxes, levelled, at least in part, on the new gazillionaires.

To one degree or another, just about everyone writing on the topic shares this view. Jerry Kaplan proposes that the federal government create a 401(k)-like account for every ten-year-old in the U.S. Those who ultimately do find jobs could contribute some of their earnings to the accounts; those who don’t could perform volunteer work in return for government contributions. (What the volunteers would live off is a little unclear; Kaplan implies that they might be able to get by on their dividends.) Brynjolfsson and McAfee prefer the idea of a negative income tax; this would provide the unemployed with a minimal living and the underemployed with additional cash.

via Our Automated Future — New Yorker

Self-Driving Uber Apparently Runs Red Light In San Francisco

“This incident was due to human error,” the statement read. “This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate.”

State regulators said Wednesday afternoon that Uber must stop the self-driving car service until it receives a permit from the state.

via CBS SFBayArea – Self-Driving Uber Apparently Runs Red Light In San Francisco

HT kanaad

Manhattan traffic jam-fest likely as UN gathers to meet

The NYPD, which announced street closures beginning late Sunday, will provide security for up to 140 motorcades, with as many as 30 units protecting officials, according to a law-enforcement source familiar with the preparations.

“When heads of state come to New York City, they love to shop. Fifth Avenue often becomes motorcade alley,” Schwartz said. “When I was traffic commissioner, one of my agents ticketed Indira Gandhi’s motorcade.”

via Newsday – Manhattan traffic jam-fest likely as UN gathers to meet

Insurers Unprepared for Self-Driving Car Disruption: KPMG

Argument:

In surveying senior U.S. insurance executives whose companies, in aggregate, account for almost $85 billion in personal and commercial auto premium, KPMG found skepticism about the potential transformation autonomous vehicles will bring in the near-term.

According to KPMG, few carriers have taken action—not due to doubts about the possible ramifications, but rather because most believe the change will happen far into the future, if at all. In fact, 84 percent of executives don’t expect autonomous vehicles to have a significant impact on their business until 2025, while 42 percent expect a significant impact in six to 10 years.

Nearly three quarters of insurers (74 percent) feel they are unprepared for autonomous vehicles today.

Counterpoint:

KPMG analysts think these executives are mistaken.

Albright said new technologies making cars safer are impacting underwriting practices, claim frequency and severity as well as auto premiums. “To remain relevant in the future, insurers must evaluate their exposure and make necessary adjustments to their business models, corporate strategy and operations,” he said.

“As the trend towards car-sharing proliferates and mobility-on-demand companies like Uber and Lyft become more popular, commercial lines likely will take a larger share of the automobile insurance pie,” said Alex Bell, a managing director in KPMG’s CIO Advisory practice. “The share of the personal auto insurance sector will likely continue to shrink as the potential liability of the software developer and manufacturer increases. At the same time, losses covered by products liability policies are likely to increase given that the sophisticated technology that underpins autonomous vehicles will also need to be insured.”

“The potential reduction in car ownership and decreased demand for personal auto insurance could lead to financial stress for less-diversified carriers, triggering consolidation in the insurance industry,” said Joe Schneider, a director at KPMG Corporate Finance LLC. “Assuming consumers demand lower premiums to reflect fewer accidents, there is the possibility of frenzied competition as firms attempt to maintain premium volume to cover operational expenses and market share. This irrational pricing behavior could result in a dangerous downward underwriting spiral for the broader industry.”

via Insurance Journal – Insurers Unprepared for Self-Driving Car Disruption: KPMG

The open source city as the transnational democratic future | Transnational Institute

Interesting perspective on an open source operating system for a city (presented in contrast to the smart city concept):

The open source city clashes head-on with the paradigm of the smart city based on proprietary technology and mass surveillance, which prevails today. The smart city model created by the big multinationals sees the city’s data as a commercial product.

I don’t believe that the smart city concept precludes an open source model, but I agree that it is unlikely to happen without a focused effort spearheading the open source front.

The proposed model includes all sorts of aspects:

The model city proposed by Fuller and Haque seeks to open up its operating system’s code, which might be legal, architectural or information-based (data, content). The change is radical: the city would thus be transformed into a democratic artefact in every sphere. Citizens would be able to participate in the processes of constructing the city, managing its data or changing its laws, among other things. The city would cease to be an artefact designed from the top down and would become one that everyone can alter by means of certain bottom-up processes.

Instead of relying on sensors installed by the tech companies and a centralised and closed form of data management, the project saw each citizen as a potential data producer. Thanks to the proliferation of smart phones and the profusion of free technologies, each and every citizen can become a data-gatherer.

This is much easier said than done, unfortunately.

via The open source city as the transnational democratic future | Transnational Institute.

Recent research reveals false rumours really do travel faster and further than the truth – First Draft News

We’ve got a huge signal-to-noise problem. The spreading of false rumors reminds me of phishing attacks, but now we can’t rely on spotting misspelled words (thanks, Twitter :P), poor email layouts, misleading URLs, etc.

“While the median true rumour is resolved in about 2 hours, the median false rumour takes over 14 hours to be resolved,” they write.

(Unsure what “resolved” means, exactly.)

There is a small industry of fake news websites which publish fake content on a daily basis, aimed at generating and monetizing web traffic. While fact checking is a growing field, it still produces less content on average than the fakers. It can’t keep up.

“Taken together, these observations strongly suggest that rumor-mongering is dominated by few very active accounts that bear the brunt of the promotion and spreading of misinformation, whereas the propagation of fact checking is a more distributed, grass-roots activity,” they write.

via Recent research reveals false rumours really do travel faster and further than the truth – First Draft News.

HT Aviv

Causes of Brexit – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prospect Theory

Economics writer Chris Dillow has argued that, amongst other factors, Prospect Theory may explain in the surprising willingness of many voters to take a path widely viewed as the more risky of two (change vs status quo). In his words Prospect Theory ‘Tells us that people who feel they’ve lost want to gamble to break even. This is why they back longshots on the last race of the day or why they hold onto badly performing stocks. … People who had lost out from globalization, or felt discomfited by immigration, voted Leave because they felt they had little to lose from doing so.’

via Causes of Brexit – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.