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Meho Krljic:
'We're just rentals': Uber drivers ask where they fit in a self-driving future

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With Uber set to deploy autonomous cars in Pittsburgh, some drivers for the company wonder if they’ve been expendable all along
“Wo-o-o-o-w,” Cynthia Ingram said. “We all knew it was coming. I just didn’t expect it this soon.”
Ingram, a 60-year-old Uber driver in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had just learned that Uber would be deploying autonomous cars to accept fares in her city within weeks. The announcement on Thursday morning sent shockwaves through the community of about 4,000 drivers that serve Pennsylvania’s second largest city.     
Uber has not specified how many autonomous vehicles it plans to roll out in Pittsburgh, but state law requires a licensed driver to be seated behind the wheel of any vehicle, autonomous or not. So the cars will still have a human driver in the front seat – for now. )
The company did not respond to queries about who those non-driving drivers will be or whether they will undergo special training.
But for Ingram, autonomous Ubers are an unwelcome threat to her livelihood.
“I kind of figured it would be a couple more years down the line before it was really implemented and I’ll be retired by then,” she said.
A paralegal with 30 years experience, Ingram began driving for Uber and Lyft in June 2015 when she lost her job. She said that she loves driving for Uber, though she has struggled to make ends meet.
Rob Judge, 41, was also concerned with the announcement.
“It feels like we’re just rentals. We’re kind of like placeholders until the technology comes out.”
A longtime customer service representative, Judge began driving for Uber three months ago to make money while he looks for other work.
“For me personally, this isn’t a long term stop,” he added. “But for a lot of other people that I’ve connected with, this is their only means.”
     Judge also questioned whether passengers would miss the opportunity to meet and talk with their drivers.
“It has the potential for that human interaction to go away, and that’s the best part of the whole experience,” he said.
Uber has never made a secret of its ambitions for a driverless future, and in Pittsburgh, where it operates a self-driving research lab, the city has grown accustomed to the sight of its autonomous vehicles on the streets.
“Pittsburgh has been a home for autonomous vehicles and research for decades,” said Timothy McNulty, communications director for mayor William Peduto. “We’re pretty used to self-driving cars here, and we’re happy that Uber is taking this next step.”
Not all drivers shared his joy. In private Facebook groups where drivers for Uber and Lyft congregate, some drivers joked about sabotaging their rivals.
“I say we all go out and get drunk and puke in the driverless cars ... next passenger will be pleasantly surprised,” wrote one driver.
“Get on a bridge and wait for one to pass under then dump dark paint on the roof,” another wrote.
Judge did not propose any such sabotage, but he admitted, “I think a lot of us are hoping that there are some hiccups that can slow this thing down.”
“Pittsburgh is really the center of the innovation economy on the east coast,” said Alex Wallach Hanson, field director for Pittsburgh United, a coalition of labor, community, and environmental groups that advocates for working class families. “That’s a good thing for our city, but we also need to take a leadership role in making sure that it benefits everyone in our economy.”
In addition to Uber, Pittsburgh has attracted outposts from Google and Facebook, and is home to a growing tech start-up scene.
“If part of innovation technology is replacing drivers with technology, we need to look at policy solutions that we can put in place like a universal basic income, to make sure that everyone in our community has a family-sustaining life,” Wallach Hanson added.
Eric Lightfoot, a full-time Uber and Lyft driver, said that he was excited for the driverless future.
“In America, we can’t all fricking own cars anymore. That has got to end,” he said. “If this is one of those avenues then that’s what it is. It doesn’t bother me at all.”
Lightfoot said that he believed it would take another 20 years for autonomous cars to replace drivers, but even if he is wrong, he welcomes the change.
“I’ve always dealt with life as it comes,” he said. “If it happens tomorrow and I’m out of work, I’ll find a new job. I’ll find my way.”

Still, you won’t catch him in a driverless car tomorrow.
“I’ll let all the guinea pigs figure that shit out before I get in one,” he said.
Ingram shared Lightfoot’s personal aversion to autonomous cars, saying she would “absolutely not” accept a ride from one of the new driverless Ubers.
“I want somebody in control of that vehicle other than a computer,” she said.

