Self-Driving (AV) Car First Fatality

Op-Ed by Managing Editor of the Kicker Blog A. R. Bunch

We at the Kicker, have waited a couple days to comment on this story because it’s important to acknowledge the loss of life before engaging in what will no doubt be a ruckus brawl of a debate regarding the fall out of the event. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t respond to it at all.

Last Sunday, a 49-year-old Arizona woman was struck by one of Uber’s autonomous (self-driving) vehicles while pushing her bike across the street outside the crosswalk. The collision seems to have occurred at roughly the speed limit of the road, with no sign that the AV attempted to slow down.

The is a myriad of legal viewpoints on who should be held responsible. The owner of the vehicle? The person behind the wheel, though not driving the vehicle, Uber, the state of Arizona!? Seriously. Was this a workplace accident? Was it vehicular manslaughter? Without being a lawyer, we can’t answer those types of questions. But let’s talk about another question that seems relevant.

Who could have predicted such a tragedy? Frankly everyone. I don’t know that anyone didn’t expect it to happen at some point. Cars hit people. Here at the Kicker we’ve also warned that self-driving cars are further from reality than we’re being told for one big reason. Mindset!

There’s an inevitable transition happening in vehicles away from mechanical and toward technological. We’ve covered it in several posts. But we’ve hit a tipping point where manufacture and design is shifting away from the car industry and toward technology companies. The leaders of these different industries have radically different approaches to development and often for good reasons.

In the late 1960’s Ford leadership came to their designers with a unique and exciting challenge–design a new subcompact car that weighed less than 2,000 pounds and bring it to market in under two years, for less than $2,000. pinto-699303_1920

The met that goal and the resulting Ford Pinto. burst into flames when struck from behind at low speeds. It didn’t need to. The issue was brought to the attention of decision-makers, but the suggested fix was a couple pound hunk of hard plastic that cost $11. It put the car over cost, and overweight. The controversy came when the public discovered that Ford had run a cost-benefit analysis to determine how many people would be injured or killed by not improving the design and decided it would be cheaper to settle lawsuits than to prevent them.

In other words, there was an acceptable number of people who could be killed or maimed if it let them meet their goals and profit margin. The resulting outcry tot Ford a valuable lesson–one which technology companies have yet to learn.

Ever buy a new computer and find it runs horribly? Ever find it buggy or insecure from hackers? Ever think, these people are releasing their beta version and letting us debug it for them? Well, that sort of thinking won’t be very compatible with the commuting public. Especially when they’re touting how much safer we’ll all be when their product is behind the wheel.

I’m going to make a prediction about how these new laws around AV’s are going to shake out. 100% of the fault for anything your car does will be blamed on you–the official operator of the vehicle. The only thing the law can hold accountable is the driver. That means insurance rates for people with AVs may be higher until actuaries determine if they are actually safer. It means, you can’t just sit back and watch TV while your car drives you to work, which could make the car less attractive to buyers and less attractive to companies like Apple who are jumping in with both feet because AVs are the next iPod.

If the sudden craving doesn’t create demand then the irrational exuberance driving us to rush AVs to market will slow and we can actually test these cars before they get on the road instead of just killing people and debugging later. So it’s a self-correcting process. However, it does mean two things–we were right that we’re more than 5 years away from self-driving cars AND no one is going to realize that until it kills someone.

This tragedy was avoidable. There is no acceptable number of people who can be injured or killed in the process of helping companies hit their financial goals. I hope that everyone involved in designing and testing AVs reflects hard on this tragedy, and I hope that the lawmakers of AZ consider their role in it.

Rest in Peace Elaine Herzberg

Until next time–this is A. R. Bunch hoping you stay safe on the roads.


Car Hacks (Vlog 17): Vaccuums Suck!

If you drive for rideshare it could be a great tip to keep a vacuum in your trunk for spot cleaning. I’d also recommend baby wipes. Watch the video below to get a fun recommendation from our cost-conscious vlog dude. (Yes, Mike I called you a dude…live with it.)

Hand Vac/Upright Vac Combo as shown in the video.

(PS at this time when you follow a link to a product on the Kicker we don’t collect any referral income. We reserve the right to change that at some point in the future. We don’t endorse any particular brand, we’re providing links purely for your convenience.)



AVs (self-driving) & Job Market Impact

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By Andy Bunch

Original Article by Cathy Engelbert &  Scott Corwin

The topic of automation touches every type of job market and where the Kicker Blog is concerned professional driving jobs seem conspicuously next on the chopping block. We’ve covered this topic from both sides of the debate, where the timing is concerned, and concluded that self-driving cars are inevitable but likely not imminent.

Industry expert and LinkedIn influencer Cathy Engelbert has written a great article on the topic based on its impact on the job market and since we’re always scouring the web for people talking about what we’re talking about we’d love to point you at it. For the full article go here. Our executive summary is below.

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Automation will impact different job markets differently—there’s no single answer, good or bad. A balanced, fact oriented approach will lead to the most accurate prediction, not the over-enthusiastic or terror approaches that currently dominate the discussion.

Let’s consider a particular case to illustrate these points. When the media cites professions that may decline because of automation, some of the most common are jobs involving the movement of people and goods—trucking, taxis, ride-sharing, and the like. It often makes for good headlines and everyone “gets it” quickly. But the outlook is way more complicated, nuanced, and not necessarily as dire as portrayed.

While roughly 94 Million professional drivers currently answer the needs of moving people and goods, as people work and shop more at home, and cars begin to drive themselves the need for actual drivers will likely decline. However, we have an aging baby-boomer population that will continue to require assistance to live independently. Someone will need to take responsibility for good being delivered long distances and even when city’s become automated it could be years before particularly tricky areas become autonomous friendly. So a whole new industry of driver assistant could pop up. These jobs would require both driving skills as a backup to automation, but also another primary skill, like customer savvy.

If travel becomes cheaper and easier through automation, the demand will rise. This could lead to jobs serving the transportation industry in other ways. Roadway systems could wear out faster-increasing maintenance. Logistics to get people and items to destinations will likely increase. Automation could result in more interesting, less fatiguing labor that in turn causes reduced turn over and more interest in younger workers. This could mean that as the driving workforce loses workers to retirement it gains a lesser number of replacements who stay longer. Since currently there are nearly a million drivers needed it’s not likely that thousands of long-haul truckers will suddenly be out of work, which is the picture shoved at them by media daily.

So the conclusion is that the best predictor of what will happen as driving jobs are automated is the way automation has impacted other areas. A net reduction in the number of workers needed to produce the same output, which is felt heavily in industries that suffer an overall decline and not at all in industries that with growing demand over all. Jobs that are retained require more technical training and skill but are more interesting to do, and less physically dangerous. As a result, there’s no basis to fear going into an industry because the field won’t exist in 10 years. Some workers will need to make a lateral move and others will move up. Still, others will age out and retire. What isn’t likely? That professional drivers will become suddenly obsolete.

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