I’m getting the sense that among the many industries that might make a buck off of robot cars, public concern will not their #1 priority. Take the auto insurance industry, for example. Don’t cry for them, says Bob Passmore, senior director of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. There’s still plenty of dough to be made (i.e. opportunities to charge motorists more for insurance) because robot cars will be a lot more “expensive” to repair. Plus there’s bound to be “a short-term increase in the number of accidents” since “[t]he way you might anticipate another driver reacting in traffic, might be different than an automated vehicle, so you could see a number of accidents happening, just from that.” Yippy!
And speaking of making money off this technology, check out what just happened in Pittsburgh, a place to which Uber came nine months ago “as the inaugural city for its driverless car experiment.” Pittsburgh residents and officials now say Uber ripped them off by, “charging for driverless rides that were initially pitched as free. It also withdrew support from Pittsburgh’s application for a $50 million federal grant to revamp transportation. And it has not created the jobs it proposed in a struggling neighborhood that houses its autonomous car testing track.” So Pittsburgh is kicking it out.
Writes the New York Times,
The deteriorating relationship between Pittsburgh and Uber offers a cautionary tale, especially as other cities consider rolling out driverless car trials from Uber, Alphabet’s Waymo and others. Towns like Tempe, Ariz., have already emulated Pittsburgh and set themselves up as test areas for self-driving vehicles. Many municipalities see the experiments as an opportunity to remake their urban transportation systems and create a new tech economy.
Yet Pittsburgh shows the clash of private-versus-public interests that can result. The lessons are college course level “101,” said Linda Bailey, the executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
Uber “is a business, and they want to make money,” she said. “With Pittsburgh, we learned we need to present the city’s needs upfront.”
Yet price-gouging Pittsburgh is nothing compared to the legal battle going on between two T-Tex’s of robot car technology, Uber and Waymo (formerly Google).
Earlier this month Uber lost its “bid to move its driverless-car trade-secrets fight with Waymo into closed-door arbitration.” Uber is appealing, but probably won’t win, say experts.
The fight over whether the case should be sent to a private arbitrator focuses on Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo engineer who led Uber’s autonomous vehicle program until he was demoted last month. Waymo claims Levandowski downloaded thousands of confidential files before he left the company to launch his own self-driving startup, Otto, that was acquired by Uber for $680 million.…
While Levandowski isn’t a defendant in the suit, Uber says the dispute doesn’t belong in court because the engineer’s contract with Waymo contained a broad provision to resolve any disputes in arbitration. To bolster its case, Uber pointed to two arbitration proceedings Waymo initiated against Levandowski over his alleged poaching of employees.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco rejected the argument, saying Uber can’t enforce arbitration agreements it didn’t sign.
The public’s well-being? Let's just say, it's taking a back-seat, for now.