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Ovo je, naravno sasvim depresivno predvidivo, ali ga je svejedno bitno istaći, pogotovo jer su mnogi isticali prednosti Ubera i sličnih share economy/ gig economy modela (na primer ovaj recentni članak u Timeu) valjajući bajke tipa "Do jaja, ljudi to rade u slobodno vreme, krenuli su negde pa pokupe putnika i još dobiju pare za to bla bla bla"

Meho Krljic:
Domino’s Delivering Pizza by Drone

--- Quote ---Flirtey and Domino's are developing pizza delivery drones, saying deliveries to customer homes in Auckland, New Zealand could being later in 2016.

Pizza lovers in Auckland, New Zealand rejoice. Flirtey and Domino’s are developing pizza delivery drones, successfully demoing the system today in front of the Civil Aviation Authority and Minister of Transport Simon Bridges.
The companies say pizza-by-drone deliveries to customer homes could begin later in 2016 from a select New Zealand Domino’s store. And, yes, the drone delivery system keeps your pizza or breadsticks pipping hot.
Flirtey’s staff help Domino’s workers safely load the delivery drones at the store. The drones then fly at around 200 feet in the air and the customer is notified as the delivery is approaching. The deliveries are then made to customer’s home by safely lowering the package out of the air.
“Launching the first commercial drone delivery service in the world is a landmark achievement for Flirtey and Domino’s, soon you will be able to order a Flirtey to deliver your pizza on-demand,” said Matt Sweeny, CEO of Flirtey. “New Zealand has the most forward-thinking aviation regulations in the world, and with the new U.S. drone regulations taking effect on Aug. 29, Flirtey is uniquely positioned to bring the same revolutionary Flirtey drone delivery service to partners within the United States.”

This partnership makes total sense as both companies have been leading the way when it comes to delivery robots. Domino’s has also been developing the DRU pizza delivery robot that has four wheels, is less than three feet tall, and has a heated compartment that can hold up to 10 pizzas. It can deliver pizzas within a 12.5-mile radius before needing to be recharged. No immediate word on how drone delivery would affect the DRU pizza delivery robot.

“Partnering with Flirtey to revolutionize the delivery experience is an achievement that will set our company apart in the minds of customers and change the way delivery is conducted around the world,” said Group CEO and Managing Director Don Meij of Domino’s Pizza Enterprises. “Domino’s customers can expect the freshest and fastest pizza delivery service at the same quality they have come to expect from us thanks to Flirtey’s industry-leading technology.”
Flirtey partnered with 7-Eleven for the first FAA-approved home drone delivery in the United States. The Flirtey drone autonomously delivered Slurpees, a chicken sandwich, donuts, hot coffee and candy to the home of the family who placed the order. The delivery was made “in the span of a few minutes,” and the Flirtey drone hovered in place and gently lowered each package to the ground in the family’s backyard.
Watch Flirtey’s historic home drone delivery in the video below:

Flirtey has also made three other historic drone deliveries in the US. On July 17, 2015 Flirtey completed the first FAA-approved drone delivery by flying medical supplies from the Lonesome Pine Airport to the Remote Area Hospital in Wise County, Virginia, which is one of the most impoverished area’s in the country.
Flirtey also completed the first FAA-approved urban drone delivery in US history when it delivered a package to a residential area in Hawthorne, Nevada. And in June 2016 Flirtey successfully completed the first ship-to-shore drone delivery in US history, delivering medical supplies from a vessel to an onshore medical camp in Cape May, New Jersey. Watch the ship-to-shore drone delivery below.

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Meho Krljic:
Ni white collari nisu bezbedni. Tzv. low-code platforme su softverski alati koji omogućuju ljudima bez znanja programiranja da razvijaju softverske aplikacije:

How Companies Are Developing More Apps With Fewer Developers

--- Quote --- A fast-growing technology helps fill a tech skills gap.
  Tried to hire software developers lately? Then you know how tough (and expensive) it can be. The yawning gap in tech skills has gone on for so long that it’s creating some surprising shifts in supply and demand. The most ferocious appetite for software development talent, for instance, is no longer in Silicon Valley. And now, in many companies, developer jobs aren’t even reserved for developers.
That’s because a relatively new technology, known as low-code or no-code platforms, is now doing a big chunk of the work that high-priced human talent used to do. Low-code platforms are designed so that people with little or no coding or software engineering background — known in the business as “citizen developers” — can create apps, both for use in-house and for clients.
Not surprisingly, the low-code platform industry, made up of about 40 small companies (so far), is growing like crazy. A recent Forrester Research report put its total revenues at about $1.7 billion in 2015, a figure that’s projected to balloon to $15 billion in the next four years. Low-code-platform providers, notes Forrester, are typically seeing sales increases in excess of 50% a year.

