Keeping the Car Safe This Flu Season

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By Paul Wimsett

Despite being nearly Christmas it’s also the time of year when flu and colds spread. But maybe the clues to why you start sneezing or coming down with a fever are closer than you thought. They might well be found in your vehicle.

It’s recommended that you empty your garbage frequently this time of year to remove all used tissues so no flu or cold germs spread easily. Given the smallness of the space though, if your passenger has the flu, chances are you will come down with it as well.Wimsett_Christmas car2

It’s also mold season and the presence of molds can make the place seem stuffy. symptoms are exacerbated by the air conditioning so it may be better to open a window for short sprints to air out your car. Molds also collect as a film on the inside of your window which can make it difficult to get the inside of your windshield to clear up. We recommend making your own solution of rubbing alcohol and vinegar (equal parts) to clean your window with. This will often kill the scum that normal cleaners seem to miss.

Once you start to take an interest in your car as regards germs and viruses it may be that you will never stop! After all, there’s no one time fix for the problem. A regular disinfecting shampoo of car seats and carpets is recommended. For the health of those in the vehicle replacing air filters will make the experience much more pleasant.

Something we might also do more at this time of year is eat in cars, may also cause problems. With 70% of drivers admitting to eating something in a car it seems shocking that we don’t consider how unhealthy an environment it is.  It seems that we don’t care about our cars in the way we should.

Wimsett_Christmas Car3It should come as no surprise that the worse place for germs in a car is a trunk’s carpet or liner. 300 to 400 germs were found in each square inch. Most of it comes from dead skin cells from humans or animals. Unsurprisingly, given the amount of garden rubbish that is transported by cars, there were traces of fecal matter found in some trunks.

Many scientists believe that cars should be disinfected or deep cleaned to get rid of germs. Certainly keeping hand wipes in your car and using them regularly will help.

By way of comparison, washrooms have been found to have 60 types of bacteria, while car interiors have 700; this is according to the Queen Mary University in London, reported by USA Today. 

The worse culprits could possibly not be privately-owned cars at all, but the taxis and the Ubers. Measuring the amount of germs that formed colonies or Colony Forming Units, a study in South Florida found that a ride-hailed car had on average 6 million CFUs per square inch whilst rentals had 2 million CFUs per square inch. Taxis did the best though, with just more than 270,000 CFUs per square inch.

It seems nowhere is safe, your car keys, the upholstery of the carpet, the door handle, the steering wheel, the gear stick, the window button and so on. It might give you a complex thinking of the places that germs might hide, though it’s hard to reach a conclusion to the problem beyond just being paranoid about where the germs might hide.

Just don’t forget the little things this Christmas…

 

AVs Autonomous Vehicles (part 10?)

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Progress toward Autonomous Vehicles So Far:

2016 Qualcomm’s purchased NXP Semiconductors for it’s chip tech for AVs ($39 billion)

2017 Intel purchased Mobileye for its AV sensors ($15 billion)

2017 GM purchased Cruise Automation for AV tech patents ($1 billion)

Other companies with AV projects…Apple, Baidu, Google/Waymo, Intel, Tesla, and Uber. Experts are projecting a $7 trillion market for AVs.

 

Predictions about when we can expect them, range from as early as 2019 (Morgan Stanly) to 2032 (ABI Research). The National Highway Trafic Safety Administration predicts 2025. However, there’s a big push to make it by 2020: NuTonomy, Ford, Audi, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen. Uber ex-CEO said 2030.

The reason its become such a holy grail is based on a prediction that they’ll be more reliable than humans at driving safely, and allow more cars on the road per mile, traveling faster, which equates to less need to expand or improve infrastructure.city-1487891_1920

Critics point out that while AI’s might drive more consistently that doesn’t always equate to safer, and of course if you need to spend a bunch of money to say, equip every bridge, crosswalk, and road sign with a transmitter broadcasting don’t hit me, that negates the savings on infrastructure.

There’s often a disparity between the potential a new technology represents and how the market responds. Look no further than Electric Powered Vehicles (EVs). President Obama predicted one million EVs driven by 2016 and missed it by 700,000. Look at the initial launch of the personal computer. A lot of Apple 2e’s sat next to kitchens being the world’s most expensive Rolodex/recipe holder until the internet came along and gave them purpose.