One of the biggest, QuickBase (fiscal 2015 revenues: $70 million), was part of Intuit    INTU 0.27%  until it was sold to a private equity firm earlier this year. About half of the Fortune 500 uses QuickBase’s low-code platforms now, according to CEO Allison Mnookin, an Intuit veteran.
“Almost any employee now can do most or all of the same work that developers used to do,” says Mnookin.
One big advantage, Mnookin says, is that opening an app’s development to the non-techies who need the app removes misunderstandings between the IT department and other employees about what the end user needs. “With a low-code platform, the developer and the end user are one and the same,” she says.
A survey of so-called citizen developers by QuickBase last year found that only 8% had any previous coding experience, and 68% considered using QuickBase to be part of their regular, non-IT jobs.

Low-code platforms have been “a powerful tool for our organization,” says Jeetu Chawla, a software engineer who is now vice president of advertising operations at online publisher Complex Media. Using QuickBase over the past decade has taken much of the strain of the company’s fast growth off of its IT department. “They haven’t had to lift a finger on most of our development projects,” Chawla says.
Still, Chawla adds, low-code platforms are not a panacea. “You don’t need to know how to code in order to use them, but you do need strong analytical skills,” he says, particularly when it comes to “your team’s processes, your data, and how the two interact.”
Project management experience helps, too. Making the best use of the technology may, in other words, require employers to seek out far fewer software developers — but more people with a combination of skills that might be almost as difficult to find.

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Meho Krljic:
Robots will eliminate 6% of all US jobs by 2021, report says

--- Quote ---Employees in fields such as customer service and transportation face a ‘disruptive tidal wave’ of automation in the not-too-distant future

By 2021, robots will have eliminated 6% of all jobs in the US, starting with customer service representatives and eventually truck and taxi drivers. That’s just one cheery takeaway from a report released by market research company Forrester this week.
These robots, or intelligent agents, represent a set of AI-powered systems that can understand human behavior and make decisions on our behalf. Current technologies in this field include virtual assistants like Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google Now as well as chatbots and automated robotic systems. For now, they are quite simple, but over the next five years they will become much better at making decisions on our behalf in more complex scenarios, which will enable mass adoption of breakthroughs like self-driving cars.
These robots can be helpful for companies looking to cut costs, but not so good if you’re an employee working in a simple-to-automate field.
“By 2021 a disruptive tidal wave will begin. Solutions powered by AI/cognitive technology will displace jobs, with the biggest impact felt in transportation, logistics, customer service and consumer services,” said Forrester’s Brian Hopkins in the report.

The Inevitable Robot Uprising has already started, with at least 45% of US online adults saying they use at least one of the aforementioned digital concierges. Intelligent agents can access calendars, email accounts, browsing history, playlists, purchases and media viewing history to create a detailed view of any given individual. With this knowledge, virtual agents can provide highly customized assistance, which is valuable to shops or banks trying to deliver better customer service.
Forrester paints a picture of the not-too-distant future.
“The doorbell rings, and it’s the delivery of a new pair of running shoes, in the right style, color and size, just as you needed to replace your old ones. And here’s the kicker: you didn’t order them. Your intelligent agent did.”
In the transportation industry, Uber, Google and Tesla are working on driverless cars, while similar technology is creeping its way into trucking to replace expensive human drivers.
It’s easy to get dazzled by such innovations, but what happens to the 6%? The call center staff, the taxi drivers and the truckers. There may be new jobs created to oversee and maintain these automated systems, but they will require an entirely different skillset.
“Six percent is huge. In an economy that’s really not creating regular full-time jobs, the ability of people to easily find new employment is going to diminish. So we will have people wanting to work and struggling to find jobs because the same trends are beginning to occur in other historically richer job creation areas like banking, retail and healthcare,” said Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union.

“It’s an early warning sign and I think it just portends a massive wind of change in the future.”
Studies have shown that higher rates of unemployment are linked to less volunteerism and higher crime. Taxi drivers around the world have already reacted with violent protest to the arrival of ride-hailing app Uber. Imagine how people react when Uber eliminates drivers from its fleet.
“There is a lot of correlation between unemployment and drug use,” said Stern. “Clearly over time, particularly in urban settings, the lack of employment is tinder for lighting a fire of social unrest.”
The challenge posed by automation is not being taken seriously enough at a policy level, Stern added. “Politicians would rather talk about getting a college degree and technical skill training, things that are probably five to 10 years too late. We don’t really have a plan and we don’t appreciate how quickly the future is arriving.”
Does this mean we’re all doomed? “No. But what level of pain do people have to experience and what level of social unrest has to be created before the government acts?
Workers, many of whom don’t have technical skills, are competing for less and less jobs. If the market works without intervention we’re going to have no way to mediate the displacement.”

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Meho Krljic:
I u istom dahu:

Uber starts self-driving car pickups in Pittsburgh

--- Quote ---Beginning today, a select group of Pittsburgh Uber users will get a surprise the next time they request a pickup: the option to ride in a self driving car.
The announcement comes a year-and-a-half after Uber hired dozens of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics center to develop the technology.
Uber gave a few members of the press a sneak peek Tuesday when a fleet of 14 Ford Fusions equipped with radar, cameras and other sensing equipment pulled up to Uber’s Advanced Technologies Campus (ATC) northeast of downtown Pittsburgh.
During my 45-minute ride across the city, it became clear that this is not a bid at launching the first fully formed autonomous cars. Instead, this is a research exercise. Uber wants to learn and refine how self driving cars act in the real world. That includes how the cars react to passengers — and how passengers react to them.
“How do drivers in cars next to us react to us? How do passengers who get into the backseat who are experiencing our hardware and software fully experience it for the first time, and what does that really mean?” said Raffi Krikorian, director of Uber ATC.
If they are anything like me, they will respond with fascination followed by boredom.

The experience It began when an Uber employee handed me a phone so I could hail a ride from the company’s app. A minute later, a Ford Fusion rolled up. Uber engineers occupied the two front seats, so I took a spot behind the driver.
Once nestled into my seat, I selected a button on a tablet positioned in the back of the car to signal I was ready to go. The tablet displayed a live view of the car’s vision: blue for the road, red for objects. Our driving path took us from the ATC building in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood through downtown and over the 9th Street bridge to the North Shore. The steering wheel turned on its own, as if possessed by a ghost.

The engineer in the driver’s seat spent the entire ride watching the road. He hovered his hands over the wheel and foot over the pedal. Whenever a stopped vehicle blocked an entire lane, he toggled back into manual mode to switch lanes and drive around — an action Uber’s self driving cars will not yet take. The second engineer sat in the passenger’s seat with a laptop open. On a normal trip, he would have been taking notes about the ride.
I had a flurry of butterflies the first time the car encountered an obstacle — an SUV backing into the road. You don’t notice how many unexpected incidents occur during a routine drive until you ask a robot to take the wheel. While we were passing over the bridge–and self driving cars struggle to position themselves on bridges to begin with–we came upon a large truck parked in our lane. The driver manually swapped lanes, right as a city worker darted out from in front of the truck and a banner dropped down near the front of our car.

I don’t know how the car would have reacted to the man or banner had it been in autonomous mode, but there were plenty of other instances to see it respond to its surroundings. It stopped behind a bus making a pickup, and again when the bus turned right. It read traffic light colors and stopped for one yellow light, while driving through a different yellow light. It obeyed traffic laws. It was so normal it got a little bit boring. The butterflies disappeared quickly.
Then the engineers let me “drive” the car back to the Uber campus. Once a light turned blue on the dash, I could hit a silver button in the center console to go autonomous. Braking, accelerating or hitting a red button brought driving back under my control. I took over once to maneuver around a stopped van.

It’s an unusual balance to focus on your surroundings while not having to do anything. It’s tempting to feel at ease and think about something else — maybe even drop your hands into your lap. I can see why the area between autonomous stopping and parking and fully autonomous riding is fuzzy.
I swapped seats with one of the engineers again and we took another loop around the city, this time through Pittsburgh’s busy Strip District. The road was cramped with parked cars. Vans stopped and started as they made deliveries at the markets and restaurants lining the road. It nudged slightly to the left when it noticed a parked car jutting out a bit too far, but otherwise rolled confidently down the street. A white SUV didn’t seem to mind finding itself sandwiched between us and another self-driving car, identifiable by its distinctive Lidar unit spinning on its roof.
Later, we sat in traffic on yet another bridge. The car started and stopped as we crawled forward a few feet at a time. Sometimes it was gentle, sometimes it came to a lurching halt. It felt a lot like riding in a car with a human driver, right down to the Uber map telling us we had reached our destination.