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And who do we hold responsible when a crash does happen? The car owner or the programmer that created the algorithm that told the car it’s okay to run over your poodle if it avoids a 27% chance of concussing a passenger? States like Oregon require an attendant to pump your gas for you in order to create jobs. Will the threat of mass professional driver layoffs cause legislature to throttle the spread of AV’s? What happens when some states okay AVs and others don’t. I private owner/driver can simply engage or disengage the feature during travel, but if you’re a package delivery service trying to save money paying CDL drivers for long haul, do you drive around certain states in order to use driver-less trucks?

What about mapping every square inch of the US? Most people assume that navigation has been on the market long enough that virtually everywhere is mapped. But companies like Uber are buying whole other companies for their mapping data. Not how they map but the maps themselves. Road’s change, constantly and we don’t need AVs driving through a building that used to be a road or going the wrong way on a one way street because its maps are 6 months out of date.

Take for example a simple thing. GPS navigation will take you to the front door of a local restaurant where you can get out and walk in. Except that the restaurant has it’s front door on the street instead of the parking lot. So the car will stop in traffic for you to exit because it’s at it’s destination. What happens when a teenage girl hails a ride from a rides hare company and the GPS puts the car in the alley behind her apartment complex? When she walks to meet it and is attacked is the ride share company going to compensate her?

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These aren’t hurtles that can never be overcome, but when a programmer says he’s six months from producing a program that doesn’t mean your seven months from seeing it on store shelves. A lot has to happen in a lot of areas a programmer wouldn’t think about because it’s not his/her responsibility.

Another similarity to electric vehicles is that what makes sense in one setting doesn’t in another. Dense populations in highly developed areas may be early adapters to EVs and AVs where they’d be less attractive in rural Texas (for example). When a technology executive does an interview and says we’re only a year away from having AVs roaming the road around you ask yourself if she’s more intimately familiar with the programming capabilities than the legal implications and if she more likely lives in a dense urban area or a ranch in Montana. Could there be some paradigm blindness going on?

Perhaps one of the most telling indicators is a 2016 Kelly Blue Book Survey. Among EV owners only 53% said they’d re-buy the same car (31% if it only plugged in) compared to traditional engine vehicles where 82% would re-buy. 74% of Americans surveyed felt that AVs weren’t safe. Think about that. Imagine for a second that three out of four people felt you were less likely to die from a crash if you didn’t wear a seat belt. That’s a significant PR problem for companies that hope to sell $7 trillion worth of these cars.

Here’s an aspect seldom covered when pondering the topic, you can’t buy a new car today for less than $8,000 because in part that’s the cost of building it to modern safety standards. Even if the law requires cars be able to drive themselves how much more will people pay for the feature? We actually have some data on this. The Tesla model 3 sells for $10,000 more than cars in it’s class. Certainly Tesla has showed they can sell cars, but Tesla has more going for it than just autonomous driving and it’s not a Traditional Automotive Manufacturer. So you can’t get an apples to apples comparison to establish what consumers are willing to pay $10,000 more for. When surveyed directly they report that their willingness to pay more for automation has dropped by a 30% since 2014 and that they don’t trust Original manufacturers to provide safe AVs to market.

So while most writers on this topic are defending the position that they can get a car to drive itself by a certain date, there remains some doubt as to it’s market viability.

 

Rideshare (TNC) Showdown Uber vs Lyft

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by A.R. Bunch

A good question that, surprisingly, doesn’t get a lot of attention is, just which is better to drive for, Uber or Lyft. I have two years’ experience driving for Uber but haven’t actually driven for Lyft although I’ve tried to sign up for them. More on that later. This article in Insider Envy provides a more neutral look at the question and I’ll recap their findings here then provide my own experience.

Recap of Insider Envy article:

Sign up Bonus Lyft wins (Uber now varies market to market but not the $500 they used to offer)
Tipping Lyft edges out because they’ve been doing it longer
Earning Potential Uber keeps you busier and has more rider options (x, xl, SUV, etc.) which can mean you’d earn more, but in my experience it depends.
Public Image Lyft presents as Happy Hippy (which they aren’t) and Uber comes off like the evil empire.
Facts/Figures Lyft wins both driver satisfaction & hourly earnings (according to 2017 survey)

My Experience: Uber

I don’t think Uber deserves every ounce of its bad reputation. There’s a lot they could have done better, a lot of improvements they’ve made, and a lot more room to improve. However, Uber has a mechanism for improving how they operate and is becoming aware of their tragic flaw.

Uber’s tragic flaw, in my opinion, is a hyper-focus on their goals, which were to grow worldwide by using technology to exploit a void in transportation market they thought they alone saw, before anyone else saw it, and use that as a springboard to dominate autonomous driving vehicles from the birth of that market. To accomplish that goal they put different departments in charge of rider experience and driver experience and promised both the moon. Whenever there is a conflict between the needs of the rider and the needs of the driver, Uber chooses the rider. They didn’t seem to spend any time on contemplating corporate culture, brand perception, or win/win solutions. They knew they’d make enemies in every city they went to so they put on their thickest skin and took a damn-them-all-to-hell attitude to everyone’s problems. It served they well, ultimately.

Two Sides to Every Battle:

To be fair, the cities they sparred with weren’t lily white in their efforts to keep Uber out. They were often protecting a local taxi cartel who’d operated without competition for decades, or even their own mass transit systems that ran so inefficiently that people would pay twice the price to rideshare just to get where they needed to go in a timely manner. But the cities came out looking like they were looking out for their citizens’ safety when in fact they were delaying inevitable technology advancements that actually pull drunk drivers off the road, making it safer.

Since Uber was focused on winning they treated all press like good press and marched like Sherman to the Sea across America and the world. In my opinion, they saw themselves as resilient, while the public saw them uncaring. In the past not caring about something was often appropriate—like minding your own business. In today’s political climate, not caring is the darkest of evils.

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Mistakes vs Sins

Uber has heard the clarion call, however. Not just the CEO stepping down, etc. which we’ve covered (internal link), but recently they’ve been sewed by google’s Waymo over stolen secrets. While the lawsuit is not resolved, Alphabet has already awarded Lyft $500 million in venture capital which has to be connected to the suit.

In my opinion, Uber is a young company despite its size and making typical young company mistakes. They only become a problem if they don’t do anything about them, and they’re already working on them.

My Experience: Lyft

Lyft on the other hand. I’ve not had great experiences with. Nothing tragic and that’s probably telling. I tried to sign up with Lyft soon after I started driving for Uber. The app hung up and when I went to the local Lyft Hub they said I’d need an appointment. I couldn’t get an appointment because the app hung up before I got that far. I had a similar issue while on-boarding for Uber and when I dropped into the local green light hub they fixed it. I’ve gone in for several issues, as I said they aren’t perfect, and each time I’ve had a great experience. They know they have bugs and they created a way to address them. Lyft seemed surprised that something didn’t work and not interested in doing anything about it. Now, that’s just one person’s experience and may not be typical.

 

 

I did try to sign up again. It took a while to break through the previous hang up, but I finally got to go into the hub again and they treated me well. However, I had a hang up with my insurance card. I co-own my vehicle and the insurance card only listed the other driver. It took me three weeks to get my insurance company to mail me a card with my name on it and by then I’d decided to drive for Roadie, a package delivery company instead of adding another rideshare like Lyft.

Earnings:

My reason for giving up on Lyft is based on two factors around the topic of earnings. When I turn the Uber app on I don’t usually have a lot of downtime. I talk with a large number of other TNC drivers. Many who driver for both, and repeatedly I get the same comment. “I earn more per trip with Lyft, but they account for less than a third of all my rides. So my weekly earnings are bigger from Uber.”

Now, most of my contact is in the Portland, OR, market. I’m told that in Vegas everything is Lyft. I’m betting that Lyft does have a better toehold in some markets. It’s just not possible for Uber to dominate all the cities worldwide they’re trying to focus on. The recent hit to their reputation will probably shove them out of some cities, like London, and even if the city government doesn’t step in formally, it wouldn’t take too much for a local taxi company to launch their own app and keep the big players out.

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So at the end of the day, it’s pretty much impossible for me to recommend one rideshare giant over the other. Fortunately, you can easily audition them both for yourself. You’re going to need a lot of the same paperwork for either one so you may as well higher on for both at the same time. It’ll make for a busy week, but I’ve you’ve just lost you’ve got the time I’d race them against each other to see who starts you faster. Then I’d drive them each for a week and see who makes you more money and who treats you better. Then do us a big favor and respond to this article to share your experience.