Planning for the unexpected The autonomous Ford Fusions that Uber is now dispatching to riders appear to be, for the most part, regular cars. The most noticeable difference is an array of sensors that jut out of their roof. Additional sensors are integrated into the cars’ sides.
A Lidar unit uses a laser to collect 1.4 million map points a second, resulting in a 360 degree image of the car’s surroundings. Cameras and a GPS system add additional intelligence.
I came away from my ride trusting the technology. The self-driving car detected obstacles, people and even potholes, and responded intelligently. The expected is already mundane. The bigger challenge for Uber is planning for the unexpected.
Uber is first offering autonomous pickups in a few Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Within a few weeks, it will expand to the airport and a northern suburb. The slow rollout is because Uber pre-maps the roads its cars travel — a practice Carnegie Mellon University researcher Aaron Steinfeld, who is unaffiliated with Uber, assured me is totally normal. The cars receive pre-collected maps that include speed limits and other generally applicable information so they can focus on real-time detection of variables like pedestrians.
Uber logs each of its road tests and uses the data to tweak how the cars should respond in specific situations. For example, the cars know that when they arrive at a four-way stop they should drive on in order of when they arrived. But what happens when another car fails to respect that order? It knows it should stop if another car jumps the gun, but it should also know to go if another car takes too long.
Humans still abide by many social cues when they’re driving. They make eye contact with other drivers and can read the subtle body language of a jogger that says they are thinking about cutting across the street. Uber’s cars can predict the likelihood that a pedestrian is about to cross the road, but reading actual social cues is still just a goal.
The company plans to switch to one ride-along engineer within the next six months. Eventually, the final engineer could be replaced by a remote help center; when a car encounters a foreign situation, it contacts a human in the center for help. Uber is also researching how to prevent accidental gridlock situations and how cars should behave when there are many pedestrians in the street.

Pittsburgh’s open door Uber came to Pittsburgh for its engineering talent. Carnegie Mellon is home to a famed robotics program that has produced members of autonomous vehicle teams all over the country.
The city was quick to offer its support, too. Mayor William Peduto is an Uber rider and said the city is open to innovative companies that can bring new services and jobs to the city.
“Pittsburgh and, in particular, Carnegie Mellon University have been leaders in autonomous vehicle research for decades and this is a logical next step,” Peduto said. “Under state law, automated vehicles are allowed on Pennsylvania streets as long as there is a licensed driver behind the wheel, as there will be in the Uber rollout.”
Even the Uber driver who brought us to the event seemed intrigued. She wondered if she might become a self-driving car handler during the testing phase.
A few Uber employees mentioned weather as another perk for testing in Pittsburgh. While Google’s cars cruising around Silicon Valley might only see the occasional rain, Pittsburgh has four seasons. It’s also an old city with an irregular grid, bridges and lots of potholes.
“We like to call Pittsburgh the double black diamond of driving,” ATC’s Krikorian said. “If we really can master driving in Pittsburgh, then we feel strongly that we have a good chance of being able to master it in most other cities around the world.”

A litmus test At no point did Uber suggest the current technology found in its cars is ready to roll out to the masses. Like Google, Carnegie Mellon and many other labs developing self-driving technology, it is carefully logging hours and hours of road tests. Its team is slowly working its way through a long list of scenarios its cars should be prepared to respond to in the wild.
“No amount of simulation captures everything, and that’s why it’s important to drive on the road a lot. The Google cars collected a lot of road data at this point,” Steinfeld said. “This heavy-duty testing where you conduct your research in the field in real life is a tradition … what you see comes from here in the robotics institute.”
The question that will be answered rapidly is how the public responds. The drivers encountering the 14 Ford Fusions — just a part of Uber’s self driving army — on the road did not opt into the experience of driving next to a robot. Uber’s users can opt in to hailing an autonomous vehicle, but they are likely to be new to the experience. Still another question is how Uber drivers will feel. Maybe they’ll become a ride-along engineer, or maybe they will have their job taken away.
Steinfeld noted this is the first time the world has seen such a large fleet in one city. Awareness and interest will run high enough to potentially shift public perception.
“Autonomy — typically people are a little bit nervous about it,” Steinfeld said. “But once they experience it they tend to build up familiarity and become accepting of it. This experience here in Pittsburgh might give us a societal understanding of people’s acceptance of autonomy across the country.”

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