Uber Reputation Update

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By A. Bunch

A lot going on at Uber again. Most of it centers on their reputation. As someone who’s followed Uber closely since they entered the Portland, OR market (about Fall 2014), I have viewed how they do business for better or worse. If we digest some of their recent coverage you’d think they are second only to Monsanto when it comes to evil reputation, but there are always two sides to the story. So let’s take a quick, neutral look at the most recent developments.

Uber picked their new CEO recently and the response was stern caution. David Martin, for example, asked the question in a recent article titled, “How can Dara Khosrowshahi repair the Uber brand? Turn inward and listen.

The article recommends that Khosrowshahi start immediately to change the corporate culture of Uber from making money by ruthless innovation to make transportation a better thing.

In a recent survey of consumer attitudes, consultancy cg42 found that since the recent spate of scandals began the proportion of consumers with negative views of the company has jumped from 9% to 27%. A full 26% of Uber’s existing customers said they are looking for an alternative (Lyft, anyone?). Meanwhile, 32% of prospective customers now said they did not want to use Uber, up from 13%.

Uber began trying to repair their brand by using TV ads, starting in the UK. Martin was adamant that it wouldn’t work and he was right. London has now declared Uber not “fit and proper” to do business in their city.  ). To be fair, London has always been uptight when it came to taxis. They require drivers to pass a knowledge of their insane street maps that are only slightly harder than med school finals and in exchange allow the cab companies to charge a little more than a doctor visit. Well, I guess a lot more since medical is free the UK.

Either way, that’s a blow because the TFL is potentially affecting 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million users According to Uber. It’s likely that the decision is an attempt to get Uber to clean up its act, since the TFL isn’t pulling their ticket, just letting it expire. The decision can be appealed and that’s Uber’s opportunity to show contrition.

How will Uber change their reputation? What Martin suggests Khosrowshahi do to fix the Uber brand crisis is turn inside his own company and talk to employees and drivers. In his earlier article, Martin wrote that your culture is your brand and I tend to agree. You can’t treat your drivers and employees as disposable and expect to start being seen as nice by riders and government officials. Everything is connected now. Your sins are front page gossip and much like that kid in grade school, captain pee pants, I mean Kevin Piedmont, can tell you, a single incident can be hard to live down.

After a few weeks on the job Khosrowshahi its clear that I’m not the only one who reads David Martin. Khosrowshahi has already met with drivers during a recent event of their 180 days of change, now he’s even going to drive for a day or two, that’s according to an email sent out to drivers dated September 22nd. I predict that driving will be an eye opener.

For one thing, their technology doesn’t work as well as they think it does. It’s not awful, and if you’re a programmer or business exec you probably love to see something that’s mostly reliable and bug free, but not unlike a life raft that mostly holds air small problems can bring a lot of stress.

But buggy software isn’t the problem in itself, it’s the attitude behind not getting it fixed. To be fair, Uber routinely updates and improves its technical platform, but they don’t change things that they don’t see are wrong. For example, the law requires businesses to allow service animals. Uber translates this to mean that Uber drivers must allow service animals in their vehicles. Drivers can’t ask if the animal is a service animal or just a pet, well they can ask but not for paperwork or proof. So if a rider wants to lie they can transport any animal in anyone’s car. Uber has half a dozen programs worldwide but not a pet friendly option. If your kid is allergic to cat hair, you simply can’t drive for Uber.

Hey if you don’t have 20/20 vision you can’t fly fighter planes for the air force. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that they can fix it with another ap. They haven’t, presumably because drivers are disposable. Whether that’s their attitude or not that’s how drivers perceive it.

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When all is said and done, it’s likely that Uber can improve how it operates and with those changes it can change its reputation. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

Car Hack Series: Part 3

Sometimes the simplest hacks are the most genius. Often the most important problems to solve are the ones people don’t talk about…like stink. Does your car stink?

Here’s another entry from our informative and ever entertaining Car Hacker, Mike.

PS To if someone smoked in your car and you want to do more than just cover it up you have three options. Try them all and let us know what worked for you. Or, if we’ve forgotten one let us know by commenting below or at our Facebook page.

Option 1: Steam clean the seats. Can be spendy but should work or your money back.
Option 2: Ozone machine like the one found here.
Option 3: Try putting dryer sheets in the back window on reasonably hot days.